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Book of the Week: A Pick by Cig Harvey

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Cig Harvey Cig Harvey selects Day for Night by Richard Learoyd as Book of the Week.
Day for Night. By Richard Learoyd.
Aperture/Pier 24 Photography, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Cig Harvey who has selected Day for Night by Richard Learoyd from Aperture/Pier 24 Photography.

"My love of photobooks has a long and deep-seated history. In my twenties, I would buy them before food and sleep amongst them. A few of the books I bought early on, like Yamamoto’s scrolls, are now worth thousands of dollars. But I would never sell them. They are my treasures. And besides, they are too well thumbed and stained with tea for anyone else to want them. It may be early to say, but I think that Richard Learoyd’s Day for Night will be one of the special ones that appreciates in both heart and pocket.

Like a good picture, a good photobook has to seduce me with form and content. Day for Night does both. At 14 ¾ by 12 inches with 287 images, it feels monumental; there is nothing casual about it. As it should be, it’s expensive; it’s a pair of shoes, or a great meal out. This book is a visual feast, difficult to take in in one sitting. The cover appears as a mirror, except wait, that is not me. The delicate, soft red end pages tease me into the heavy smooth paper of the plates. The type echoes the delicious indigo palette of the pictures. Every detail of the design is exact, minimal and considered.

Day for Night is a collection of portraits and still lifes. Made as direct positives with a camera obscura, the grainless-photographs are all one-of-a-kind with endless detail in the shallow depth of field. This amount of detail unnerves me and the scale allows me an opportunity to really see. The images are stripped-down; props are kept to a minimum. It is all about the gesture and the gaze. But to what end? These are pictures of deep psychological thought. Learoyd says in his statement about one of the models that 'he doesn’t sit easy with the world.' And I think that idea is a thread throughout the book. The world feels tragic; the world feels beautiful. The still lifes seem to be metaphors personifying the thoughts of the sitters, allowing us to stare at psychological space. But somehow with all this staring, only twice do the sitters confront the camera. The essay, On Being Photographed, by one of the models Nancy Gryspeerdt, is the best opportunity to glimpse at staring back.

Learoyd often favors models with a vintage look and animals with archetypal roots in art history. But just when you think you know what to expect, Learoyd presents us with a sitter or object that deals with different set of experiences, addictions, more time in life. Freckles, dark mirrors, and posies become galaxies. The flamingo suspended and entangled in thread takes my breath away when I turn the page.

Like galaxies, it seems these photographs are unknowable. But I want to try. So I am going to visit the prints in person, go on a date of sorts, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, where they will be on display until Feb 2016."—Cig Harvey

Purchase Book

Day for Night. By Richard Learoyd. Aperture/Pier 24 Photography, 2015.
Day for Night. By Richard Learoyd. Aperture/Pier 24 Photography, 2015.

Cig Harvey is the author of Gardening at Night (Schilt Publishing, 2015), a book about home, family, nature, and time. It received critical acclaim with features and reviews in Vogue, The Telegraph, the International Wall Street Journal, the International New York Times, and Aesthetica among others. The International Wall Street Journal said of the series, “Though the subjects and setting are familiar to us, we cannot help but feel that Cig Harvey has led us through the looking glass to a world of wonder. In the way that twilight is not quite day and not quite night, the photographs of Gardening at Night are stories not yet fully developed, while still capturing the unexpected yet oddly harmonious moments that surround us daily.”

Cig Harvey’s first monograph, You Look At Me Like An Emergency (Schilt Publishing, 2012,) is a collection of ten years of pictures and written vignettes. It sold out in all printings and was named one of PDN's Best Books of the Year 2012.

The photographs and artist books of Cig Harvey have been widely exhibited and remain in the permanent collections of major museums and collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; and the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. Cig began working in a darkroom at thirteen and has been dedicated to photography ever since. She grew up in the deep valleys of Devon in the UK, and came to the States for her MFA in 1999, after years spent living in Barcelona and Bermuda.

View books by Cig Harvey at photo-eye Bookstore
View photographs by Cig Harvey on the Photographer's Showcase

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