Wright Morris, Photographs and Words

Recently I was in a little used bookstore in Fredericksburg, Virginia and saw a copy of one of my favorite photography books, Photographs and Words, by Wright Morris. I thought my son might enjoy it so I picked it up for a great price! Morris was a great writer and photographer who pioneered the concept of the “photo-text” in the 1940s, combining his photography with his writing to tell a story. His photo-text books included The Inhabitants, The Home Place and God’s Country and My People.

The Friends of Photography published Photographs and Words in 1982; it focuses on Morris’ wonderful black and white photographs of rural scenes, interiors and found objects taken in the Midwest during the late 1930s through 1950. This was an intense period of photographic exploration for Morris. After this time he focused mostly on his writing. What makes this book so special is that you have both wonderful images from the American heartland, made at a time seemingly long past, as well as a fascinating introductory essay by Morris that discusses his photographic life. It’s amazing how fascinating pictures of common objects such as eating utensils, the contents of a dresser drawer or old coats hanging on a wall become through Morris’ acute vision. Because Morris was such an accomplished photographer and writer it adds up to wonderful combination!

While Morris is probably remembered more for his novels and essays, he was a great photographer! This monograph is truly enjoyable and I look at it often.

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