Friday, April 17, 2009

...all the days and nights by Doug DuBois



It is hard enough to photograph your family let alone to be honest about it. At worst, the images are pure falsity on the part of the photographer that rely on visual descriptions of natural beauty or grace - usually the most tiring of domestic cliches. The best unlock that which is powerful enough to make you wish you could curl back up into fetal position hoping for some comfort. Doug DuBois' new book from Aperture ...all the days and nights is the latter.

DuBois has been photographing his family since 1984. A few of the photographs have trickled out over the past two decades, some in MoMA's The Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort show and in Doubletake magazine, but mostly they have remained unseen but by the lucky. Lucky because this memoir, for lack of a better term, is weighted with an unflinching gaze that risks acquiring too much knowledge both on the part of the photographer and the viewer.

The narrator of memoir projects onto its subjects, and photography is good at amplifying and projecting. DuBois' story is cast with two main characters, his parents. Although many images show his siblings, the central spotlight is on mother and father. The book opens with quiet, everyday domestic tranquility; the father fiddles with a suitcase illuminated with a play of light; a daughter worries over her groomed appearance while the reality of her room is complete chaos; the parents are happy together having drinks - the mother reacting to the flirtations of the father. They are minor events of small gesture which, to a lesser attentive narrator, would certainly not have triggered the same instincts to record.

Eight photographs in and the tranquility is disrupted by event - the father is hospitalized with major injuries that we learn were sustained from a near-fatal fall from a commuter train. It is here that the book takes a momentary dangerous turn towards a literal narrative and purpose. Lucky again that DuBois knows to quickly steer back to the quieter, less obvious moments that are leaden with the unspoken.

During the father's convalescence, it is impossible not to notice the constant state of inner reflection on the mother's face. Her intense and sullen expressions transcend concern for the father's condition pointing rather to a deeper psychological wound that has opened. Never again do we witness a smile or lightness of being in her. Every photo there after is an individual portrait. The few times when the parents are in the same frame the estrangement resonates clearly. By book's end, the split is clear.



...all the days and nights is broken into two parts. DuBois made these images during two working periods, the first from 1984-1990, the second from 1999-2008. The sequencing and edit are well handled as is the printing and layout. The introduction by Donald Antrim, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is with full understanding of DuBois accomplishment and beautifully realized.

DuBois' own brief pitch-perfect afterword describes battles with depression and attempts at suicide on the part of his mother. It also describes his role as memoirist for his family and the truths the photos reveal. His father asks, "Was it really that bad?" when he first sees a mock up of this book. All along one senses that where ever the underlying tension in DuBois' photos was coming from, reality was probably far worse for each of the players. Photography can act as a mask just like a person's countenance yet what DuBois is willing to lay bare in this book is painfully clear.

"Was it really that bad?" The strength of this work is, with all we have been privy to -- all of the intrusion and embarrassment that comes with Dubois inviting us into the household -- we might presume to answer for one of the characters.

22 comments:

J. Gossage said...

As everyone seems to be about finding and worrying about, rare things at the moment ( 103 comments when I typed this) I just wanted to say that these works by Doug DuBois are heartfelt and beautiful, and the book should sell for $250 a copy in a month.
So buy it while it's cheap

Anonymous said...

what if we got it all wrong from the beginning and this work is always going to be cheap? that photography is one of those small mediums, a medium that doesn't ever speak about things as they really are, but about things as we wanted them to be. the photographs by Doug DuBois are great just like all those days and nights. am i the only one who is confused, who feels lost. anyway. fine-; a few very slight nicks to front joint; tiny area of residue from price sticker on rear wrapper; minor tanning to extremities.

Anonymous said...

The 4th frame in the first sequence, four men wearing suits in some sort of waiting room, is a great photo.
Michael W

Anonymous said...

Just got Parr on the phone. Nope, this one's not on his like list. What else you got Jeff?

Anonymous said...

Secrets of Real Estate by John Gossage (paperback) - £50

Chris Killip - here comes everyone (hardback) - £20

Anonymous said...

Secrets of Real Estate, ok, but already sold out and price inflated. Killip, sure, but after his winners this one's not gonna be worth many future $$. Maybe Dubois is worth a punt, since first publication and rich colours. Oh, the angst of hard-edged investment. Gonna try to outwit Vincent. Maybe buy a whole print run direct from factory.

Anonymous said...

