By: Kate Breakey(Author), Lia Purpura(Author)
168 pages, 100 colour photos
Las sombras, the shadows, are literally that – shadows left behind when Kate Breakey places objects on photosensitive paper and shines light on them. And yet, in the inevitable reversal of photography, these shadows are full of light – and more than light. Breakey's luminous images of coyotes and whipsnakes, hopping mice and scorpions, are filled with her love of the American Southwest that is now her home and the animals, plants, and insects that inhabit it. As she says, "The natural world is full of wondrous things to look at and to chronicle and catalogue. In my own way, I have devoted myself to that end."
Las Sombras / The Shadows presents new work that Kate Breakey has created since moving to Arizona in 1999. Making pictures without a camera, like early nineteenth-century photographers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins, Breakey also shares their affinity for recording the natural world in scientific detail, as well as with artistic beauty. Breakey's contact prints, known as photograms or photogenic drawings, have the sepia-toned look of Victorian illustrations, yet their sensibility is distinctly modern. In the way she poses the animals, Breakey's coyotes and rabbits dance; her birds fly. Accompanying the images is an essay by poet Lia Purpura, in which she invites las sombras to spark her own investigation of shadows, of the absence that paradoxically becomes a kind of presence, especially when held in a photograph. This revealing conversation between images and words opens up a new way of seeing, a discovery of substance in shadows.
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Kate Breakey’s photography has been published in the volumes Painted Light; Small Deaths: Photographs; Slow Light; and Birds/Flowers and has also appeared in more than eighty one-person exhibitions and more than fifty group exhibitions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, China, New Zealand, and France. Her work is held in many public collections, including the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Lia Purpura is the author of seven collections of essays, poems, and translations, including On Looking, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Her awards include a 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, as well as NEA and Fulbright Fellowships and four Pushcart Prizes, and her work can be read in the New Yorker, the New Republic, Orion, and the Paris Review. She is Writer-in-Residence at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington.
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