Photographer: Judy Dater (born in Hollywood, CA; lives in Berkeley, CA)
Essays: Teresa de Vroom (Foreword); Judy Dater (“Only Human”); Marilyn Symmes (“The Portrait Within”); Gloria Williams Sander (“The Archaeology of a Photograph”); Donna Stein (“Looking Back”)
Linen-bound sewn hardback with illustrated dust cover; 9 ¾ x 12 ¼ inches; 200 pages, paginated; 100 monochrome images printed in the Sepiana process by Inner Workings/Artron Art, China
Photobook Designer: Chuck Byrne, Chuck Byrne Design
The iconic portrait work of Judy Dater is marked by a tremendous depth as well as an indescribable mystery; these images represent a lifetime of astute perception and observation. Her work is also marked by a courageous spirit and a multi-layered assertiveness and meaning that translates from the photographer to the subject and back to the viewer. Her image of Imogen Cunningham with Twinka is famous, and, yes, it is included in this book (see below). This photobook is, in fact, a retrospective companion to the exhibition ONLY HUMAN, shown at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, whose store also sells this book; the show closes on September 16, 2018.
The work shown here includes 100 significant images, mostly individual portraits of humans (in accordance with the title), and also some groupings of two or more, as well as five self-portraits of the photographer, a genre for which Judy Dater is deservedly admired. Her view of people is in itself very human, in that we are given glimpses of inner strength through their outer appearance as depicted in the images. The time period covered is 1964 to 2016; some of those portrayed were early colleagues and/or mentors or hers, such as Ansel Adams, depicted with a slightly dreamy blur – he who always wanted his own images to be razor-sharp! – while others who are not in the public limelight present interesting aspects of themselves as well.
We find an approximately equal number of women and men in the volume, both clothed and not, some displayed more boldly than others. We were pleased to note that the honesty that exudes from these images originates with Judy Dater herself; she was a delight to meet this spring in connection with the Classic Photographs exhibition at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Here is a photo taken by Doug Stockdale where Judy has this book open to one of her favorite photographs:
Judy Dater, Classic Photographs Exhibition, Santa Monica, February 2018 / © Douglas Stockdale
Judy Dater’s depiction of humans is refreshing; she shows each of them as individuals in an honest fashion without pretense or fakery. The essays and the select bibliography give us further insights into the intentions and practices of the photographer, as well as the reception history as well as other perspectives of curators and art historians regarding Judy Dater’s work.
We salute Judy Dater for her long career of forthrightly interpreting the minds and souls of so many individuals and sharing them with us, and also thank the team that created this fascinating photobook, a treasure to own.
All black and white images © Judy Dater