KEITH CARTER Maydelle SI. two men break away from the church group and mosey down to inspect us. Lester Bingham and B.B. Williams. B.B., who is 81 years old, leans up against the side of a shiny new Cadillac while we talk. Lester fills us in on the history of the town, but Kip keeps staring at B.B.’s feet . . .” from Notes by Pat Carter From Earth to Air, From Poetry to Art BY ROY HAMRIC FROM UNCERTAIN TO BLUE By Keith Carter Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1989 160 pages, $29.95 FROM Uncertain to Blue is a vaguely mysterious title for Keith Carter’s book of photographs, which is unquestionably the most poetic and penetrating look ever at the little Texas towns and people the Big Highways passed by. Uncertain, Texas, has a population Of 189 people; Blue has about 50. One imagines Carter getting out his Texas map and circling the names of the forgotten towns he visited: Welcome, Fate, Diddy Waw Diddy, Poetry, Old Ocean, Blessing, Omen, Need More, Eminence, Eden, Sublime, Art, Ding Dong, Earth, Air, Climax. All in all, he has 80 photographs assembled here. The simple, one-word, quirky evocation of such place names on the page opposite each photograph creates a visual-verbal interplay and a poetic response that books of photography seldom touch. That each picture stands up against the solid integrity of such words says a lot about Carter’s eye. To say he respects the reader might be an understatement; he may overestimate many readers. The sparks that flash between town names and photographs can ignite a wild zig-zag of association and reaction. Listing place names and images together Might get that verbal and visual energy across, but let’s just say this is the most intellectually invigorating and loving photography book in many years. A number of points on content and style: Lots of photographers have covered this ground before, but none have produced such a sustained performance, with such continuity of personal vision. Part of the key is his unerring sense of what not to show. The space-content is the reflection of the past in the present, but Carter adroitly isolates the scenes and people, so there’s almost no reflection of any “cultural” or “institutional” icons or emblems. Carter’s space is that which is fundamentally grounded close to the human hand and eye, people naturally create around themselves, Roy Hamric is a freelance writer and photographer living in Arlington. whether it’s a front yard, a room interior, or a personality. This is the space-content of Epiphanies, of found moments, but regardless of whether it is architectural structure or landscape juxtaposition, or portraiture, each picture is presented in that mysterious way of great art that implies there’s no other way to see this. It’s as if the place the photographer is standing is must be as important as what is photographed. Mention also should be made of the energetic tension in these pictures. In addition to unerring content, Carter likes lines and edges. In a single image, he’ll throw in multiple, helter-skelter schemes of division and dissection. If this weren’t enough, writer Horton Foote provides an elegant introduction and Carter’s wife, Pat, has provided an afterword of trip “notes” that alone is worth the price of the book. This is admirable work. It’s not condescending, not cute, not dramatic, not “beautiful,” not ugly. There are echoes here of Paul Strand, Robert Frank, Eugene Meatyard, ‘plus a singularity that’s the imprint of a unique Texas photographer who should soon have a major national following. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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