George Tice, Urban Landscapes

One of my favorite photographs, Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill appears on jacket as well as page 67 of Urban Landscapes. It’s something you have seen a million times in your life … a gas station almost empty of customers at night with a few lights on and lone car parked outside. Nothing special … right? Actually it is pretty special as are many of the other photographs contained in this great monograph by George Tice. The quiet peacefulness and grandeur of the scene is really something to see, made ever more exciting by the inclusion of a majestic water tower lurking in the background, eerily visible in the darkness of the night. Every detail is clearly discernable because Tice used an 8×10 view camera to capture the scene. Not the easiest camera to make a nighttime image but he uses it to stunning effect!

All of the photographs were made in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties in his home state of New Jersey with that same camera. A large and difficult to use tool for the job, but for Tice the absolute right choice!

Other special images include White Castle, Route #1, Rahway; Strand Theater, Keyport; and Oak Tree, Holmdel. Interestingly, all three were made at night, but there are many other wonderful images to be found here as well.

I have read some comments on this book, describing the contents as mundane and bland. I disagree. For those of us growing up and coming of age during this time, urban landscapes such as those found here may have held little interest and perhaps were something to escape from. What we didn’t notice … and those who think of these images as mundane do not appreciate … is the quiet beauty, and even majesty of the everyday urban structures and artifacts captured in exquisite light by Tice.

Maybe not everyone gets it and perhaps you won’t right away. Maybe it will take a few times studying it closely. It’s an examination of what may be a rapidly bygone time and place in America. Images we have passed by in life without a second thought cannot be taken for granted here, as they are laid before us in this most beautiful book.

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