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The Weather and a Place to Live: Photographs of the Suburban West (Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography) Hardcover – October 14, 2005


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Product Details

  • Series: Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822336111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822336112
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 10.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Smith won the prize for his intelligent choice of a subject hidden in full view that is of paramount importance. His work is by turns humorous and piteous, elegiac and ironic, and cumulatively very powerful for he has shaped an essay from aesthetically elegant, delicately nuanced pictures that are pitch perfect, in the spirit of the American West and in keeping with its long history of fine photographs.”—Maria Morris Hambourg, Prize Judge


“These images create a portrait of the systems of control which prepare the land for habitation and also guard them against nature. In making these photographs I wanted the manmade and natural elements of the landscape within each picture to communicate in a more extended and elaborate dialogue.”—Steven B. Smith


“Steven B. Smith looks at the suburban sprawl of Utah, California, and Colorado and sees waste, hubris, folly, and great formal beauty. . . . [T]hese photographs set up a tension between the sadness inherent in the rampant ‘Californization’ of the West and the machine-like but also strangely organic beauty to be found in the process. Smith’s work, and his book, are both disturbing and lovely.”
(R. K. Dickson, The Bloomsbury Review)

"[A] rebellious, defiant vitality rooted in the American suburban West. . . . Smith's black-and-white photographs [include] stark expanses where the monumental blankness of a Utah or Colorado sky meets the equally blank geometry of irrigation pipes of two-car garages. Between mountains and fences, between a tremendous rock face and giant stack of plywood, Smith's images record not so much a contrast as two violent absences joining as a single force. Landfill, seedling, turnabout, heating coil collude with the sky and mountains in a triumph of disproportion: scale not so much confused or lost as irrelevant. . . ."
(Robert Pinsky, Slate.com)

About the Author

Steven B. Smith is a Professor of Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. He was born in American Fork, Utah, and spent his early years in the small communities around Salt Lake City. He has been awarded a Guggenheim and an Aaron Siskind Fellowship for Photography.

Maria Morris Hambourg, Founding Curator of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was the prize’s judge. Her career began at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she worked closely with John Szarkowski in the Department of Prints and Photographs. She has curated such exhibitions as Thomas Struth; Avedon’s Portraits; Walker Evans; Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn’s Nudes, 1949–1950; and Carleton Watkins, the Art of Perception.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Cartman on January 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thought Steven Smith's photographs were revelatory in their understated, droll take on our new westward expansion. And I couldn't agree more with Robert Pinsky, now that he's pointed it out (see his recent comments on slate.com), that there is something South Parkian about it all: "Smith's black-and-white photographs share some visual qualities with the cartoon-colored townscape of the TV series: stark expanses where the monumental blankness of a Utah or Colorado sky meets the equally blank geometry of irrigation pipes or two-car garages. Between mountains and fences, between a tremendous rock face and giant stacks of plywood, Smith's images record not so much a contrast as two violent absences joining as a single force. Landfill, seedling, turnabout, heating coil collude with the sky and mountains in a triumph of disproportion: scale not so much confused or lost as irrelevant: a loss of footing that is a visual equivalent for the moral goofs and chasms of South Park. The deadpan, improvised juncture of immensity and triviality: that harsh, uninflected tone [is] shared by these amazing works." That about sums it up.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey R. Barnett-winsby on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This re-visitation of a new topographic concept allows reflection as well as momentary relief from the unending rough and tumble of our ever-expanding lives. It does this by offering amazing aesthetic consideration of a subject matter that often confounds by forcing the laugh most commonly associated with a dirty joke (we might not want others to hear us telling,) and by providing a visual anchor for which we may consider the consequences of an overwhelming capitalist expansion.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on July 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A remarkable book of photos that only half works. I say this because I have just read a fascinating interview with Steven Smith by photographer Christopher Sims on the Duke/CDS Books website (I've no idea how long it will be available). Smith explains in careful detail his thoughts on the housing and commercial development in the western states and his working techniques. An edited version of this interview really should have been included to make this the almost perfect photobook.

The eighty-two photos, beautifully printed in an impressively fine screen, are quite technical, overviews of developments showing potential roads, house plots and the way contractors prepare the land, down to details of landscaping for individual homes. Having looked through these photos several times I find there is another editorial weakness to the book, the photos show things that make me ask: 'What's going on here?' For instance, page fifty-one shows lines of piping on a gravel roadway or wide path, the caption says 'Heating coils, Mapleton, Utah, 1999', I really want to know more but this is an 'art' book, so tough. This 'art' book status is also confirmed by having all the very short captions on a couple of pages in the back of the book. They of course should have been centered under each photo.

Steven Smith clearly has something to say with his excellent photographs but I was disappointed that the book's editorial format did not allow them to work as well as they should. A similar book about the hand of (commercial) man on the landscape that I have enjoyed is 'Consuming the American Landscape' (ISBN 1904587003) by photographer John Ganis. This book has a large landscape format that allows the color photos to work so well and a caption under each photo, too.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
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The Weather and a Place to Live: Photographs of the Suburban West (Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography)
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