Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Brian Rose is a commercial architectural photographer who on occasion is intrigued by the self-inflictions that seem to dog an ex-American president. In Rose’s previously monograph, Atlantic City, as Melanie Chapman writes in her book review, Rose documents the ex-president’s bankrupt New Jersey casino as a “failed attempt to dress up a pig and call it exotica”.
In this monograph, Four Seasons Total Landscaping, it appears that the ex-president’s bizarre staged publicity event at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping business could be seen to foreshadow his next failed political attempt the following January. As Rose admits regarding the infamous Giuliani press conference in northeast Philadelphia; ”When I saw images of the immediate neighborhood with a sex shop and crematorium, I knew that this was a job of me – to explore this urban wilderness wedged between I-95 and the Amtrak Northeast Corridor.”
Rose, using a documentary style methodology, investigates the industrial and urban landscape surrounding this interesting political site. There is a bit of shared commonality between this site and the urban landscape of the ex-presidents failed New Jersey casino, both are located in relatively gritty, forlorn and on the fringes of economic prosperity. While neither site encompasses attributes as to what the ex-president attempts to project about himself, e.g. ‘successful’, both of these urban locations have a lot more in common with his vain attempts to ‘dress up a pig”.
Rose also wryly notes, “Just a few miles away from here, this weirdly significant spot on State Road, the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the (American) Constitution was ratified in 1787. But we are a long way from Independence Hall.” In more ways than one.
His photographs of this quasi-industrial region of Philadelphia appear like many industrial fringes of metropolitan centers that degrade over time from neglect and under investment. The neighborhood has a rough appearance that has probably seen better times. The economics of the area; rent, cost of labor, cost of land attracts business opportunities that benefit from low wages with tight margins that might be required for business like Four Seasons Total Landscaping to survive. We observe a used car lot, Melrose Motors, Home of Rick’s Hand Picked Cars, in which the majority of the cars for sale are damaged, not pristine and sparkling like-new. These are cars that are either very ‘economically’ priced, also known as ‘dirt cheap’, or available on financing terms for individuals with very questionable credit as this might be their only alternative.
The site of Four Seasons Total Landscaping business appears utilitarian, with patches of dirt covering the gravel driveway. The rolls of razor wire over top of the metal cyclone fencing appears menacing and meant to be a deterrent for any potential loss of their equipment or landscaping inventory. The rusting metal structures indicate extended durations out in the natural elements, as does the fading green paint on the administrative buildings. At the business entrance inside the fencing is a sign displaying the large text Four Seasons and in the smaller print, Total Landscaping. Rose’s documentary photograph perhaps hints at why Giuliani and the ex-president could be confused between this site and other businesses that are called Four Seasons as to their mutual appeal.
As to the bizarre press conference in this industrial wasteland, Rose closes his book with an observation that “the reason for the choice of this venue is still not fully understood”. Rose’s study of the surrounding area may offer some clues related to Giuliani’s familiarity with his bosses tastes and that the location of the press release they chose is in close proximity is the Fantasy Island Adult Books and its viewing booths. We can only speculate if there might be some familiarity in the relationship between the two businesses, both located relatively close to Washington DC.
This is an urban landscape of few good options and last resorts. As a subtle political satire, Rose’s narrative is how this seedy and down on it’s luck urban environment could become an appropriate place after all for Giuliani to hold a press conference for this ex-president.
Other photographic books by the Brian Rose which have been previously reviewed on PhotoBook Journal include: Atlantic City and Monument Avenue.
Douglas Stockdale is the Senior Editor (founder) of PhotoBook Journal
Four Seasons Total Landscaping, Brian Rose
Photographer: Brian Rose, born in Virginia, and resides New York City, NY
Self-published, New York, copyright 2021
Essays: Brian Rose
Stiff cover zine, saddle-stitch binding, four-color digital lithography, First edition of 75 copies, printed in the USA
Photobook Designer: Brian Rose
Note: This book was printed without a colophon or copyright date
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are copyright of the authors and publishers.