Art books are particularly difficult to review—someone’s art critique (like that of theaters, restaurants, or wine) may please someone, but does not speak to another. Diary/Landscape is a good example. Photographer James Welling presents a large number of small-format, black-and-white images in this beautifully produced book, the result of an unusual artistic endeavor. While visiting his parents’ Connecticut house in 1977, he found a three-volume diary of his great-great-grandmother, triggering his artistic instinct to photograph the neighboring landscape and pages of the diary. He added a few more photos to this collection on later visits. Eventually, he combined the two distinct sets of images in this book. Art critics liked what he did and he had several exhibits showing these photos, still in small formats. The Art Institute of Chicago agreed with favorable critiques and accepted the photos for its permanent collection. An extensive eleven-page introduction (with accompanying notes) by art critic M. Witkovsky precedes this volume. His is not an easy read. For this reviewer (who happens to be a photographic artist), these images do not speak. Artistically, they are mediocre at best. Each image has a numerically random number, the meanings of which are not explained.
University of Chicago Press
James Welling, Matthew S. Witkovsky, Introduction