This review is written by Robin Benson.
Fabulous photos in a feeble package
Chris Enos, in her preface, wonders what compelled her in 2010 to take a very boring and dreary trip along US 285 for the second time, the first journey had been in the previous year. Fortunately for us we can see the results of that second journey in these 221 fascinating photos of abandonment. Because these houses, gas stations, businesses, factories and signs are full of color, texture, shapes and in the commercial ones bits of typography, Enos has shot them mostly straight on, these structures are visually strong enough not to need any photo gimmicks.
As this is the South West there is the ever present blue sky making a clever frame for so many photos and that does throw up the feeling of a brighter tomorrow when all these buildings were occupied but now they are a record of a failed yesterday. The photos also capture the American way of failure because folks can just drive away from something that was part of their daily life. One group of photos is called 'Overgrown houses' and they have probably been unoccupied for some time and the thirty-three photos of abandoned gas stations, in various stages of decay, are a reflection of changed commercial circumstances along 285.
Wonderful though all the photos are I was very disappointed with the book's production. Instead of having one photo a page in the classic style with generous margins and the occasional blank for a change of pace there are several pages here with nine photos crammed in, sort of like large thumbnails (and bizarrely some of these pages face a blank one) other pages have four. The photos take up sixty-nine pages, only sixteen have one to a page but there are twelve blanks. In any other format this editorial style might have been fine but here I think it shows a complete lack of thought by the publishers.
After the photos there are twenty pages for an essay about the region (and there really should have been some sort of map here to help the reader follow the geographic description in the text) and five pages for the photo captions, which would easily have fitted on one page. These are just place names and State abbreviations which should really have gone below each photo and spared the reader from having to flip backwards and forwards to find out where a photo was taken.
Three stars for the broken dreams of great photos that really deserve better.
285 Broken Dreams: Photographing Southeast New Mexico to Texas is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository (US | UK)
Some other photo books about this part of the US.
Typical of the four to a page photos.
Typical of the nine to a page photos.
Despite facing a blank page nine photos are crammed onto one page.
What a pity all the photos weren't presented like this in the classic photo book style. There are only sixteen pages with one photo a page.
First spread of a twenty page essay at the back of the book.
Very brief captions are spread over five pages and as they only give location and State they could well have gone below each photo.
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