Ron Jude – Other Nature

Copyright Ron Jude 2008 published by The Ice Plant

Ron Jude’s ubiquitous title “Other Nature” for his photobook published by Ice Plant leaves plenty of space to create a wide range of contexts for his photographs. The book’s title and a quote from Frank Kafka’s On Parables provide the only text (and descriptive context), as Jude defers to the minimalist informational school of art. Thus all of the clues in the hopes of making sense of this photobook are the photographs and their sequencing, and perhaps one clue is what is missing, there are no pairs of photographs creating mini-dialogs as they face each other.

It does become quickly apparent; there appear to be two different kinds of photographic subjects and compositions. The subject of the first photographs is a middle view-point version of the “natural” landscape with the marks and debris evidence of the lurking presence of man-kind. Then the jarring change of subjects to tightly framed and cropped interior details that might be found in an apartment, rental housing or motel. An obvious mash-up of two distinct bodies of work, with the beguiling question posed by Jude of how do these two relate (or not) to each other and what about them is the “Other Nature”?

In the rural landscapes, Jude has used a documentary style to capture large masses of what could be construed as “Nature”. In all of the nature landscape photographs, there are subtle hints and small clues that these are locations and places that are intermingled with the latent effects of people. We do not have to see an individual to know that the place has been effected by individuals who were previously present; cut trees, rusting cans and other debris, chopped up wood, cut grass, arranged rocks and sometimes the edges of a man-made structure.

 His statement is that there is no more natural Nature available any more; we have used it up long ago. Nature is now is restricted to Nature museums call National Parks in which you walk a trail to see the “wild” Nature, as if strolling through the zoo to see a “wild” lion. Nature is now just a human dumping ground for their used waste, a huge open landfill.

As to the interior details, which have an industrial functionality, the subject is of objects that are made from materials of construction which are not natural. A beat-up and aging aluminum kick plate protects a real wood door, plastic light switch fixtures glowing and powered by a steady and endless trickle of electricity, synthetic carpets, blanket and chair coverings, glass windows in an aluminum frame, Styrofoam cup, plastic tongs, Plexiglas enclosure, plastic phone and cord and concrete simulate flooring tiles. Even the objects that have an appearance of wood, down to the grain, are not really wood, but are molded plastic or a synthetic veneer. The depicted items are all made of the other “natural” material; synthetic.

One concept that I could reach by examining each of the two bodies’ of work separately and then searching for a commonality is a criticism of man-kinds callousness treatment of our natural environment. Jude does not beat you over the head with his subtle message but nevertheless the message does become progressively voluminous with each reading.

This photobook as an object; the hardcover book has a tipped in photograph on the front cover, nicely bound. The four-color photographic plates have a nice top varnish that allows the images to read really well. Each plate is bounded with a nice, classic white border that enables the photograph to be clearly seen, thus a delightful book to hold and enjoy. In addition to the quote from Franz Kafka there is an index of the plates regarding the city and state in which the photograph was made.

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