As a rule, I'm a fan of the built environment. The choices and structures we make as a species are bewildering, arrogant, inorganic, and full of illusions about what is necessary to allow our continued evolution. In A Series of Human Decisions, Bill Jacobson focuses -- given his long-term predilection for showing blur, this is more than an idle pun -- his and our attention on an intriguing assortment of constructed impositions, arrangements, and imitations, found, not fabricated, by the artist. The musing in these clear-eyed, crisply rendered views is in the realm of the wry hypothesis, the consideration of nature at bay, or human nature at play. We can hear the photographer using certain of his images to express wonder about motivations. Why, for instance, would someone paint eyes and a smile on a blank wall adjoining an entryway (plate 39) or, in the image just preceding it, employ a woebegone bunny face to watch over a once graceful, now increasingly decrepit porch (plate 38)? Throughout, Jacobson's imagery deals with attenuated, delimited, and repressed natures. Lithe organic forms swirl headlong into dead-end rectilinearity, deep shadows, and monochrome planes. Inviting textures are offset by cold geometry or jarring tones. A few (plates 33, 47, 52) pleasingly address the chaos of change
and transformation. Given that many of the book's images depict artists' studios, construction sites, secondhand stores, closed windows, and psychoanalysts' offices, the decisions can reasonably be judged along a continuum of esthetic intention and unconscious entropy. As evoked in his photographs, Jacobson's own "human decisions" are willfully indecisive, or open to interpretation—they point and hint, direct and imply, conclude and defy closure. Which, for visual images rooted in such clear facts, is a rather impressive feat of multitasking.
George Slade , a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found on-line at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/