cover image Captioning the Archives: A Conversation in Photographs and Text

Captioning the Archives: A Conversation in Photographs and Text

Aisha Sabatini Sloan. McSweeney’s, $30 (248p) ISBN 978-1-9521-1915-6

Through arresting interviews with her father, former Newsweek photographer Lester Sloan, essayist Aisha Sloan (The Fluency of Light) celebrates over 100 of his famous images and the stories behind them. While Lester’s photographs are breathtaking on their own, his commentary, prompted by questions from Aisha, enhances the depth of each as he interprets them anew with his daughter. When Aisha asks about an image of a cow carcass decaying on a Navajo reservation, the answer Lester offers is soulful: “This cow might have died because he... got hit by a car. But in a way to me it symbolized how we treated the people who lived on this land.” From a photo of Harrison Ford casually sipping coffee to a tailor diligently working in Tijuana, a wide spectrum of the human condition is evocatively captured, but Lester’s work is at its most moving in the subtle yet haunting ways it confronts racism and injustice. With an image of a crowd at the Olympics, for instance, Lester implores: “what is the point of saying ‘it’s not about politics’ when it’s always us against them, or us against the world?” Insightful, inquisitive, and full of vivid photographs, this powerful work is as beautiful as it is galvanizing. (Nov.)