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This book presents three independent bodies of work by Henry Wessel, each being a precise sequence arranged to give the viewer the experience of what it felt like to pass through the territory described.
The first series "Traffic" shows Wessel's photos of drivers stuck in traffic as he commuted in the early 1980s from Richmond, California, to San Francisco in the morning rush hour. Wessel records the determination, impatience and blank boredom of his fellow drivers as they navigate a daily drill that seems at times daunting and hopeless. "Sunset Park" is Wessel's series of night photos of the modest working-class neighborhood of Sunset Park in Santa Monica. Over four years in the mid-1990s, Wessel captured the nocturnal transformation of suburbia into a strange, sometimes eerie, landscape. In his words: "You can't help but notice how the world is reconfigured by the lights at night. The spot lighting of particular areas, the lack of ambient light, the unnatural way that shadows are cast, all take us to an unfamiliar place..."
Wessel's final series "Continental Divide" takes the viewer on a ride from the dense, suburban flatlands of the Midwest, up across the Rocky Mountains, and down into the sparse desert landscape of the American West. Wessel depicts its houses, shacks, street corners, and the highway, reminding us of the inherent aesthetics of the everyday.
The photographic sequence is a fiction, an analogy for the thing it represents. It is about a particular experience that would not exist without the sequence. Henry Wessel
Born in New Jersey in 1942, Henry Wessel has been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has exhibited extensively including solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and Tate Modern in London. Steidl has published eight of Wessel's books, including Waikiki (2011) and Incidents (2013).