Review: “Guardians of Solitude” by Laura McPhee


Guardians of Solitude, 2009
© Laura McPhee / Iris Editions Ltd.

Iris Editions Ltd., the collaborative effort of NYC-based Kristopher Graves and London-based Sergio Fernández, has released the first of what is likely to be a remarkable series of luxury edition large-format books. At a scale of about 16×20 in (41×51 cm) and beautifully bound in black cloth with her name embossed on the cover, Laura McPhee‘s Guardians of Solitude is easily one of largest and certainly among the most lavish photo books I have ever encountered.


spread from Guardians of Solitude, 2009
© Laura McPhee / Iris Editions Ltd.


spread from Guardians of Solitude, 2009
© Laura McPhee / Iris Editions Ltd.

Much like viewing an artist’s portfolio, the book is “read” by spreading it out on a table and carefully turning the oversized pages. McPhee’s photographs in the book were all made in 2008 in three canyons of the White Cloud Mountains in central Idaho, an area that just three years earlier encountered a wildfire that destroyed over 40,000 acres of forest. McPhee focuses her 8×10 camera on this forest and in particular, the somber often blackened trees that still stand amongst the re-growth. The 30 color plates in the book have been given a stunning edit and are printed with an attention to detail that makes it difficult to separate them from exhibition quality prints, perhaps one of the principal draws of the book.


spread from Guardians of Solitude, 2009
© Laura McPhee / Iris Editions Ltd.

Despite this, I can’t help wondering what is lost with the excessive scale. Might some readers find the book’s exotic format distracting? Is there a large scale that still provides intimacy? One thing is for sure: this new series of books reminds us of the uncharted possibilities of photographic monographs. They will no doubt woo collectors and captivate book lovers such as myself.

Soon to come from Iris Editions Ltd. are books by Lois Conner, David Hilliard, Abelardo Morell and Matthew Pillsbury.

Originally published in Photo-eye Magazine, November 30, 2009.
Guardians of Solitude can be purchased here.

Comments

  • john

    Great photo album I loved the forest shots. Great work.

  • Lindsey

    Well the photography looks good. It is a shame the forest had burned recently. We used to go to Yellowstone at least once a year and even 5 years later it was readily apparent that the fire had taken place burned and dead trees eveywhere.

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