Laurie Giardino, Cozy’s Beach, 1979/2006, Silver Gelatin Prints, 8×10 inches. Courtesy of Clementine Gallery.
Totowa Book of the Dead recalls the artist’s coming of age in the small, working class town of Totowa, New Jersey. Taken between the years of 1976 and 1984, the silver gelatin prints serve as a personal documentary of an American community during the disillusionment that accompanied the disastrous economic policies of Reagan’s administration, and the devastating toll it took on the town’s youth. Accordingly, it is a narrative marked largely by grief and loss. Giardino writes: “many of my friends were dying untimely deaths; car crashes, cancer, drugs, drowning, suicides. Then the members of my family started to die. I had pictures of them all. As the years passed, I noticed how much death and photography had inundated my life…I never expected to see the day that my pictures would outlive the people in them. I never expected that the people I love would be the ones to fade away.” Depicted with a cinematic immediacy, the figures in the photographs take on an almost spectral quality when seen in the larger context of their stories. They pose by pinball machines and light cigarettes, hang out on corners and lounge at the local diner. Imbued with a palpable intimacy, these photographs act retrospectively as a meditation on mortality and the nature of memory.