Review by Wayne Swanson •
Bodie, that 19th-century gold rush ghost town in the California hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, has been a theme park for photographers for years. Everyone from Ansel Adams down to Mom, Dad, and the kids with their point-and-shoots has captured the picturesque “arrested decay” of what is now a State Historic Park. Could there possibly be anything left there to photograph?
Through the lens of the right photographer, the answer is “of course!” Jodie Hulden is one such photographer. Her monograph focuses on the moment when Bodie residents picked up and moved on, apparently in a hurry. The result is a poignant collection of still lifes that evoke the humanity in what was left behind.
The book is a bit of a departure for the San Diego-based Hulden. She is primarily a landscape photographer whose black and white photography usually captures the silence and solitude of the natural environment. She brings the same quiet and subtle aesthetic inside the dilapidated buildings of Bodie. Here, however, she uses a desaturated color palette to great effect.
The book consists of 29 images of the interiors, which are now off-limits to visitors without special permission. The images document the faded rooms with their water-stained walls, peeling wallpaper, torn curtains and sparse furnishings, as well as the abandoned personal possessions of the last residents — reading glasses left on a table, coats on wall hooks, pots and pans on the stove.
It’s all captured with an artist’s eye for composition and lighting. Each image is framed as an intimate still life. Her use of the soft natural light and desaturated colors creates a calm atmosphere that invites you to imagine the people who inhabited these spaces and contemplate their final days there.
The images succeed in evoking a past time, while also making a timeless point about the human condition. “We all surround ourselves with objects that are meant to give us support, comfort, ease and beauty in our daily lives,” Hulden notes in her closing essay. Yet, as current events are reminding us, “we are subject to the whims of chance and change.”
Hulden and her book were also included in PhotoBook Journal’s report on the 2019 Medium Festival of Photography.
Left Behind, Jodie Hulden
Photographer: Jodie Hulden, born and resides in San Diego, CA
Publisher: Dark Spring Press (Tucson, AZ, USA, copyright 2019)
Introduction: George DeWolfe, essay Jodie Hulden
Stiff cover with foil stamping on front, back and spine, perfect-bound with 5.5 inch flaps, four-color lithography, 6 x 8.75 inches, 64 pages, 29 color plates, printed in Jersey City, NJ
The 120-copy first edition consists of 90 trade copies and 30 Collector Edition copies that include a signed and numbered archival pigment print.
Photobook designer: Andy Burgess and Dawne Osborne