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Book Review Entangled Photographs by Maude Arsenault Reviewed by Madeline Cass "An intimate, autobiographical body of work, Entangled is quiet and alluring visual poetry that examines and asks questions about age, family, but particularly what it means to be a femme-identifying human and the roles of gender in our society...."
Entangled. By Maude Arsenault.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ220
Entangled  
Photographs by Maude Arsenault

Deadbeat Club, Los Angeles, CA, 2020. 64 pp., color & black-and-white illustrations, 9½x12¼".

An intimate, autobiographical body of work, Entangled is quiet and alluring visual poetry that examines and asks questions about age, family, but particularly what it means to be a femme-identifying human and the roles of gender in our society. This project encapsulates a pivotal moment for Canadian photographer Maude Arsenault’s work, representing a shift in perspective and personal responsibility. "After years dedicated to creating glorified images of women," she says of her success in fashion photography, "I came to question my role and influence in the transmission of models of femininity."

Her perspective, as an adult and a parent, has shifted the way she views cultural demands made on the bodies and roles of women — especially younger women. Arsenault is the mother of three children, including a fourteen-year-old girl. The book opens with a handwritten Virginia Woolf quote — “Growing up is losing some illusions in order to acquire others.”

EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.

Arsenault utilizes the repetition of a number of motifs in order to reflect a personal universe and language. Water and bodies frequently intermingle. A woman floats in the ocean, staring into the sky, seamlessly comfortable between two voids; the space holds her like a womb. Waterfalls appear twice; tumultuous, beautiful and fleeting. One is paired with a backbone, similarly fluid and strong. Another is juxtaposed with the mostly bare back of a young woman, she is turned away from us, pulling on her top, something intimate — we are not sure if this is an act of modesty or revealing.

EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.
Curtains, bedsheets, blinds, clothing, a pair of cheap cotton white panties laying bleakly, they serve a similar role — veiling something intimate or empty. The cast shadows of a tree, shading; still more capitulation between masking and revealing. Bodies are often out of focus forms — perhaps it is our perception of ourselves, often too close to see clearly. The home becomes a metaphor for the body, such as in Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, wherein the attic is a metaphor for clarity of mind. The basement, on the contrary, is the darker, subterranean and irrational entity.

A lynchpin image of this work is of a young woman reading a book, one thigh resting on the back seat of a car, seemingly unaware of the surrounding world, or of the viewer. The figure in Entangled is reading a book in French, La dernière des Stanfield, by Marc Levy. One summary describes this novel as “A mystery, a love story, and a search through a shadowy past.”

In a similar fashion, Entangled elicits a sense of mystery, love and personal history. The viewer is left with a feeling of melancholy and tension in the embodiment and disembodiment of what it means to identify and be viewed as female.

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EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.
EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.

Madeline Cass is a native of Nebraska, and is currently based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She earned a BFA in studio art with an emphasis in photography from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2017. She primarily works within photography, poetry, and artist books. She is the author of how lonely, to be a marsh, published in 2019. Her work examines the multitude of relationships between art, science, nature, and humanity.

photo-eye Gallery Fractured: Mini Interviews Monica Denevan, Tom Atwood, JP Terlizzi We reached out to the 25 artists selected for Fractured and asked them a few questions about their pieces included in the exhibition. Their answers enlightened us on the role photographers play in observing, documenting, and healing the fractured landscapes around and within us all.
 
Image credit: Jo Ann Chaus, Shutters, 2019
How do artists use art to heal and inspire others to come together during these extraordinary times?

To answer this question, we reached out from our remote workstations to the 25 artists selected for Fractured and asked them a few questions about their pieces included in the exhibition. Their answers enlightened us on the role photographers play in observing, documenting, and healing the fractured landscapes around and within us all. Stay connected to our blog in the coming days and weeks as the artist’s share their thoughts in our new mini-interview series – starting this week with photographers Monica Denevan, Tom Atwood, and JP Terlizzi.

