Vanessa Winship’s Seeing the Light of Day is the fifth B-Sides Box Set, and it’s a winner.
Seeing the Light of Day collects outtakes from projects and previously unpublished photographs taken during Winship’s extended travels in the United States, India, Turkey and the West Bank, and around the United Kingdom where she resides when she’s not working on a long term project. The cards are individually numbered, and of the 47 images, 44 are black & white, and 3 (#2, #25, #39) are color.
I want there to be some sort of significance to the ordering, like the three or four groups of pictures (1, 3-24, 26-38, 40-47) are actual groupings, based on time or project or region or something, but I can’t quite get there. The first picture reminds me of the Bechers and their water towers: two very large, overgrown water tanks sit in a field next to a rural highway like a pair of wellies stuck ankle deep in the mud. The three color images all show a woman in her 20s-30s. I think it’s the same woman, but can’t really be sure. In #2, she’s in a forest, offering an apple; in #25, she’s curled up in a bathtub, fully clothed and staring out of frame at the seam between the wall and ceiling; in #39, she’s lying in a field and look almost dumped there, like a murder victim or something, in a really awkward pose.
If #2 is Eve, then the pictures that follow almost show a sort of fall: a lean-to in the forest, swampland, a young mother and her baby daughter standing outside a weatherbeaten structure, a dapper young man, some eastern European ballet students, soldiers facing a crowd of Arab protestors, a pile of _____ (skulls? canonballs? spherical rocks?), another pile of bags or clothes or something, ruins of various types, some travelers or a family living out of a minibus, a shirtless and shoeless young man posed against a white wall and staring out confidently, and a young woman in a nice outfit standing on the side of a city street.*
So, ok. It’s a morality play, maybe? But then what to make of #25 and that group? Well, the pictures are different somehow, cleaner, clearer. There’s a seaside instead of a swamp, for example, though the rocks look sharp and dangerous. There are more portraits, I think, and the landscapes, while still depicting dilapidation, are less disconcerting.
And the final group is no help either: beauty queen, cowgirl, American backwoods areas, a toddler in rags, a gnarled old tree.
I’ve spent maybe three hours going through these photocards, looking closely, trying to find a thread or something, walking away for a few hours or days, coming back with some determination. I haven’t really gotten anywhere beyond the obvious…
What this all points to is a good set of photographs, really, a wonderful little object. I doubt I’ve spent quite so long with any B-Sides Box, and if I have, I haven’t had this level of pointed interest, curiosity, wonder.
I like these B-Sides Box sets, and this one is particularly good. 4 stars.
*I’m reciting these from memory, and so probably have the order wrong.