My Life in Politics.
Photographs by Tim Davis. Essays by Jack Hitt and Tim Davis.
112 pp., 61 color illustrations, 11½x9¾".
Somebody needs to tell Tim Davis to stop being such a smart-ass. But it’s not going to be me. The saucy quality of his smarter-than-thou stance keeps his high-wire cultural critique aloft. Just check his captions in this new collection. A photograph of the Connecticut Senate Floor—the floor itself, with an apparently water-logged, magenta carpet, ringed by desks that are peopled only by laptops and towering bound volumes—is described thus: “That’s the budget in blue. A picture of a filibuster, so the senators are on Blackberries or in the can, or getting counted. Every photograph is a filibuster, a running commentary to nobody occupying attention but not space, and also a thing to block the other side—the unseen, the unattended, and the arch—from speaking.” Or how about this, for a picture titled Democrat and Republican: “File me. Lay me away. Fold me in manila. Tear off the carbon. Sticker it. Clip it up. Check me off the list.” (You'll have to see the book to get the reference.) I mean, what’re you gonna do with a kid like this? Language, both within and attached to his images, courses through this book in the same densely connotative fashion as light does in his other volumes (see Illuminations, Greenberg Van Doren, 2006, and Permanent Collection, Nazraeli, 2005). Davis uses his photographs as metaphoric channels for communication and as goads, critical barbs that in a more ingenuous tone might seem earnestly reform-minded. My Life in Politics expresses a voice so outspoken it’s hard to grasp (though his so-titled “1500 Word Essay” shows Davis to be more willfully clarifying and self-revealing), coupled with an incisive vision that, effortlessly and effectively, cuts to the quick and beyond. Use the scalpel while it’s sharp, Tim. GEORGE SLADE
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