Review by Douglas Stockdale •
One of my first photobook acquisitions is another retrospective by George Tice – Photographs 1953-1973, which was then a twenty-year retrospective. Now that I am a bit older and perhaps wiser, I am understanding why this earlier book was published when noting that the introduction is by the late photo-gallerist Lee Witkin. Tice was very close to Witkin and was helpful, perhaps instrumental, in the opening of Witkin’s photographic gallery in New York City in 1969, the second exclusively photographic gallery in NYC, but that perhaps is another story, which can be found in this book. Nevertheless, that gallery-photographer relationship was a critical element in propelling Tice’s fine art black and white photographs into collectors’ hands.
This retrospective monograph, Lifework, augments the earlier retrospective, while there is some overlap between the two, sharing some of Tice’s greatest hits. The reproductions in this latest retrospective, due in part to the selection of printing paper and substantial improvement in printing technologies, is a really an impressive improvement over his earlier monograph. As it has been said before, when everything comes together in an excellently produced photobook, it is as though you are holding an original photographic print and this book is no exception.
Tice is a classic photographer of a different and earlier generation, experimenting on his own to understand the technical aspects of the medium, including platinum printing, in part driven by his own personal curiosity and interest in a given subject, not a by-product of a BFA or MFA program. Suffice to say, he did not finish high school and eventually drifted into the U.S. Navy eventually working his way into their photographic program. After the Navy he joined a portrait company becoming an iterant family portrait photographer, much like Ansel Adams. Concurrent with his day job, he worked on his personal projects, which are the subject of this and 24 other books featuring his photographic work.
After 10 years of the portrait photography, he left that day job to strike out on his own as a fine art photographer, in part buoyed by his gallery support from Lee Witkins. This impressive retrospective compiles his many well-known photographic projects illustrated in a series of chapters in this book; The Bowery, Early Work, The Sixties, Bodie (CA), Family, New York, Fields of Peace, Trees, Paterson, Ice Series, Aquatic Plants, Nature, Urban Landscapes, Seacoast Maine, Artie Van Blarcum, Deborah, White Cat, Lincoln, Fairmont, Dixon, Hannibal, Street Portraits, Stone Walls – Grey Skies, Ticetown, and Paterson II.
His roots are grounded as a photographic generalist, working in analog black and white, predominately in medium and large format. His body of work includes a broad range of genres’: family, portraits, natural landscapes and the man-built urban environment. His nature photography, especially the Ice series could be taken for Abstraction Expressionism. Then there are his dreamy and evocative urban landscapes shrouded in fog. His subjects range from the hard edge graphic to the layered and poetic, daylight street photography of a documentary-style to his nighttime urban landscape of eateries, theater marquees and other structures that might glow in the night. His photographs appear to have an underlying balance of form and structure that show an appreciation of the possible range of tonalities that continued to create an audience for his photographic prints.
I will have to admit to essentially growing up with Tice’s photographs while admiring his photographs from afar, at times attempting to emulate his work, such as Oak Tree, Holmdel, New Jersey, 1970 and a good many others from his various series. In retrospect, it’s possible to see that some of his photographs could have been included in the famous New Topographic exhibit, with probably mutual influences by Paul Caponigro, Joel Meyerowitz, Aaron Siskind, and even a little bit of Chris Killip.
For this book review, I attempted to illustrate some of Tice’s lesser known work, although it is difficult not to include his first famous photograph, Explosion Aboard the USS Wasp, 1959, second below, made while he was in the US Navy that resulted in his first photograph being acquired by Edward Steichen for MoMA. Which interestingly came full circle when Tice was requested in 1982 to print a number of Limited-Edition Portfolios of Steichen’s own photographs.
With 300 photographs over almost 400 pages, printed in quadtone, this is a very impressive, if not absolutely stunning, retrospective photobook which any photographer would aspire to have created for their life’s work.
Douglas Stockdale is the Senior Editor (founder) of PhotoBook Journal
George Tice – Lifework, George Tice
Photographer: George Tice, born in Newark, NJ and resides in New Jersey.
Publisher: Veritas Editions, Woodinville, WA, copyright 2021
Essays: Introduction by the late Michael Miller, afterword by George Tice
Hardcover, linen with tipped in image, hard cover slipcase, 384 pages, Quadtone printing, Chronology, Listing of Exhibitions, Listing of Books, and Selected Bibliography, print and bound in China, ISBN 978-0-95565-06-6
Photobook Designer: George Tice and Mat Thorne
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