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PERMANENT DRIFT By John Waller

Walking In Olde Kensington, Philadelphia (2012– 2016) 
Essay by Pete Duval 

“ … Waller’s own intelligent presence suffuses these evocative photographs. The book is a layered diary, a travelogue of his wanderings—of his daily dérives—through and around the Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived for a number of years. – Fiction writer and photographer, Pete Duval (from his essay)

Olde Kensington, north of Center City Philadelphia, was predominantly a post-industrial area when photographer John Waller moved to town. Yet ominous signs of change could be seen everywhere as the neighborhood rapidly renovated and gentrified like the rest of Philadelphia. In the style of the classic flâneur of old, Waller wandered the streets recording a city in a state of flux. Permanent Drift (Daylight Books, May 25, 2021) brings together 53 of Waller’s monochrome images taken during his regular walks around the neighborhood from 2012-2016. Pete Duval contributes an essay. 

In the book’s foreword, Waller writes: “As a lone walker, muddling my way through this unfamiliar and transitional neighborhood, I set out to document my time in Olde Kensington. The sense that some invisible force seemed to be directing these walks, influencing my movements in secret, was hard to ignore. This reticent escort seemed intent on eliciting conflicting senses of adversity, apprehension, desire, and elation.” Waller’s photography explores the fragmentation of everyday life, memory, and the relationship to place. He walked his neighborhood repeatedly, without any sense of purpose, yet always keeping his mind and eyes on alert for an interesting picture. He’s attracted to the back alleys, vacant and unused spaces – the “interstitials” — rather than the main roads populated by people, shops, and restaurants. He likened the experience of his meanderings in Olde Kensington to searching for home in a place that he found both confusing and contradictory.”  

In his essay, Pete Duval explains the photobook Permanent Drift is an allusion to the French philosopher and Marxist theorist Guy Debord’s idea of le dérive (literally “drift”), “a practice for understanding, repurposing, resisting the way built environments are intended to be lived in, passed through, felt. Like Debord’s practice, essentially a form of whimsical wandering.”  

Duval comments on the photographs: “ … everywhere, forces are afoot that seek, intentionally or not, to undermine the stark utilitarian purposes of the built environment and render it beautiful. Vines and opportunistic trees well up from weedy lots to overtake houses. Facades flake and crumble. Smoke stacks of decommissioned electrical plants rust in the distance … Everywhere we encounter the inscrutable: cryptic messages and effaced signifiers, blank billboards, illegible scrawl and faded graffiti, a shroud of snow that resolves itself into a teddy bear lashed to a metal fence post. And over everything, the omnipresent shadow stencils—even more fleeting—designs approaching the abstract, diagonals on scored concrete walls, the crisscross of scaffolding, the configurations of pigeons arrested in curved flight.”

 About the Photographer:
John Waller (b. 1976) is an American photographer currently living in Massachusetts where he was born and raised. He embarked on his career in photography in 2012 upon graduation from The University Of The Arts in Philadelphia. He has self-published several photography zines, and his work has also been published in Incandescent Magazine, Save Zine, Atwood Magazine, and exhibited in group shows at Art League Rhode Island, Project Basho, Doomed Gallery, London, Texas Photographic Society, Gravy Studio, and Darkroom Gallery; where he received an honorable mention from juror Bruce Gilden. 

About the Contributor:
Pete Duval is a fiction writer and photographer. His short story collection, Rear View (Houghton Mifflin), won the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the Connecticut Book Award, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. A second collection, The Deposition, winner of the 2020 Juniper Prize for Fiction, will be published by The University of Massachusetts Press in the spring of 2021. As a street and landscape photographer, Pete explores urban Philadelphia, where he lives, and coastal Massachusetts, where he grew up―settings that figure significantly in his writing as well.

Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information,

 

Book Details:                                                         

8 x 10 | 112 pp                                                                    

53 B&W photographs / Cloth over Board          

US $45.00 | CAN $58.99                                            

ISBN: 9781942084969 W

 

PERMANENT DRIFT By John Waller

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“The power of David Gulden’s epic photographs of lions, cheetahs, leopards, and elephants lies not just in what you can see, but in what you know lies beyond the image’s edge. The lion on the termite mound, the cheetah with her eyes narrowed, the elephants crossing the mudflat—all are looking at a far horizon. Whether in fear or expectation, or simply in watchfulness, we know that their gaze will fall increasingly on people, plastic, and pollution, the poisons of the modern world.” 

