Friday, May 2, 2008

Secrets of Real Estate by John Gossage

If you were to invite John Gossage to photograph your neighborhood he could probably create an entire book's worth of work within a few city blocks (or rural lanes). He is a photographer who could probably work anywhere more so than most in that the small details that he asks us to pay attention to are common in our landscape where ever we live. The seeming insignificance of a crack in the sidewalk or a dried paint drip on a park bench is heightened into a state of importance that can be lyrical and beautiful or dark and apocalyptic.

Much of what he makes visible are man-made 'things' that were never meant to be more significant than their functions but when isolated in a photograph they speak of humankind in ways we could never have conceived had we walked by them in person. Much of my enjoyment of his work stems from the inexhaustible nature of observing all of the small sculptural bits of poetry that he is drawn to and in seeing how he collects the information in his photographs. It is not so much conceptual, as responsive. Photography is an act that is physical and Gossage's photographs show their physicality through often low vantage points that can have the viewer feeling like they are on all fours and examining the weeds growing on the edge of a neighbor's property. His work applies a childlike attention to the construction of the commonplace and often mimics the shallow depth of field of our eyesight. That and his clear understanding of how photographic description piles upon itself in the transformation of three dimensions into two is what makes each of these photographs a remarkable construction unto itself.

In the spring of 2007, Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Missouri invited John to photograph their city and a new print-on-demand book collects 59 of these images under the title Secrets of Real Estate.

Gossage's love of book craft is well-known and each of his monographs reveals his curiosity of finding new ways in which books can 'work.' Secrets of Real Estate 'works' much like a game of direction and redirection. Each photograph appears on the right-hand side page in classic photo book fashion except on the left-hand page there is a small detail reproduced from that same photo. These details are usually small second act components of the original photograph that redirect your attention -- causing you to seek them out in the original photo and thus creating a different perception of the original. The effect is to broaden your attention. Since many of Gossage's photographs use such shallow depth of field, their initial effect is to focus your attention on to the fact at hand, but the inclusion of the facing page detail belies that focusing. It becomes an interesting little game of pointing should you be interested in playing.

Secrets of Real Estate is a softcover book and since it is print-on-demand, the print quality is good but not great. It is however, light years beyond his first experiment with print on demand technology with his book Dance Card Volume 2 from Onestar Press. Gossage designed Secrets and it is being made available in a printing of around 250 Copies. Signed copies can be ordered from the Loosestrife website. The Sheldon Art Galleries also has copies but they can only accept orders through a mail-in or fax order form.

Buy at Loosestrife Editions

Available from Shelton Art Galleries


Rudy Perpich said...

I found Secrets of Real Estate on Amazon too, signed and unsigned.

Anonymous said...

Looks really interesting, his approach reminds me of Peter Frasiers poetic imagery.

a mind with no ceiling said...

As you say jeff, "inexhaustible" is the word when speaking of photography's ability to transform found objects or visual situations into two-dimensional poems taht say much more than documentation. Some think it's cheap surrealism and that it's been done thousands of times in the history of the medium but to me it's a angle that's always renewed. Maybe because it lies on surprise, precisely.
Thanks for writing about that kind of photography that is hard to speak of. And the sample images look very, very good, too.

Anonymous said...

I love all of Gossage's book and have most of them. They are conceptually innovative, exciting, and beautifully produced with the eye of a book artist. Thanks for the information on his latest.

Anonymous said...

do you know what camera John Gossage used for this project??

Anonymous said...

I think he has always shot with the same camera which is a Koni-Omega 120 medium format.

Anonymous said...

I have an unsigned copy and love the images and the clever arrangement of the photo and detail. As mentioned it's not great quality, but I would have to say that the reproduction is pretty bad for the most part. If it was intentional that's one thing but this appears to be due to poor technology.