Half-Life

by Rosamond Wolff Purcell
ISBN: 0879233184

Though I don’t know Purcell’s work well, I’ve been aware of her for a long time, as her subject matter — cabinet of curiosities kind of stuff, eery and disturbingly beautiful — is something I find compelling. She’s on my mental list of artists I want to learn more about, whose work I want to spend time with. So when I found this early volume on sale in a used bookstore, I snapped it up.

What I find fascinating about these images is that so many of them seem to have multiple layers, they invite long looks and investigation. It’s not how they were made, it’s the end result that holds my attention. While technique can be interesting, knowing how an image was made doesn’t make me interested in a photograph if nothing was sparked when I first looked at it. That said, I find it remarkable that most of these weren’t double exposures, but cleverly created single exposures. (Since this book was published in 1980, they obviously weren’t digital manipulations.)

If this level of creativity and exploration of what is possible is what she created early in her career, I have much to look forward to as I get to know Purcell’s later work.

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