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John Gossage, "The Pond"
Old 12-04-2016   #1
RichC
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John Gossage, "The Pond"

I've just bought a copy of this book. Here's a summary of it: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/...pond-1986.html

It's been described as "groundbreaking", "one of the most important photobooks" and "hugely influential" - and John Gossage as a "master photographer".

Signed copies of the original 1985 book are now approaching $1000, even though it isn't especially rare signed.

What do folk here think about Gossage's photos and book? Are they any good, let alone important?
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Old 12-04-2016   #2
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Dang it...I've been doing it all wrong. I need to include clutter in my photographs.

Just kidding. I'd love to see the whole book to make a decision but some of the photographs included in the article I really liked. I respect & enjoy the works of Robert Adams. Gossage I'm not too familiar with

What is your opinion of the book Rich?
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Old 12-04-2016   #3
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I like them - now.

I came across these photos a few years back but failed to see what the fuss was about. They were OK, but overall nothing special. But - the photos stuck in my memory for some reason...

My photography's changed entirely since then, and today I see Gossage's photos as more of a visual poem, and as a commentary on our relationship with nature, than as images to be appreciated purely as pictures. More of "the whole is greater than the parts" thing.
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Old 12-04-2016   #4
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Even though it's a significant departure from most of the rest of the books I've purchased that have humans dominating the images, I like Gossage's The Pond a very great deal. It is a narrative, and so each image (imho) is not meant to be evaluated independently or on the "is it pretty or not" scale. Instead, I ask whether the images contribute to the (short) story being told. To my eye (or mind), they do. And because the story centers around a very common human environment the story I see in Gossage's book is human in a way that the usual "pretty landscape" photo isn't.
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Old 12-04-2016   #5
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I have the latter edition too, having bought it when it last came out. I think I was intrigued by something Soth said in his (then) blog. He's a big, big fan but then a lot of people in the photographic arts speak very highly of Gossage, so he's hard to miss.

The Pond is atypical in some ways and it does leave some people scratching their head I guess. For one thing, composition is stripped to bare essentials. You may say, the photos are definitely composed but composition is definitely not what this is about. It is not about documenting anything in particular either, certainly not the pond in the usual sense. Some of the shots I believe were taken in a different location from the pond, yet they are included in the narrative. (And there is a narrative, a slowly built one, that you have to follow to the bitter end.) It is a cerebral piece of work, with a political message in its heart that benefits greatly from the book format. It investigates the no man's land area that separates man-made landscapes from nature. This is a place that an invasion may have taken place or may loom ahead and we are left to ponder the results. This is a topic that resurfaces persistently in photographic projects. I don't know if Gossage was the first to attempt it. But I feel not many of these projects have the eeriness witnessed in these photos, and I think none brings the solemn message home like Gossage did in The Pond.

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Old 12-04-2016   #6
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These are some very good reviews. I bought this when it was first published and it remains one of my favourite photographic books. The photographs convey the feeling of walking through an unspectacular and largely uncared for local landscape. As with most successful art, it's difficult to put one's finger on precisely why it works.
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Old 12-04-2016   #7
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hahahahahahahahahaha
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Old 12-05-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telenous View Post
I have the latter edition too, having bought it when it last came out. I think I was intrigued by something Soth said in his (then) blog. He's a big, big fan but then a lot of people in the photographic arts speak very highly of Gossage, so he's hard to miss.

The Pond is atypical in some ways and it does leave some people scratching their head I guess. For one thing, composition is stripped to bare essentials. You may say, the photos are definitely composed but composition is definitely not what this is about. It is not about documenting anything in particular either, certainly not the pond in the usual sense. Some of the shots I believe were taken in a different location from the pond, yet they are included in the narrative. (And there is a narrative, a slowly built one, that you have to follow to the bitter end.) It is a cerebral piece of work, with a political message in its heart that benefits greatly from the book format. It investigates the no man's land area that separates man-made landscapes from nature. This is a place that an invasion may have taken place or may loom ahead and we are left to ponder the results. This is a topic that resurfaces persistently in photographic projects. I don't know if Gossage was the first to attempt it. But I feel not many of these projects have the eeriness witnessed in these photos, and I think none brings the solemn message home like Gossage did in The Pond.

.
Well said, Alkis. I agree with every word.

One reason why I appreciate The Pond is something you hinted at, its "bookness". Most photographs are taken in order to stand alone as single images (or as a small group that can be seen in random order), but here is a photographic work that is best (and really only intelligible) as a book. Making photographic work in that mode is something special for me. Gossage isn't alone in that, of course. I've seen Robert Frank prints in person (the huge retrospective show of several years ago) and while I loved the printing, the images from The Americans are robbed of something important when taken out of the book format. That something, for me, is the narrative that builds up as I look through them in sequence. I feel the same way about Walker Evans, American Photographs and Gossage's The Pond. They are all meant to be experienced as a book, in sequence. I admire that accomplishment very much in all three.
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Old 12-05-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faberryman View Post
I haven't seen the book (it's $48 in hardcover on Amazon), but I have seen many of the images, and while there were a few I liked, I thought most of them, while technically good, were mundane. Perhaps that's the point?
They really need to be seen and considered together rather than singly.
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Old 12-05-2016   #10
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hahahahahahahahahaha
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Old 12-05-2016   #11
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Old 12-07-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papercut View Post
Well said, Alkis. I agree with every word.

One reason why I appreciate The Pond is something you hinted at, its "bookness". Most photographs are taken in order to stand alone as single images (or as a small group that can be seen in random order), but here is a photographic work that is best (and really only intelligible) as a book. Making photographic work in that mode is something special for me. Gossage isn't alone in that, of course. I've seen Robert Frank prints in person (the huge retrospective show of several years ago) and while I loved the printing, the images from The Americans are robbed of something important when taken out of the book format. That something, for me, is the narrative that builds up as I look through them in sequence. I feel the same way about Walker Evans, American Photographs and Gossage's The Pond. They are all meant to be experienced as a book, in sequence. I admire that accomplishment very much in all three.
Very eloquently put, thanks Kevin.

That the book format opens up literary possibilities not present in the print form was well-understood by Evans. And I quite agree, Frank and Gossage, despite the seeming disparity of subject matter, belong to that same tradition.

"...these photographs, of necessity seen singly, are not conceived as isolated pictures made by the camera turned indiscriminately here or there. In intention and in effect they exist as a collection of statements deriving from and presenting a consistent attitude. Looked at in sequence they are overwhelming in their exhaustiveness of detail, their poetry of contrast, and for those who wish to see it, their moral implication..." (L.Kirstein, Afterword, American Photographs)

Which, of course, could have been written for The Pond, without undue loss or gain in meaning.

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