This is the best book I have seen for introducing and explaining Jock Sturges's work.
Before going further, let me warn readers that this book contains many female and male nudes of young children that would fail an "R" rating if contained in a motion picture.
If you do not know his work, Mr. Sturges works with an 8 X 10 camera outdoors (usually in nudist resorts) to capture the emotional, psychological, and physical development of his young subjects. They are usually filmed in the nude so that you can see more aspects of their development, and are usually accompanied by parents and siblings to express those familial relationships. By repeatedly photographing the same subjects, you capture a sense of the person which is constant, in the midst of the dramatic growth and transformation of a child into an adult. The images in this book are much less overtly nude than those in his more recent work, and are important foundations for comparison with photographs of the same models in their late teenage and early twenties years.
I particularly liked the essay by Jayne Anne Phillips. For those who are new to Sturges, this essay is a must. She understands and explains his work very well. He sees "the selves that will live in these children all their lives . . . . " " . . . [W]e are animals and angels, approaching the light of redemption with an intrinsic fear of flame." "But we were never safe, not really . . . . "
These insights are extended in the afterword by Jock Sturges in which he explains the origin and purposes of his work very well. "When I work, I try to interfere as little as possible." If models arrive clothed, he photographs them that way. If they arrive nude, he does the same. "As I come to know my subjects better, I learn more about myself." And the book's title is bound to this statement, "I make my best work with the last days of summer." There's not much time left, and his knowledge of the children and their families is at its peak at that moment.
The work itself is very subtle and well reproduced. In some of the more playful images, the children are dressed in what could be either angel or fairy outfits . . . making them seem both very ethereal, yet impishly young. I especially liked the photograph of Misty Dawn in Northern California in 1989 that is of this sort.
My favorites in this book included:
Lisa C.; Northern California, 1981
Katherine; Montalivet, France, 1987
Fan Chen; Northern California, 1986
Marie-Claude et Valentin; Montalivet, France, 1987
Weist Family; Block Island, Rhode Island, 1984
Pete, Mike, and Christine; Northern California, 1987
Catherine and Angela; Block Island, Rhode Island, 1987
Gaelle, Marine, Valentin, et Marie-Claude; Montalivet, France, 1987
Minna; Northern California, 1980
You get a feeling of a great comfort with oneself, one's family, and one's surroundings from the photographs in this volume.
After studying it, you might want to think about how you can shed the "unnatural" cares you have that interfere with the expression of your truly loving, and most natural self. I also suggest that you look at photographs of yourself and your own family over the years to see what is constant about each of you.
Capture the best of what is lasting, before the leaves fall in October!
on 24 November 1997
A few families have been given the gift of having their lives chronicled by a master photographer. Jock Sturges books chronicle the passage of time through the lives of several families, who are photographed naturally at a nature retreat in France. The lineage of the human family is at its most noble in these images of parents with their children, brothers with their sisters, families with friends... It is the soul of humanity and family that is depicted in Sturges' fine work, in a manner that (thanks to its nudity) is as timeless as the human spirit itself. Propagandistic attacks upon his work because of the natural nudity are, while perhaps honestly felt, are misplaced.
on 4 August 1998
I was able to view this book at a time when I had just began my own photography and did not understand why so much of photo art was A: Nude, and B: Black and white. As I developed my first set of prints I realized that A: any clothed pose simply becomes a fashion show and B: color evokes a simple snapshot- black and white freezes moments of life into art. Nothing could better describe this book. A wonderfull and experienced look at beautiful forms by an artist who truly understands how to set aside the lens, the clothes, the film, and filters- and let the natural beauty of these subjects pour through.
I felt only two points of contention. The first was a hunger left by the excruciating clean forms of these images. I felt as if, though sated, I kept peeking behind the plate for perhaps one more sliced carrot. This is, though, also one of it's magnificent qualities. The other minor complaint being the tonality of the photographs. For the very distinguishing eye,! the photos are slightly darker and less contrasting than in other works where some of these images are also contained. However- this is offset by the size and availability of this collection. It simply wouldn't be possible to collect these images any other way.
Overall, an excellent book. One of the best in the field.