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Book Review: Deep Valley Dark Days by Danny Ghitis

A well-manicured mobile home in Dover Plains, NY.

A well-manicured mobile home in Dover Plains, NY.

Deep Valley, Dark Days, a self-published book by Brooklyn-based commercial and editorial photographer Danny Ghitis, is the result of a stay in upstate New York (thanks to an artist’s residency). On his website, he provides valuable background information as to how his work came about. He felt “unmoored after the end of a long relationship“ when he started to photograph “people, animals and odd details he was drawn to in communities in New York’s Harlem Valley.”

I very much appreciate such information. To tell me in what mood the photographer was when he was taking his pictures, I do find helpful. Not least because I’m not only interested in the result but also in the process of picture taking. The more I know about how a photograph came about the more a picture is able to tell the story the photographer intended to tell.

Deep Valley Dark Days

Deep Valley Dark Days

It seems as if Danny Ghitis was in a pensive and rather melancholic mood when embarking on his project – nobody smiles and even the occasional blue sky doesn’t radiate joyfulness. Instead we get to see, well, nothing special. Ordinary people posing for the photographer, workers clearing a car accident site, a sign that says thank you, another forgiveness.

He’s got an eye for the strangeness of life – a young girl with a rather odd make-up wearing a shirt that says OLD NAVY and below it a picture of three young dogs; two grossly overweight women in a store next to a shoe rack; a trimmed tree (in front of a house) pointing to an untrimmed one (behind the house) – and calls his work “a dreamlike photographic odyssey through an America that exists everywhere and nowhere”.

Deep Valley, Dark Days is introduced by Matt Cook with a rather gloomy text about a gas station. Apart from that, no information is provided. Had I not consulted Danny Ghitis website and read Emily Anne Epstein’s “Caught in the American Daydream: A portrait of a region” in The Atlantic, I would have not known where and when these photographs were taken.

Role playing experiments in Wassaic, NY.

Role playing experiments in Wassaic, NY.

In addition, the photos in the book come without captions yet, strangely enough, the ones in The Atlantic come with captions. For instance, the one accompanying the above mentioned young woman wearing the Old Navy shirt says: “Role-playing experiments in Wassaic, New York.“; the one that I thought focussed on a trimmed tree says: “A well-manicured mobile home in Dover Plains, New York.“

Deep Valley, Dark Days is convincingly designed, the photos are thoughfully arranged but, sadly, absolutely no information is found in the book.

Deep Valley, Dark Days

Deep Valley, Dark Days

Deep Valley Dark Days
by Danny Ghitis

For more information and to purchase the book: www.dannyghitis.com/book/dvdd

About Hans Durrer

Hans Durrer is an author and addiction counsellor based in Switzerland. www.hansdurrer.com/, 12-step-addiction-treatment.blogspot.ch/. Two of his books are in English: Ways of Perception, Bangkok 2006; Framing the World, Houston 2011.

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