Monica’s serene and calm gelatin-silver print addresses the need for close and harmonious relationships between people and their immediate environment. Tom Atwood’s domestic portrait blends his subject and environment in one unified piece bringing awareness of the LGBTQ community while celebrating difference and commonality in our social fabric. JP Terlizzi’s piece is a carefully constructed family archive that blurs and connects personal identity, family narrative and memory.

In their three distinct styles, these portraits help us understand the world around us and relate to others in ways that transcend borders, gender, generations and other differences that seemingly set us apart.


 

Monica Denevan | Island, Burma

 

Monica Denevan, Island, Burma, 2011, gelatin silver print, 15 x 15 inches, edition of 25, $2285 framed

Can you tell us about your artistic process?
While traveling, I make black and white portraits using a medium-format camera, one lens, plenty of film, and natural light. Once home in San Francisco, I print from the negatives in my traditional darkroom.

What inspired this image?

Burma/Myanmar has a long troubled history of isolation from and by the rest of the world. Despite the light, jovial demeanor of most of the people I encounter when I am in the country, there is also a weight that I often sense. Sometimes I try to photograph that feeling. I have made photographs of this young man many times over the years. In 2011, the water level was low, revealing this small island. I brought the young man and the island together to depict the emotions of isolation. 

Do you have a fun or interesting story about your subject matter?
From my journal dated November 30, 2011 8:00 am
“… After photos, sitting at the waterside restaurant with... We're all drinking Coffee Mix and the guys are sharing two plates of fried rice... Met everyone more or less on time. The guys at the hotel, the boy in front of the woman's house, our boat driver with whom we had an appointment. Returned to the little island, just out into the water from where we now sit. Borrowed a table and chair from the teashop and mostly photographed the boy in the chair with his beautiful, long arms outstretched, all reflected in the water. Stunning. The background was hazy and the horizon indistinct, I'm pretty sure. It started off cold... Great to have The Ferryman since he knows us, is friendly with the guys, and is used to me and how I work..."

Monica Denevan, behind the scene, Burma, 2011








Behind the scene picture: 
Unfiltered snapshot of my friend testing out the island to be sure it was strong enough to stand on.

Bio:
Monica Denevan studied photography at San Francisco State University yet it wasn’t until she started traveling extensively that she began to see differently. Her ongoing series, “Songs of the River: Portraits from Burma,” began in 2000. Since then, she has returned to many of the same small villages in Burma/Myanmar, making intimate photographs of fishermen and their families in the spare and graphic setting of the Irrawaddy River. She travels with a medium format film camera, one lens, and bags of film, working with natural light and making composed images.

 

Tom Atwood | Mother Flawless Sabrina

 

Tom Atwood, Mother Flawless Sabrina, 2017, archival pigment print, 18 x 26 inches, not editioned, $900 unframed

Can you tell us about your artistic process?

Most of the time I would arrive at the door having never met subjects or seen their homes, and conduct the shoot in two or three hours. I see photography as a social, interpersonal process — as an interaction between the personalities of the subjects and the photographer. Some people can be nervous about being photographed. Through a constant dialogue with my subjects, I try to ensure that they relax and don’t have too much anxiety. Also, when people are in front of the camera, they often do things that are contrived or unnatural because they are ill at ease — awkward expressions, movements, poses, etc., that are not as common in real life and not as representative of a subject’s true personality. Part of my job is to switch gears and do something different to get the subject to be more comfortable and forget that the camera is there. I try to make the experience fun and exhilarating for subjects, although it can often be exhausting, as well.

In general I use as little equipment as possible so that subjects don’t feel invaded and so the process seems less formal, but I do use portable light sources with a variety of attachments and diffusers, most often umbrellas. I typically don’t crop significantly, and hand hold my camera rather than use a tripod. The ability to move around and be flexible results in a greater variety of pictures from which to choose. Sometimes this also allows for pleasant evolutions in composition that would tend not to arise if sticking to one fixed angle.

