Damiani, , 2010. Hardbound. 116 pp., 100 color illustrations, 12x9-3/4".
The New Antiquity Photographs by Tim Davis. Text by Francine Prose Published by Damiani, 2010.
Without a doubt, Tim Davis is one of the top five most savvy, wry photographers working today. His images make no bones about coming at you, forcefully, and making you wrestle with the issues he nonchalantly tosses at you. Nonchalantly, like a professional baseball player calmly tossing a laser from third to first and then looking down and kicking a clump of dirt that annoyed him. Davis's photographs make a beeline for your intellectual-visceral-visual cortex and force you to reconcile irony, truth, and amazing insight in a single frame.
I have written about Davis before in this forum, and I continue to believe that his scalpel is sharper than many of his contemporaries. I do, however, find that this new book shows some weakness. Maybe I'm just suffering from being too impressed too long, but I think there are pictures in here that make no sense, that don't cleave to his stated intention of "pour[ing] little molds of meaning for the peripheral present to harden in" (whatever that little verbal jewel means). An image of grass in a median alongside a highway ("Harlem River Drive") leaves me shaking my head. "Statue of Pants," an elevated view of an anomalous, upturned pair of larger-than-life trousers, has minimal kick.
Perhaps the theme of witnessing and utilizing the past to ornament or define the present got out of hand. Sometimes the anachronistic may have been apparent to the photographer and may have made sense on a perceptual level when it had ceased to do so on an organic, visual plane. When one is as smart as Davis consistently shows himself to be, one can sometimes fall into a trap of seeing significance in places no one else can. And that does not help a photography book connect. There are so many good pictures in this volume, however, that I can still recommend it. And remain on the lookout for new material from this provocative vision.
George Slade , a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is the programs manager and curator at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. He continues to post content on his blog, re:photographica.