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By Contributing Writer Suzanne Révy
Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of American naturalist and essayist Henry David Thoreau. The algorithms of a large internet retailer suggested I might like a lovely book of photographs called Walden by SB Walker. Indeed, I like it, however, it is a disconcerting reminder that I should spend a little less time in the digital world.
This intimate book features fifty-eight black and white images made in and around Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. There are people visiting the pond to swim, fish or relax on the beach, there are landscapes littered with the evidence of the human intrusion into the landscape, and surprisingly, a picture of two friends (well known Boston area photographer Asia Kepka and her partner Lynn Dowling) at work in the waters of the pond. In addition, Walker explored the surrounding area, including images of the busy, noisy and recently reconstructed Rt. 2 that runs just north of the area. Readers will intuit that Walden Pond is not the isolated haven of pristine waters once described by Thoreau, but encroached on by the congestion of the bustling suburbs outside of Boston. Alan Trachtenburg’s essay offers interesting insights into the history, idea, and place known as Walden Pond, shedding light on a sense of disenchantment with modern American life revealed in Walker’s photographs.
Garry Winogrand once said, “there is nothing more mysterious than a fact clearly described.” The sequence and emotional tenor of these plaintive yet plainly seen views of Walden Pond are enigmatic, reflecting Walker’s journey into a place whose enduring symbolism as an idyllic American setting is derived not from historic events, but from literature. Despite its heroic place in the canon of literature, it is an ordinary landscape. Walker has explored it deliberately, and photographed it simply and honestly. This book brings new layers of meaning to the legacy of Thoreau’s ideas.
Photographs by SB Walker
Essay by Alan Trachtenberg
Published by Kehrer Verlag
SB Walker is represented by the Janet Borden Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Suzanne Révy is a fine art photographer who creates visual diaries of her family’s life and is a Contributing Writer to What Will You Remember? Earning her BFA from the Pratt Institute and MFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Révy has worked as Photography Editor at U.S. News & World Report and Yankee Magazine and has exhibited her work at museums and galleries throughout New England and in New York. Révy is currently on the faculty at the New England School of Photography and a Board Member of the Photographic Resource Center in Boston.
Feature Image: “Mike, birdwatching, July 2011” ©SB Walker