Penumbra, Rich Stapleton, Libraryman, 2023, 23 x 27.9 cm, 96 pages, HB, ISBN: 9789188113658
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“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”
— Jun'ichirō Tanizaki

Penumbra is a collection of black and white photographs by Rich Stapleton (b. 1984, British), featuring both new work and selected images from his archive, spanning more than six years, and multiple locations, from Patagonia to Bhutan, Los Angeles to Bath.

The title of the book, meaning “almost shadow”, alludes to the darker mood and tones present in this body of work. The penumbra of an image is not quite the bright focal point, nor the dark obscuration. It is what defines the edges of an object, bringing to mind the development of a photograph in a darkroom; the image slowly emerging from the darkness. In one image captured in Stapleton’s garden in Los Angeles: two dancing calla lilies appear to fade gradually along the length of their stems into the shadow of the frame.

Nature is a recurring theme in the book, particularly plants, animals, and seascapes. Many of these images are personal to Stapleton, including a seascape taken at Venice Beach around the time he and his family first moved to Los Angeles. This image is a reflection of that moment: a plane taking off in the background, symbolic of the role travel had held in his life over the past several years, with a single wave, breaking across the foreground, representing a new start. This natural subject matter is no more present than in the cover image: a Galapagos tortoise, its massive shell like a celestial body – suggestive of the World Tortoise myth, supporting Earth on its back.

The book offers a moment of pause and reflection, paying attention not just to the light, but to the penumbra that define the people and objects around us.

The book contains a foreword written by architect and designer Vincent Van Duysen (b. 1962, Belgian).

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