Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Gossage - THE POND

John Gossage is a virtuoso maker of wonderful photobooks. It's great then to see the reissue of his important and remarkable 1985 book THE POND.
Considered a groundbreaking book when first published, John Gossage's THE POND remains one of the most important photobooks of the medium. As Gerry Badger, coauthor of The Photobook: A History, Volumes I and II, asserts, "Adams, Shore, Baltz — all the New Topographics photographers made great books, but none are better than THE POND." Consisting of photographs taken around and away from a pond situated in an unkempt wooded area at the edge of a city, the volume presents a considered foil to Henry Thoreau's stay at Walden. The photographs in THE POND do not aspire to the "beauty" of classical landscapes in the tradition of Ansel Adams. Instead, they reveal a subtle vision of reality on the border between man and nature. Gossage depicts nature in full splendor, yet at odds with both itself and man, but his tone is ambiguous and evocative rather than didactic. Robert Adams described the work as "believable because it includes evidence of man's darkness of spirit, memorable because of the intense fondness [Gossage] shows for the remains of the natural world."

The re-issued version of THE POND has from Gerry Badger an informed essay, Genesis of a Photobook which not only discusses John's book but talks about "the criteria that coalesce to make a great photobook". Gerry quotes John's own list of attributes....
1. The book should contain great work. 2. It should make that work function as a concise world within the book itself. 3. It should have a design that compliments what is being dealt with. 4. It should deal with content that sustains ongoing interest.

These benchmarks should be tattooed on the arm, written on the back of the camera or stuck up on the computer of every aspiring photobook maker!

And last but not least, get yourself a copy of THE POND you will not be disappointed.


Julian Ward said...

Yes a wonderful book and I have a first edition copy well read. There is a lot of truth in the old saying a picture is worth a thousand words. I have hundreds of photo books from the prolific 80s.

oculism said...

Thanks Harvey!


Droid said...

I was ecstatic when I saw that this was re-issued. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow an original on interlibrary loan, but would love a copy for myself (at a price that I can afford). Unfortunately, I found out (in an interview with Gossage) that the photos were not of just one pond, but a number of them, and one was even in Germany. It took some of the charm away.