Dawn Surratt & Sal Taylor Kydd – A Passing Song

Review by Douglas Stockdale •

During the COVID-19 pandemic a number of creative projects resulted from the forced need to isolate from one another that substantially reduced our ability to have personal interactions. One such project is the collaborative endeavor by Dawn Surratt and Sal Taylor Kydd that resulted in their self-published book A Passing Song. Similar to many joint development projects occurring during this pandemic, this is a virtual relationship, with Surratt located in rural North Carolina and Kydd located in rural Maine. This project included sharing of poems that are intertwined with related photographs attempting to confront what each was encountering over this period.

The resulting content and subject of the black and white photographs is ambiguous and non-site specific; the reader may not immediately recognize if a photograph is created in North Carolina or Maine without referring to the subject Index provided at the book’s conclusion. Not that this really matters as it appears that a locality is not germane to their artistic intent as more of an attempt to imply that their narrative is applicable very broadly.

Collectively they lead-in with a soft-focus staged arrangement of what appears to be a porcelain vase that has something metallic draped from it, sitting on what might be a wooden stool. Being unable to determine what the actual subject is, the photograph conjures feelings of memory and nostalgia, that perhaps suggests events of an earlier and better time before the advent of the pandemic. 

They create photographs that utilize shallow depth of field that provides a slice of reality with much of the image fading into a soft palette of grays. Their photographs and poems set us on a journey that appears that we are meandering through a gray fog, with an inability to observe many details and facts that surround around us. A fitting metaphor for dealing with the pandemic conditions; facing the immediacy of the moment while the future appears uncertain.

These are also dreamy appearing images that could also represent looking at events through sad eyes and that the surrounding events challenge one to stay in focus, likewise representing how one’s life might seem also momentarily out of focus.  Essentially, we are momentarily lost and unmoored to any kind of reality and perhaps overwhelmed with all of the ensuing emotional changes that are occurring due to the conditions of this pandemic. Perhaps feeling that we are unable to control our own destiny and this sense of loss and detachment has been frequently voiced by others during the pandemic.

Perhaps due in part to the digital offset printing and their choice of a warm tone paper, a combination that appears to contribute to a nostalgic undercurrent that I sense is imbued in their artwork and writings. Likewise, I find this choice of slightly warmer and lower contrast photographs enhances the lyrical qualities of their black and white photographs.

My only niggle with this photobook is germane to all books that are perfect bound and incorporate photographic images that span two pages; the resulting visual content that is lost in the gutter. I find that this type of book production is an excellent manner to create tension for a disruptive visual narrative, which does not appear consistent with the intent behind this book’s concept. 

Their book elicits and asks for a slower read, as suggested by Douglas Beasley in his introduction. Asking the reader to take the time to contemplate the juxtaposition of the poems and photographs, which I find is a worthwhile effort. Finding beauty in the face of trauma.  They provide visual and written food to nourish the soul.

They have created a wonderful pace, cadence and interplay of poems and poetic images.


Other photobooks by Sal Taylor Kydd featured on PhotoBook Journal; Landfall and Yesterday


Douglas Stockdale is a visual artist and Senior Editor and founder, PhotoBook Journal


 A Passing Song, Dawn Surratt & Sal Taylor Kydd

Photographer/Poet; Dawn Surratt, born in Rhode Island and currently residing in Henderson, North Carolina

Photographer/Poet: Sal Taylor Kydd, born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, U.K. and now residing in Rockport, Maine.

Self-Published: Dawn Surratt & Sal Taylor Kydd, copyright 2022

Poems: Dawn Surratt & Sal Taylor Kydd

Foreword: Douglas Beasley

Text: English

Stiff covers, perfect bound, two limited edition Risographs, author index, edition of 200, print and bound by Conveyor Studio, Jersey City, NJ, ISBN 978-0-9910326-2-4

Photobook Designer: Christina Labey, Sophia Dorfsman


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.

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