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photo-eye Book Reviews: As We Are

As We Are, Photographs by Just Loomis.
Published by Hatje Cantz, 2010.
As We Are
Reviewed by George Slade
Just Loomis As We Are
Photographs by Just Loomis. Edited by June Newton. Text by Matthias Harder. Hatje Cantz, 2010. Hardbound. 112 pp., 100 tritone illustrations, 9-3/4x11-1/4".

There are a couple of stunning photographs in this book. And some stunningly lovely, and some equally unlovely, people in the photographs in this book. And some remarkable situations, including costumed Danielle hanging from her knee on a Las Vegas costume rack, the Birdman of Santa Monica and a captured seagull in Ventura, and a provocative set of Pasadena roommates.

Some, I suppose, may be attracted to As We Are's offhanded bohemian quality, the rejection of form it posits as consistent with the free-spirited lives its protagonists pursue. Maybe the Helmut Newton demimonde, attached herewith by his widow June's role as editor, validates this collection of photographs. The scenes date from 1975 to 2009, and as noted above, cover the waterfront from glamour to grime. Ties to family weave in and out, as confirmed in the acknowledgments.

As We Are, by Just Loomis. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2010
But does this merit a book? This may be a scrapbook by the Loomis family's most talented photographer, but there is no sense of why these images belong in this sequence, no chronology or character development, no sense of anything but a recording eye moving back and forth in time and place. 

As We Are, by Just Loomis. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2010
"Just as we are." The narrative warp and weft on this particular loom is too thinly elaborated here to constitute a book. Editor Newton's assertions, stated as an epigraph, that "these pictures are without artifice of any kind" and "a perfect example of Americana today" are not the basis for a substantial volume, and thus seem entirely mistaken.
As We Are, by Just Loomis. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2010
 But, for the record, I will say that the photographs of Annabel and James in Memphis, Cebe hanging from a tree branch, Josh and his girlfriend, Zedenka, and the elder Cebe ("Mom") in L.A. are ravishing, two thumbs up in each case, perhaps even worth the price of admission.—George Slade

George Slade is the program manager and curator at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, and the editor of the PRC’s magazine Loupe. He maintains an on-line presence at the PRC’s blog, here on photo-eye, and at re:photographica. Occasionally his writing even appears in print.