What inspired this image?
Today, in terms of the modern civil rights movement, it's helpful to highlight that LGBTQ folks are in many ways like everyone else, and as varied as society as a whole. Yet on another level, there’s a common LGBTQ sensibility that sets us apart that I wanted to recognize and celebrate. This sensibility shares an outlook with the sensibility of creative and cultural leaders — an awareness of difference, of other, of possibility — an avant-garde mindset. Mother Flawless Sabrina embodies this mindset.

Do you have a fun or interesting story about your subject matter? 
Mother Flawless Sabrina was a female impersonator living in New York’s Upper East Side. She has an interesting story, and you can really get a sense of this from the photo and from her home. She represents a breed of 1960s bohemians that is slowly disappearing — a subset of the LGBTQ community that I aimed to capture in my series. One of the first widely known female impersonators in the United States, she was a true pioneer. A mentor to several other transgender people, she ran a national drag pageant enterprise that crisscrossed the nation, with 46 shows a year culminating in an annual national competition in New York. She unfortunately was arrested more than 100 times for cross-dressing, which really highlights how far LGBTQ rights have progressed.

Bio:
Over 15 years, New York based artist Tom Atwood (born 1971) has photographed more than 350 subjects at home nationwide, including nearly 100 celebrities. With individuals from 30 states, Atwood offers a window into the lives and homes of some of America's most intriguing and eccentric personalities. His second book, Kings & Queens in Their Castles, was recently published by Damiani. The book won multiple awards including First Place in the International Photography Awards as well as a Lucie Award.

 

JP Terlizzi | Nazzareno/Great Uncle

 

JP Terlizzi, Nazzareno/Great Uncle, 2017, archival pigment print, glass slide, thread, blood, edition of 5, 7 x7 inches, 14 x 14 inches mat, $1245 framed

Can you tell us about your artistic process?
I usually have a thought-out plan or rough idea before I begin making an image. Sometimes I sketch something out, but usually whenever I do that, the resulting image is so forced it never lives up to what I originally envisioned. For the most part, once I'm in the creative zone of making, I tend to work very intuitively responding to the happy accidents of things that I didn't plan for. I am an extremely organized person (the Virgo in me) and I keep both a visual and written journal that helps me get started or I reference back to whenever I have a creative block. I found that photography has always been a direct mirror of what I'm experiencing or going through in my life. My projects usually surface from an image that I have taken and after some considerable time has passed, I will look at the image again with a fresh set of eyes and that's when the "A-ha" moment hits and I begin to see that image in a whole different light and meaning.

What inspired this image?
Descendants was very much influenced by my response to loss and death and the need for belonging. I come from a very large, loving, extended Italian family. Growing up, I did not have a relationship with my father nor anyone on my father’s side of the family. I was, however, very close with all my relatives and cousins on my mother’s side. My mother unfortunately had her own issues and her hurtful actions and behavior made having a relationship with her difficult. For a little over twenty years, none of my relatives nor myself had a relationship with my mother. During that time, I maintained the relationship with all my maternal relatives and attended all the family functions. I had a special bond with each of my mother’s seven siblings. Sadly, in the course of four years, nine maternal relatives passed on. That was a lot of sadness to go through in a short amount of time, so I knew I wanted to work on a project that celebrated family and served as my own archive for remembrance. I personally do not have any old family photos, so I reached out to a cousin and one last living uncle. They both have family photos that were once owned by my maternal grandparents. My cousin and uncle were able to identify all the relatives in the photos that date back as far as my great grandparents. They shared many stories of my family’s struggles coming from Italy and starting their new lives as immigrants in America. 

I sat with these photos for over a year but didn’t know what to do with them. It wasn’t until I was at a family funeral that someone made a comment and said, “you know it’s in our blood” and that sparked the idea to incorporate blood. Using my own blood specimens, strategically placed on the photograph, was a way of physically connecting my identity to my past while also changing the context of how the viewer interprets the photo. Much of my work deals with identity, relationship and memory. This series is very special to me and I hold it close to my heart. Through this work, I’ve created my own archive of family portraits that connects my identity to my ancestors representing their strength and resiliency. Hopefully one day I can pass these portraits and the stories down to my grandchildren. 

