Talk about a premature book list- I just saw Eugene Richards' latest, The Blue Room. It's big, it's expensive, it's beautiful, and... it's in color! Don't let that crumpled B&W cover photo throw you, Mr. In Your Face Grainy B&W Guy Supreme has released his first color venture and it's one subtle beauty to behold! What of? Mostly it's of abandoned rooms and homes out West.
Holy Polidori- can the world possibly stomach even one more abandoned room photo essay? Yes, it can, particularly when it's the best of the bunch. What's different, and more importantly, what makes The Blue Room "better?" Like most essays of this genre there are plenty of still lifes and close ups of long forgotten and discarded personal affects- that's "the bad news." What really sets this essay apart is how Richards manages to reanimate these abandoned rooms. His photographs manage to somehow retain some of the life, and lives lived, that once occupied these living spaces. He does it not only by making the most of the outdoor light that still manages to permeate, but by also incorporating the surrounding outdoors into these solemn interior studies, thereby making them part and parcel of the particular landscape at large. Occasionally, he abandons the interiors altogether and opts for evocative, site specific, outdoor landscapes. The latter have a very sensual, seasonal feel to them that further enhance and accentuate that uncertain melancholy of lost time and space.
Another way that he manages to upgrade the genre is by occasionally incorporating animal imagery into some very surreal domestic scenes. He does this by including both live and dead animals, as well as some which just leave you wondering. And finally, he brings this project to life by his very use of color: sensual, foreboding, and one very viable stand in for the lives and people not shown. Competing boundaries of color both in closeup and at large, contrast, conflict and complement each other as they mark and define their remaining memories and territory. It's as if he was purposely saving color all these years for just said reason.
Richards, for once, has turned away from recording the dramas that unfold in our waking, everyday lives, only to evoke those left behind, and not quite dormant.