John Darwell reviews ‘Foreclosures’ by Bruce Gilden

Written on 2014-01-06 10:00:27

The images, as the title details, are of houses once occupied, now empty, due to (we assume) bank foreclosures and follow a distinct stylistic approach as double page spreads, mostly of the front of the house, but occasionally of some object now removed from its original location, with images of old sofas being the main element. The sofa perhaps representing the lives of the houses former inhabitants, who like said sofas now find themselves out on the streets.

The house images, often photographed from a reasonable (respectable?) distance, therein again eschewing his normal stylistic approach, are quite dark, both in terms of the printing and also in terms of time of day, with some images produced in late evening.

By reducing the work to a series of dark tones the images lose a fair amount of their ‘photographic-ness’ as the black and white tones are quite dark and heavily compressed. In fact the whole book is dark with even text pages being black with white text.

These images are not meant to be objects of beauty (as seen from a photo purists perspective of light and full range tones) but rather images that impart something of the sense of personal desolation and loss of identity that creates metaphorical associations with the houses form occupants.

In this way Gilden is not showing us what these objects look like, but rather what they feel like … to use a phrase I hammer home to my students:photographsthat are about something not just of something.

On initial inspection the book feels quite disappointing, but stick with it as this is a grown-up body of work you have to work at (perhaps even a response to the proliferation of picturesque dereliction books out there?) but when you do,the work grows in terms of both image and concept to become an important and powerful addition within Gilden’s vocabulary. (Maybe even a powerful addition to the discourse on the economic despair?)

It is interesting that Gilden as a member of Magnum lists a Kickstarter site in his acknowledgements and, perhaps, this is indicative of the way photographers will need to go in the future as more of us seek ever-diminishing pots of funding.

If possible try to buy the Ltd edition book as it comes in a heavy black fabric slipcase with the stars and bars printed in grey across it and also contains a found postcard signed by Gilden.

The book comes in an edition of 500 of which 100 form the special edition and is published by Browns Editions.

Review © John Darwell 2013.