Off the Shelf: IOWA by Nancy Rexroth

As we all have a bit of spare time on our hands I thought I would do a series looking at some of the photobooks currently on my shelves. These are not in any particular order, but it is an excuse to spend some time with books that I perhaps haven’t looked at for a while, plus ones that I go back to all the time. 

First up is IOWA by Nancy Rexroth. I received this book during my subscription with the Charcoal Book Club (which I would recommend if you can afford to).  I have to admit on first reading I was a little unsure of the work and was a little disappointed as the book had been guest curated by Alec Soth. I put it on the shelf and it stayed there for a couple of years. 

Earlier this year I was researching work using square format film and this lead me back to this book. This time the work spoke to me in a way that it hadn’t previously. This is probably down to my tastes and ideas having changed. 

The work contained in IOWA was made during the early 1970’s in Rexroth’s home state of Ohio. The title references Rexroth’s childhood experiences of family holidays in the state of Iowa. The images were made using a Diana toy camera, with the photographer embracing the limitations of the camera to produce images that give a sense of innocence and a whimsical outlook on the world. The book itself is treated like a novel, broken up into chapters along with characters which guide us through a fictional journey.  The work embraces the idea of the snapshot and is reminiscent of a family album.  

IOWA has grown on me and now I really appreciate it. It is also interesting to look back on the work with the recent interest in toy cameras and the current popularity of analogue photography. 

You can read more about the project on Nancy Rexroth’s website

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