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photo-eye Book Reviews: The Second Pass

The Seconds Pass,By Ed Templeton. 
Published by Seems Books, 2010.

The Seconds Pass
Reviewed by George Slade
Ed Templeton The Seconds Pass
Photographs by Ed Templeton
Seems Books, 2010. Hardbound. 154pp.,
Color and black & white illustrations
throughout, 11x7-3/4."

In Deformer, Ed Templeton demonstrated his affinity for the autobiographical, reflexive, hand-made book form. There are some great entries in this bibliography, among them Larry Clark's Tulsa and Teenage Lust, Gaylord Herron's Vagabond, Jim Goldberg's Raised by Wolves, Abigail Heyman's Growing Up Female, Danny Seymour's A Loud Song, Peter Beard's journals and books, and Robert Frank's 1972 masterpiece The Lines of My Hand.

Frank transformed in this book. In Lines, he abandoned any "outsider" pretense - no longer a Swiss reporter on Cold War America - and produced a volume explicitly about himself, fully acknowledging and dwelling in his subjectivity, introducing readers to the person behind that roving eye. As Liz Jobey describes Frank's second photographic life (he claimed that a series of photographs made from moving buses in 1958, after the publication of The Americans, was his "last project in photography"), the photograph became "a surface on which to etch his emotional shape: gnomic phrases, half-articulated thoughts, sometimes the words barely decipherable, and yet they described, in a way that photography had not done so powerfully before, intense, painful, personal emotion."*

The Seconds Pass, by Ed Templeton. Published by Seems Books, 2010.

The Seconds Pass, by Ed Templeton. Published by Seems Books, 2010.

Templeton also entered the world in 1972, bearing Lines as genetic code. He joined a transformed, post-Kennedy/Camelot, post-King, post-Woodstock/Altamont America via its Western on-ramp, California. He grew up in a thoroughly automotive America, a car nation in which the connective tissue was concrete, "a scribble of asphalt...a contiguous line of material that connects each of us to whomever else is also in contact." Templeton extends the metaphor in his introduction to The Seconds Pass: "The pavement I'm standing on is connected to other pavement, concrete, or steel to almost anywhere I can think of. Certainly everywhere you can drive to. Someone in Burnt Church, Tennessee is standing on gravel that is connected by touch to my street, just like someone is in Halifax, Nova Scotia."

The Seconds Pass, by Ed Templeton. Published by Seems Books, 2010.

The Seconds Pass, by Ed Templeton. Published by Seems Books, 2010.

The Seconds Pass celebrates transience. In it, the floating, car-borne, Templetonian camera-eye presents a contiguous sequence of images, flowing across the pages like the "line of material;" he explains that he created the design by laying prints next to each other on his floor and shooting them in situ. I marvel at the book's stream of consciousness; it incorporates images from 15 years of travel for purposes, he notes in an afterword, only incidentally photographic. The choices he's made, aligning individual images of only passing interest, transform lead into, if not gold, a conglomerate that is far more than the sum of its parts. This is an accomplished artist's book - the drive-by California cool of Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip as re-envisioned by the hipster ghosts Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac, an epic roadwork built of glances and utterly humane happenstance.—George Slade


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George Slade, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is the programs manager and curator at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. He continues to post content on his blog, re:photographica.