Aperture; $39.95 (112p), ISBN-10: 1597110965, ISBN-13: 978-1597110969

Judged individually, none of the shots of Chicago summer park-goers in Barbara Crane’s collection stand as particularly masterful. They might easily be mistaken as haphazard - at best a lucky stolen moment with a surprisingly interesting composition; at worst, a snapshot gone awry. But considered together, the resulting series is a paean to intimacy in its many forms: between lovers, between a parent and child, among friends, and of course, between the photographer and her subjects - even when they are caught unaware.  

 Private Views, Photographs by Barbara Crane (Aperture, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, April 2009)

In the early 1980’s, Crane attended crowded summer festivals and fairs in the parks of Chicago, and took physical contact as her main study. In very tightly cropped photos, she captures a mother lifting a child, couples wrapped in embrace, friends with their hands on each other’s shoulders. Crane, a single mother when she shot these images, has confessed to terrible spells of loneliness, and the people on those hot summer days who consistently drew her eye seem to make easy physical connections.

Neither lurid nor invasive, these images of flesh-on-flesh contact reveal the casual gestures between people who are intimate and comfortable with each other. The shots are also unusually framed (heads cut off, arms at jaunty angles, bodies pushed close to create awkward sculptural forms), and taken from a surprising perspective, partly a result of Crane’s short height, which allowed her to shoot close up from relatively low angles.

 Private Views, Photographs by Barbara Crane (Aperture, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, April 2009)

The aggregation of Crane’s informal, immediate images reveals the power of a well-executed body of work: the pictures attain a synergy from being grouped together and as part of a collection of work these images illustrate a consistent style and point of view. For readers who like social documentation as well as those on the lookout for inspiration to pursue personal photographic projects, Private Views definitely deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Private Views is available on Amazon.com.

Adam Koplan is head of the Performance Department at the Dreamyard Project which brings arts programs to NYC schools. He is also Artistic Director of The Flying Carpet Theatre Co.
Follow him on Twitter @FlyingCarpetNYC