After averaging something like two photobooks per month in 2015, I’ve sworn a bit of a moratorium on photobook purchases, not as any sort of resolution, per se, but just as a sort of test of will and patience. The end of the year, what with its Listmas and other nudges (gentle and otherwise) to BUY THIS BOOK NAO!, was difficult, but I mostly persevered, except for those two books I mentioned in the last unboxing.
One thing that I ran across kept nudging me, though, and insistently…
Blake Andrews alerted me to this one too (see entry #7 under ‘Photobooks’ here, and also included in ‘Six photobooks the lists missed’ here), and while I don’t always agree with B, after perusing his various picks, Huger Foote’s Now Here Then caught my eye, and despite my best efforts, it haunted me for more than a week, and after some difficulty, I ordered it.*
I didn’t know much about Foote, and didn’t think I’d even seen any of his pictures before, but he did a photo essay for T Magazine back in 2012 that I actually remember flipping through some time ago: at the time didn’t think to go look for more. I didn’t really know what I was looking at then, but I’ve learned some things in the interim, and this stuff is good.
Part Saul Leiter (in composition), part Harry Gruyaert (in color sense) (and part I-don’t-know-enough-to-really-say-but-wow: good stuff!), Now Here Then is a collection of work prints from various decades that Foote found lying about in his studio, getting stepped on, used as coasters and bookmarks, and Allahu Alim, and pretty much taking on a life of their own.
Foote practices a technique known as Pigment Transfer* to create his prints, and you can see some of the characteristics of that process in a few of the prints, though only if you know what the process is and what you can get out of it, and only if you can distinguish the quirks in the printing technique from the wear marks. There’s a bit of a tutorial here and here about the process: I might have to give it a try one day, when and if I ever get a printer and start turning some of my 1s and 0s into actual, tangible pictures. Huger Foote is, I expect, something of a master in the technique, and I don’t think all of the pictures in Now Here Then started out as Pigment Transfers—in an interview about the book, Foote mentions that at least one was taken when he was “probably 13 or 14.” Perhaps it was Pigment Transferred at a later date, but it does look a bit different than most of the other pictures in the book.
There are a couple of pictures that I can’t shake, that keep coming back to me. Both are hard to describe, and equally hard to see. The first is a stem of yellow leaves in amongst stems of yellow leaves, mostly out of focus, with one more or less sharp stem and some leaves running vertically up the middle of the frame. The other… even after repeated viewings, days apart, sometimes for many minutes at a variety of distances, I still don’t know what it is. I think maybe it was a tree growing in a courtyard as viewed from a porch of some sort, that was somehow stuck to another print, then, some time later, gently peeled apart such that most of the upper third is just gone, and the rest is indeterminate, but with obvious remnants of a tree and some parts of a structure. These two, more so than most of the others, really scream out the intent of the whole book: a selection of work prints, gathered from various locations and decades, showing how time changes objects, imbues them with something extra, and can even transform the mediocre into something potentially spectacular.
I enjoyed this book so much that I’m impatiently awaiting delivery of Foote’s nearly out-of-print My Friend from Memphis.
So much for the photobook moratorium…
*I’m a bit of an idiot sometimes… When I bought this, I had a great deal of trouble finding the publisher’s store page. A search for “now here there hulger foote” gave me this site as the first result, and while it looks like it has some relevance to the publisher, it’s not the publisher’s website. I’m not sure how I wound up at the right place: the first page of google results (for me) does not list Dashwood Books. This is where you need to go to buy a copy. What I only realized a couple of nights ago, when looking at the spine of the book, was that the name is actually “Now Here Then” and the photographer’s name is “Huger Foote.” So if you want to easily order the book, trythis search… They only printed 1000 of them, so if you really want one, I would hurry.