Do you have a fun or interesting story about your subject matter?
When I made the decision to incorporate my own blood specimens, I waited until I had to have routine lab work done. I asked the nurse who was taking my blood if she could give me a couple of extra vials to take home because I was working on a personal photography project that incorporates blood. The nurse just looked at me like I was some kind of weirdo and smiled politely and said I'm afraid I'm not allowed to do that. My reply: But it's my blood. Her reply: Sir, this is not a take-out restaurant. For legal and health reasons, I can not give you vials of your own blood for you to walk around the streets of NYC where you could potentially endanger other people. Then the much delayed lightbulb went off in my head. My reply: Oh, I never thought of that.

Sadly, I learned that one of my great uncles (my grandfather's brother) was actually murdered in a card game dispute back in the early 1920's. There was a lot of conspiracy that my maternal great aunt's husband was involved in this somehow. My great uncle was only in his early twenties and in this country for about a year in half after emigrating from Italy. No one was ever charged or convicted of the crime.

I also learned that my grandfather was in the Italian/Austrian front lines in WW1 in the Alps. One night he was on guard duty and overslept his post while his fellow soldier was standing guard. That soldier ended up being shot and killed while my grandfather slept. Had my grandfather not overslept my whole family would not be here.

So all in all, I learned some pretty cool stuff about my family while doing this project. 

Bio:
JP Terlizzi (b.1962) is a New York City visual artist whose work explores themes of memory, relationship, and identity. His images are rooted in the personal and heavily influenced around the notion of home, legacy, and family. He is curious how the past relates and intersects with the present and how that impacts and shapes one’s identity



Stay tuned for next week's post, where we'll talk to Jon FeinsteinDaniel McCullough, and Marcus DeSieno



All prices listed were current at the time this post was published.

For more information, and to purchase artworks, please contact photo-eye Gallery Staff at:
(505) 988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com



Book Review Sleep Creek Photographs by Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth Reviewed by Brad Zellar "Sleep Creek’s cumulative power shares much with the darkest, most batshit-crazy, and vaguely (or not so vaguely) sinister folk tales, mythology, film noir, and biblical prophecy; imagine Night of the Hunter remade as a zombie film with a screenplay by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Samuel Beckett..."
Sleep Creek. By Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ133
Sleep Creek  
Photographs by Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth

Void, Athens, Greece, 2019. 144 pp., 6¾x8½".

Generally, by the time I spend money on a photobook I’ve heard about it from or had it described to me by friends, read about it somewhere, or spent time looking at it — usually at one of the art book fairs, none of which I attended last year. When I received Sleep Creek in the mail, however, I knew nothing whatsoever about it, and was entirely unfamiliar with the work of Hausthor and Guilmoth.

I realized, though, that the first photobooks I fell for were all blind discoveries at the local Carnegie library in the smallish town where I grew up. Those books — Diane Arbus’s first monograph, Robert Frank’s The Americans, and William Eggleston’s Guide, every one of which was wondrous and deeply mysterious to an adolescent boy who’d never been anywhere — were pure discoveries; I’d never heard of any of those people, and had no way then of knowing they’d created anything of lasting significance. I realize now, though, having revisited them one more time, that each of those books includes some orienting text in the form of essays and/or blurbs.

Sleep CreekBy Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.

Sleep Creek, however, features no text at all, beyond the usual stuff you’ll find on the copyright page. The cover features not a photograph, but a gold engraving of a goat huddled in what appears to be a shower of stardust, and the book’s design is compact and elegant, but don’t be fooled: that goat is in fact Hausthor and Guilmoth’s ingenious Trojan Horse (“Oh,” my wife said when I opened the package. “That looks like a sweet little book.”).

