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SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPortraits of ResiliencePostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlayRXSame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe PervertThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?Why Comics?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Photographers, Writers, and the
American Scene is a curious collection of photographs, short fiction and
poems by a wide variety of fifty distinguished artists specifically invited to
contribute their creations. In his
preface, Arthur Ollman calls it a symphony on the theme of American culture at
the turning of the millennium. The
composer of this symphony is James Enyeart, director of the Center for
Photographic Arts at the College of Santa Fe, and he provides a brief but
somewhat helpful introduction to the book.
He says this project gives us an opportunity to redefine the term
documentary but this is an overblown claim.
Its hard to judge the success of the enterprise, but its reasonable
clear that the photographs are far more successful than the written
contributions, and as a whole, this collection has little coherence. Its far more interesting seen simply as a
somewhat random anthology of excellent photographers commenting on American
Each photographer has a several
pages, some more than others do. Bruce
Davidson shows various panoramic scenes in black and white; '"The New York
Street," Las Vegas, 1997" unfolds on three pages, showing a bizarrely
postmodern conjunction of buildings with throngs of tourists in the
walkways. Yet, the image surprisingly
lacks a sense of ridicule or disgust, and instead suggests at most a wry smile
at what passes for leisure at the end of the twentieth century. Similarly, Marion Faller photographs the
lengths Americans go in decorating their houses for holiday celebrations such
as Christmas, Halloween, and Independence Day.
Her images are full of vibrant colors, but no people. This may convey some sense of emptiness, but
she is not poking fun at the people who have put so much effort into their
creations. William Christenberry finds
great beauty in the slight decay of rural Alabama; 'Door and Wall, near
Stewart, Alabama, 1999' show an old barn that was once painted a strong shade
of turquoise, but now most of the paint has peeled off. Sylvia Plachy shows people at odd or
poignant moments, and Debbie Fleming Caffery has dark dramatic images of
people, animals and things a black and white picture of a well-used Holy
Bible on a couch is especially powerful.
John Pfahl shows hills created by humans, made of toxic waste, trash,
cans, and car parts. Susan Meiselas shows
women in New York City streets, going about their business, while Joan Myers
creates large-scale black and white images of human creations in nature, such
as 'Navajo Power Plant (Coal), Arizona, 1999.'
Shelby Lee Adams captures the humanity of people in rural Kentucky, with
carefully posed black and white photographs.
Stephen Shore shows the news media reporting on events, highlighting the
camera-people, the sound recorders, and the make-up artists, composing reality
for the consumption of the public.
It's hard to make any useful
generalization about this collection of photographs, but it is a pleasure to
browse through them. They are
thoughtful images, and they help the viewer reflect on the state of the
USA. One might even view them as
important historical documents in the sense that they capture the nation
at the height of a period of economic
prosperity, before fear of terrorism and a readiness to go to war became
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.