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Photographs by Adam Bartos. Essay by Geoff Dyer.
Steidl / Dangin, Gottingen, Germany, 2006. 120 pp., 59 color illustrations, 11¾x9¾".

Essayist Geoff Dyer attempts to assay Adam Bartos’s resolutely mute photographs of street scenes in Los Angeles and Paris by referring to descriptive “antinomies” distinguishing the two cities—walking versus driving, ancient versus modern, compact and dense versus sprawling and diffuse. He also mentions that for those who travel extensively, “everywhere seems to look like everywhere else.” But what is striking about these photographs, and this book, is that Bartos has found a way to strip the scenic out of both of these nominally picturesque places, and out of his photography, which has in the past demonstrated a keen, subtle sense of visual intrigue. Boulevard is a triumph of diffidence, a tour de force of the blasé, a proclamation that ungainly pictures of unspectacular landscapes can be made in nearly any city one chooses. There’s a kind of virtuosity in this anti-decisive street photography, perhaps even a sly denial of Baudelaire’s sensation-seeking boulevardier in Les Fleurs du Mal—there’s nothing to be found in these streets, my friend; best take your roguish energy elsewhere. Of the 59 photographs reproduced in the book, five appear to show private spaces, areas one can’t access by car or standing on a public right-of-way, and this startling incongruity brings the book’s motivations, including its unexplained pairing of the two cities, into even sharper focus. The presence of a bleached blonde strolling a Paris sidewalk in fire-engine red boots on the cover is clearly an ironic representation of Boulevard’ s contents, for the parked cars visible in the photographs far outnumber the pedestrians, even in these two remarkably populous cities. It’s puzzling, and impressive in its way. GEORGE SLADE

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