Sleep CreekBy Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.
I’ve always loved looking at photographs, but I’m also a helpless creature of language, and the challenge for me has always been to translate the images I see into words, to tease from them some sort of narrative — or at the very least narrative fragments, faint voices, scraps of poetry, or even just an appropriate and satisfying epigraph. And usually when a book of photos confounds all such attempts, I get bored and end up feeling stupid and resentful. I guess I like to have at least a small sense that a book is about something. Yet with every fresh pass, Sleep Creek confounds not just interpretation, but comprehension; it eludes coherent narrative structure at every turn, and from page to page — and photo to photo — it whipsaws vertiginously between the arctic and the inferno, terror and enchantment. And those are precisely the reasons why I find it so fascinating and consistently unsettling. Hausthor and Guilmoth have entirely their own thing going on, but for those who like general comparisons, imagine, say, Trent Parke dosed with LSD and dispatched to the First Circle of hell. As I time and again flipped through the pages of this book I felt like I were stumbling through a dark, overgrown, and terrifying landscape and was trying to navigate with nothing but a jerking, erratic compass from a box of Crackerjacks. And for me, the definition of the purely visionary is disorientation that works.

Sleep CreekBy Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.
Sleep CreekBy Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.

Sleep Creek’s cumulative power shares much with the darkest, most batshit-crazy, and vaguely (or not so vaguely) sinister folk tales, mythology, film noir, and biblical prophecy; imagine Night of the Hunter remade as a zombie film with a screenplay by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Samuel Beckett. This is a book full of what I call “what the hell?” pictures, but these aren’t the sorts of “what the hell?” pictures I’m now accustomed to seeing in so many boring or pretentious photobooks. And that’s because with Hausthor and Guilmoth, “what the hell?” is merely a question that triggers an avalanche of other questions. And the more time I spent with the book, the more urgent the answers to those questions started to feel. There are a couple dozen photos here — photos, I should say, that on their own would look merely mysterious or even pretty if framed next to your desk — that I’ve now spent the last week being haunted by and obsessively interrogating; they nonetheless persist in refusing to offer up any answers or comprise a narrative, but they do invite myriad inventions of one, and that, to me, is a fantastic gift to receive from any piece of art.

By pure coincidence, as I was reading before bed last night, I stumbled across the previously elusive epigraph I’d been looking for. In Jorge Luis Borges’ The Wall and the Books he writes, “Music, states of happiness, mythologies, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain landscapes, are trying to tell us something we should not have missed, or are about to tell us something; this imminence of a revelation that does not take place is, perhaps, the aesthetic fact.”

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Sleep CreekBy Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth.

Brad Zellar is a writer who has collaborated with photographer Alec Soth on a number of projects, including The LBM Dispatch, a series of seven newspapers devoted to American community in the age of cyberspace. Zellar has also made books with Adrianna Ault, Raymond Meeks, Tim Carpenter, and Jason Vaughn, and is the author of Suburban World: The Norling Photos, Conductors of the Moving World, House of Coates, and Driftless. He lives in St. Paul.


Book Review Transparencies Photographs by Stephen Shore Reviewed by Blake Andrews Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 offers an alternative account of one of the most fabled episodes in photographic history: the cross-country journeys that produced Stephen Shore’s luminous new vision of the American landscape, Uncommon Places.
Transparencies. By Stephen Shore.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ159
Transparencies  
Small Camera Works 1971–1979
Photographs by Stephen Shore


Mack, London, England, 2020. Unpaged, 11¾x12¼".

In the early 1970s, Stephen Shore seldom left a restaurant table unphotographed. Food was just one small component in his daily captures, which included motel rooms, dirty clothes, parking lots, toilets, ceilings, shops, nightstands, appliances, and all the other artifacts of his domestic explorations. Everything was fair game.

