Over the course of multiple summers, Raymond Meeks has ventured the few miles from his rural home in the Catskill Mountain region of New York, to a single-lane bridge spanning the tributaries of Bowery and Catskill Creeks. Beneath the bridge, a waterfall drops sixty-feet over moss-covered limestone toward a forbidding pond. The local youth have come here from time immemorial, congregating near outcroppings and around a concrete altar – a remnant of an earlier stone bridge. Most allow themselves a brief running start before launching their pale bodies into the void, where tentative suggestions of flight mark the response to gravity. Taken collectively, their gestures allude to ritual, a prayerful response to the exigencies of budding sexuality and a future rife with uncertainty. Halfstory Halflife is a distillation of the photographs made in the shadows of these falls, marked each summer by the emergence of young adults perched at a precipice both in space and in their lives.
From the Curator
Raymond Meeks’ new book, Halfstory Halflife, is as gut-wrenching as it is beautiful. From the startling prologue of a scruffy urban landscape juxtaposed with a half-clothed young man suspended in mid-air, to the enigmatic images of cars parked (abandoned?) in forest undergrowth, every photograph is loaded with an equal measure of grace and anxiety.
The images in this book successfully navigate the thin terrain between a lyrical, poetic quality and something that is tough, direct and unflinching in its grit. I’ve always marveled at Ray’s unique ability to find this sweet spot, and in Halfstory Halflife he demonstrates that he’s at the top of his game in this regard. The content of the photographs, which are centered on young (mostly) men as they climb and crawl their way through an unkempt gorge in the Catskills, ranges from moths and spiderwebs to rusted guardrails and broken concrete. This is wilderness, but there are constant reminders of its proximity to the crassness of human activity. Like the restless jumpers who seem to be seeking fleeting seconds of transcendence as they hurl themselves into the abyss of the gorge, the landscape hints at its ability to remain undeterred by the unreasonable demands placed upon it.
Halfstory Halflifeis a wonderful book. It’s one of those rare pieces that has me scratching my head and asking, “how did he do that?” It’s both surprising and vexing (in the best possible way). It makes me feel like photography is still worth doing.
- Ron Jude
About the Artist
Raymond Meeks (b.1963 Ohio) lives and works in the Hudson Valley, New York. His pictures have been exhibited at galleries including Fotomuseum Den Haag (Holland), Candace Dwan in New York and Camera Obscura in Paris. His work is housed in public and private collections including the Bibliothèque Nationale (France), The National Gallery of Art, George Eastman House and the Museum of Modern Art Library. He is the co-founder of Orchard Journal and Dumbsaint and the author of over twenty-four commercially and self-published books. His most recent collaborative journal, Township, (along with Tim Carpenter, Adrianna Ault and Brad Zellar) was nominated for the 2018 International Photobook Award at Kassel. Meeks is represented by Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam, Netherlands.