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Grim Street Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 1, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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About the Author
Mark Cohen’s numerous solo exhibitions include those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Fogg Museum, Cambridge. Cohen’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two Guggenheim Fellowships. He lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Anne Wilkes Tucker is the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography and founder of the Photography Department at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She has curated exhibitions of artists including Robert Frank, Brassaï, and Richard Misrach. Tucker has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Getty Center. She lives in Houston.
Thomas Southall is the Curator of Photography at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and has organized numerous exhibitions with publications including Walker Evans and William Christenberry: Of Time and Place and Diane Arbus: Magazine Work. He lives in Atlanta.
Joel-Peter Witkin’s photography, which explores the themes of God, Death, and the self, has been the subject of sixteen monographs and more than one hundred solo exhibitions. Witkin lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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JUMP ROPE shows a girl standing while holding a jump rope. The jump rope is twisted once between her legs. The image does not include the girl's head or feet.
LILLIAN SALTING shows a hand holding a salt shaker, with streams of salt pouring out of some 20 holes in the salt shaker, where the streams of salt fall into a cloud of steam rising from a kettle of boiling water.
MOTORCYCLE GANG ON GROUND shows a man lying on the ground, while another man pours beer into the first man's mouth. Two hands are shown, each clutching a cigarette. An arm over to the right bears a tattoo of the devil. The photo is an ensemble scene. The composition is similar to these by photographer Larry Fink, as found in his marvelous book, SOCIAL GRACES.
KID IN WINDOW AND GAS TUBE shows a juxtaposition of a silvery metal cylinder mounted on the outside of a house, with a value and bent gas lines and an infant inside of the house. The infant is visible through a window situated next to the silver cylinder. The infant sits on a table and is stabilized by its mother's hands. The infant's bald forehead resembles, in form, the round top of the silvery cylinder of gas. The textures of the gas tank, shingling on the house, and window, collaborate to make a very interesting photograph, worthy of repeated viewings.
TWO GUYS' SHOES AND FEET is unusual in that it is a closeup of two adjacent feet, but each foot belongs to a different man. The pants are different. The shoes have a different style. The socks have different colors. Despite these differences, upon first glance the viewer assumes that both feet belong to the same person. But after a few seconds, one realizes that the feet and legs are contributed by two different people.
GIRLS PLAYING UNDER A BOX shows two girls with one box over their heads. It is a cute picture, but the same type of image has been done before by photographer HELEN LEVITT.
BUBBLE GUM is the standout photograph in GRIM STREET. We see a blown up bubble gum filled with a girl's breath, and behind the bubble is the girl holding the bubble in her mouth, and behind the girl is a child holding his outstretched hand above the girl's head. The outstretched hand, with its splayed fingers, resembles a crown over the girl's head. This is the type of photograph that is often taken by photographer Martin Parr.
BOYS ON BICYCLE shows an arrangement of arms and handlebars, where two boys are sitting on one bicycle. One of the boys has ink-pen tattoos on his arm. One is the name, "DICK." The other is a drawing of a crucifix. The image brings to mind the paintings of Phillip Pearlstein, because if its sculptural quality. In other words, the goal of the image is to show an interesting composition, as might be found in a sculpture made from welded tubes or scrap metal.
CONCLUSION. GRIM STREET is an excellent tool for photographers interested in inspiration for their own portfolios. At least to me, only 7 or 8 photographs were inspiring.
I am not sure why I would want to look at this book more than three times. There are other photographers with portfolios that I like to view repeatedly. These include Nicholas Nixon, Helen Levitt, Martin Parr, Larry Fink, and Max Yavno. Like Mark Cohen, each of these photographers has created a portfolio of street scenes, or informal family scenes, where children abound. But the quality and quantity of these other portfolios are better than that of GRIM STREET (providing that quality is measured by clarity, sharpness, and novelty in composition).
Graininess and blurriness is sometimes used, to excellent effect, as a technique in photography. Perhaps, for some of the photos in GRIM STREET, it might reasonably be argued that the graininess and blurriness adds something, or that these are integral components of the photo. But I am not sure why most of the GRIM STREET photos need to be blurry or grainy. THREE STARS.
I, a son of Wilkes-Barre, spent weekends with my father and grandfather in the Heights Section of this fabled coal-town. Though, my time there came years after Cohen's published street work, I can still relate to those dusty images, a virtual urban playground for little boys. Tackle football in the backyards, bordered by massive, dilapidated fences; the distinct, sharp smell of cigarettes in the hands of kids no older than 13; boarded windows, with peep-holes just my height. The alleys I walked never struck me as eerie, they were the norm, they were Wilkes-Barre and to some degree the same is true today. Cohen's unique visual-ethnographic study of urban banality, makes beautiful the unusual and awkward character of Northeastern Pennsylvania.