The Photographic Alphabet: N is for The North Fork
Photographic Alphabet: N is for The North Fork by Trent Davis Bailey
By Tyson Duffy
You could say that a photograph, by its very nature, represents an instant of reality suspended. And that much of photography showcases, above all, stillness in all possible forms. Photographer Trent Davis Bailey captures, in his minimalist approach and with an almost metaphysical quality in his layering of images, a stillness unlike any other young artist around. In Bailey’s work, the viewer can almost feel the cold air, sense the quiet around him, the rawness of life in the anonymous Midwest.
His photographs of small-town Colorado are an example of what James Agee—in his essay on photography entitled “A Way of Seeing”—called “aesthetic reality.” That is, that element of art that lives within life itself which, like a bright stone gleaming in a dark stream, you spy briefly and which only the artist is able to capture. “Through his eye and through his instrument,” says Agee, “the artist has, thus, a leverage upon the materials of existence which is unique, opening to him a universe which has never before been so directly or so purely available.”
In truth, “The North Fork” is an invented town, not existing on any map. It is a fictive place that Bailey has crowded with the people and things of his inner world. Yet there is a soulfulness, a reality, here that defies explanation. It is an aesthetic reality that can only be seen, felt, intimated, tasted, in perfect stillness.