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Dare Not Speak

By Sean Gillis

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IR Rating:
3.0
Many of these are charming, lively and appealing pictures, and some, especially in the first part of the book, are even disturbing, interesting, and thought provoking. DARE NOT SPEAK might very well be worth looking into for anyone with a particular interest in portrait photography.

DARE NOT SPEAK is a photographic collection of portraits, mostly of teenagers and young adults, taken predominantly in the 1990s and 2000s. The first section is in black and-white, the second in color. There is a biographical sketch around the middle of the book, but that is the only text present – the rest of the book is made up of portraits.

Some of the portraits, particularly those in black and white, are quite evocative. The photographer does best when playing with dark and light, expression and feeling. The first section, showing images taken through a window (in a studio), are probably the best of the lot, giving a feeling of looking into someone else’s personal story. The models’ facial expressions can be quite compelling, sometimes drawing the viewer into a sense of recognition and connection.

Except for the very first sequence, however, there is not much of a coherent narrative around the images, especially the color photographs. The pictures might be lifted from a photo album of the photographer’s friends – there is little sense that there is anything more going on here than a series of shots of individual people, all about the same age, ethnicity, and shape, going about their business. The only narrative is the author’s biography, which might be better placed up front, where we can find out who the author is and what his goals are, thus informing at least somewhat our viewing of the pictures. Frequently, also, the photographer appears to fall into the trap of “young attractive female in a partial or complete state of nudity = automatically interesting picture,” which is not in fact actually untrue but can be overdone, especially when only female bodies, and only one sort of female body at that, is shown in a state of undress. It gets repetitive after a bit, with some of the nude female pictures in the book appearing to be there mainly for the sake of nudity. Some of these were quite good, in fact, and very well done in a technical as well as an aesthetic sense, but not all of them.

Many of these are charming, lively and appealing pictures, and some, especially in the first part of the book, are even disturbing, interesting, and thought provoking. DARE NOT SPEAK might very well be worth looking into for anyone with a particular interest in portrait photography.

Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader.

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