Last year, I chose Mary Frey's 2017 book, Reading Raymond Carver, as one of my Best Books because it captivated me on a variety of levels. Likewise, her latest publication, Real Life Dramas, is full of beguiling images that—for me—are by turns nostalgic, uncanny, humorous, bizarre, joyful, poignant, and embarrassing. Some images are all of these. Real Life Dramas presents posed, color images from the titular series (originally created 1984–1987), together with equivocal, inflated phrases that you think you've heard before, somewhere: "There was a familiarity about the place that was oddly comforting;" "She quickened with the realization that things would never be the same." Frey's constructed images have all the veracity and accidental, telling details that often appear in spontaneous family snapshots, combined with her expert eye for knockout compositions. As you look at the images, allow enough time for the details to emerge. Therein lies the real life drama.
Laura M. André earned a PhD in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught photo history at the University of New Mexico before leaving academia to work with photobooks. Currently she manages photo-eye's book division.