About eighteen months ago I bought a book called Betwixt and Between by American artist Dennis Neal Vaughn. It was a beautiful little book with an honest and emotional core that reached out and reminded us of our connection to nature. So we are, and so we will become.
I wrote a few words expressing how much I had enjoyed the book and the delicacy of the work. Dennis replied and a connection was made.
Some months later I received an email asking if I would like to write a few words for the next project. It goes without saying that I was humbled and flattered to be asked. With nothing but encouragement and positivity emanating, I set about writing a short essay for the book. It was accepted and included without any criticism or request for changes. His faith was total and unwavering.
So, vested interest or not, I would like to draw attention to this wonderful publication. A lovely little book that punches well above it's weight....and with an essay by yours truly.
Produced in an edition of just one hundred signed and numbered copies (and including an original print), Neither Here Nor There by Dennis Neal Vaughn is a delicate softcover comprising seventy seven images taken in and around the San Francisco area.
A cycle of three chapters that all deal with images that are predominantly DNV's take on street photography, but unlike the harsh frenetic style of work favoured by so many these days this collection has a gentle almost paternal feel to it.
The people captured by his lens, whether homeless and living rough, or "regular" people going about their daily routines are all afforded the same courtesy and respect equally. Generally photographed from the back, there is a gentle reminder of Eamonn Doyle's collection "I".
The homeless are generally seen laying, discarded on side walks, in doorways or on road sides....invisible in plain view. Swathed in sleeping bags or coats, illuminated by the radiant Californian sun. Whilst the daily crowds are seen bustling around, many at road crossings, poised and ready to embark on the days routine.
The second chapter looks at commuters and travellers as they travel the San Francisco suburbs on the city's public transport. This time the majority of the images are photographed head on, many are captured whilst lost in their own personal universes. Others obviously complicit. A beautiful and natural collection of portraits made possible in some instances by DNV’s unobtrusive presence, and in others by the obvious trust between artist and subject.
The final chapter presents a sequence of juxtapositions, and brings DNV's love of nature, which is the dominant subject for his first book, back to share the stage. The sequencing, and editing are beautiful. Shadows emulate people, a leaf tells the story of a man, and trees take the place of travellers.
The one constant running through Neither Here Nor There is the presence of people, and their relationship to their environment. There is a charming almost hippy like wish at the root of this work....but let's face it if you can't adopt that approach in California, where can you?
The desire for Dennis Neal Vaughn to see the beauty and optimism in all around him radiates from his work, but his underlying frustration with how we treat each other and the world around us is also apparent.
In the words of another adopted San Franciscan, songwriter Mark Eitzel
"The california sun always shines but
San francisco is a cold place
To have a run of bad luck
People like to shine their little flashlights in your face"
Eitzel's astute observational eye may capture one reality, but like the yin to his yang Dennis Neal Vaughn will light the way for another.
Neither Here Nor There is available in the UK from beyondwords.co.uk
or direct from dennisnealvaughn.com