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Photography
Longmont Perspectives  
By Michael Gray
50 photographs. 33 pp.
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center. US$?

Photography aficionados and those with an interest in how small communities preserve and perceive their histories will find this luxuriously published volume, Longmont Perspectives, about Longmont, Colorado’s past and present a worthy addition to their collections. Elegant, clean-lines contrast the public face of early twentieth-century Longmont with its more commercialized present. Prominent photographer Michael Gray uses twenty-first century technology subtly and skillfully to teach us about the relationships between line, form, and narrative.

Each two- or three-page spread is thoughtfully designed to compare features of the Longmont landscape: two large institutional buildings or two shots of Longmont’s Main Street guide the viewer’s eye to a mutual disappearing point while also allowing each picture to make its own statement. Other layouts contrast the long lines of several turn-of-the-century shop counters: a tobacconist’s shop, a clothing store, and a meat market combine to give viewers a sense of how shopping one hundred years ago was different from shopping today in the “big box” stores that also appear in these pages.

One impressive two-page spread exemplifies Gray’s nearly invisible PhotoShop work. "Bungalow under Construction" and "Traditional Home with Open Floorpan" are entirely different from one another, yet Gray uses innovative nuances in form to show us how starkly objects that have the same function can vary visually while also retaining a cognitive similarity between 1905 and 2001.

Michael Gray’s sparse text adds another dimension to interpreting the images he presents, especially when the text clearly contrasts with the pictures before and after. For example, Gray’s claim, “In spite of all seeming impossibilities and rivalries, agriculture is already, and is destined always to be, its dominant interest,” leads into several photos of mining instead of the plowed fields we might expect (although these appear elsewhere in the book).

Gray is the founder of The Photographic Resource, and he specializes in helping others learn digital photography. Based on the talent he showcases in Longmont Perspectives, the lessons he gives will be well worth his students’ time. Here is true artistry.

Elizabeth Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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