Guest review by Madhu John •
In essence, this book is an autobiography of an artist, a dedicated teacher and a studiously creative photographer tracing a rich eventful journey through a wide variety of striking images and illuminating prose. In this age of the ubiquitous camera wielded by every mother, son and daughter, why, you may ask, should this ‘trail of stones’ interest you? Plenty of reasons, it seems to me – at least for students, practitioners, and lovers of visual imagery.
Dzerigian’s photographs are evidence that his work is core-influenced by some of his mentors, specifically the philosopher-photographer Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams, who was heavily into photographic technique. Exacting composition, compactness of content, an impeccable use of light and shade, and a consistent undertone of spirituality are the hallmarks of his images. Viewing each photograph in isolation, you may be transported (as I was) to distant lands and obscure vistas. Through imagery and text, he shares a few philosophical insights and even a preternatural epiphany or two.
Forests, bends in rivers, desert dunes, and rock formations provide the framework for Dzerigian’s compositions in large part before he switches to the interiors of cathedrals and convents, temples and tombs. Exquisite mid tones in monochrome, understated orange, delicate blues and muted yellows in color images – wonderful stuff, I tell you. I’ll mention just two out of the 60 odd images which I would suggest that anybody with a weak heart not view, unless they have a defibrillator at hand. One is that of a nude figure perched at the edge of a precipice framed by an inverted stone arch (visitor, delicate arch, Utah). Also, be prepared for some intrigue when viewing a funeral staged in the basement of an Antiguan convent. He doesn’t quite stop there; this book exposes Dzerigian’s broad interests, his willingness to depart from the style of his famous mentors and venture into offbeat techniques. Who has heard of choreophotography (the art of combining light and movement)? Or anthropomorphism? Have a look at choreophotograph 2, Canyon De Chelly, 1981 (below), which my descriptive caption for that one would be ‘Sheer Chutzpah’.
My research reveals that Steve Dzerigian is well regarded as a teacher of photography, that he has mentored many young artists, and that he is the heart, if not the brains of a photographer’s collective and gallery in Fresno, California. His text is matter of fact, transparent, didactic, detailed and autobiographical. There is much about his career, his mentors, the cameras and lenses that he is partial to, and the physics of alternative techniques that he employs. These aspects of his narrative will be of particular interest to students of photography and perhaps to adherents of the “West Coast” movement (after Weston/Adams). What is more compelling to me is how the text pertaining to the concepts of surrealism, spirituality, mindfulness, and even yoga interlaces with the images.
Some fifty years ago, we listened and took off on a ‘magical mystery tour’ sans visuals. Viewing Dzergian’s “Trail of Stones” is an equally magical mystical journey of sorts, albeit sans music. Yes, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Steve Dzerigian – Trail of Stones: My Path in Photography
Photographer: Steve Dzerigian born Fresno, California and residing Fresno, California
Publisher: The Press at California State University, California (Fresno) copyright 2018
Essays: introduction: Barbara Bullock-Wilson; body of text: Steve Dzerigian; jacket text: Tim Hill
Hardbound book with dust jacket, 112 pages, 62 plates; printed in China
Book design: Michael Parola of Parola Design/Metaphor Creative