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Certain Places, William Clift



This slim and modestly sized book, comprised of only 22 monochrome photographs, ranks as my favorite photo book in my collection. It showcases various subjects, including the landscapes of New Mexico, Mont Saint Michel, public edifices, sculptures, and some miscellaneous images. A standout is the photograph (top left in the above graphic) titled “Swing, Tesuque, New Mexico, 1973,” capturing a woven rope swing swaying in the New Mexico wind, set against what appears to be approaching storm clouds. The lighting is extraordinary, and the scene is simply breathtaking. It is one of the most captivating images I’ve ever seen.

Decades ago, I reached out to Mr. Clift to inquire about acquiring a print of the “Swing,” but unfortunately, it was beyond my budget. In response, he graciously sent me a handwritten notecard featuring the image, a gesture I deeply treasure.

In an interview with Clift, he unveiled some fascinating details about his photographic methodology. Unlike others who might stick to tradition, Clift utilizes a variety of camera types, including 8×10, 5×7, 4×5, medium format, and 35mm. This could be seen as his way of selecting the perfect tool for each specific task, or perhaps it’s an indication of his skill in crafting beautiful images with any camera. Given that he is my favorite photographer, neither possibility would astonish me. While some photographers I’ve known extol the virtues of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and others, it is William Clift whom I admire and praise above all others.

Clift has stated that he only captures what is significant, producing few images. In a video conversation, he emphasizes the folly of striving to create photographs to please others. This insight into his approach, prioritizing personal connection, likely contributes to a high success rate in his work, providing a valuable lesson for all of us.

This remarkable book eloquently showcases his philosophy and unique working methods, serving as a constant wellspring of creativity and inspiration for me. Comprising just 22 photographs, it stands as an essential addition to any photography lover’s collection. Don’t miss out on obtaining a copy while they’re still in stock. I’ve cherished my own copy since its initial release in 1987.

website: William Clift, photographer

interview: National Gallery of Canada, An Interview with Photographer William Clift

video below: New Mexico PBS, Colors: William Clift