Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Field Guide to the North American Family

This week, I received my copy of A Field Guide to the North American Family, an illustrated novella by Garth Risk Hallberg, in which two of my photographs, Front Yard and Bird Feeder, were published along with photos by many other artists, some of whom are friends in the photo world. It was quite moving to see this project, which began as a quirky website, come to fruition in such a beautiful book.

In the beginning stages of this project, Garth asked contributing photographers to submit images that interpreted a range of topics surrounding the notion of the modern family, such as "Adolescence", "Holiday", "Intimacy" and "Rebellion", and the website grew with a wealth of visual responses. Sixty-three of these images were selected to accompany diary-like entries in the book, which tells a story about two families, the Hungates and the Harrisons, living in the suburbs of New York.

The experience of the book is poetic and melancholic - images of skies and windows and dark streets and interior spaces emptied of their inhabitants reoccur throughout, and most of the figures who do appear seem absorbed in their own dreamworlds. I was struck by how harmoniously these images work together and suggest a shared vision, which was ultimately the result of Garth's curatorial and editing processes.

One of my favorite images in the book illustrates an entry about "Tradition" and was taken by a photographer, Mickey Kerr. The image depicts a snow-covered plastic Santa Claus next to a Coke machine in a gas station parking lot at night in Brooklyn.

Mickey grew up the suburbs of Kansas and now lives in New York City. He shot an incredible series of night photographs in both Brooklyn and in suburban Kansas called "Sights & Sounds" which you can find on his website,

I met Mickey while he was re-printing one of these gorgeous and haunting images in the color darkroom at the ICP, and later asked him to present his work to a class I was teaching last winter called "Photographing at Night". Recently, I noticed that Mickey shot these images in the winter of 2003, which was the same year I shot some of my own winter night photos in Minnesota. I must confess, I am in awe of Mickey's night scenes. I trust that many photographers can relate to the experience of finding something in another photographer's work that hits uncannily close to home - that feeling when someone else found the elusive thing you were looking for.

Fortunately, Mickey is a swell guy, and I love him for it. I am honored to be included in book with him and with a lot of other amazing photographers.

Front Yard

Bird Feeder

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