Nathan Pearce: High & Lonesome
For much of the last decade, working from his home base of Fairfield, Illinois, Nathan Pearce has produced a series of mostly low-fi zines and books rooted in a tender and obsessive investigation of place. It's been apparent from the beginning that Pearce is invested in the rural southern midwest and the people who live there, and he has succeeded in finding in that place a world as interesting and exotic as anything a bored Midwestern kid would encounter in an ancient copy of National Geographic in the waiting room of an alcoholic dentist's office. Pearce's is a quiet world—one of those nowhere-to-go, nothing-to-do kind of places that tends to give over-stimulated types a panic attack. In the quiet photographs gathered in High & Lonesome however, there is an unmistakable and almost subversive act of stewardship taking place, a cultivation of mysteries and devotion that both embraces and subverts the mythology of the rural Midwest. These are quiet photos, but not entirely silent; beyond them you can hear the watchwinding racket of the natural world, or the forlorn and distant surf of traffic. They're also eerily out-of-time; there's a photo of a January 1993 page from an advertising calendar that's an apt metaphor for a place that seems to be trapped in amber. There's very little in these pictures, in fact, to indicate the 21st-century is anything but a still-distant nightmare from a pulp science fiction novel. William Gass, in The Heart of the Heart of the Country, wrote, "Of course there is enough to stir our wonder anywhere; there's enough to love, anywhere, if one is strong enough, if one is diligent enough, if one is perceptive, patient, kind enough—whatever it takes." High & Lonesome is a master class in whatever it takes.