Photographer/filmmaker/journalist Geoff Winningham recently released a new book called Geoff Winningham: Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea. Made up of photographs he took as he traveled up and down the Gulf Coast from the Texas/Louisiana border to southern Veracruz and a narrative of his experiences while traveling, Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea includes images of softly lit pristine beaches, abandoned factory towns, and, as we discussed recently, a boy diving for coins thrown in the water by tourists.
Hair Balls: One of the things that's striking about the book is that everything looked very familiar, and yet much more beautiful than when we see it in person. There's a horse standing in a pasture, there's a half-empty industrial town or a beach, all things we see in real life, but they don't seem quite as remarkable as what you capture in your photographs.
Geoff Winningham: It seems to me in the book I took a fair number of pictures that were overtly ugly, but I thought they made very interesting photographs. I went out to Port Arthur, and the streets of Port Arthur I thought were really sad and kinda grimy. I thought some of the pictures along the northern coast of Mexico were really depressing because of what's happening to the land and the trashiness of it.
Wherever I made a picture, I thought there was something interesting. Even if it was ugly, there was a certain kind of beauty. Ugliness can be interesting, and I thought there were some interesting ugly places.
HB: There's one photo in particular that I found myself particularly drawn to. It's the one of a boy wearing some red shorts diving into some water.
That's one of my favorite pictures in the book. If you go over to my show at the Jung Center, that's the first picture in the show. It's an important picture for me.
In one sense because I started off shooting this whole thing on film and then in '07 I brought a digital camera and that picture was made on the first day of my digital camera. When I went back that night and downloaded it to my laptop, I couldn't believe my eyes. I love that image.
HB: People will see this photo in the book, and then see it in the exhibit at Jung. Do you think there'll be any difference in the way they react to it, seeing it in one setting versus another.
GW: My fondest wish is that people will read the book and not just look at the pictures. I know that's a big wish, because it's a heavy book and it's a work-out just to hold it. If you were my ideal reader of the book, you'll be reading about those kids diving for coins tourists were throwing in the water before you actually get to the picture. What I found out was that those kids were diving into seriously polluted water to get a peso here or there. In the book, you'll see the picture in the context of my experience when I made that image - first it was the thrill of watching those kids diving and then the horrifying discovery that they were diving into sewerage water.
The show doesn't have any of that context.
See the exhibit "Geoff Winningham: Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea" 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 14. Jung Center of Houston, 5200 Montrose. For information, call 713-524-8253 or visit www.cgjunghouston.org. Free.