The Cold War was escalating, the Russians were going to attack soon, and we had better stop touching ourselves. I didn’t really have any hopes or dreams then. I just wanted to live long enough to get married and have sex before God called us Home.
Such is the backdrop for Steven B. Smith’s new monograph, Waiting out the Latter Days, in which time does seem suspended. Where everyone is in a perpetual state of waiting. Whether the next thing will be better or worse . . . well, it’s hard to say.
But until then, we can take solace in Smith’s unvarnished assessment of his past and present, rendered in photographs that are simultaneously as precise and as enigmatic as the light in Utah.
The Center for Documentary Studies / Honickman First Book Prize in Photography presents the winning book in this important series celebrating American photography “Steven B. Smith won the prize for his intelligent choice of a subject hidden in full view that is of paramount importance. His work is by turns humorous and piteous, elegiac and ironic, and cumulatively very powerful for he has shaped an essay from aesthetically elegant, delicately nuanced pictures that are pitch perfect, in the spirit of the American West and in keeping with its long history of fine photographs. Smith could have recorded a failure of the imagination or the ruin of desert ecologies, but he was after something much more interesting and amorphous—an intersection of human, climatic, and geographic realms as yet without a name. Such an orderly, labor-intensive, wide-ranging application of knowledge and engineering to the land might be considered some novel and rampant form of garden if houses and streets were not its principal rationale, but since they are, this collocation is usually termed a suburb or a subdivision. Surely these are inadequate terms for Smith’s subject, which, in its totality, is a vision of the future of our planet, of the time when man-made environments no longer just spread out in widening circles around cities and encroach like weeds along the highways, but hold sway everywhere, carpeting the land from valley to mountain and from sea to sea.”