Shore’s aesthetic, which would eventually come to dominate fine art photography, was a deliberate effort to avoid modernist trappings — those of man seeking grandeur in the mundane. Instead, he looked to Ed Ruscha’s deadpan factuality for guidance. Inspired by postcards, commercial signage, and snapshots, he developed a direct, non-fussy style that stripped away any highbrow pretensions to framing, lighting, or the picturesque. Shore’s approach proved prescient. The idea that image is secondary to intention is now the zeitgeist.



TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.


Transparencies is the latest in a recent slew of books to explore Shore’s early archives. A new edition of American Surfaces is also due soon. It’s rather amazing to look back and realize that these early photos weren’t published as books contemporaneously. The first edition of American Surfaces didn’t arrive until 1999, and it wasn’t until 2005 that a more comprehensive edit came along.

TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.
Transparencies focuses on the mid-seventies, the period when Shore was transitioning to the view camera. That large format work would eventually produce his best known project, Uncommon Places. But even while consumed by that project, he hadn’t quite given up on 35mm. True, he’d ditched his trusty Rollei 35, but, in its place, acquired a Leica M2. Stocked with Kodachrome, it went everywhere with him.

How did that Leica see differently? The book shows a sampling of what Shore found: 112 photographs, generously sized, without captions. Transparencies compares with Uncommon Places in the ways one might expect. Beginning with a shaky series of indistinct road shots, the photos exude the loose energy of 35mm. Some frames are cockeyed, or seen through a windshield, or suffer from camera shake, or are helped by it. There are generally more pedestrians in Transparencies than Uncommon Places, though that may be a function of editing as much as format. And whereas Shore using a tripod could stop down his aperture to get entire scenes in focus, his 35mm depth of field was often restrained by slow film and unreliable lighting.

Although the work was shot concurrently, there’s seemingly only one scene shot by both cameras. That’s a boat harbor in Miami in 1975, huddled under a massive highway interchange. With no other direct comparisons, the reader looks to the work for hints of Shore’s thinking.

TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.

Transparencies is sequenced chronologically. As we move through the seventies some familiar themes arise. One change that becomes immediately apparent is the transition to outdoors. Whereas American Surfaces largely featured indoor snapshots, Shore’s Leica found much of its material in public settings. The change in backdrop seems to echo a broader switch in Shore’s approach, from internalized snapshots of a very personal nature toward the dispassionate open landscapes typical of New Topographics. Whether the Leica work was “a parallel iteration of an iconic vision… like a piece of music played in a new key,” as Mack describes it, or simply the efforts of a photographer whose style had already moved on, the results are fascinating.

TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.
The formalism of Uncommon Places manifests more and more as the reader wades deeper into Transparencies. The opening photos are blurred and dreamy, but they quickly firm up. Soon we see storefronts shot head-on, alleys opening into distant vistas, delicately composed parking lots, an affinity for cars, pavement, signs and vernacular material. There’s even a brief taste of Europe before the book returns stateside. By the time the reader encounters a street corner fronted by plywood walls, angled just so, the world has shifted convincingly toward Uncommon Places.

Regardless of camera, whatever Shore photographed in the 1970s was with intense visual hunger. It’s the same motivation fueling all great photographers and all lasting works, that restless need to swallow the world with a lens. “I wanted to be visually aware as I went through the day,” he is quoted in American Surfaces. “I started photographing everyone I met, every meal, every toilet, every bed I slept in, the streets I walked on, the towns I visited. Then, when the trip was over, I just continued it.”

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TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.
TransparenciesBy Stephen Shore.


Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.




Book Review Day Sleeper Photographs by Dorothea Lange. Edited by Sam Contis. Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson In this book Sam Contis presents a new window onto the work of the iconic American photographer Dorothea Lange. Drawing from Lange’s extensive archive, Contis constructs a fragmented, unfamiliar world centred around the figure of the day sleeper – at once a symbol of respite and oblivion.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ154
Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=KH209
Day Sleeper
Photographs by Dorothea Lange
Edited by Sam Contis

Mack, London, UK, 2020. Unpaged, 6¾x9½".

