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Book of the Week: Selected by Carlo Brady

Book Of The Week Jasper Photographs by Matthew Genitempo Reviewed by Carlo M. Brady By capturing the region’s foggy landscapes, hermetic homes, and rugged men living in solitude in the dark woods, Jasper explores Matthew Genitempo’s fascination with running away from the everyday. The work bounces between fact and fiction, exhibiting both the reality and the myth of what it means to be truly apart from society.
Jasper By Matthew Genitempo.
Photographs by Matthew Genitempo.

Twin Palms, Santa Fe, USA, 2018.
96 pp., 51 tritone plates, 10½x13".

The columns of death glow faintly white
Within the forests of this destroying planet.
Here gleeful beasts track each other
Through lanes of winter and rotting heroes.

From the poem “These Unreturning Destinies," by Kenneth Patchen.

Jasper is the first book by artist Matthew Genitempo, published by Twin Palms in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2018. The photographs were made over the course of several extended stays in and among the Ozark Mountains in the region of Northwest Arkansas. At the top of the acknowledgments page, Genitempo writes, “These photographs were inspired by the life and work of the poet and land surveyor, Frank Standford.” Standford, who lived and died in the region, was a brilliant writer, speaking toward, among other things, the inward tangle of biology, history, and capital.

The book engages a delicate pacing, as it presents an atmospheric accomplishment achieved through the particular gradation between light and subject. This gradation produces a surface tension upon which the viewer may rest across or press in, descending as desired. Genitempo's use of gray invites palliative comparisons between the men, their belongings, and the landscape itself. Throughout, the light appears to tempt the air to violence from its sleep.

The photographs show the land deforested in places run through with roads and windows, elsewhere impregnable but by clouds and darkness. The photographer seems to wait significantly; the impression of the landscape is porous, the motives unclear. The portraits reflect the refractory nuance of their subjects’ motivations. They're straightforward, though you're offered to sense the moment surrounding the exposure. The breaths of the sitters and photographer are nearly visible as they wait together for recognition.

The mechanism of this body of work seems akin to a particular type of poem. There is a question, but no answer is assumed, or neatly arrived at. The waiting itself becomes the work. Waiting to receive instruction is its own action, one that may yield you to that which is impossible in conceit.

As I linger in the doorways of the photographs, I note the moving precarity of Gentitempo's method. A voice asks where to go; the silent, adorning details reveal a procedure to be maintained in an image. The interiors are dense and having been seen, are now unseen, recorded. Warmth is exhaled, and through minutiae returns, whittled into the light. In one particularly great image, the movement of a hung box-fan softens its blades into a dim ocular cloud; the air in the hallway beyond it pulses faintly.

Some believe a ghost is created, or left behind, in the wake of a violent punctuation. They startle into being, frantically exposing emotion in any surrounding humidity. Over time, depending though usually, they become more torpid, wheeling through in slow recourse the basest of memories. Smiling in and against windows, yawning into the steam at morning. Some, more ancient, move on four legs, whitening into the sound of scratching, pooling, asking: where to go?

The yolk went down my leg
Like a beautiful snail without a shell,
Went down the hill
To the skillet of water, to the nymphflies,
Into the lips of pond minnows,
Down the long belly of the gar – the hellbenders
Having dived and lost, then into
The paw of the lame panther
Who loped back to her lair with it.
As for the white, it stayed with me,
Mark of the beast, birth, and trade.

Frank Stanford, The Last Panther in the Ozarks

Purchase the Book Here.

Carlo Brady works at photo-eye Bookstore as a photobook specialist. He holds a BA in photography and studio arts from Hampshire College. You can reach him at