Riding First Class on the Titanic!
Photographs by Nathan Lyons ; with a preface by Adam D. Weinberg and an afterword by Leroy F. Searle.
In Riding First Class on the Titanic, Nathan Lyons employs sequences to create meaning but in a different form of language - a visual language. The book consists primarily of a series of paired images, beautifully sequenced by the photographer, with very little text. Found language, such as that on building facades and signs, plays a prominent role in many of the sequences. Unlike conventional documentary photography that explores a specific topic, location, or event Lyons assembles images made in many different cities over a period of decades. The public spaces he photographs are usually devoid of people, but filled with the utterances of the populace.
Reflecting his interest in found language and contemporary mark-making as evidenced in graffiti, billboards, storefront windows, and public and private displays, Lyons's carefully orchestrated images offer layered interpretations that challenge our cultural assumptions and beliefs. One level of resonance is established in the diptych in each frame, which is further extended by its visual association with an adjacent frame. Each sequence can be thought of as a movement within the larger symphony of Riding First Class on the Titanic.
The title refers to the paradox of the Titanic, a symbol of invulnerability that became the carrier of our ultimate vulnerability. Lyons's work investigates the value systems that we have embraced, only to discover that their elusive meanings do more to challenge our belief systems than to reinforce them.
The book accompanies a traveling exhibition organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art.
Nathan Lyons is founder of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, and is the recipient of the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement in Photography.
Andover, Mass. : Addison Gallery of American Art ; Cambridge, Mass. : Distributed by MIT Press, c1999.
233 p. : illustrations ; 20x24 cm.
Visual Studies Workshop
Lyons, Nathan, "Riding First Class on the Titanic!" (1999). Brockport Bookshelf. 176.