Greg Halpern, Jason Fulford (ed.)

A - MY LAST COPY!

HC (no dust jacket, as issued), 26 x 31 cm.,
96 pp., 56 color ills., English.
J&L 2011.
ISBN 9780982964224

nicht verfügbar

 

"In A, American photographer Gregory Halpern (born 1977) leads us on a ramble through the brilliant and ruined streets of the United States Rust Belt. The cast of characters, both human and animal, are portrayed with compassion and respect by this native son of Buffalo (now professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology). The cities he is drawn to— Baltimore, Cincinnati, Omaha, Detroit—share similar histories with his hometown, and in this post-apocalyptic springtime all forms of life emerge and run riot. On the heels of Halpern’s two previous books, Harvard Works Because We Do (a portrait of Harvard University through the eyes of the school’s service employees) and Omaha Sketchbook (a lyrical artist’s book portrait of the titular city), A continues the photographer’s investigations of locations and persons that fly under the radar." (publisher's note)

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by: Raymond Meeks, Kevin Kunishi, Antone Dolezal, Adam Bell, Alec Soth, Shane Lavalette and Todd Hido.

Review:
"These days America's Rust Belt seems to be growing the long collapsed centers of American industry have metastasized and are merging with the larger landscape of economic woes plaguing the United States. Most often evoked by politicians to decry the stagnant state of the American economy or to celebrate past greatness, it is a landscape often heralded, but rarely visited or known. On the surface, Greg Halpern's new book A is a journey through numerous Rust Belt cities (Detroit, his home town of Buffalo, Baltimore and others), but it is also a metaphoric journey through the American landscape and an examination of its hopes and failures. As we navigate this landscape, solitary figures, dilapidated homes and skittish, frenzied animals all blend to evoke a state of stubborn survival, resilience and beauty.

We begin with a hiss. "Stay away! Get back! Go home!" screeches a cat as he walks past. Although a kitten, he has clearly learned how to survive and offers us a warning before we continue. From the cat, we move through a broken gate to a series of world-weary men and women, tattered old houses, sad trees and litter-strewn lots. Each tired face and collapsing house suggests a hidden or painful story. Each grim smile and patchwork repair reveals a quiet dignity and stubborn resilience in the face of harsh circumstances. The wooden struts holding a teetering house together echo the scars, tattoos and threadbare clothes of the people in the book. Everyone, and everything, seems to be holding on. Even the images of a skeletal teepee and improvised wigwam hint at survival on the fringes, starting over or a return to the land.

Although the work has a veneer of hope, there is a disquieting darkness underneath it. Animals run wild and houses burn. Raccoons gnaw on discarded hot wings in dark alleys and feral cats pace in steel cages. Twisted and contorted, trees stand abandoned and dismembered in the purple glow of the evening or forlornly host a murder of crows. Skyscrapers, ominous and cold, loom vertiginously in the frame -- alien monuments far removed from the humble structures that dominate the book. Solitary graves also mark the landscape. One, a makeshift pile of stones, is repeated twice. First, appearing bare and lonesome in a field, then later with a patch of weeds blowing in the wind. The second grave, recently excavated, grimly discloses a pile of white bones resting at the bottom.

The book, cleanly designed and tightly edited by Jason Fulford, is Halpern's third and second with J&L. It is also his best. Tipped-in the cover of the book is a photograph of an x-ray (perhaps the author's head and neck) that suggests not only the probing vision offered by the book, but also the subjective nature of Halpern's journey. The book contains no text or statement. Instead, the viewer is left to puzzle the meaning on their own. Among my favorite details are the first and last page, which both contain overlaid street maps from various cities. Chaotic and indecipherable, the map's tangled and overlapping streets simultaneously suggest all the cities visited by Halpern and none. The title also remains enigmatic. Most obviously it references the 'A' tattooed on the chest of a young man towards the end of the book, but it could also refer more broadly to 'America,' or to the hope and promise offered by new beginnings.

Working in the tradition of Walker Evans, Paul Graham and Jacob Holdt, Halpern's work is raw, political and compassionate. In many ways, the work represents the best of what Walker Evans called 'lyric documentary.' Filled with beauty and a keen eye for poetic details, A is a sobering journey through the back roads of America's forgotten cities." (ADAM BELL for photo eye, source: http://www.photoeye.com/magazine/reviews/2011/11_17_A.cfm)

About the photographer (*1977 in Buffalo, NY):
Gregory Halpern has published a number of books, including 'A' (2011), 'Omaha Sketchbook' (2009) and 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon' (2014), a collaboration with Ahndraya Parlato. He also edited, along with Jason Fulford, 'The Photographer’s Playbook: Over 250 Assignments and Ideas' (2014), 'Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude (Photography Workshop, 2014).
He holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and an MFA from California College of the Arts. In 2014 he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.