Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: "Lost and"

“Lost and”  by Jeff Griffin at first wasn't what I expected at all. I was awaiting some sort of desert/urban decay photography book, images to drool over while I wished myself away there. Instead, what I opened was one of the most unusual photo projects I have ever seen. It reminded me a bit of Courtney Love’s “Dirty Blonde” or the Kurt Cobain journals, except here you had no celebrity. It reminded me of my own old shoebox in which I kept random scribbles, notes secretly exchanged in class with a friend, poetry written badly but from the heart, silly snapshots, old diaries with now cringeworthy entries but written honestly and heartfelt at the time. There was also a hint of similarity to the Postsecret project, but it felt - because it is - raw, because it was not produced with a passive, independent audience in mind.

One thing that struck my eye about it was that Griffin did what I'd love to do but cannot due to geographical distance: disappearing in the Mojave desert for quiet reflection. God I long for the truly silenced and left-alone!  No way of finding that in overpopulated Europe!
And then he - damn him!, shouts the green-eyed monster - combined it with another of my beloved pastimes: exploring abandoned, decaying settlements, delving into the back story of each place, picking up artifacts, wondering about the lives of their previous owners who seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth - leaving each place haunted, imprinted by it.

Too much have the rich and famous, the educated, the expensively and extensively trained shaped what we see as culture, ignoring the narratives produced by the average Joe with clumsy but genuine hands, in unglamorous places. But here are the lost and abandoned photographs, snippets of letters, memos, notes, drawings, even poems, by normal people, as the artist found them: dirty, torn, lost in various abandoned places in the Nevada and California desert. They show the mundane, naive, unpolished, which makes them all the more enchanting, making you wonder about the back stories of each item - somehow little shreds and snippets, and random little photographs say more about a person and their life than a carefully written diary or an artfully curated photo book. They weren't meant to be seen by the world and thus are more honest and real artifacts of culture than what we’re usually being presented.Skill is not necessarily an indicator of art, at least not to me; art derives from the genuinely felt and expressed, reflecting a slice of someone’s unique reality or imagination - which is a reality in itself. An original and wonderful book! 

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