Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison’s photobook The Architect’s Brother is a beautiful enigma. The book is composed of eight sections that were developed over a span of seven years (1993 – 2000). The sections are sequenced serially, The Architect’s Brother (1993 – 1994), Cardboard Sky (1994), Witnessland (1995 – 1996), Exhausted Globe (1997), Industrial Land (1997), Promisedland (1998), Earth Elegies (1999 – 2000), and Kingdom (2000).
I find it easy to become visually captivated with the underlying techniques that the ParkeHarrison’s utilized to create and embellish these magical photographs; the elaborate staged sets, backdrop paintings, and complex sculptural structures of their own invention. The reader will also recognize one consistent individual who is found within each photograph, as the subject for these photographs is Robert ParkeHarrison, who portrays the role that has become known as “everyman”.
This body of work has been written about frequently since its inception over the past thirteen years, with one statement by Marc Ruby that I think summarizes it well; “Many of the images are ambivalent, touching on both darkness and light, making a clear decision impossible. The figure seems melancholy, engaged in strange almost hopeless acts. But he persists, carrying on a quest intended to heal or repair a desolate world.”
The ParkeHarrisons have stated “We create works in response to the ever-bleakening relationship linking humans, technology, and nature. These works feature an ambiguous narrative that offers insight into the dilemma posed by science and technology’s failed promise to fix our problems, provide explanations, and furnish certainty pertaining to the human condition. Strange scenes of hybridizing forces, swarming elements, and bleeding overabundance portray Nature unleashed by technology and the human hand.”
The hard cover folio is in black cloth with a tipped-in print on the front boards. The photobook used in conjunction with this review is from the 7th printing, whereas the first edition has a dark blue cloth and tipped-in print. The first edition was initially attributed only to Robert ParkeHarrison but in subsequent printings his wife Shana, his artistic partner, is included as a co-author of the work. For the second edition, another chapter, Passage created in 2001, was included with an additional five plates.
Other Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison book reviewed on the The Photobook: counterpoint