PHOTOBOOK REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND WRITE-UPS
ALONG WITH THE LATEST PHOTO-EYE NEWS

Social Media

Book Review: One Sun, One Shadow


Book Review One Sun, One Shadow. By Shane Lavalette Reviewed by Antone Dolezal The American South is a region marked with a rich photographic history, one eclipsed by the legacies of Walker Evans and William Eggleston and contrarily plagued by an over-saturation of contemporary work. To understand the South is to understand America.
One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.
One Sun, One Shadow. 
Reviewed by Antone Dolezal

One Sun, One Shadow.
Photographs by Shane Lavalette. Text by Tim Davis.
Lavalette, Syracuse, New York, 2016. 124 pp., 61 color illustrations, 8½x10½".

The American South is a region marked with a rich photographic history, one eclipsed by the legacies of Walker Evans and William Eggleston and contrarily plagued by an over-saturation of contemporary work. To understand the South is to understand America. The struggles and violent histories of racial oppression, widespread poverty and cultural disenchantment not only continue to reverberate here, but continue on as a current reality. It was with this in mind that I found myself caught a bit off guard as I turned the pages of Shane Lavalette’s first monograph One Sun, One Shadow. As the photographer’s story began to unfold, I experienced an unexpected visceral observance I’m not accustomed to when engaging with contemporary photographs of the American South. An experience that crept on slowly yet arrived with the intensity that comes along with encountering the difficulty of a place for the first time. It is here, within these pages where a refreshingly imaginative narrative emerges. One that quietly peels away the layers of dust and time accumulated through decades of photographic dialogue depicting southern hardship, neglect and aspiration.

One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.
One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.

One Sun, One Shadow began as a commission by the High Museum of Art as part of the institution’s Picturing the South series. Years prior to the commission, Lavalette — a native of Vermont — aspired to take an adventure down the backroads of the South. The sound of soulful gospel ballads, rich blues riffs and the intricacies of local fiddle music shaped the photographer’s initial understanding of the region. It was an access point that exposed centuries of dark histories and hopeful tomorrows. And from these early impressions — the sounds of a people evoking the spirits of the past — a path opened for Lavalette to transform a stirring musical tradition into a meaningful visual construct.

One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.

Within One Sun, One Shadow the viewer is guided on a fairly allusive pursual of communal and rhythmic rituals. Low-lite bars and obscure music halls compose a leitmotif that direct our ambling through Lavalette’s story, yet the patterns are humble and often require a thorough overview to grasp the full scope of the photographer’s approach. An image of small decorative lights penetrating through an otherwise dark lounge take on an elevated meaning and hint at a metaphor as old as time itself. While another image of rippling water from a creek bed suggests a visual echo of stories and songs passed down over many generations. And it isn’t only music the photographer is chasing. Hidden away from the obvious are nods to the South’s fertile photographic vernacular. A quiet image of a small model church offers a distinct influence taken from William Christenberry’s haunting Dream Buildings and Klan Room Tableau. While a first glance may appear unassuming, photographs such as this remind us of the deep and conflicted relationship artists such as Christenberry had when confronting their home region. It is a conflict even an outsider such as Lavalette surely struggled with when faced with the significant subject of Black oppression. And it is one that unveils the intricate photographic discourse connecting photographers of the past with the approach of contemporary image-makers of today.

One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.
One Sun, One ShadowBy Shane Lavalette. Lavalette, 2016.

It is fair to note, Lavalette has been running his own independent publishing press — aptly titled Lavalette — since 2009, and has published several compelling esoteric titles by artists including Sam Falls, Misha de Ridder and Erik Schubert. So it comes to no surprise that the photographer chose to take the helm with the publication of One Sun, One Shadow. As an object, the book carries an unpretentious quality. The subtle earth tones of the clothbound cover contrasted with an elegant gold foil stamping reflect the soft yet poignant imagery encased within. The seemingly direct sequence of images pushes the viewer along an unhurried meander; over time creating a layered atmosphere of history, memory and regional identity that ultimately produces a full-bodied and moving viewing experience. As Tim Davis states in the accompanying essay, “Shane Lavalette’s pictures are visually straightforward, obsessively clear, and devoted to the metaphysical idea that direct observation can be beamed through a lens to a viewer. They are quiet pictures that build a boisterous whole. They speak from the endlessly renewed place of the photographic expeditioner who loves the world and knows it’s a well that never runs dry.” — Antone Dolezal

Purchase Book

Antone Dolezal, is a photographer currently residing in Syracuse, NY. His photographs have been shown widely, including exhibitions at 555 Gallery (Boston), Candela Gallery (Richmond), Filter Space (Chicago), Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (Guatemala City), photo-eye Books & Prints (Santa Fe), Webber Represents Gallery (London), and are held in various private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library, Museum of Contemporary Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

Read More Book Reviews


No comments:

Post a Comment