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43-35 10th Street - Daniel Shea

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A book review originally published on Photomonitor

Daniel Shea’s photographs cover a wide spectrum of subjects, from covering The US Open for Vogue, to detailing the complexities and occasional beauty of urban real estate development on Long Island, New York, the latter of which you can see throughout his recent book 43-35 10th Street. The cinematically sequenced photographs of leaves floating in water juxtaposed with scenes from the construction industry showcases Shea’s ability to adapt his photographic eye to a plethora of subjects, and seamlessly creates a narrative where such variety of subject matter works together.

This weighty book, which sits as comfortably on the coffee table as it does on the bookshelf, is carefully edited and cleverly designed leaving the viewer to question ideas surrounding building development, at the same time wondering what will come next in the sequence. The natural card fold out cover, impeccably detailed fold lines, along with a monochrome photograph on the cover and silver letterpress text on the spine have all the traits of the quality book that I was expecting from Shea’s long awaited project – and it is most certainly well worth the wait.

The project itself showcases a clear cinematic influence showing beautifully arranged sub-narratives of the daily life of city dwellers, billboards advertising new real estate developments, and smaller, more refined details of leaves floating on the water. This all happening while giving an overall impression of the real estate development taking over the neighbourhood where Shea lives. All these amalgamated elements form one of the most coherent, beautifully curated bodies of photographic work I have come across.

Focusing for a moment on a personal favourite series in the book, several images are shown framed as if already placed on the wall of the gallery space. Beautiful cloud formations painted with early evening light, reflections of trees superimposed over broken fences and rubbish floating in the water – these photographs are sequenced alongside more abstract patterns and architectural studies of the high rise buildings, the result of real estate development. From the aspect of the onlooker, these cinematic sequences leave you questioning viewpoint, perspective, as well as whether the image before you is that of reality or Shea’s constructed gaze on this seemingly common site of gentrification taking place across the globe.

The addition of brutalist architectural plans printed on textured acetate create new narratives as you turn the page, and offer an insight into Shea’s interest in, and influence from, architecture. As much as an experience of seeing the work, there is an irrefutable texture to the book heightening the sense of touch as you share Shea’s view from his home on Long Island.

The accompanying essay by Walter Benn Michaels supplements the photographs, giving further context to the photographic narrative. Issues of de-unionisation of construction workers, corruption, economic inequality and social class are discussed, which gives the viewer an added perspective through which to view Shea’s photographs. Further in-depth perspective of the relationship between art and economy leaves the viewer well educated as well as aesthetically satisfied.

Shea’s 43-35 10th Street is a warmly welcomed addition to any contemporary photography book collection.

All Images © Daniel Shea

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