[ A SELECTION OF IMAGES FROM IOWA (c) NANCY REXROTH ]
Nancy Rexroth’s photography book, IOWA, is a unique collection of images taken not in Iowa (one image is however) but in southeastern Ohio in the early 1970s. Rexroth uses the Diana camera to capture scenes that convey a dreamlike and ethereal quality, reflecting her personal and artistic vision.
The images within the book transport readers into a world that feels familiar and otherworldly. Rexroth’s choice of camera and technique lends a distinctive character to her photos, making them appealing to those interested in poetic and somewhat experimental photography when considering she used a toy camera.
The book’s layout is thoughtfully designed, allowing for a seamless flow between images by use of smaller-sized square images floating on a canvas of white. I like the visual freedom it brings to my mind; however, some readers might find a lack of contextual information or narrative to be a shortcoming, as more insights into the thoughts and stories behind the images could have added depth.
I find the collection unique and artistic, and some, as matter-of-fact, caught by a fraction of a second in time. Some might find the collection repetitive, while others see it as a cohesive and focused work.
While focusing on Ohio, the title IOWA might also be considered a conceptual choice that adds to the book’s mystique or could confuse some readers.
Overall, IOWA offers an intriguing exploration of place and perception, filtered through Rexroth’s unique artistic lens with a toy camera, making it the first book of its kind. It will likely appeal to those interested in alternative photographic processes and an appreciation for the unconventional. The book provides a compelling look at an artist’s vision, even though it may not resonate with every reader.
This photo book reminds me of why I became a photographer many decades ago, and it does this through a natural artistic message that resonates with me.
IOWA was initially published in 1977 and republished by the University of Texas Press in 2017.
Link to Nancy Rexroth’s site.
Link to 28 rare photographs from Rexroth’s groundbreaking 1977 IOWA series.
Video: In The Mind of Iowa and The Nancy Rexroth Collection (2021), Cincinnati Art Museum brings you fourteen minutes with some of the esteemed artists, curators, and collectors who have known and worked with Rexroth from the late 1960s to today.”