'Killip, sure, but after his winners this one's not gonna be worth many future $$'

Let stupid people miss out on Killip, then.

Mr Whiskets said...

Would love to hear some comments from people who have seen this book instead of this lingering collectors crap.

They got enough airtime from the last post no?

Double E said...

I have seen it. like it a lot, Killip always challenges us to look harder. look out for a limited edition that has all the photos tipped in. I will get Killip's new book, not for the "investment value" but because i trust his eye.

Mr Whiskets said...

I mean Doug DuBois' book...you know, the book that this post is about.

Anonymous said...

As apparently one of the few people who has seen this book already, I feel I have to say something (even if it is not very profound).

The book itself looks great, the writing on both ends of the book are a nice read, and photos like the plastic dinosaurs I will never get tired of.

QT Luong said...

If you'd like to have more comments on the book, why not post the review once it is more widely available through mainstream booksellers ? Unless the problem is that by that time it would have sold out :-) I am still waiting for books such as Thirty-Two Inch Ruler or Gowin's Photographs to show up...

Anonymous said...

"let stupid people miss out of Killip"! Have you seen his new book then Mr/Ms/Mrs Anonymous of April 19, 2009 12:29 PM? You are presuming that the quality of one book (In Flagrante) necessarily presages that of another (Here Comes Everybody) - a rather tenuous presumption.
As a separate issue, I can empathise with those people wishing to buy books with promise of future returns, even when they are not dealers or collectors. Photo books are expensive; why not buy with a view to selling on profitably after having enjoyed the book? Photo book enthusiasts are then able to fund sustainably their enterprise.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a less shallow Tina Barney.
Does that make it a deeper thing?

Anonymous said...

anyone who expects to get anything more for their books than what they paid, is dreaming.

let's say you find out tomorrow that you have cancer and you don't have medical insurance so you have to start selling your collection. you will have done really well if, all together, you get back what you paid for it.

that's the way it's always been, when no one else was interested in these books, and that's the way it'll remain.

if you want to make money, become a dealer, post your books as per Borelli's comments, and wait a couple of years.

otherwise, drop the subject.

Anonymous said...

In the UK we are civilised enough to have a national health service, so no problem there.

One would hope that artistic appreciation and investment acumen are not mutually exclusive. Buying to enjoy and buying for tomorrow can coexist, as they do in many other areas of life, for example when buying the house you live or a particular painting. Such reasoning unfortunately attracts disproportionate vitriol from utopian purists.

Incidentally, "otherwise, drop the subject." is terribly poor sentence construction.

Anonymous said...

i don't mind the correction to my grammar; won't be the last time it needs correcting.

part of the point i was trying to make but left out is that 95% of everything is junk: 95% of the music made is mediocre at best, likewise, doctors, cars, and sorry to say, photobooks. 95% of the items in our collections will most likely not buy us a sandwich in our old age.

so yes, it would be utopian for everything we buy or own to appreciate at a rate far above inflation. but they don't.

so, my point is that if you sold the whole collection and got the retail price paid for all of them, in aggregate, you should be happy. anything more is gravy on top of the fact that you've enjoyed interacting with them in the meantime.

Anonymous said...

Are we not discerning customers, exercising fine judgements of quality, aesthetics and (brace yourself) future collectibility in the books we peruse and buy. I bet we can bring that 95% down to a meagre 50% or less. Anyway, ultimately it's all a fabulous game and we should not stake our pensions on the matter.

PS. Yikes, only 5% of your doctors are safe. Get out of there quickly.

Anonymous said...

'Have you seen his new book then Mr/Ms/Mrs Anonymous'

Yes, I bought it for the £20 mentioned on Amazon.co.uk, and I think it is as good as you think I presume.

Anonymous said...

Oh, then hold onto the little book and treasure it lovingly with all your might.

Bukowski said...

The whole bullshit of photobook collecting is fucking up the quality of this fine blog.

I don't care if ...All the Days and Nights belongs to the 50% or 95% mentioned above. Fuck that shit! I think this book is great. Wanna know why? Because I think so.

Anonymous said...

To the editor in chief, if you are going to remove comments from the blog, remove the humorless vulgarities. I would like to believe when tuning into the blog from time to time that those sharing this common space are sufficiently intelligent and sensitive to be civil. One of your contributors justifiably caused umbrage by suggesting you filter out all anonymous contributors. Perhaps a better approach would be censoring pointless and humorless offensive language.