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Approaching Nowhere: Photographs Hardcover – September 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062748
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 0.8 x 12.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jeff Brouws is a fine art photographer and part-time writer who has nine books to his credit, authoring five on railroads alone, the latest being The Call of Trains: The Railroad Photographs of Jim Shaughnessy. A book of his own photographs Approaching Nowhere (also from Norton) was published in 2006. His work can be found in major institutional collections around the country including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Princeton University Art Museum and Harvard's Fogg Museum. He resides in New York with his wife Wendy Burton.

More About the Author

Jeff Brouws, born in San Francisco in 1955, is a self-taught artist. Pursuing photography since age 13, where he roamed the railroad and industrial corridors of the South Bay Peninsula, Brouws has compiled a visual survey of America's evolving rural, urban and suburban cultural landscapes. Using single photographs as subtle narrative and compiling typologies to index the nation's character, he revels in the "readymades" found in many of these environments. Influenced by the New Topographic Movement, the artist books of Ed Ruscha (to whom Brouws paid homage with his Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations project in 1992) as well as the writings of cultural geographers like J.B. Jackson, Dolores Hayden and John Stilgoe, Brouws has combined anthropological inquiry and a bleak aesthetic beauty mining the overlooked, the obsolete, the mundane.

Initially engaged with what Walker Evans termed the "historical contemporary" along America's secondary highways beginning in the late 1980s, over the following twenty years Brouws has extended this inquiry into the everyday places occupied by most Americans - the franchised landscapes of strip malls, homogenized housing tracts and fast food chains. More recently, he has also instigated an all-encompassing photographic investigation of decimated inner cities: abandoned manufacturing sites, low-income housing, and other commercial ruins - residual public spaces left behind by the effects of de-industrialization, white flight, disinvestment, failed urban policy and overall societal neglect. Throughout these various series, Brouws seeks the nexus points behind the movement of capital and the cycles of construction, decline and renewal within the built environment. For him roads, highways and city streets - vital components of a national infrastructure - are both engines of economic development and symbols of human freedom. By subtle implication, his photographs also evoke the restlessness of an uncertain nation and communicate a low-lying foreboding. They also challenge the mythos of the American Dream and suggest an underlying disparity throughout a country that purports economic equality and social justice for all.

Brouws is the author of seven books including his most recent Approaching Nowhere published by W. W. Norton in 2006. His photographs can be found in major private and public collections including the Whitney Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Harvard's Fogg Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Henry Art Museum.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
They're everywhere and so like the title of this book: nowhere. Wherever the tarmac leads signs of commercial chaos and eventually abandonment will probably appear. In theory nothing wrong with that, businesses come and go but it seems unique to America that a gone business is remarkably reluctant to clean up after itself. The detritus of commerce just litters the landscape and a fortunate by-product of this mess, over recent years, is an increasing visual record created by a small band of brilliant topographic photographers.

Jeff Brouws has spent some years casting his creative eye over urban sprawl, interstate commercial failure and inner city decay. This latest book captures all this so well in these ninety-eight photos. The first thing you'll notice about the book (perhaps portfolio is a better word) is the size, an impressive 12.25 inches deep by 11.5 wide which gives the images the sort of display they deserve, helped also by the excellent layout and 175dpi printing. Divided into three photographic sections: Highway Landscape, Discarded Landscape and Impossibility of Ruins, this last section has nineteen remarkable shots of rust-belt inner city decay. Because of the vastness of this city blight there is more chance that the authorities will do something about it while the single abandoned highway gas station will stay just that--abandoned.

The Highway Landscape has the most photos and it is here that frequently a shot will jump off the page, it just seems so right. Page sixty-one has a beautiful night image of the Sands Restaurant in Fresno, a neon sign and other lettering perfectly framed within the image area or the gas station ruins in Vidal Junction, CA, nicely composed into thirds, sky, buildings and an earth foreground.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you collect art books about the contemporary landscape, this is one you should have. It's Brouws' sixth book, and is an ideal summation of his very productive career so far.

Brouws' work defines the term "landscape" as do the great cultural geographers, such as J.B. Jackson: It's a terrain that acts upon and is acted upon by its human inhabitants. There are few things more confounding, yet fascinating, than the behavior of other humans. We persist in the same habits and choices, despite frequently catastrophic results. Approaching Nowhere illuminates these foibles by studying their consequences through superb photography.

While Brouws' edifying eye for this world is sharply focused on the often sad reality of uncivilized sprawl, I find no stridence or intemperate cynicism in his attitude. Instead, I see the investigative sensibility of an earnest anthropologist, combined with the creative eloquence of a very talented artist.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jose Maria on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been deeply touched by this book. Jeff Brows is a master creating moments and places.

I'm writting this review after two previous one which describes perfectly what this incredible book is, so I won't repeat it.

I just can say that I'd file this book under "poetry".

Greetings from Barcelona
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Format: Hardcover
This book has amazing pictures of long lost forgotten American landscapes. It always makes me feel like I should pack my car, drive through Arizona and New Mexico, and rediscover the western desert. The pictures are really amazing though, and it definitely is somewhat of a social commentary on the consumption of America.
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