The Blue Room

( 1 )

Overview

Eugene Richards was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a neighborhood of Boston. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in English and journalism, he studied photography with Minor White at MIT. In 1968 he became a health care advocate in eastern Arkansas. Two years later, he helped found a social service organization and a community newspaper, Many Voices, that reported on black political action and the Ku Klux Klan. After publication of his first two books, Few Comforts or Surprises: The ...

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Overview

Eugene Richards was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a neighborhood of Boston. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in English and journalism, he studied photography with Minor White at MIT. In 1968 he became a health care advocate in eastern Arkansas. Two years later, he helped found a social service organization and a community newspaper, Many Voices, that reported on black political action and the Ku Klux Klan. After publication of his first two books, Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta (1973) and Dorchester Days (self-published in 1978), Richards was invited to become a nominee at Magnum. He was a member until he departed in 1995, returned to the cooperative in 2002, and departed for a second time in 2005.

Richards has been the recipient of numerous awards over the course of his career, including the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Leica Medal of Excellence, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, the Olivier Rebbot Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for coverage of the disadvantaged. His photographs are collected and exhibited widely, and a major touring retrospective of his work premiered at the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographies in Arles, France in 1997. His photo essays have appeared in countless publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Fortune, and Life. In addition to his prolific photography, Richards has also written, photographed, directed, and produced four short films as well as an hour-longdocumentary. His documentary, entitled Now, then, forever, is a cinema vérité treatment of life inside a Nebraska nursing home that had its world premiere at the 2003 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Other films included Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, a powerful portrait of a crack-infested neighborhood in Philadelphia, and But, the day came chronicles the passage of a 92-year-old farm into a nursing home. The latter received the Jury Award for Best Short Film at the 2000 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Despite his success in other fields, Richard remains best known for his books and photo essays on cancer, drug addiction, poverty, emergency medicine, the mentally disabled, aging, and death in America. His intense vision and unswerving commitment have led him to become what many believe is America's greatest living social documentary photographer. This new body of work, entitled The Blue Room, is one of Richards' most personal works to date. It his is first-ever color project, and it brings together the overarching themes of all his work—"the transient nature of things"—in a beautiful and moving series of pictures of the landscape and abandoned houses of the American West, covering the states of Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and the Dakotas. This is the area where settlers came around the turn of the twentieth century, pursuing the promise of homesteads where they could build successful communities. However, in the wake of the Great Depression and the dust storms of the 1930s, the farms in this isolated, semi-arid region faltered and failed, leaving the land littered with forgotten homes.

Richards' photographs are a statement on the vulnerability of man in the face of the shifting economic opportunities and the climate; a commentary on the inevability of change. In these contemplative pictures we are inspired to imagine the lives of the homes' former occupants. As the wind rushes through the walls and snow falls on an abandoned bed beside an open window, the boundaries between the inside and the outside are broken down. Richards' enigmatic pictures of family photographs still stuck on a bedroom wall, a wedding dress hanging in a bedroom, or a wild horse waiting expectantly at a kitchen window, make The Blue Room a thought-provoking meditation on memory; a quiet yet incredibly powerful body of work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780714848327
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press
  • Publication date: 12/3/2008
  • Edition description: Illustrate
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 16.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Fragility of Human Life

    For those who have followed the socially committed life and work of Eugene Richards, THE BLUE ROOM will serve as an infusion of joy. Long respected for his documentation of the 'atrocities of living' such as aging, poverty, drug addiction, death, cancer and mental illness, in this elegantly beautiful volume Richards offers some of the most achingly tender views of relics of human detritus.

    Focusing on the Midwestern states of Kansas, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas and into the regions of New Mexico, Richards pauses at deserted homes and areas where life has stopped - areas where drought, the Great Depression, quashed dreams, and other misfortunes have left grave stones of sad history. Each color photograph is respectfully given a full page bleed, resting opposite and empty white facing page, a design technique very much in keeping with the vision of Eugene Richards in asking the reader/viewer to pause and pay respects and remember before passing on to the next little masterpiece.

    This is a monograph of superb photographs by an artist who has made his life's mission one of asking for attention to the fault lines in our country. It is exquisitely beautiful art, but it is also powerful social commentary. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

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