— Fiammetta Rocco, senior editor, and the culture correspondent of both The Economist and 1843

Photographer and environmentalist David Gulden’s connection to the land and wildlife of Kenya began when he was 15 and traveled with his father on safari. This connection grew to advocacy, and the 66 black and white photographs collected in his second monograph, Nor Dread, Nor Hope Attend  (Damiani), reflect this commitment to relaying the truth of the impacts of declining habitats, while simultaneously showing the fierce beauty of both the animals of the African plains, and the expansive landscape itself.  

Gulden’s process signals his respect for the animals and their daily life he witnesses. The large format images are presented with no digital alterations, such as compositing or changes to the physical reality of the images. When taking photos, Gulden moves as close as possible with half the images taken with a 50 mm lens. He trusts the natural world to deliver.  “When I photograph, I succumb to the beauty and to the science of the subject. I do not wish to create images purporting to be more beautiful than the reality being photographed. I do not try to make the old look new. I wish to show the timelessness of my subjects.” 

Gulden spends a considerable amount of time out in the wild, waiting and watching, and feels this patience combined with curiosity contributes to setting his work apart. “As a photographer I do not consider myself an artist. It is not art that I am making, but life that I am engaging. The only art I employ is the art of curiosity,” he shares. 

The notable Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard E. Leakey has campaigned for years advocating mindful management of East African land. In the book’s afterword he notes the continuing troubling trend of human and animal populations moving in opposite directions in Kenya, and the very real potential reality that the animals held within the frame of Gulden’s photographs may one day soon disappear.  

“Can there be a future for wildlife under these circumstances? I am not optimistic. Environmental awareness is so much more than elephants, hedgehogs, and vultures; it’s more than national parks. The biologists, ecologists, and other scientific experts must be encouraged and facilitated in finding long- term solutions,” he writes.

The notable Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard E. Leakey has campaigned for years advocating mindful management of East African land. In the book’s afterword he notes the continuing troubling trend of human and animal populations moving in opposite directions in Kenya, and the very real potential reality that the animals held within the frame of Gulden’s photographs may one day soon disappear. 

“Can there be a future for wildlife under these circumstances? I am not optimistic. Environmental awareness is so much more than elephants, hedgehogs, and vultures; it’s more than national parks. The biologists, ecologists, and other scientific experts must be encouraged and facilitated in finding long- term solutions,” he writes.

Earth Day

This year’s theme for Earth Day (April 22) is “Restore Our Earth.” Gulden calls his book a collection of “concerned photography” reflecting the fragments of “what is left of the wilderness I know in Kenya.” In a recent interview with the Independent about the disintegrating relationship between environmental destruction and wildlife, he commented: “Only by tackling the illegal trade of wildlife and taking greater care of flora and fauna can we secure their future. We must act now – for people and our planet.”  

All proceeds from this book will be donated to Space for Giants, a nonprofit foundation working to secure the future of the African elephant. www.spaceforgiants.org.  

David Gulden has photographed wildlife in Kenya for 20 years. A native New Yorker, he first visited Kenya on safari at age 15. His first book of photos from the African plains, The Centre Cannot Hold, was published in 2012 and received widespread acclaim. He and his family split time between New York and Kenya. 

Richard E. Leakey is a Kenyan anthropologist, conservationist, and politician. The son of groundbreaking archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey, he is an outspoken environmental advocate, Fellow of the Royal Society, Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, former Chair of the Kenya Wildlife Service, and founder of Ngaren: The Museum of Humankind project.  

Fiammetta Rocco is a Senior Editor, and the culture correspondent of both The Economist and 1843, and administrator of the Booker Prize for Fiction.

 

Book Details:    
Hardcover / 152 pages / 13 x 12.25 inches                                               

ISBN- 9788862087193                                                           

152 pages /. 67 illustrations / $70 US                                          

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