Book Review: Henry Rollins, Occupants

One of the most appealing things about modern photography is its almost magical ability to level the playing field for those of us not having spent years fiddling around in a dark closet transferring film out of its metal cartridge and into the tank for development. Its mass appeal in this age of click, shoot, and upload is also tempered by the ability of a select few individuals to provide us with images that stop us in our tracks long enough to astonish and educate. Skill levels may vary from polished longtime professional to rank amateur, but the ability to really see, document, and deliver is rare. So it was with skeptical eyes I began paging through Henry Rollins new book of photography, Occupants.

There is a jolting, matter-of-fact quality to the images he's shot here and strange rolling commentary provided to go along with the photos.

From the bleak (I found the Man Down picture from Thailand 2008 [left] more than a little upsetting) to the downright uplifting, he's covered his travels all over this world and he's obviously not been spending all his time hunkered down in plush hotel rooms listening to the Stooges on his IPod. The bold, colorful faces of smiling children surrounded by devastation are followed by piles of bleached out skulls and hooded mannequins, with the results being both funny and frightening. My emotions suffered some whiplash while turing the pages.

He is clearly not an impartial observer either and sticks around to get some of the story after the click of the shutter. Rather than being just a mere recorder of events and people, he makes you feel better that you might now know what happened to the smiling children playing on the mound of filth after the picture was downloaded.

This book is a compelling portrait of a man perpetually in motion and the people and places he visits. It serves as a very powerful reminder of what makes this great big world and its inhabitants unique.

Occupants will be released on October 1st, 2011.

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