Fabrik

The Critical Eye by Phil Tarley

MARGO DAVIS | Antigua: Photographs 1967-73
Nazraeli Press

Classic Photographs Los Angeles is one of those sweet photography shows where a collector can have a highly intimate conversation with a gallerist about a vintage Gary Winogrand print, a contemporary still life by Joel Peter Witkin or one of Roger Ballen’s amazing photographs. There are Weegees and Diane Arbus prints and many of my favorite classic photographers have work in the show and it’s a great place to discover new master works, as well. Hanging over the Nazraeli Press booth, was a giant black and white print of a Caribbean beach scene, the cover of Nazraeli’s book, Antigua, by photographer Margo Davis, who was signing copies on the opening night of the fair.

The island of Antigua, is situated exactly at the elbow of the Caribbean island arc and is a microcosm of Caribbean history. The economy of all the Caribbean islands was determined by the transatlantic slave trade from the 15th to 19th centuries. From Cuba to Trinidad, rural island villages were homes to the stalwart African slaves who worked the sugar cane and cotton fields. When Margo Davis visited Antigua for the first time in July of 1967, she was struck by the faces of these villagers, and it is here that her passion for portraiture began.

Antigua: Photographs 1967–1973 is an ambitious work, beautifully printed in duotone on matt art paper in an edition of 1000 copies. It has 72 pages and 46 duotone plates and my signed copy has a wonderful place in my portraiture collection.

Margo Davis’s work is in many private collections and the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University and the Sack Photographic Trust destined for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

This is a handsome book with stunning, iconic portraits of Antigua’s inhabitants lovingly shot over the many long years the photographer visited the island. When the Antiguan photographs were made, very little had changed from earlier colonial times. While the beach and seascapes are serenely rendered, it is Davis’ luminous portraiture, reverently rendered, that make this book so captivating. I could look at these portraits forever.

For more info, please visit: http://www.margodavisphoto.com

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Phil Tarley is a fellow of the American Film Institute and a member of the Photographic Arts Council. Tarley writes about contemporary art and pop culture and curates photography for the AC Gallery, in Los Angeles. His book, Going Down on Cuba: Notes from an Underground Traveler, is slated for publication by Fabrik Press in 2017.

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