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!