As Hamlet, weighing the misfortune of his life against the temptations of death, would say, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Sleeping, even couched in its extreme form as death, begets dreaming, and that’s a space where the unconscious loses control. “Perchance to dream” might be an epigram for Day Sleeper, for the question of dreams may be central to an understanding of this subtle, sensed yet silent dialogue between two Californians born three generations apart.

A “day sleeper” isn’t necessarily someone taking a siesta or a restorative catnap. Some people work at night and are thus asleep during the day while others are up and about. A handmade sign, like that tacked to the door of unit 1D in the image on page 139, is a request for silence in consideration for a graveyard shift worker, engaged at that moment in the fractious, sometimes restorative work of dreams.

Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.

Dreams abound in Lange’s work; one might say that the entire FSA photographic project revolves around dreams, the aspirations for recovery and security amid the Depression’s most terrible socio-economic circumstances. With her background as a successful studio portraitist in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lange had a talent for conveying empathetic depictions of individuals, contrasting, for example, Walker Evans’ forensic headshots of tenant farmers, sunlit against rough planks.

Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.
Appreciating the dreams of others is, by nature, a speculative undertaking. Contis, for her part, forges a relationship with Lange that parallels Lange’s relationship with her subjects, both the sleeping and the fretfully awake. We — readers, Contis, Lange — project ourselves into the unconscious machinations of another. And we, the viewers of this book, encounter another space of dreams, one constructed by astute designers and the photographer-cum-philosopher/visionary Contis. Amidst Lange’s streaming midtones, for instance, an occasional white/black two-page spread intervenes, as though recalibrating a white balance or reasserting the optical extremes of the light/dark spectrum.

One might be forgiven for a first take on Day Sleeper that suggests Contis’ own contemporary photographs interwoven with Lange’s. Many of the Lange images are unfamiliar, and many have a crisp, ethereal modernity that has characterized Yale’s Graduate Photography Program during the last three decades. Contis is among its recent alums. (Note that Contis pursued such an authorship-confounding modus operandi in her earlier book Deep Springs (Mack, 2017); in that project, the leap of time between original photographs and her own was a century.)

Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.

Read this book for its manifest visual pleasures. Contemplate its symbolism, weigh its signs, both those depicted within Lange’s photographs and those built around them as the book object narrative. Grasp and dwell in its subtext of daydreams and nightmares. (Note the zombie-like arms floating out of darkness on page 29 and the grotesquely crucified bird spread across 36 and 37.)

Recall that Lange, like the anonymous day sleeper, famously had a sign on the door of her darkened workspace. In her case, more verbose — a quote from the 17th century English philosopher Francis Bacon which served as a kind of epigrammatic mission statement for her. Bacon wrote: “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.” While Hamlet fretted over the imagined nobility of suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” Lange, in Contis’ eloquent appreciation, utilized photography to inscribe visions of clarity, integrity, and humane purpose. What did beleaguered 1930s Americans dream of harvesting, besides hope?

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Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.
Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.
Day Sleeper. By Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis.
George Slade, aka re:photographica, is a writer and photography historian based in Minnesota's Twin Cities. He is also the founder and director of the non-profit organization TC Photo. rephotographica.com/

Image c/o Randall Slavin


Book Review hyle | curtain | backdrop Photographs by Anni Leppälä Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson Anni Leppälä's work draws from memories, loss, longing and early youth. In her pictures she tries to make connection and closeness tangible, but also to reveal a familiar, deeper meaning.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=KH209
hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=KH209
hyle | curtain | backdrop
Photographs by Anni Leppälä

Kehrer Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 2019. 128 pp., 71 color illustrations, 6½x9¼x¼".

hyle | curtain | backdrop is a book of elements, mysteries, and appearances and disappearances. Engaging with the book creates a sort of trance wherein what is seen is only partially experienced, similar to following someone around corner after corner in a dream.

Hyle, the word, alludes to the originary matter of the universe as put down by the Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles and later adopted by Aristotle, but in this case it refers to the home as the center of our personal creation; a place of continual renewal and self-healing, but of concealment also.

