Review by Wayne Swanson •
As the title makes abundantly clear, this is a book about dogs. Purebred, rescues, dogs of all shapes and sizes. But the other parts of the title — “Palm Springs,” “Modern,” and “at Home” — make this much more than just another answer to the question “Who’s a good boy?”
Palm Springs is renowned as a desert retreat for the LA crowd and snowbirds in search of sun and the good life. It’s also a mecca for mid-century modern architecture, and these are certainly mid-century modern dogs. They lounge in classic Eames chairs, play amid Saarinen Tulip side tables and Herman Miller furnishing. They are surrounded by pristine décor marked by clean lines, bright colors, and modern art on the walls. They ride around in vintage red Corvairs and pink Cadillacs and hang out by the pool while palm trees and the San Jacinto Mountains provide the backdrop.
Nancy Baron is the perfect photographer for the job. She’s a dog owner, despite being highly allergic to them. She’s also a part-time resident of Palm Springs, and this is her third book celebrating the Palm Springs mystique. She’s a Los Angeles-based photographer, but she grew up in Chicago, a city that breeds an appreciation of architecture and design sadly missing elsewhere. More than that, she grew up in a neighborhood of mid-century modern homes. As a result, her photographs celebrate the dogs, but also give props to the mid-century modern aesthetic and the architects who designed the homes.
Baron is a fine art documentary photographer with what she calls a “hopeful bias,” and these images are uniformly sunny. The bright desert light and classic compositions show off mid-century design at its finest. Yet the dogs are front and center, and they make the images more than Architecture Digest design porn. These are not show dogs primped to show off the furniture. They are all well-groomed, but many are rescues, and they break the formality of the images as they casually roam among mid-century modern gems and dog toys.
Each image is supported by text providing the name of the dog, its breed, owner, and the architect or builder who designed the home. Many also have a chamber of commerce-quality blurb from the owners extolling the wonders of Palm Springs, as well as their thoughts about the mid-century modern ethos.
Winston, Peanut, Gizmo, Brick, LuLu and all the other pooches in this book are living the Palm Springs dream. Yet the beautifully composed imagery makes this more that just a book for dog lovers. Come for dogs, stay for the mid-century modern aesthetic.
Palm Springs Modern Dogs at Home, Nancy Baron
Photographer: Nancy Baron, born Chicago, IL, USA, resides Los Angeles & Palm Springs, CA
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing (Atglen, PA, USA, copyright 2020)
Foreword: Bob Merlis, Introduction: Nancy Baron, Epigram: Sia
Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, 54 photos, 128 pages, 10 x 7.5 inches, printed in India
Photobook designer: Nancy Baron and Kali Malinka
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