Edwynn Houk / Stinehour Editions, 2008. Softbound. Unpaged, 13 black and white illustrations. 9x11".
Fountain Photographs by Andrea Modica published by Edwynn Houk / Stinehour Editions, 2008
Fountain, a beguilingly slim collection based on Andrea Modica's extended relationship with a family and their business in Fountain, Colorado, is an expansion and a welcome revisiting of a photographic program first laid out in her 1996 book Treadwell. It's a pleasure to imagine Modica working on these projects—getting acquainted with a family, learning its individual passions and taking its collective temperature before introducing her sole tool, the 8x10 view camera. It's not a camera to be ignored and may feel like another body in the room; in the cramped interior spaces she often photographs, the choreography of sturdy tripod legs, sheet film holders, and expanding bellows is a considerable accomplishment. Modica uses the camera in a remarkably acrobatic fashion, moving close, around, and nearly on top of her subjects. But camera position is only an entry point for these intimate observations. There are infinitesimal clues about the family business—a slaughterhouse—that make the insistent bodily forms in Fountain assume extra vulnerability. But what grace we assume in our course through life is manifest in Modica's work, which through some miracle of transubstantiation extracts spirit, emotion, and imagination from its human origins and gives it physical form in light sensitive silver salts and rare metals on paper. These photographs are deep, emotionally and visually. The space of each frame is alive with portent and significance, yet "meaning" remains remote, allowing us to ponder and wonder, ultimately arriving at readings that celebrate fluidity and accept incomprehension.
Fountain, by Andrea Modica. Published by Edwynn Houk / Stinehour Editions, 2008.
Modica's photographs are so rich with information and meaning, both denotative and connotative, implicit and overt, that I'm concerned publishing them (with the unfortunate but inescapable concomitant loss of visual detail and tonal nuance from her original platinum contact prints) forces a more attenuated reading than these images warrant. One wonders how to construct a major survey monograph of her many projects, how to arrange it to encourage the lingering gaze that brings each image to life. The current volume is modest, only 13 plates, and printed to show off the design and production excellence of Stinehour Editions in a gallery catalogue best described as an appetizer, a sampler that leaves you wanting more. We are eager for the main dish, whether that be actual prints or a full-scale, no-holds-barred comprehensive survey of her work on a scale to match Nachtwey's Inferno, Polidori's After the Flood, or Newton's Sumo — only with the reserve and beauty that signal the accomplishment of this distinctive photographic artist. —George Slade
George Slade is an independent photography scholar based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the artistic director and chief curator of the Minnesota Center for Photography from 2003 until the organization closed in July 2008.