LA Times Reviews "Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price"

Read below the great review in the LA Times of Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price. The book is edited by Alex Harris and Margaret Sartor, with photographs by Alex Harris.

Photographs from the book are currently on exhibit at Duke University's Rubenstein Library. The book is published by George F. Thompson Publishing and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and distributed by the University of North Carolina Press.


"Dream of a House Tours the Eclectic Home of Writer Reynolds Price"
By Agatha French, LA Times, September 13, 2017

"Without a person in the frame," writes photographer Alex Harris in the book Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price, “we try to make sense of the mystery of a place or the accumulations of a lifetime.”

After author and scholar Price died in 2011, Harris, a dear friend, set out to document the celebrated Southern writer’s eccentric and art-filled home. Harris’ photographs appear alongside excerpts from Price’s work — novels, memoirs, plays and collections of poetry and essays that he wrote throughout his lifetime. Taken together, the photographs become a kind of portrait in absentia; in conversation with Price’s own words, the book is a surprisingly intimate glimpse into the private, domestic world of one writer’s life.

What can things — furniture, everyday objects, art — really tell us about someone? If this book is any indication, plenty. What Price chose to surround himself with tells us about his obsessions, his affections, and perhaps even his perception of himself.

The sheer number of decorative elements documented in Price’s home — framed paintings, first edition books, sculptures, photographs, icons — feels novelistic. In a way, the question of what objects can reveal about a person is the territory of writers, who choose details to illuminate their character’s inner life — the “show, don’t tell” maxim familiar to many. And, like a writer constructing a scene, Price placed works “precisely where they would resonate with other pieces,” writes Harris, “where he wanted them to live.”

In an interview excerpted in the book, Price said that he surrounded himself with “images of what I have loved and love and worship — worship in the sense of offering my life and work to them.” For this writer, on every wall, inspiration.

Price taught for more than five decades at Duke University (“Dream of a House” is published by George F. Thompson Publishing in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University,) and was a Rhodes scholar and a winner of the 1986 National Book Critics Circle award in fiction for his novel “Kate Vaiden.” He titled, fittingly for an art collector, his first of four memoirs “Clear Pictures.”

In Harris’ photograph of Price’s writing desk there is also the story of a man who was paralyzed after the removal of a tumor in his spine. “Though his collections had begun long before,” writes Harris, “when Reynolds became a relative shut-in after he was confined to a wheel chair in 1984, his rooms gradually filled floor to ceiling with his passions and preoccupations.”

Marble busts, ceramic angels, Christian and queer iconography — Price’s home is eclectic, maximalist and lovely. It is also, despite his absence, touchingly lived-in. The placement of a favorite pair of salt and pepper shakers on a windowsill, just so; the stack of books on a table, or a painting propped up against a wall — his home was unique, but also familiar in its idiosyncrasies and imperfections. In a particularly compelling detail shot, a crucifix shares mug-space with toothbrushes and clippers, a thimble and thread with other detritus of day-to-day life.

“Dream of a House” pays tribute to Price; it also awakens the observer to one of Price’s own observations.

“Far more things that we guess in the world are worthy of our notice,” he wrote. “They silently require our concentration, our slow comprehension, or at least our awe.”


Alex Harris Exhibition "Near and Far" Opens September 30 at Craven Allen Gallery in Durham

Alex Harris: Near and Far

presented by Craven Allen Gallery and Ann Stewart Fine Art

Opening Reception
Saturday, September 30, 5:00–7:00 p.m.

Exhibition runs September 30–November 4
1106 1/2 Broad Street
Durham, NC 27705

30 x 37 5893-12-M 2002.jpg

My childhood home in Georgia, though privileged and suburban, was oddly ephemeral. My family had gone through several divorces and all the neighborhood families I knew either split up or moved away. I think now that is why I was so drawn to live and photograph in the oldest and most traditional settlements in North America: the remote Inuit villages of Alaska, and the isolated Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico. As a photographer, I was eager to come as close as I could to the lives of the people in my pictures.

By the time I arrived in Cuba, I was no longer the same person who looked through the lens of my camera in search of family and community. I had my own family. And I was finally interested in photography itself, in what my pictures could tell me that I wasn’t already searching for or didn’t already know. I was also aware one crucial thing from my earlier work as a photographer that served me well in Cuba and guides me in my work today: how to immerse myself in a world and at the same time observe it, how to step back from the moment I am experiencing and take a picture—how to be at once near and far.

For over forty years, Alex Harris has photographed across the American South, and in locations as disparate as the Inuit villages of Alaska, the streets of Havana, the fish markets of Mumbai, and the Hispanic settlements of northern New Mexico. Now Harris has selected photographs— some well-known and others that haven’t been widely seen—that are especially meaningful to him from across his body of work. In this exhibit, Harris also explores the various ways he’s approached and thought about the idea of distance as a photographer.

Alex Harris is a founder of the Center for Documentary Studies and of DoubleTake Magazine. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, and a Lyndhurst Prize. Harris’ work is represented in major photographic collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. His photographs have been exhibited widely, including exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. On commission from the High Museum in Atlanta, Harris is currently photographing on independent movie sets across the South.

As a photographer and editor, Harris has published sixteen books, most recently in September of 2017, Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price, which he and co-editor Margaret Sartor will be signing in the gallery. Alex Harris is represented by Ann Stewart Fine Art.

Wednesday, October 25, 5:30–7:00 p.m.

Along with a gallery talk for the exhibition Near and Far,  Alex Harris and Margaret Sartor will be signing copies of Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price.  Talk begins at 6:30.