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HAUNTER OF RUINS

09/28/2009
Clarence John Laughlin, 1956, by Larry Colwell

Clarence John Laughlin, 1956, by Larry Colwell

Last week we looked at Clarence John Laughlin’s “First Principles of the Third World of Photography: The World Beyond Documentation and Purism,” and I thought I’d share some images.

I spent the summer shooting in New Orleans, Laughlin’s home, and during a visit to my alma mater’s library I came across a recently published book on Laughlin entitled “Haunter of Ruins.”  Point #9 of the First Principles states: If the photographer looks intensely enough, he can find the secret images of our fears, joys and desires. Everything is speaking to us – every object. It is both a challenge to photographers to look intensely, and also a hopefully promise of possible subject matter – that everything is speaking.  Haunter of Ruins, in its examination of Laughlin’s life and works, speaks to the intensity that Laughlin employed in his practice, and it was just the book I needed midway through a summer of photographing and wondering just what the heck I was going after.  While Laughlin’s heavy-handedness may not be everyone’s cup of tea (especially in light of today’s standard of art photography – his pictures can come off as rather hokey), his reach into the psyche and his intense, life-long pursuit of photography as a means of articulating dreams and fears and memories is for me, inspiring.

An excerpt from the Haunter book jacket:

Laughlin_2…dubbed ‘Edgar Allen Poe with a camera,’ Laughlin and his haunting images capture – like nothing before or since – the weathered elegance and dreamy decadence of Louisiana’s building, streets, and cemeteries.  After experimenting with photography in the early 1930’s, Laughlin devoted himself to the medium in 1935 and had his first showing a year later.  In 1948 his book on Louisiana’s plantation architecture, Ghosts Along the Mississippi, vaulted him into the pantheon of great American photographers.  He continued photographing actively until 1967, and lectured and wrote until his death in 1985.  Over the course of his lengthy career, Laughlin produced more than 17,000 negatives…

Some Clarence John Laughlin’s pictures after the jump —

Enchanted Tree, Number One 1947

Enchanted Tree, Number One 1947

The Enigma 1941

The Enigma 1941

The House of Hysteria 1941

The House of Hysteria 1941

Woman Reflected in a Mirror 1938

Woman Reflected in a Mirror 1938

A Strange Situation 1938

A Strange Situation 1938

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