Aaron Schuman’s book Slant (Schuman, 2019) came about from looking at police reports in the local newspaper in a small American town. They varied from the banal: ‘10.13p.m. – A boy peeping into a window at The Boulders fled before the police got there. The woman who lives at the apartment was given advice on how to pull down her shades so no one could look into her home’ to the odd: ‘1.47p.m. – Police were notified by a downtown resident concerned with a neighbour who allegedly is keeping a ”green monkey” as a pet’ to the downright weird: ‘9.51 p.m. – a woman called the police to respond to her North Amherst home after her son placed urine on a hot plate in the shed as part of an experiment in alchemy. The actions of her son are allegedly a violation of a court agreement’. Many of the reports focus on strangers and show phobic leanings (anti- feminism, anti-foreigners, strange accents or sounds, odd things in the sky). They are rarely of anything important and one wonders why the police were ever involved.
Schuman spent some time trying to think of ways to illustrate these odd statements and eventually came across the work of Emily Dickinson and her use of ‘slant rhyming’ – which is where the rhymes do not really match, they are close and give an inharmonious sense of sound. She also wrote a poem called ‘Slant’ which starts “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – Success in Circuit lies”. Working from this Schuman took a series of photographs in the area that are partially paired with the words, that tell stories, that might be the truth – or might not. The images themselves, black and white and often beautiful also often have something slightly askew, a small boy burning something – but what. A notice for a Bible Study Group – that says Happy Resurrection. Schuman says he chose black and white for these images as it echoed the “black and white” tone of the police reports.
In an interview in the BJP, Schuman says, ‘Slant is about telling the story gradually……it’s the idea that the truth is malleable, ever-changing and diffused in a way……I like the slow burn…..there’s something here, but you’re going to have to find out’ (Pantell, 2019) .
He was also inspired by the book Time in New England by Paul Strand and Nancy Newhall where Newhall searched for texts that reflected New England and the texts and the images were put together to make a complete story (Strand and Newhall, 1980) .
The book is fascinating and shows yet another way of integrating text and images. In this case they hold equal value, but the images do not directly link to the text and the text does not explain the images. Together they tell a story of a place in America, a rather scary place. A beautiful place – but one which clearly has some unusual people residing there.
To see more images, look on his website: https://www.aaronschuman.com/
There is a fascinating (and very long) interview on ASX that is well worth reading which explains his thought process in detail (Feuerhelm, 2019).
Feuerhelm, B. (2019) Aaron Schuman: Slant Interview. At: https://americansuburbx.com/2019/05/aaron-schuman-slant-interview.html (Accessed 02/06/2020).
Pantell, C. (2019) ‘Parallel Lines’ In: British Journal of Photograohy (7885) pp.68–77.
Schuman, A. (2019) Slant. London: Mack.
Strand, P. and Newhall, N. W. (1980) Time in New England. Millerton, N.Y.: [New York]: Aperture ; distributed by Harper & Row.