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Book of the Week: A Pick by Raymond Meeks

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Raymond Meeks Raymond Meeks selects Lago by Ron Jude as Book of the Week.
Lago. By Ron Jude.
MACK, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Raymond Meeks who has selected Lago by Ron Jude from MACK.

"What are we but our pasts?
We bury our histories in a backyard garden and plant a rose bush on top
only to wake on certain mornings and discover what has been unearthed
and lies exposed in the direct, early light.

I share with Ron Jude an impulse to plumb past geographies and formative experiences that shape present curiosities, many of which lie at the foundation of how we relate and experience our world. What I most admire in both Lick Creek Line and now, with Jude’s most recent book Lago, is the courage to turn back and engage with memory and identification through a past landscape — and that such an investigation doesn’t result in a nostalgic or sentimental retelling — better still, an open narrative made fluid by the absence of linear storytelling and latent details in a landscape that make for our own discoveries.

In Lago — Jude’s return to the California desert of his early childhood — memory serves as a leaping-off point to engage equally with what is present — perhaps, doubling as a re-birthing and making relevant connections with an indelible past. Jude accomplishes this, in part, with an avoidance of technique or style as means of maneuvering around what one cannot do. His color renders as generous, consistent and 'true.' There are few devices employed in the layout and design. A few blank spreads offer opportunities to cleanse or reboot and are perfectly placed and confident in their silence.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra our creative writing teachers harp on, imploring us to heighten our stories with the carnal, visceral engagement of the senses. Jude’s photographs provide dilated dimension to an austere, inhospitable landscape while also revealing a benevolent underside, capable of supporting abundant life and beauty. Visually, he flies directly into the sun and doesn’t spare us the searing heat or incessant wind. Errant gunfire and the vibrations of winged insects were present in my subconscious long after closing Lago for the sixth time. I then discovered a link on the publisher website with site specific field recordings by Joshua Bonnetta, including a telling interview with a long-time inhabitant of the desert. In the first of two recordings, titled ‘everything that was ever something,’ a man is recounting more prosperous times in 1977, just after his parents bought a ranch here. The story is rife with mortal elements contained in chapters of the Old Testament. A mysterious, slightly haunting voice of a woman (his wife, mother?) traces overhead and just behind, providing confirmation and assurance, while offering a capricious glimpse toward the state of mind this harsh environment induces. There’s no sign of the winds letting up anytime soon."—Raymond Meeks

Purchase Book

Lago. By Ron Jude. Mack, 2015.
Lago. By Ron Jude. Mack, 2015.

Raymond Meeks lives and works in Upstate, NY. He is the co-founder of Orchard Journal as a venue for visual dialogue with fellow artists. Ray is currently at work on a new set of Journals under the title Dumbsaint, to be published by Waltz Books in 2016.

View books by Raymond Meeks at photo-eye Bookstore

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