Publisher: Dorchester, Massachusetts: Bill Burke (self-published), in association with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pennsylvania, 2002
Edition: 1st Edition
Binding: Soft cover
Condition: New / No dust jacket as issued
Item #: 100819
First edition, first printing. Signed in black ink on the title page by Burke. Soft cover. Photographically illustrated stiff wrappers (published only in wraps). Photographs and text by Bill Burke. Poems by Sue Wrbican. 20 pp., with numerous black and white and four-color reproductions, printed by Oddi Printers, Iceland. Includes a four-color postcard laid in. 11 x 8-1/2 inches. This first edition was limited to 2000 soft cover copies.
Published on the occasion of the 2002 exhibition Bill Burke: Fire and Iron, at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pennsylvania. In this new book by Burke, which is somewhat reminiscent (in concept and design) of his first (and scarce) artist's book 'They Shall Cast Out Demons' (Nexus Press, 1983), portraits of people in the coal and steel industry regions of Kentucky are combined with images from Burke's travels in Asia. Seemingly disparate images spanning geography and time -- hunters, steel mills and photographs from the aftermath of genocide and wars in Cambodia -- strangely align in this disturbing artist's book.
From the text by Burke: "A hardened gear head by the age of 15, the metal disease has grown in me over the years. My first photographs were of cars. Years ago a fellow Aries and motorcyclist told me it is in the stars, that fire and iron are essential elements in our shared astrology, and that our lives will always be bound to cars and motors... In 1982, I began to travel in Asia on my own; first in Thailand and Burma and then Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, places I might have been sent in 1968 if I hadn't failed my draft physical. Being off balance and being constantly reminded that things aren't what they appear kept me alert. My original motivation, to confront my own fears of war and physical vulnerability, has evolved into a curiosity about the region and an appreciation for the resiliency and resourcefulness of its peoples. Often in the metal trades, I find fascinating evidence of those qualities. I'm sure it's more than a magnetic attraction that now brings me among the machinists and mechanics of the former French Indochina."
About Bill Burke:
Since the early 1980s, Bill Burke has photographed extensively in Southeast Asia, focusing primarily in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Burke's haunting and layered examination of the landscape and people is informed by the collective political and social conscience galvanized by the United States' lengthy occupation and annihilation of these regions before, during, and after the Vietnam War. His lifelong desire to connect personally and viscerally to the people he meets sets his work in an altogether separate category from most artists who photograph outside their circumscribed "experience."
Neither overtly political nor proscriptive, Burke's work instead recognizes the personal is indeed political. Gone are the cultural stereotypes we have long seen in images of Southeast Asia. Instead we are able to experience the intensity of the individual through Bill Burke's idiosyncratic and careful observation. He obliterates the notion that the "documentary photograph" is a vehicle for "truth" and compellingly shows the viewer that it is always a form of personal or political propaganda. 'I Want to Take Picture' (originally published by Nexus Press in 1987) is a combination artist book and 'travelogue.' It is considered by many to be one of the very best, disturbing and important books in the history of photography.
From Bill Burke (1987): "Each day, I was thinking about practicality, is my pass in order, how do I get there, who do I meet that will get me through. The philosophical thoughts came later. When I realized that I had access to the camps and could see the Khmer Rouge, it was like being able to see the Devil. It seamed to be an incredible opportunity."
From an interview with Bill Burke by Willis Hartshorn (New York City, June 1987): "Hartshorn: 'Do you find it problematic that in a politically savage environment your pictures are often ambiguous as to who's good and who's bad?' Burke: 'I have no problem with ambiguity. Again, all the information is filtered, everything I know about it is secondhand. I know what the refugees at the border say and what books say. I heard how bad the Khmer Rouge were, and then as I read more I found out the other people had been bad too. The people who were victims at one time were victimizing others at another time. There are two sides, the information is slanted, and it's good that people understand that. . . I would like things to be spelled out clearly so I wouldn't have to think about it. But that's not the way it is. I can't say this is this and that is that. There is no indisputable truth.'"