About a year and a half ago, I was contacted by Kenneth Dixon to review his little book "A Painter's Life". I found this read entertaining and quirky...Dixon has a wonderful, dry sense of humor. A year later, he sent me his next book, "The Ingram Interview". Again, quirky and creative. His books are never more than 150 pages so they are a pressure-free way to enjoy myself for an afternoon of reading.
A few weeks ago, Kenneth asked if I wanted to read his latest book "The Photo Album". My response was "I've read the other two. Why not?". But when I received it in the mail, I opened it up and saw one entry per page, referring to a picture at the top of the page. Except there was no picture, just a frame around nothing.
I brewed and stewed. This had happened before, when I received an ARC of Steve Martin's "Object of Beauty". No pictures. Big bummer. I really didn't think I could handle another book that had missing pictures. I wrote Kenneth and asked if the lack of pictures was because it was an early copy, or some quirky (that word again) twist. Kenneth pleaded quirky. I should have known! Alright! Now we're talking!
Synopsis: An unnamed narrator has taken up photography and provides commentary for each photo he has "included" in this album. Not only are we allowed the creativity to imagine what the photo really looks like, we get insight into the man who took these pictures and life that is going on around him. A daughter who has just gotten a new dog. A wife who must approve every photo before it is printed. A neighbor whose child has gone missing.
We are getting snapshots of a life, all of which is left completely up to our own mind's eye.
My thoughts: Hey, once I figured out I was allowed to use my imagination (something some adults stop doing after primary school) I was ready to run with it. I actually had alot of fun with this, and give Dixon credit for hopping off the beaten path. This is consistent with his personality that shines through his work.
I can just imagine him chuckling as he writes this, for example:
"Katherine Lockhart is, as you can see, one of those women who relies heavily on eyeliner. To me she looks like an angry, middle-aged Egyptian who has lived too long in Las Vegas."
Is it not impossible to just visualize what this woman looks like? You'd recognize her on the street!
Other times his descriptions are beautiful and vivid, like this one:
"I have included this shot for the atmosphere. It is a photo of what has been for a while now the most famous Italianate pile in Savannah - Mercer House, the site of the salacious society murder, the gothic, peeping-tom account of which became a bestseller (Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil) and a movie. It is a soggy picture. You can feel the weather, the humidity. You can smell and taste the moss. You can't have an idea in a place like this - you can have feelings, you can behave, but you can't think. As an exercise in visceral recreation, it is related to the earlier (odorless) shopping-mall pictures (see Plate #43.)"
So once again, another entertaining read from Mr. Dixon. I'd highly encourage everyone to look him up and give him a shot. You will be pleasantly surprised!
4 out of 5 stars