Book Review: 'Shelter Island' Roe Ethridge
As a native of Nantucket Island, I have an affinity for the small islands of the northern Atlantic: grey roof shingles, the gravelly sand, the never quite summery enough temperatures; mid 60 degree weather is reason to celebrate and go to the beach, overcast or no. By the end of the day, my shirt always dons a pastel stain: a blueberry, a drip of strawberry ice cream, grassy knees, ketchup, some mustard. I saw a few images from Roe Ethridge’s Shelter Island and was immediately enticed. I believed it to contain that idle summer spirit, where one’s only appointment is to relax and enjoy.
The book is unassuming, and succinct – it includes only one double spread. I finished wanting more. Perhaps it was my grasping for summer, with the season just beyond my reach, or that the book only contained fifteen images with the cover image repeated on page 14. Characteristic themes of Ethridge are present, yet they are not overt. The images have more of a family trip quality, with subtle inclinations of Ethridge’s sharp realism and stock-photography aesthetic.
As anticipated of Ethridge, duplication and production are present. The aforementioned cover image of a sunset, the slightly fogged then sharply clear image of a kite in water, and a screenshot of a zoomed in iPhone photo. Four removals of a moment are at play: the captured moment itself, the iPhone photo, the screenshot of that photo, and the printed image on the page. The battery life on the screen is a dangerous red sliver, which inspires a sense of immediacy (quick! I’m at 6%), as well as expectation: the pleasure of a dead iPhone on a summer day freeing you from false connections.
In fact, there is a pervasive feeling of something being withheld from the viewer. We are given just a taste, not the whole meal. One should allow Shelter Island to tease you, like an amuse-bouche in this awkward period of blooming daffodils and lingering threats of snow. Not to worry – the summer season is fast approaching.
Text by Isabelle Hay