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Book Review : Forever


Book Review Forever By Anthony Hernandez Reviewed by Karen Jenkins “Forever comprises color photographs from 2007-2012, made during so many walks through downtown L.A., Compton, Watts and South Central, in which Hernandez assumed the borrowed vantage point of fellow Angelinos who are homeless. These images continue his work, which began over twenty years ago with Landscapes for the Homeless, while taking a somewhat different tack."
Forever. By Anthony Hernandez. Mack, 2017.
 
Forever
Reviewed by Karen Jenkins

Forever.
Photographs by Anthony Hernandez.
Mack, London, England, 2017. 108 pp., 68 color illustrations, 9¾x9¾".


Los Angeles may be a city of drivers, but Anthony Hernandez’s vision doesn’t take shape from a moving car. During fifty years of photographing, he has determinedly pulled over, parked and struck out as a native observer on foot. Forever comprises color photographs from 2007-2012, made during so many walks through downtown L.A., Compton, Watts and South Central, in which Hernandez assumed the borrowed vantage point of fellow Angelinos who are homeless. These images continue his work, which began over twenty years ago with Landscapes for the Homeless, while taking a somewhat different tack. While the earlier images created a sense of fragility of experience through precarious shelters and scant possessions, Forever is more about the grinding permanence of circumstance; homelessness and the systematic failures behind it, seemingly here to stay – forever.

Forever. By Anthony Hernandez. Mack, 2017.
Forever. By Anthony Hernandez. Mack, 2017.

The photographer’s movements, as he walks in another’s shoes – in alternative paths and inevitable obstacles, workarounds and dead ends – are felt in Hernandez’s images. His wife Judith Freeman wrote the companion essay to Forever, in which she weaves his own words into a precise description of his various Los Angeles routes – identifying street names and businesses, named sets of railroad tracks and freeway entrances. Yet for all his insider knowledge, gleaned from a lifetime of traveling the city, Hernandez’s photographs include few tangible markers of the city itself. Instead, he selects for view the kind of cinder block walls, chain link fences, and spray-painted imagery that could be in any urban environment. By depicting a certain “Unland” as Freeman’s essay title suggests, Hernandez’s message reaches beyond his home city. The issue is not only forever, it is everywhere. His creation of meaning in nondescript, not to mention empty, abandoned and unpeopled spaces can also be seen in Discarded (2012-2015). In this series, Hernandez explored the fallout from the 2008 recession for Californians, in so many abandoned house projects, held up by little more than their absent owners’ left-behind dreams and looming debt. His roving approach may well recall his start in a conventional street photography vein, but his photographs now belie a practice so fundamentally dependent on the overt depiction of people.

Forever. By Anthony Hernandez. Mack, 2017.
Forever. By Anthony Hernandez. Mack, 2017.

The photographs of Forever also echo a central aspect of Hernandez’s earlier series, Waiting, Sitting, Fishing, and Some Automobiles: Los Angeles. These photographs of Angelinos waiting for the bus or on a break from work summon those liminal spaces that are not this, but also not that. Similarly, the images in Forever suggest that the homeless must forever negotiate the more portentous thresholds of in/out; sheltered/exposed; seen/unseen. The fringe areas (literally and metaphorically) of liquor stores, tobacco shops and strip clubs described in Freeman’s text are themselves understood as potential thresholds of no return. Certain photographs in Forever further occupy the cusp between living and the dead, in a dangling crucifix, a dead girl’s photograph and a defunct funeral tag. Page after page of fences and walls, and objects strung up and weighed down, conjures the explosive politics of the U.S. southern border and the practical impotency and indecency of these markers of other, of lesser. Hernandez’s work has been seen more widely in the last several years; may it continue to serve as a visible refutation of the landscape of homelessness as a zero-sum game and purgatory with no end. — Karen Jenkins

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KAREN JENKINS earned a Master's degree in Art History, specializing in the History of Photography from the University of Arizona. She has held curatorial positions at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ and the Demuth Museum in Lancaster, PA. Most recently she helped to debut a new arts project, Art in the Open Philadelphia, that challenges contemporary artists to reimagine the tradition of creating works of art en plein air for the 21st century.


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