New York: Sanctuary Books, 2004. FIRST EDITION. Hardcover. Large Quarto. 115 pp., with 108 black and white photographic illustrations of New York street scenes. Original Cloth, in dust-wrapper, black cloth slipcase a trifle dusty, overall in lovely state. Very good. Item #116
DELUXE ISSUE, LIMITED TO 200 COPIES WITH A SIGNED WEBER PHOTOGRAPH, AND PRESERVED IN A FITTED CASE. THIS COPY BEARS A SECOND PRESENTATION INSCRIPTION BY THE PHOTOGRAPHER on the title-page.
¶ From the Introduction by Ben Lifson: "Matt Weber began photographing seriously in 1984, at the age of twenty-six, while driving a New York City taxi cab. At first he was hoping only to capture some of the startling things he would see over the course of his long shifts, but gradually photography became his passion and then his art, and he was photographing from the driver's street while stalled in traffic and waiting at read lights. When he left taxi driving in 1990 he began his current practice of photographing while walking in Manhattan on other business and on the errands that take him up and down Broadway from his apartment on West 86th Street. From the beginning, then, his "material," as Henry James said of Daumier's, has been "the very medium in which he moves." It is some of the most public material imaginable, what anyone can see driving or walking on Manhattan streets at any specific hour. Unlike most of us, Weber not only sees but also feels it and registers it within himself; he notices and receives. His is also some of the humblest material imaginable. With respect to ourselves it is largely of the most basic feelings, and of the body, which, in these pictures, is always doing something or being done to: going somewhere, being overwhelmed by or abandoning itself to some need or weakness, being pulled at by someone, pressing up against someone or something, setting itself against some condition, thought or feeling and waiting it out: arms and hands touching, cradling or threatening someone; faces gladdening at a joke, darkening with some disquiet, or, rigid with some purpose, or purposelessness, hard and precise as life masks. Some of his subjects, like his homeless men in various kinds of misery, are people we often look at despite ourselves and quickly forget. Others, like his prostitutes in tight clothes, we look at but often pretend that we don't. But almost all of his subjects are so ubiquitous and the passions that move them so muted that to the inattentive observer the people Weber notices are almost invisible. In New York, how many other lovers embrace with the same haste and ambiguity on street corners, how many other men run through traffic with the same over-the-shoulder glance as Weber's, at the same time on the same day? They barely ripple the stream... Although [Weber] has learned much from the works of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and other masters of his tradition, he works at being nobody but himself. Weber calls this book The Urban Prisoner, and its many pictures of tight, shallow spaces, together with the sense it gives that Weber got out of Manhattan only rarely and briefly, as though on day passes, justifies the title and a reading of the imagery of fences, iron bars, closed doors and the like as prison symbols. In all other respects this is the work of a free man."