Book Review: Marking the Land: Jim Dow in North Dakota

Northern Plains quietude

Jim Dow has done us all a favor with his remarkable book of photos. In the final chapter called Dreaming and Redemption he says `Those unfamiliar with North Dakota habitually say that it is cold, boring, flat, desolate and empty -- inadequate generalizations that simply don't hold up'. Just look through the 185 color photos several times and the Peace Garden State will grow on you and although none of the photos contain people you really feel their presence.

One of the strengths of the book is the editorial flow. Rather than just run page after page of photos here the work is divided into eight chapters each with a page introduction. Some are quite short like the first one: Views of North Dakota, which surprisingly is made up of twelve shots of the inside walls of the state penitentiary where bad guy Charles Olive, murderer and sign painter created a series of murals showing the North Dakota landscape. The Marking the Land chapter has thirty-seven photos of man-made signs, rusting agricultural machinery (deliberately left as a mark on the landscape) and larger than life animal statues. Artists and Workplace chapter (sixty photos) features workshops, bars, retail interiors and commercial architecture. Religious Life (twenty photos) reflects the diverse nature of grave markers and church buildings found in the State.

Although I have a paperback copy (2500 printed according to the imprint) I think it could be considered a book of coffee table proportions, well printed in an impressively fine screen and unusual for a photo book it has an index, too. I would only fault this book of photos in the way captions have been handled. Like many photo books they are at the back with a thumbnail and page number when nearly all the text would easily fit under the relevant images.

I think Jim Dow's impressive photos reveal a lot more of North Dakota than the predictable cold, boring and flat cliché.

Marking the Land: Jim Dow in North Dakota is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Introduction spread.

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A couple from: Religious Life.

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Two from the chapter: People and their Ingenuity.

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Two movies palaces taken in 2001.

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Home and workshop.

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On the right a typical North Dakota scene: rusting agricultural machinery marks the desolate landscape.

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From the chapter: Marking the Land.

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I always find it annoying when photo books place captions at the book end rather than a line of type under each image.

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