Review by Madhu Joseph John •
They say that the American South is a land in transition what with the incursions of globalization and the migrations of diverse populations. Some of us might be familiar with images of the “new South” depicted by artists such as Eugene Richards, Mitch Epstein, Tommy Kha and Shane Lavalette.
Perhaps that is why Clay Maxwell Jordan’s funereal invitation on the cover of his photobook “Nothing’s Coming Home” gives one pause: the cloth-bound hardcover is piggy pink with the calligraphic title embossed with a somber gold. However, once we venture into Jordan’s exploration of ‘everytownusa’, or rather ‘sometownamericansouth’, the colors in Jordan’s palette are genuinely restrained, real and authentic. There is none of say the hyperbolic green of a Hockney garden scape or the glaring red of Eggleston’s ceiling.
Jordan takes us through lush backyards and unkempt front yards, decrepit buildings/homes with peeling paint, tarped toy horses, crumbling fences, empty pot-holed roads and patched-up cars. The most enigmatic images are those of people, mostly middle-aged or old, and a couple of teenagers, maybe. Awkward stances, perplexing gestures, inscrutable demeanors with neither desperation or expectation in their eyes.
There is no sign of the blazing southern sun, oppressive humidity, no evident sense of undercurrent racism. The overwhelming and pervasive sense imparted by these images is that of apathy with perhaps a twinge of melancholia. The only sign of exuberance is that of a bounding dog featured in both end pages possibly to alleviate the decay within.
This review was crafted intentionally without benefit of any cyber research of the artist (Jordan) and without reading the elegant afterword of the art critic Alexander Nemerov. It turns out that Jordan is an established photographer whose work is widely exhibited though this is his first photobook. And thanks to Nemerov we also know how the ghost of Oscar Wilde casts its spell over this project.
After my first viewing I was drawn back to many of Jordan’s images, particularly the environmental portraits. Not once, not twice – but many times over. But the real reasons I enjoyed this book, I think, are the authenticity of the images and the insights I gained about a place and people I was not familiar with. For these reasons or other reasons of your own, I am sure you will delight in this very unconventional, even quirky, photobook.
Nothing’s Coming Soon, Clay Maxwell Jordan
Photographer: Clay Maxwell Jordan, currently resides in Athens, Georgia
Published by Fall Line Press, Atlanta, Georgia, copyright 2019
Text/Afterword: Alexander Nemerov
Book Design: Megan Flower
Editors: William Boling, Clay Jordan, Megan Sexton
Hardcover: 9.25″ x 11.5″, 94 pages, 59 color plates, ISBN: 978-0-9986490-5-4