I’m a long time Nathan Pearce fan, so when I realized he put out two new zines, I jumped on them immediately. Both have good stories and reasons for being: Pearce shot the images for Right Past Harper Valley with his nephew, Journey Carter Withrow, and they share credits for the zine, and Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures. has a painful backstory.
Let’s take them one at a time…
In a brief introduction, Pearce tells us everything we need to know about Right Past Harper Valley.
Journey is my nephew and he and I have been making pictures together on the land where my folks live since he learned to walk. In the beginning, both of us were living there and now neither of us does. … We have spent nearly a decade exploring this small patch of rural Midwestern land and I am no less interested in what we find that I was when we started. I hope that we continue to make art there for decades to come.Pearce, Nathan. In Nathan Pearce & Journey Carter Withrow. Right Past Harper Valley. Same Coin Press, 2020.
Following the introduction, pairs of photographs come tumbling one after another, with no further text (until the brief colophon at the end). In many cases, it’s sorta obvious which photographs were made by which photographer: pictures of Withrow were likely made by Pearce, while pictures of Granddad and Pearce were probably made by Withrow. But for many pairs, its not so obvious. And this is, of course, assuming that each pair of pictures contained one photo from each photographer.
I’m reminded of two things: 1) the often-told story of my first foray into photography (Mom & Dad handed me a camera and sent me outside to take pictures… I took 27 photos of my bicycle, mostly from the same angle and they never again handed me a camera- even on holidays, I had to beg for one); and 2) my nephew Daniyal, and I wonder if he would be interested in doing something like this with me…*
In short: Good stuff, and recommended.
Copies of Right Past Harper Valley remain available for cheap from Pearce’s website. If you have nephews that you’d like to get closer to, do yourself a favor and pick one up.
Again, Pearce describes the work better than I could:
Sara and I dated for a while. We would try to walk around her town when I was passing kidney stones. I would take pictures when the pain meds kicked in.Pearce, Nathan. Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures. Same Coin Press, 2019.
Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures.
Ouch, and I guess that partly explains a) the off-kilter horizons, b) flare & ghosting and (maybe) light leaks, and c) use of color film in this zine.** There’s quit a range of subject matter: two dogs running through yards; some trucks; some buildings; a burger & crinkle-cut fries; a soda machine at what I’d guess to be some sort of theme park. Some of it is a bit out of focus, motion blurred or focused too closely; most of it has the beautiful midwestern light and color that probably looked even better after a tab or two of Oxy and a long swig of sizzurp, not that I would know…
If anything, Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures. makes me want to cut down on salt and animal protein and calcium, so as to not be in a position where I was walking around, trying to pass kidney stones, and waiting for pain meds to kick in… As a PSA, I guess it’s a good one? And as a zine, it works well enough and is right in like with Pearce’s midwestern humor.
Like Right Past Harper Valley, Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures. remains available, and I’m a bit surprised, frankly. Pearce’s more recent Distant zine collaborations series and a series on Grain Silos are both sold out, as are all of his other zines (I’m the proud owner of more than I remembered). I appreciate Pearce’s work and project and process, and encourage you to check out his website and throw him a few bucks if you can.
*Or maybe one of his older sisters, maybe? Maybe the niece who gave me the first Harry Potter book for Eid with a lovely note about how we rarely talk, and that the Sorcerer’s Stone was a favorite, and if I read it, maybe we’d have something to talk about… I’ve thought to share some books with her, but keep drawing a blank: Dune is a bit too PG-13, maybe, for the white uncle to hand to the Bengali-American teenager; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings maybe a bit too advanced (especially vs. Harry Potter, maybe)… So maybe a camera? Hummm… Wait. No. No no no. A middle aged white guy handing a camera to a teenage girl? Can anyone say “creepy?”? smh. Stick to very safe and PC books, James.
**If I recall, all the other Pearce work I have, and I have maybe a half-dozen or more zines, are in black & white, but I’m wrong… His best-known work is monochrome, but there are color images in many of his smaller zines, including one or two that reappeared in Sara didn’t like to be in the pictures.