Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Sexton's Magnificent New Book: Recollections

The on-line Oxford Dictionary defines the word magnificent simply as "impressively beautiful"; where beauty is said to be "a combination of qualities that delights the aesthetic senses." While both words come to mind in describing John Sexton's new book, Recollections: Three Decades of Photographs, if we are to go by Oxford's rather banal definitions, neither word even comes close to conveying the depths of visual and spiritual pleasures that await anyone who focuses their eye on the masterful B&W images assembled here.

Though I own hundreds of photography books, and regularly peruse most of them for years, I have had a relatively few "Wow!" reactions over the years - indeed, the last such experiences are at least two decades old (!): to Bruce Barnbaum's late 1970s' Visual Symphony and, in the middle 1980s, to Fay Godwin's Land - but Sexton's new Opus not only evoked an immediate heartfelt "Wow!" from me, it also raises the bar on what will trigger a similar exclamation from me in the future. I sat transfixed for hours after receiving it in the mail yesterday, and already consider it a sacrosanct member of the deepest core of my photography library. It is truly an extraordinary work of art; one that I will be savoring - and learning from - for years to come.

It is also clearly the work of a master photographer and printer, at the height of his creative powers; and a "master" not just of the "moment" compared to his living peers, but a "master" as judged in the context of the history of the medium.

Of course, it is impossible to describe the "contents" of this book, except to say that it contains 52 plates (and a few short essays) of such things as rocks, trees, and water. But, as with all great photographic art, by the time you get to even the second image, such conventional, blandly and trivially representational categories are understood as absurd and meaningless. The best of Sexton's images - and there are none in this book that are not! - capture spirit itself.

In short, a masterpiece!


Anonymous said...

Wow, great to see your wonderful photography blog, Andrew. I wouldn't have known about it had I not been on John Sexton's email list. I feel the same way you do about his latest book, as well as Bruce Barnbaum's Visual Symphony. I had the wonderful pleasure of attending workshops from both of them in the 80's and 90's, before old "arthy ritis" moved in, lol. I'm pretty much a side of the road photographer now, and have given up my view cameras for 35 mm digital SLR's, but still love feeling the juice. I loved your comment on photographing that which moves your soul. I always felt there was enough trauma and ugliness in the world without my photographing it - photography was always an outlet for seeing the beauty in the world.

Thanks for such an insightful blog,
Carol Cohen

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog (per John Sexton's newsletter) and cannot express just how thrilled I am to have discovered a "kindred spirit" of sorts. Your commentary is insightful as well as inspriring. I know I will return regularly and anticipate new surpises. I have been photographing regularly since 1970, but have chosen this next year as the time to "break into the current" so to speak; I am in need of continued inspiration and guidance, as well as a sense of community as a fine art photographer and I think your blog may provide some of all that. Thank you.