tbw books

Courage in the face of revelation

I was fortunate to be one of the Hartford Art School MFA students who visited Katy Grannan in her San Francisco studio a few years ago, and to hear her talk about her book from TBW called N.

N. is one of four titles in TBW’s Subscription Series 3, and it’s a significantly different kind of book from Katy’s other publications, such as Boulevard, even though it features one of Grannan’s go-to photographic subjects–a woman whose name begins with N.

Unlike Boulevard, where Katy is intercepting her subjects and placing them against a specific backdrop (often a brightly illuminated wall), in N, the subject is in control of Katy. In fact, the woman asked Katy to come over and photograph her in her apartment as she posed the way she wanted to pose.

The result is one of the fiercest and yet most human photographic books I’ve encountered. Katy talked about how embarrassed and uncomfortable she was with the poses which her collaborator chose–poses that N felt were sexy, attractive, beautiful. But in an act of what I consider great courage and compassion, Katy photographed N the way N wanted to show herself.

In this instance, the artist clearly was not in control, but was more of a witness of a revelation–a baring, an enactment, an unleashing–not just of a self, or a personal concept of womanliness or sexiness, but of an eternal form that has always lived within the world, displaying itself through N the way Apollo would speak through the oracle at Delphi. Complete with various wigs.

How brave of Katy to accept this work that unfolded before her, and to carry it through by editing and putting together this book, which for me illustrates something very important about being receptive to what the work calls us to do.