After living with this book for several weeks, most of the time anywhere I went, I cannot recommend it enough. It is an enigma, but also reminds me of what it is to experience home, healing, and growth. It’s a book that is no book; this book is a spell like creation itself is a spell.

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hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.

hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.

hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.

hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.

hyle | curtain | backdrop. By Anni Leppälä.


Christopher J Johnson is a poet and writer living in Santa Fe. He is the author of &luckier, from the center for literary publishing. He is currently manager of photo-eye’s Book Division.





Book Review how lonely, to be a marsh Photographs by Madeline Cass Reviewed by Christian Michael Filardo The promise and pathology of America in the photographs of Epstein, more than half of which are previously unpublished.
how lonely, to be a marsh. By Madeline Cass.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ139
how lonely, to be a marsh  
Photographs by Madeline Cass

self published, 2019. 100 pp., 8x10".

I have been in the wetlands of Virginia when they crested their banks due to an abundance of rainwater to join the River James and caused an algae bloom to kill the fish where the heron makes its nest. Wading knee-high into blue-green, god-knows-what, down by the train tracks while looking for something I still cannot define.

Marshes have an unsettlingly quiet wilderness about them. Waters so dark that gazing into the murk will have you mimicking a witch, looking into a scrying mirror for answers stewed in myth. A similar, yet more compassionate, energy arises when leafing through how lonely, to be a marsh by Madeline Cass. The poet-photographer’s first monograph blends documentary photography with the arts to build narrative around threatened Nebraska wetlands.

how lonely, to be a marsh. By Madeline Cass.

While some may see this book as an active rebellion towards a capitalist society, pushing for the protection of nature. I believe that Cass is using the marsh as a medium to further understand her own identity. Not to imply that the goal of the artist here is inherently selfish but, rather, to say that an  eco-warrior mentality is not the main draw to this experience. That is to say, if we are going to assume that the marsh has feelings synonymous to those of a human being, then we are seeing those emotions projected, through Madeline, onto soil, water, and the wildlife therein via photography, poetry, and research.

how lonely, to be a marsh. By Madeline Cass.
What strikes me most about this book is the artist’s ability to weave themes together in a fairly chaotic way. The interior design is all over the place. Handwritten text merges with typeface, images overlay other images, archival scans go full bleed at random. If the intention behind the design was to copy the fluid natural chaos of the Earth, we find success in the presentation. Images serve as document while walking the line between fine-art and photojournalism.

how lonely, to be a marsh. By Madeline Cass.
These are images that, at times, feel like historical documents, but serve the viewer’s inherent desire for a little eye-candy. We get the sunsets, we get the eggs, we get brush blurred, we get the taxidermy eagle, we get the archival aerial photograph. All the bases are covered and serve their purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this book re-issued by a larger publisher once the initial self-published batch runs out.

Ultimately, what we have in how lonely to be a marsh is the documentation of an artist’s early forays into field research and building a compelling body of work around that practice. A truly impressive result for the size of the undertaking Cass took on in Nebraska. I feel as though this book asks us to take a moment to listen to our surroundings. Beckoning us towards the idea of a more sustainable future. One where we, as human beings, are cognizant of the plague we’ve become to our only home. The hope that we can right the ship and save ourselves before the sun sets on our reality. A book abundant with riddles still waiting for answers.

how lonely, to be a marsh. By Madeline Cass.

Christian Michael Filardo is a Filipino American photographer living and working in Richmond, Virginia. Filardo uses their camera to record everyday nuances, later grouping images to create narratives from the mundane, intimate, and quiet. Filardo writes critically for photo-eye and PHROOM and is a co-founder of the Richmond based art space Cherry. They have exhibited domestically and internationally. Their latest book Gerontion was released at the LA Art Book Fair in April 2019. They also released the zine Not Until This Morning (UDLI Editions) at NYABF in September 2019 which has since sold out.