“…the sun dipping towards the horizon, breaks suddenly through a rift in the cloud, touching twigs and branches with fire, glancing off the windows of a derelict factory, off the iced surface of a flooded field…” – Jem Poster (excerpt from ‘Snow’)
Deadbeat Press presents ‘Snow’, the latest photobook from British photographer Vanessa Winship, which coincides with her ongoing exhibition at London’s Huxley-Parlour.
Winship (b.1960) has always traversed genres, moving intently between reportage, documentary, portraiture, and landscape. Indeed, her acclaimed, Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation award-winning body of work (and the most recent monograph prior to ‘Snow’), She Dances on Jackson, a thoughtful survey of the American Dream, features a significant number of landscapes alongside the intimate portraits for which she has become renowned.
However, her latest offering represents somewhat of a departure from her usual work – which frequently focuses on human subjects – the first, wherein images, sans people, have taken such precedence. Oscillating between color and monochrome, portrayals of rural wintry scenery are often punctuated by timber houses or run-down structures, and on occasion, faunae, both living (and in one case) deceased.
Images that do include people are decidedly less intimate than her most iconic iterations: captured from a distance, or in the case of the only portrait-style image, the subject’s face is hidden by his bearing; the slightly raised perspective and the wide brim of his hat.
Rich in symbolism and transcribed in her distinct visual parlance: sensitive, forthright, profound, and with considerable dexterity, the photographs form a gripping visual poem, one imbued with a subtle, yet palpable sense of drama.
From the outset, one cannot help but be overcome by the sense that they’re unraveling a story, yet as is the photographer’s intention, and though the origins of Snow lie in a commission, the narrative never becomes apparent. The compelling, fictitious words of novelist Jem Poster that permeate, only accentuate this notion further.
This enigmatic sensibility speaks to Winship’s unique artistry, for it is a deeply-absorbing body of work that suggests rather than explains and thus validates the opening statement of the publisher’s description: “In Vanessa Winship’s latest monograph, we see that what’s not entirely comprehended is far more compelling than what is well understood.”
The concurrent, ongoing exhibition ‘The Season’ at London’s Huxley-Parlour draws on seven years of work, captured in five different geographical locations, and marks Winship’s first in the UK since her 2018 retrospective at The Barbican. Comprised exclusively of landscapes, (a number of which are from ‘Snow’) printed on Japanese Washi paper made from mulberry fibers that emphasize the delicate tactility of the subject, the exhibition explores the theme of winter across continents: ideas of frugality, dormancy, and hibernation, yet simultaneously, imparts a sense of hope in what are ostensibly bleak scenes.
All images © Vanessa Winship, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour