The Austin Chronicle

Off the Bookshelf

Reviewed by Dick Holland, January 12, 2001, Books

On the Plains

by Peter Brown

DoubleTakeBooks/Norton, 131 pp., $39.95

It is possible to drive from Fort Stockton, Texas, to South Dakota without passing through a town of more than a few thousand people -- that is the territory that is captured in this very fine and subtle book. On the Plains is a visual report on several years in the 1980s and Nineties that Brown spent exploring the Great Plains from Texas to South Dakota and back. The beauty and emptiness of this vast country that never seemed to change imprinted itself on Brown as a child, and once in Texas (Brown teaches photography at Rice University), he began re-exploring the empty parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, this time with his large format camera. The result is 126 color prints of surpassing beauty and calmness. The serenity of Brown's eye, however, does not subtract the basic function of the camera: to report. What we learn from this armchair voyage is that the sky really is huge, there are seemingly virgin grasslands that go on forever, and that the commercial buildings, cemeteries, little churches, school buildings, and vehicles probably don't look too different than they did 30 or more years ago.

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