Review by Gerhard Clausing •
When I look at this photobook, the old Phil Ochs song as rendered by Joan Baez goes through my head: “There but for fortune go you or I …” (check it out on YouTube). At the end of another fairly difficult year, looking at one’s reflection, at what might have been, presents many self-assessment challenges. The outsiders shown in this project, without permanent homes, allow us to join them through the images and words they offer, perhaps prompting us to have a tiny bit of insight, and maybe to engender some empathy for those bound by circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
Shane Rocheleau approaches the subject of homelessness in a cautious and supportive manner. We do not feel that we are voyeuristic outsiders looking judgmentally at this segment of our population. Rather, we feel that we are part of something that is somewhat beyond full explanation and has as its foundation the “many reasons why.” These men could be friends we had long ago, or our former classmates, former neighbors of ours, or even long-lost relatives. The author allows us to look over his shoulders to share several years of getting acquainted with individuals that are by choice and/or by chance part of a life of greater independence and perceived freedom.
The men who agreed to be shown in this project do not remain anonymous. We see their names, their faces, their surroundings, and their daily strife. They have become participants by photographing objects and areas of their daily lives with disposable cameras supplied by the author. Rocheleau presents an effective mix of environmental portraits and details from daily life to give us a comprehensive picture of a group of contrarian survivors who have had circumstances lead them to these particular outcomes.
An essay written by one of the participants, David I. Harryman, in a very comprehensive analysis allows us to view the issue from a different perspective, how our view of this population is but a reflection of our own inner thoughts and values. The facsimile of a letter written by another participant to his mom long ago sheds light on difficulties he faced in his life. An inserted postcard of entangled twigs with an office building behind them serves as a reminder that lets us ponder the two worlds as they coexist.
This photobook gives us much material to consider who we are, what our population encompasses, and what our attitudes and feelings toward various subgroups might be, perhaps worthy of some revisions. Highly recommended!
The PhotoBook Journal previously reviewed Shane Rocheleau’s You are Masters of the Fish and Birds and All the Animals.
Shane Rocheleau – The Reflection in the Pool
Photographer: Shane Rocheleau, (born in Falmouth, Massachusetts; lives in Richmond, Virginia)
Publisher: Gnomic Book, Brooklyn, New York; © 2019
Texts and essays: David I. Harryman; letter to mom facsimile insert; short insights and notes
Stiff cover, sewn; 152 pages with 80 color images; unpaginated; two inserts; 5.5 x 7.75 inches (14 x 20 cm); edition of 300, printed in Holland by Unicum