Unboxing ‘pomodori a grappolo’

I’m not quite sure what I can say about John Gossage‘s pomodori a grappolo. Professional photographers that I admire heap praise on Gossage’s work, on his seeing, so there must be something there, but after 4 trips through the 3, large books that make up pomodori a grappolo, I’m still not quite getting it.

pomodori a grappolo is composed of three individual books, sold together as a set. The three books reproduce the images at the same trim size, and there’s probably something to be said about that, but I don’t even know where to begin. In flipping through, I didn’t notice much change. The margins look too small in one of the volumes; the sides look too narrow in another; one is sort of Goldilocks.

According to PhotoEye, the tree volumes are individually titled The Girl at the Crossing, Nullo and Sideways Glance, but I’ve been unable to verify that anywhere, and I don’t recall anything in the photographs or the short written pieces that would benefit from those names, nor do I see those names as contributing.

Speaking of the written pieces, Marlene Klein contributed an Epigram (her, talking about Gossage’s eye and process) and two stories (one, on a longish car trip across Italy with Gossage and some other people; the other, about, if I recall, the Spartan blockade of Athens during the Peloponnesian War: the former has an obvious relationship to the photographs; the latter, well…). These are printed on thin, yellow paper, trimmed much smaller than the rest of the pages, and bound into the book. The first, or the one in the book I look at first, comes near the end of the volume; the second, near the middle; the third, near the beginning, in the first 1/4.

The stores are maybe the most interesting part to me. There’s at least some sort of clarity there.

The photographs are mostly snapshot-type, but (obvioiusly?) very well considered, and produced by a widely acknowledged master of contemporary photography. There is some repetition of forms (ladders appear in a string of 2 or 3 pages in the third volume, for example), but mostly it seems more or less random, and I’m reminded of the tomato plants in my vegetable patch, multiple stems stretching up and out, branching, crossing, branching again, occasionally producing some fruit…

I read a review on Amazon that said “If you are a fan of Gossage you will like this work. If you didn’t like 32 Inch ruler or some of his other newer works than I would suggest you stay away.” I think that’s very accurate.

If we take the work’s title as a general description of the series, as a jumping off point for the photographs, I think the concept is sorta right. The content… well, it’s a bunch of pictures by one of the contemporary masters of photography, someone that many other master photographers laud, but that I honestly don’t get: the light is often harsh; the subject(s) is/are usually wholly unknown; the framing is good, for sure, it’s obvious he meant to take that picture; beyond that, they look like a bunch of digital snapshots of nothing, but then I don’t know much about photography. The design is interesting and reflects the general theme (pomodori a grappolo… vine tomatoes), but is otherwise straight ahead, solid photobook making.

Concept
Content
Design

Overall, at this point in my life, with my understanding of photography, I’d give it a middle of the road 3.3.

pomodori a grapollo had a relatively huge print run, for a photobook, so copies are available all over. There’s even a special edition, with the books held together with magnets, and some of those remain available too. Teju Cole mentioned Gossage on the Magic Hour podcast, and I immediately bought the most recent works from both Gossage and Cole.* I can’t really recommend pomodori a grappolo, but I’m happy to have it, and I hope to one day “get it,” if there’s something to get.

If you have any tips for me, please pass them on!


*Stay tuned for a brief review of Blind Spot.

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