There are good reasons to buy Mark Schacter's "'ROADS"' beyond having a strong collection of photos on your coffee table. While most Canadians will appreciate this book as a fine addition to the canon of contemporary landscape photography, it can also be appreciated for it's window into the author''s world and his working process, which is better elucidated in the author''s essays than in most photographer's' perfunctory introductions. The author''s background, sense of humour, and turn of mind are evident in this snip from one of his essays:
'"PARKINSON''S LAW, coined in 1955 by Cyril Parkinson, the British scholar of public administration, dictates that '"work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."' Similarly, the more of a resource we have, the more of it we are likely to use, even if we don't really need to use very much. Having observed, over the course of gathering the photographs for this book, hundreds of Canadian villages and small towns, I have concluded that a corollary of Parkinson's Law applies to streets in small towns, namely that "'the more land available for streets, the wider the streets will be",' or, '"the smaller the town, the wider the streets.'"
There''s a dry humour evident here, and some connection to the author's background in policy analysis and journalism; he brings both to bear on the job of making sense of the huge landscapes and infinite opportunities for making images on his travels.
What also draws me into the essays is Mark's ability to straddle the gaping chasm between "'fine-art"' analysis, and (typically) sappy homilies about the greatness of our landscape; his straightforward yet nuanced response to the '"Average Joe's"' charge of 'manipulation' of photos by the photographer is bang-on. I focus on the essays only because it''s not often that photos of this quality are taken by someone with the intellectual horsepower to put them into a larger context, and then write eloquently about process and inspiration.
There are a lot of striking photos here, the result of Mark's eye, of "'directed' chance" and finally his approach to working (digitally) an image after the road trips are over. I find his use of colour intriguing. It can at times be both magnificent and artificial, often in the same frame, (and I mean this in a good way!). The detail and grittiness of the roads, buildings and their environs, are also arresting. In Mark Schacter''s Canada, industry exists uncomfortably beside nature; the bleak and decrepit exist side-by-side with the grand and inspiring; either within a single photo, or in the sequencing of two or more photos in the book.
"ROADS" is a great gift idea for almost anyone who has experienced, or would like to see, all of the parts of Canada Mark visited. Kudos to the publisher for it's excellent job in putting the collection together, and for including so much of the photographer''s writing about what he does. It's a beautiful volume, and should be purchased by anyone who is interested in contemporary landscape photography.