One of the gifts we’re recommending for Mothers’ Day this year is Two, the captivating new book from photographer Melissa Ann Pinney, edited by our own Ann Patchett, with essays from authors including Edwidge Danticat, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Gilbert, Susan Orlean, Alan Gurganus, Maile Meloy, Elizabeth McCracken, Jane Hamilton, and Billy Collins. For that matter, it would also be a great gift for dads. Or grads. Or a newly married couple. Or… pretty much anyone. In fact, we’re so sure it’s a crowd-pleaser that we chose this book to send to all 400+ members of our First Editions Club this month.
More than just a coffee table book (although it would look good there), this collection features photographs on the theme of “two” by Pinney, a Guggenheim fellow whose work is featured in the permanent collections of major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and several others.
Come hear the stories behind the photos and get your own signed copy this Wednesday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m. right here in the store. This event is FREE and open to all! Meanwhile, learn a little more about Pinney in her interview with Musing.
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Could you tell us a little bit about how this book and collaboration came to be?
Ann and I became friends in 2003 when she agreed to write an introduction to my first book of photographs, Regarding Emma. It was our first collaboration and the beginning of a great friendship. Ann has a deep understanding of art and has often used her influence to help other writers and artists. Ann came to Chicago in May of 2013 and stayed with us, where she saw my work-in-progress — a series of photographs of pairs, people and things in twos. Inspired by the photographs and by her desire to make the project available to a larger audience, Ann suggested that we collaborate on a book of these images and essays by 10 of her friends, who happen to be among our most distinguished contemporary authors.
You’re exactly right — the single, simple word, two, had the least baggage, the fewest associations. We wanted a word that didn’t point to a specific type of pair, as for instance, the words couple or duet might do. In this way we hoped that the viewers would receive the pictures and essays with a more open mind and discover for themselves all different kinds of twos represented in the book.
Greatest risk you’ve ever taken as a photographer?
There are two kinds of risk: physical and artistic. In the past I have done projects in dodgy Chicago neighborhoods late at night and alone; I’ve photographed a young gang member’s funeral.
After my daughter was born, making photographs out of love for my family felt like a different kind of risk: the risk of appearing sentimental to an art world where a kind of bleak irony was more valued. The biggest risk and greatest reward is always in honesty and vulnerability.
What are you reading these days?
Happily, I am a member of the Parnassus First Editions Club. I’m in the middle of The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, having just finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I’m also reading Unforgettable by Scott Simon.
And our usual question: Favorite thing about being in a real-live bookstore?
All the real-live books! The paper, the cover designs and images, the weight and heft of a book in one’s hand, the recommendations by staff, the possibility of discovering something unexpected.
Not in Nashville this Wednesday evening? Order the book online (below), and let us know in the notes section at checkout if you’d like it signed!
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Design, 4/2015