In Suspension No More

Today is the day that I have been waiting for; the day that Matt Larkin’s book Suspended In Time arrived at my door. Let me tell you, the wait was well worth it! While waiting for the book to arrive I received an email from Matt responding to my question regarding his attendance at John Coffer’s farm this week for the annual “wet-Plate Jamboree” as Coffer calls it. Unfortunately Matt will not be attending this year, but he has invited Jennifer and I to visit him at his home on our return trip from the Coffer farm. This is a very nice, and equally unexpected invitation, and I very much look forward to meeting Matt and learning more about his work.

So….what can I say about the book? I love it! Other than Mann’s book What Remains, I have not seen published wet-plate work that made me stop and really explore the image with all of my imagination. Sure, just like Mann’s What Remains, there are plenty of images that may make the squeamish look away, or discount the work outright. Why do I say this you ask? Well, some people just could not deal with the sight of large (18 gauge) deep sea fishing hooks stretching the skin of young 20-somethings under the pull of their own body weight.

The book is a portfolio of portraits like none other that you will see. They are of people conducting a very personal act of suspension, which despite what you may have seen on shock TV, is something that is conducted in mostly private settings. The physical effects of the wet-plate process, and the optical effects of both camera and period lens combine to present the subjects in a way that transports us to another world, never mind another time.

The book itself physically is very enjoyable to hold and view. Each page is the size of the actual ambrotypes that Matt made, and then scanned. The images are then reproduced as 200-line screen duotones with a tinted varnish which makes each page look as though you are gazing into the original plate, or as close as one can get with paper. This is an outstanding effort by both the artist and the printer.

If you are interested in contemporary wet-plate photography in this country, then you should own this book. The run is of 2000 books, so you should get yours now! Matt told me that he made the book because he could not find any galleries that would show his work; well it is a loss for them and a gain for the rest of us. Act fast and you too can have a full collection of Matt Larkin’s images in your library.

For additional information check out Black Barn Editions.


~ by Phil Nesmith on July 24, 2007.

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