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Photo Synthesis

Untitled No. 134

July 16, 2006|Colin Westerbeck

Summer 1995

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John Patrick Salisbury has shot for swanky magazines like Town & Country. But his own background is a parochial one. He grew up in the Sacramento River Delta on an island that his family settled seven generations ago, in 1848.

His own account makes the place sound like a kind of Huck Finn raft, albeit one moored in the river rather than drifting down it. There John and his younger sibling Burton swam, while at home they fought with a fierceness exceeded only by their loyalty to each other. Then when Burton was 19, he was killed in a car crash.

The photograph above is part of a series Salisbury returned home to do afterward, as a mourning ritual. It's a picture of one of two younger cousins swimming in the river, just as he and Burton had done not long before. Unlike his magazine work, this was a personal, even private, project, despite his eventual decision to publish and exhibit it. These pictures were a way to fold his grief back into the family history from which it had sprung.

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