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Guest blog by Suzanne Révy
Driving with a child in the back seat of the car can lead to plenty of arguments over the music being played on the radio. For photographer and father Jesse Burke, the music of Johnny Cash became the soundtrack for travels with his daughter, so integral that each of the images in his new book bears the title of a Cash tune. For many, June signals the end of the academic school year, freeing up more time for road trips or just hanging out with the kids – an opportune time to celebrate books by three fathers: Jesse Burke, Sam Harris and Robert Benjamin.
Burke traveled with his daughter, Clover, to mountains and beaches over a period of five years, exploring a vast natural world. The resulting book, Wild & Precious, is not only full of beautiful landscape and still life images, but is an extended portrait of a growing girl and the relationship she shares with her father. We are introduced to the diverse landscapes they visited; she is small and vulnerable within many of them, but in others she gently cradles fragile creatures or flora in her hands, which loom large, emphasizing nature’s own vulnerability in the presence of humans.
Their relationship becomes obvious through pictures of Clover’s dramatic bloody nose or broken arm, and one or two portraits reveal moments of irritation with her father at having to be photographed. A series of pictures sprinkled throughout of Clover sleeping (or in one case, hiding under the covers) in a variety of hotel beds display an intimacy that cherishes the bond between these two people.
Sam Harris has photographed his family and daughters during their travels and at their home in Australia but, unlike Burke, the pictures celebrate the more quotidian yet frenetic moments at home. His recently published book, The Middle of Somewhere reads like a personal diary and contains the reproduction of two spiral bound notebooks: the first, his wife’s notes “from somewhere”, the second a “travelogue” detailing their lives as wanderers between London, India and Australia.
Around 2007 after several years of traveling, Harris and his wife Yael settled in a small town in southwestern Australia to live close to nature. Harris’ images revel in the everyday. A child draws through the condensation of a window, pink bubblegum stuck on lips, chasing chickens, and one masterfully rendered scene of his wife haying with two young children and a dog nearby, reminiscent of a Millet painting. Post-its with notes or shopping lists are literally taped into the book and serve as poems in the rhythm of each day. It’s an extraordinary journey, all the more so since it springs from the family’s day-to-day activities living close to nature.
Notes from a Quiet Life by Robert Benjamin explores similar themes, but even more subtly. The book combines images in varying formats such as Polaroids scanned as objects, square pictures and panoramas. And yet, his eye for color, light and form remain consistent. A Zen Buddhist, his pictures display a reverence for details as he glances at his daughter through the light and reflection on a car window (feature image), the simple gestures of sleeping or eating, small still-lifes around his home, and the delirious joy of his son surrounded by donkeys. He imbues a feeling of love for family in his pictures, proffering a view of life lived deliberately, with adoration of those closest to him.
Happy Fathers Day to all the good fathers out there…
Wild & Precious by Jesse Burke
With Essays by Ben Hewwett and Karen Irvine
Published by Daylight, 2015
The Middle of Somewhere by Sam Harris
Essay by Alasdair Foster
Published by Ceiba, 2015
Notes From a Quiet Life by Robert Benjamin
Essay by Eric Paddock
Published by Radius Books, 2012
Suzanne Révy is a Boston-based fine art photographer whose work is represented by Panopticon Gallery. She writes the blog, A Grain of Sand. To learn more about Suzanne’s work, go to: http://www.suzannerevy.com/ OR http://www.panopticongallery.com/artist/suzanne_revy/#Suzanne_Revy_40.jpg
Feature Image: “Nelly, Lyon, Colorado, 1999” in “Notes From A Quiet Life” by Robert Benjamin (Radius Books, 2012).