November 22, 2007

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Thoreau’s New England: Photographs and Selections by Stephen Gorman (University Press of New England, 2007, 84 pages)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons lparsons@hippopress.com

Stephen Gorman’s Northeastern Wilds in 2002 blew my socks off; now his Thoreau’s New England, in which he pays homage to his favorite part of the country, keeps them off.

Gorman seems to let the camera focus just the way your eyes would, so that the scenes come to life. There’s a picture of the ocean shore here … I swear if you’ve ever in your life stood in a natural body of water, then when you look at this photograph you can feel it.

Each photo is accompanied by a quote. Next to the photo of the moose standing in water, there’s Thoreau’s observation: “The moose is singularly grotesque and awkward to look at. Why should it stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head? Why have no tail to speak of?”

Thoreau and Gorman are two good observers of nature; they make a good pairing.

The photographs in this book are all full-color, mostly one per page though there are some two-page spreads; they’re divided into two groups, “Wilderness” and “Society.” In a brief introduction Gorman explains his love for what he calls “Thoreau country.” Whether he’s pointing his camera at a colonial house, a footpath, a guy in a canoe or a pile of leaves, Stephen Gorman has an impressive touch for photography.

A nice purchase for the Thoreau-phile or the photography-phile, or for someone who needs a coffee-table book of pretty pictures, or the faraway giftee who needs a taste of New England. ALisa Parsons