Surrealism In The Americas
Frederick Sommer: Arizona Landscapes
In 2006, I saw a Call for Papers from the new online Journal of Surrealism in the Americas for an inaugural conference being held in Tempe, Arizona on ‘Surrealism and the American West’.
I delivered a paper at the conference on Frederick Sommer’s Arizona Landscapes and, while there, I was able to visit the Sommer Foundation in Prescott, where Jeremy Cox and Naomi Lyons were most welcoming and enabled me to see some of the places where Sommer had photographed. (The picture on this page was taken at Rich Hill, where we set up Sommer’s own 10×8 camera to frame the terrain depicted in Arizona Landscape, 1943.)
This experience led to an extended version of my paper, which was published in 2008 in a special issue of the JSA on photography.
After a long delay, this has in turn led to a collaboration with Hazel Donkin to develop a book on Sommer’s work. Commissioned by Routledge in 2021, this will take a couple of years to write, but it is an exciting prospect.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo:
Surrealism and Documentary Photography
I have long been fascinated by the work of the Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo but had felt hampered by the distance between myself and the culture in which he worked. I realized, though, that what I could write about was the perception of his work from Europe.
In 2010, I was again invited to deliver a paper on this to the JSA conference in Houston, Texas, and this was published in the journal in 2014.
My thanks to Claudia Mesch, co-editor of the JSA, for providing me with these PDF versions of the two essays.