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The North Fork: Trent Davis Bailey

Chase Starr

In The North Fork, Trent Davis Bailey shares a rich connection to his family’s home in western Colorado. Many photographs show the quiet pastoral qualities of remote landscapes and others share personal moments of human connection. The book (12.5” x 10.2”) is protected by a cool gray board slipcase with an image of a child backlit by the sun with their shadow projecting onto a scrim between the viewer and subject. Cases tend to be ornamentation for the sake of it, but here is a construction well done. The cover is wrapped in an off-white loosely woven fabric applied directly to a malleable and delicate card stock. The top and bottom edges are un-hemmed and crisp sharp

A page spread of two images. On the left a man climbing a tree and on the right a dirt road winding through a field.

The first image in the book is a captivating wide shot of a homestead dwarfed by luscious rosy clouds that fill four-fifths of vertical space. Multiple tree varieties run perpendicular to the shooting angle which cows graze alongside. A brick-red home sits at the center of this horizontal line. Struck by the beautiful colorful gradients, I initially neglect to consider ominous dark qualities in the sky. In a spread a well-dressed man climbs a tall autumnal yellow-leaved tree; the camera is angled upwards to crop out the ground possibly leading viewers to believe the feat is much more dangerous than reality. On the right-hand side is a trodden dirt road that s-curves through a green field. In another photograph, tree limbs extend outwards from above the camera lens. where we look upon a vast landscape with snow-capped mountains in the background. Many images in the book like these contribute to scene setting and contributes to Colorado being a character in the photographer’s story.

Throughout the book I found that some photographs document life as-happening and others construct narrative scenes. An image of a man lying face down on the dirt floor of a greenhouse is clearly a fabrication, but I choose to believe it recounts some tale from the photographer’s memory. In one photograph, a nude man makes a snow angel upon a rooftop overlooking a valley from higher elevation. There’s only snow up here and the man basks in the joy of a fleeting moment. Towards the end of the book a pregnant woman lays in flat a rocky creek with arms stretched overhead; her long curled hair drapes across her body. A story of foraging for mushrooms that blossoms into a marriage is included in book and we happen to find an image of pounds of them piled on a table. Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay which describes the way in which Trent Davis Bailey conveys messages without directly showing events. There are many instances of shadows cast in the collection. Two greenhouse skeletons draped in taught plastic. In the left structure, the sun shines through from behind and illuminates a shadow figure standing within. An image of a young girl is overlayed by a shadow of another girl swinging by a rope. I find the mixture of various narrative forms the most compelling aspect of this book and will return to it often.

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