I have been looking through this book constantly, opening it at random pages, since I received it. I find Larry Towell’s The World From My Front Porch to be ‘new’ every time I go to it.

A quick conversation with a friend a few days ago prompted me to sit down and look through it again, devoting a more solid bit of time to the sitting. My friend was not taken by it enough to open his wallet, so his comments made me stop and think.

The book is not full of heroic photographs, gracing the pages and leaving you knocked over by the snapper’s eye. It is a collector’s chest full of stories, photographs, found objects, old family albums, magazine tear sheets, book dummies and artwork layouts.

The book finds its base on Towell’s sharecropper farm near Ontario, Canada. The history of the place, the past residents and his family life are recorded in the self penned essays found inside. He jumps from home to the West Bank, Central America and other areas he has worked (through the use of words and pictures), constantly making reference to the long followed concept of land/home being central to many of his concerns.

Parts of destroyed rockets, paintings, drawings, pendants, broken door locks and slingshots are reproduced in clear, direct colour. All are things that he has brought back to his house from his time abroad for work.

And then there are the family albums, the historical pictures of the farm, the song lyrics and sheet music, the flint arrowheads found in his fields and the survey notes from the early 1800’s.

And sandwiched in the middle, between all this, are around 70 pages of photographs from home. There are some fantastic pictures. The one at the top of this entry stops me every time (a poor copy effort, snapped quickly on my little digi). The snarling dog (Banjo) and the kids skating on the pond sets a scene alien to me, as the first river I ever saw packed with ice was the Hudson in early 2007.

I would not go so far to claim the house pictures grab me by the throat like The Mennonites or No Man’s Land, but the finished book, with its one thousand layers and reproductions of objects without the photographic novelty, makes it something I can’t put down. I find myself reading the text in reproduced magazine articles, somehow twice removed from the original but all the more effective because I have to squint down close to the page.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I keep going back to it, because it forces me to pay attention, to look closely.

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