Book Review: Last Best Hiding Place by Tim Richmond
“Places, like people, can seem alone, filled with melancholy,” Tim Richmond introduces his photographs of the American West.
What we get to see in this tome is, well, deserted streets, a train on its way into a vast emptiness, some dilapidated houses, gas stations, bars, a billboard in the middle of nowhere that shows the face of a healthy young boy and next to it these words: “The POINT is: Life begins at conception!,” a church way out there in the prairie (Oglala Sioux Reservation, South Dakota, the caption reads) … it all looks strangely unreal, and somewhat absurd, although I know it to be real for I have seen such places and scenes when travelling through the US.
“Richmond’s American West is a desolate place filled with cowboys (or men who look like cowboys), and the few women are also at least a little rough around the edges,” Jörg Colberg aptly describes the characters shown – who, to me, all seem sad and lost.
I feel profoundly touched by these pics that radiate a certain futility and hopelessness that I sometimes feel liberating. A quote from Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind (I quote from memory): The Dakotas do not promise anything and that is why they do not have to live up to anything special.
There’s nothing pretentious, no showing off – the people portrayed do not pose for the photographer. And the few who do, like the woman in a bar in Deadwood, South Dakota, do not make an effort in order to make a favourable impression. That’s the way I am, the woman seems to say.
It’s this unpretentiousness that attracts me, and that I warm to.
“Photographs are associative images – they are Rorschachs,” as my friend, San Francisco-based photographer Emelle Sonh, says.
To me, Tim Richmond’s photographs show neither the American dream nor its opposite. What they show is a very human reality stripped of illusions. The bars, beer cans, and cigarettes illustrate that such a reality is sometimes difficult to bear.
Last Best Hiding Place
by Tim Richmond
Essay by Jörg Colberg
Kehrer, Heidelberg Berlin 2015
For more information and to purchase the book: www.timrichmond.co.uk/por/book-shop/