Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore
– Edgar Allan Poe
The large set of leather-bound books seems deeply significant in the recesses of my childhood mind. The five members of our family were readers, and we collectively made evening outings every three weeks to the public library in our suburban neighborhood to bring home arm loads of modern writers like Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, and Truman Capote.
The novels on the living room shelf, however, were classics: Twain, Dickens, Flaubert, Dumas, Hawthorne and such. They carried the weight of middle-class aspiration to finer living – to a life less drab. There may have been reproduction Americana folk prints on the walls, but Oscar Wilde’s sophisticated and humorous musings on the shelf. Aside from their literary value they delivered a physical quality of richness as they sat amid the regular bound books in a ranch house filled with faux-colonial maple furniture.
There was also an untouchable quality, due either to our mother not wanting us to gum up the pages with sticky fingers, or just due to the fact that the books themselves had a certain nobility. Regardless, there were two strong qualities I recall, one of which was just how good they felt in my hands: supple leather and shiny smooth gold gilded pages. There was also a spooky quality amid certain books: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and all the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The darkness of these stories may pale with the horrific and violent imagery in contemporary culture, but their power in story-telling set an atmosphere of apprehension that seemed to emanate from the bindings themselves. That’s the power of imagination in a child’s mind.
All this brings me to a beautiful and mysterious new book by photographer Chris Anthony. Informed by the prose and imagery of Edgar Allen Poe, “Seas Without A Shore” is rooted in historical image making without being stuck there. Anthony implements the wet plate collodion process beautifully along with using 150 year old lenses, but those are just a few of the tools in his bag of tricks. Anthony has one of the finest visual “voices” I’ve known in recent years. Part mystic, part conjurer, vaudeville ringmaster and antique portraitist, Anthony is a rare animal. His ability to set both simple and elaborate stages creates elegant enigmas throughout all of his bodies of work that allow the viewer to witness something of a different reality while exploring themes of solitude, hope and survival.
When I once worked with him on a series of editorial portraits at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, I was actually surprised that he didn’t arrive in a Victorian morning jacket or step out of a coach rather than a car. He so thoroughly created his own landscape that I came to expect him to inhabit it as well.
In “Seas Without A Shore,” Chris Anthony writes: “An image that I go back with since I’m perhaps three or four years old is a vintage movie poster for the 1934 film, The Black Cat, hanging on my Aunt Maggie’s living room wall in Stockholm. The disembodied heads of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi zooming across the blackened vortex of the cat’s silhouette made a huge impact on me. Their facial expressions were terrifying. Like a stick in the wet cement of a young brain, it wires you for good, and save for perhaps an Arthurian therapist attempting to pry it loose from your noodle, one is rather stuck with it for life. But even at that age, the poster didn’t scare me. It thrilled me. It’s also the first time I ever saw the words: Edgar Allan Poe.”
In an era of rampant shutter releases, Chris Anthony’s vision takes us to a selective and sophisticated level of image making with fictional narratives from the bizarre to the banal. “Making the masks, and many of the props and costumes is a big part of the process and it helps me define this unique and demented little world I live and shoot in. There are many still-lifes (or portraits rather) of Seahorses, which I find to be one of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures in existence. The mysteries of the sea is certainly a big part of the subject matter in these pictures and I like to think that the book ends with a sort of crescendo of color images of survivors braving waves and currents, perhaps the result of a future world where ocean tides will wash away the planet’s coastlines.”
Chris Anthony was born in Sweden and lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Stockholm, Brooklyn, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., London, Bath and San Francisco and published in the Los Angeles Times, Eyemazing, Art News, American Photo, Blink, Paper, Photo+, Nylon, Black Book, Juxtapoz, Zoom, Corrierre della Serra.
“Seas Without A Shore,” is a self-published book, available through its author, offered in a variety of versions including a signed edition limited to 200 copies with cloth bound cover and options of slip cases, clamshell boxes and original prints. Unlike the fearsome books of my youth, the gorgeous “Seas Without A Shore” begs to be opened, pored over, considered and reconsidered. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org http://chrisanthony.viewbook.com