Touchless Automatic Wonder: Found Text Photographs from the Real World revels in establishing unexpected connections between the written word and its surroundings. The book marks Lewis Koch's twenty-five-year search to extricate the thrill of hidden messages buried amid the chaos of our everyday visual landscape.
The advertising signs, posters, and placards in Koch's photographs have been severed from their original function to call out the features and offerings at the local car wash, diner, road-side stand, or memorial. Sometimes this disconnection occurs because time has worn away or completely displaced these signs from the sites and reasons of their creation; in other images, wholly intact sayings are loaned ambiguity and an often-attendant surrealism by the sheer act of being captured by the camera. In Koch's text photographs, the words left behind across space and time beckon with mysterious messages both poetic and oddly poignant in their new context within the photographic frame.
Made in locations as diverse as Genoa, Colorado, and Rajasthan, India, these images are united in their ability to underscore the inevitable power of the written word to catch our attention. Also present in these photographs is an ode to the camera's contradictory abilities to forever memorialize the public word while at the same time subverting its inscriber's intentions. Because Koch has the eye and wit to bring these messages to our attention, we cannot turn our eyes away from the audacity of the word "Yes" that shouts its bold, inexplicable, and seemingly undirected affirmation to an empty parking lot. Nor can we ignore the sage advice of another sign, tucked among the purses and baubles in a shop window: if you don't stop, you'll never know.
Mary Goodwin is a photographer, writer, and editor. She is also the Associate Director at Light Work, a non-profit, artist-run organization that provides direct support to artists working in photography and digital imaging through residencies, publications, exhibitions, a community-access digital lab facility, and other related projects. Goodwin holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College, a BFA from Herron School of Art, and a MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.