A Road Divided by Todd Hido

A Road Divided, Photographs by Todd Hido
Nazraeli Press, Portland, 2010.
64 pages, 28 color illustrations, 14×17″.

It is a curious way to open a book: “…It is just as probable that I have also written the one–or two–best books I shall ever write. They are done with. That is how things go. And it is most unlikely that a second burst of inspiration will alter this irreversible fact…This is where the rest of life begins….”

Nevertheless, this is the epigraph that introduces Todd Hido’s latest monograph A Road Divided. Baudrillard’s words might suggest decline–a fall from greatness. In the case of A Road Divided it is just the opposite. Rather, it is as though we are invited to witness to a grande beginning. Hido’s monographs are often celebrated for their elegant design and the beautiful yet understated aesthetic that Nazraeli Press books are known for. Not only did they put out this most recent monograph, Nazraeli also published Hido’s 2004 series, Roaming. Years later, A Road Divided is a continuation or extension of the photographer’s earlier landscape work.

In this book, Hido returns to the aimless roads and empty terrains captured earlier in his career. The attenuated, windswept forms appear accented by a painter’s brush. This effect is achieved by ingenious use of the blurry, rain-streaked ‘lens’ of the artist’s car window. The monotone palette of each image serves to gather a wide spectrum of feelings and memories into each resounding image. We recall Emily Dickinson’s stark words: “Nature is a haunted house–but Art–is a house that tries to be haunted.”

Perhaps that is the difference between Hido’s past work and A Road Divided. The latter is an expansion, an avid embrace of life itself. It does not try, but truly haunts. Not only does A Road Divided feel more considered in terms of image sequencing, the photographs themselves possess a poignancy that registers on a higher level. As an object, the book is truly beautiful. We at PIP encourage you to ride shotgun with Hido, and take a ride.

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The Mushroom Collector by Jason Fulford

The Mushroom Collector, Photographs by Jason Fulford
The Soon Institute, Amsterdam, 2010.
196 pages, 115 color illustrations, 9½x12½”.

“Ted found a manila envelope full of mushroom pictures at a flea market in New York. Why did he give me this treasure? I already owe him for so many things.” Jason Fulford’s question rings out from the pages of his most recent book, The Mushroom Collector. Known both as a photographer and as a publisher (J&L Books, a Photography in Print favorite) for his precise and confident eye, Fulford’s query seems almost ironic. But as one moves through The Mushroom Collector’s elliptical and thoughtful narrative, it becomes abundantly clear that Fulford is truly working through something.

The gift of the unassuming mushroom pictures permeate the entirety of the book, and about half-way through the larger design of the work reveals itself. The visual narrative of the book begins by offering us moments: a parade, a facade of a house, a car (or “an abstract wish,” writes Fulford). It is only in the second half of the book that we are invited into the photographer’s internal universe, where objects from the material world are explored deeply and critically in the artist’s studio. You can almost feel the images vibrate with excitement as analogues emerge between Fulford’s own work and the mushroom pictures. It is electrifying to watch an artist decode and develop his own visual language within the pages of The Mushroom Collector. Alec Soth insists that this is not only the top photo-book for the year, but one of his all time favorites. We at PIP couldn’t agree more–go out and Collect!

The Mushroom Collector was printed by the Soon Institute in Amsterdam, where Fulford was involved in a 5-week residency in 2010. PIP can’t get enough of the work coming out of the Netherlands at the moment–we will continue to keep you tuned in and our eye towards the North Sea.

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Before Color by William Eggleston

Before Color, Photographs by William Eggleston
Steidl, Gottingen, 2010.
200 pages, 152 Quadratone plates, 9”x10″.

In 1976, John Szarkowski wrote in the introduction to William Eggleston’s Guide: “I once heard William Eggleston say that the nominal subjects of his pictures were no more than a pretext for the making of color photographs … I did not believe him, although I can believe that it might be an advantage to him to think so, or to pretend to think so.” Traveling through Steidl’s recently released Before Color, we can see why one of Eggleston’s earliest champions saw something deeper in his black & white work. We pass by the broken woodlands of northern Mississippi and suburbs of Memphis, wide gray skies, vacant motels and half-empty diners, peacefully desiccating homes and the beginnings of asphalt jungles. While these are motifs that would come to shape Eggleston’s canonical color work, there is something enchanting about experiencing the master’s work with the color stripped away.

Steidl has put out some of the most significant books on photography, and Before Color is yet another testament to the press’ sophistication. The magnitude of the work covered is impressive, yet the book still manages to move at a nice pace. The page and a half bleeds coupled with the smaller side-by-side images create interesting relationships between the photographs. Steidl’s clever sequencing of the work facilitates our understanding of the larger project: namely, to uncover an artist’s developing visual vocabulary. And as always, the work is beautifully printed. All the plates in Before Color have been scanned from vintage prints developed by Eggleston in his own darkroom. The fact that these prints were made by the photographer himself adds another thrill to looking at the work. Before Color allows us to witness an emergence of a young photographer who would go on to define a generation, and offers us a second look at a world we thought we knew. -PIP

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