Their earlier collaboration, Still Feel Gone, was larger and more book like, with a complex sort of double-sided production that reminded me of a split 7″ punk record. ‘South of Chicago’ is more of a straightforward zine, smaller, more comfortable in the hand, and remains laser-focused on southern Illinois.
Again, it seems that Pearce stuck with his 35mm and Carpenter continued with the 4×5. At this trim level, the only tip-off is the crop size: half are 2×3, the rest are 4×5, and printed at near contact-print size. It’s all just right, I think.
Given that I was raised in the country (or, rather, exurbs) and spent 3 years in Springfield, IL, I’m familiar with the landscape Pearce & Carpenter photographed. My direct experience with it is further away from me now than when I first got into Pearce’s work. I look at the pictures now with a sort of reservation, with a distance. I know the places, sure, but I don’t feel the comfort from them that I once did. I’m not sure why. Too long in the city/suburb, maybe? Too long in front of a computer, maybe? I don’t know, but I don’t quite get the same feeling of “home” that I got from Pearce’s (and Carpenter’s) earlier zines and books.
It’s not their fault, of course: they’re still making great black & white photographs of the Midwestern landscape, the creeks and fields and farm roads, railroad tracks, little stands of trees along property lines. From the wing mirrors and door frames, it looks like Pearce (or whoever shot the 2×3 images) spent some time photographing from the car. (I’m sympathetic.) These add a sort of voyeuristic feel that I recognize in my own work, though I mostly shoot in color. Given the Midwestern weather, the car provides both shelter and the opportunity to shoot through rain-speckled (or drenched) windshields, and Pearce uses this well. Where I would try to crop out the bits of car, Pearce lets it all hang out, and I could take something from that.
I counted, and the zine is fairly well split: there are 15 4×5 images (presumably Carpenter’s) and 12 2×3 pictures, and in pacing and all it feels really even. That said, I respond more to the 2×3 images, probably because they all appear to be taken from a seated position, as if photographing from the driver’s seat of an automobile, where the 4×5 pictures all seem to be made out in the open. I spend a good amount of time exhorting myself to “GET OUT OF THE CAR,” and feeling ashamed when I don’t—I haven’t yet made my peace with this internal contradiction/cognitive dissonance—and Pearce sorta gives me more permission (if late-period Winogrand didn’t…).
Anyway. South of Chicago is a nice little zine. I’m feeling lazy to actually give it a rating: apologies. It’s only available through the Baltimore Photo Space, and neither Pearce nor Carpenter list it on their websites. I learned of it from Pearce’s (or Crowther’s) Instagram. So if you want a zine of good, contemporary black & white landscape photographs from a pair of exemplary practitioners, get on it soon.