This review is written by Robin Benson.
How refreshing to come across a photo book that delivers more than just excellent photos centered on the page even though the subject matter here is junk. Lisa Kereszi knows this junkyard well because it was started by her grandfather, Joe Kereszi Sr, in Trainer south west of Philadelphia, in the fifties and eventually run by her father Joe Kereszi Jr until it was sold in 2003 to the junkyard next door run by Joe's cousins. It's still there now and you can see it on Street View.
By all accounts it was a successful business in the fifties and into the sixties despite Joe's rather unorthodox business habit of never haggling with a customer over the price for a spare part...he would rather not sell it than get less than his price. Over the years the business declined and the yard comes across in the photos (taken from 1998 onwards) as a rather ramshackle business.
The sixty-six contemporary photos by Lisa Kereszi capture the feel of the yard and the people who worked there. The dirt and grime of rusting engine parts contrasts with the green foliage growing between the car bodies and discarded tires. I thought the best photos were those taken inside the building on the site. The floors piled high with bits of equipment at odd angles all creating interesting shapes and shadows. Wall brackets holding dozens of used fan-belts, shelving stuffed, or not, with all kinds of engine parts and the office wall covered with layers of paper, posters and those signs that no commercial concern seems to be without: HOWDY! NOW GIT!; Welcome to the NUTHOUSE; WE GIVE FAST SERVICE No Matter How Long It Takes.
All these photos are interesting enough but what gives this photo book a lift are the two illustrated essay pages before and after the photo section. Joe Kereszi Sr kept scrapbooks where he stuck in photos of the family and the business but also clippings from newspapers and all kinds of printed ephemera that caught his eye. It's these reproduced scrapbook pages in the essays that make Kereszi's photo pages come alive. Photographer Mitch Epstein did a similar book called 'Family business' combining photos and graphics but I thought Joe's Junk Yard is a much more successful documentary photo title.
The book was printed by Damiani on a good matt art with a very fine screen (300?) with the essay pages printed on cream stock. A nice touch is using the book's endpapers to show the Joe's scrapbook pages with family photos. I thought it was a bit unfortunate that in the photo section twelve of them bleed of the page which visually slightly separates them from the rest which are centred with generous margins. This formal layout style nicely contrasts with the busyness of the scrapbook pages reproduced in the essays.
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