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Monthly Archives: October 2010

I’ve been staring at the Pond for more than 20 years, ever since I found a discarded review copy at the Strand in New York, cheap (dust jacket more than slightly battered), and I am still unable to say why the book charms me so completely.  The landscape these photographs were made in feels used and seedy, many of the individual images seem jarring, the selective focus seems pointless and pretentious.  But matched against this seemingly irrelevant content was a beautifully produced book—elegant printing, thick paper, lovely book cloth—and hidden under a prime contender for the ugliest dust jacket ever made was a lovely silver print (it took me years to find it).  And while the current reviewers act like John Gossage was part of the New Topographics movement, it is certainly worth noting that he was, in fact, excluded from this group in 1975, and that the publication of the Pond in 1985 might have been an attempt to snub that movement as well as the more traditional predecessors in the landscape.  After all, this book seems like a turning away from the broader landscape, a furtive escape into pathways suitable for drug dealers and child molesters, precisely the opposite of an attempt to describe a larger space.

 

John Gossage, The Pond

 

Looking at the book now, what strikes me is how the book both documents the ubiquitous damage we inadvertently do to in the interstitial spaces in our landscape, but also shows the beauty of these places, especially notable in the spring, when the images in the book were made.  There is comfort that the path of the book leads home—maybe not the suburban home of the American dream, but one on a quiet, safe street, nice enough.

 

John Gossage, The Pond

 

The new and improved “The Pond” has three new pictures, a thicker dust jacket with an inverted color scheme (though equally jarring), thicker boards under an even more lush book cloth, thicker paper,  and better printing.  The three new images don’t really change the feel of the book at all (I suspect they were put there for fools like me, just to get me to shell out the price of the new printing)—and the pictures are just as frustratingly obtuse as before.

 

John Gossage, The Pond

 

And Gossage’s lovely essay—a page ripped from Thoreau’s Walden (maybe even from the edition I read repeatedly while in high school) with every word crossed out except for “The Pond”—retains the feeling of a found fragment, an act of violation against both literature and the landscape—but also a celebration of what is left—this path is still worth walking, this pond is still worth photographing, and this book is still worth having and reading.

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