"The photographs in this book were taken between 1984 and 1991. They were made in Boston and New England and rural Illinois, and Knoxville." (Mark STEINMETZ)
"Following on the tails of what feels like his magnum opus ('South Central', 'South East' and 'Greater Atlanta'), Mark Steinmetz’s book 'Summertime' is a delightful coda to that impressive collection.
Steinmetz’s work is remarkable in many ways, but he excels at revealing the subtle beauties of everyday life that in other photographers’ hands would feel mawkish and crude. Shot over the span of roughly ten years - beginning in the mid-eighties and ending in the early nineties – the photographs concentrate on the restless summer activities of American youth. More focused than his previous books, Summertime contains a wealth of quiet and meditative portraits of kids and young adults in locations as disparate as Boston and Knoxville. Paging through the book, you can almost hear the T-Rex, Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister playing in the background as the various kids hang out, make-out, smoke and lounge on their porch or car - filling their summer days with careless fun.
Whereas Steinmetz’s previous books incorporated landscapes, portraits and animals in equal measure, his new book is entirely focused on children and adolescents. Predominately shot outdoors, the kids in the pictures sit on sidewalks, play in sprinkles, lounge on the car hoods on or rest on porches. While some of the kids are engaged in minor activities, a sense of stillness dominates the work. The hot humid air of summer seems to force the kids outdoors, where they lounge and sit in the shade, on the streets or wherever the day has taken them.
Framing the book are two fantastic images that bookend the work perfectly. The book opens with a delightful image of a young boy lying in an expansive lawn with his school in the background. Although it appears to be fall, the boy seems to be happily dreaming of the possibilities of summer that stretches before him. The book ends on an bittersweet image. Another young boy lays sprawled out on a front yard and in lap of an obscured figure, his body wrapped in a cast that starts at his chest. At first tragic, we quickly notice that his entire cast and body are covered with the messages of countless friends. Even trapped in a cast, his graffiti scrawled body offers evidence of a summer of fun, adventure and new friends. As bookends, the two images suggest both the possibility and promise of summer and blissful buzz of a rawkus summer full of joyful memories.
Looking through the book several times, I can’t help but feel the work is an antidote to a lot of the portrait work being made in the contemporary photography world. There are no deadpan portraits of kids sitting on beds or sofas, no teenagers standing vacantly in the middle of the frame, nor are there any conceptual gimmicks to his work. Instead, Steinmetz’s work radiates a sense of radical honestly that is both disarming and refreshing. As others have noted, the photographs are incredibly revealing, but never forced or contrived. We are given brief, but intimate, access to various moments in these kid’s lives, but we just as quickly move on.
From his numerous books with Nazraeli to his recent book with 'These Birds Walk 'and his upcoming collaboration with Raymond MEEKS published by Orchard and Silas Finch, Steinmetz has released a wealth of different books over the past few years. Looking back at early reviews of Steinmetz’s work, it is shocking to see how many of the reviews criticize his work as being either too Gothic or Southern, patronizing or just creepy and voyeuristic.
Despite these wrong-headed early reviews, it is exciting to see Steinmetz’s photograph reach new audiences with his books. Whereas much contemporary work feels instantly dated, Steinmetz capitalizes on one of photography’s greatest strength – revealing the world, as well as its idiosyncrasies and beauty, in all its glory. Admittedly this is a rather old fashion notion, but Steinmetz’s works is a resounding rebuke to the critics and artists who might scoff at straight work. Although it would be easy, and somewhat clichéd, to describe Steinmetz as a photographer’s photographer, but he is and much more. Steinmetz makes images of poignant beauty than resonate deeply and demand repeated viewing." Adam Bell, in: Ahorn Magazine (archive, opened 11.11.2017, source: http://www.ahornmagazine.com/issue_8/review_bell_steinmetz/review_bell_steinmetz.html)
"Entre 1984 et 1991 Mark Steinmetz a photographié des enfants et des adolescents qui rêvent, se prélassent ou s'ennuient pendant la période bénie des vacances d'été. Nostalgie quand tu nous tiens..." (publisher's note)
Ein gewohnt stiller Band des US-Amerikaners. Die Schwarz-Weiss-Aufnahmen (Portraits und Ganzkörper-Bilder) aufwachsender Jugendlicher wurden in den 80ern gemacht.