New Work: ‘Crazy from the Heat’
Pentagram Austin Partner DJ Stout met photographer James H. Evans in 1988, about the time that Stout began working as the art director of Texas Monthly magazine. Evans, who had just moved to the Big Bend, became Stout’s go-to photographer in that remote West Texas region and shot many assignments for him over his 13 year career at the renowned regional publication. In 2003 Stout and Associate Partner Julie Savasky designed Evans’s first monograph, Big Bend Pictures, and now they have designed his newest book, Crazy from the Heat. The new volume, with its quirky title penned by Stout, is published by the University of Texas Press and began hitting bookstores this month.
“What was challenging from a design perspective about this book compared to the first one was the wide variety of imagery,” says Stout. “The pictures in Big Bend Pictures were all shot in the same format with the same toning. This book is definitely more frenetic. Kind of like the artist himself.”
When Evans moved to the desolate little town of Marathon, the closest real town to the sprawling Big Bend National Park, he applied for a job as a cook at the Gage Hotel. James had previously been working as an assistant for an advertising photographer in Austin, a seven hour drive to the east, and had boldly (or foolishly) moved to the tiny town of 400 people to open a photography gallery. The first problem was that his gallery was in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of the Great Chihuahuan Desert, so to survive James applied to be a cook at the only hotel in town. The second problem was that he didn’t know how to cook. He got the job anyway.
Thus began the adventures of Evans, who has become the foremost interpreter of Texas’s iconic Big Bend region, which has been his life’s passion and photographic subject for over twenty years. Approaching the rugged land and its people as an artist, documentarian and historian, Evans has produced a body of work that rejects clichés in favor of honest, deeply observed photographs that show a profound understanding of light, the people of the desert, and the desert itself.
Crazy from the Heat, with a foreword by Rebecca Solnit, presents Evans’s most fully realized portrait of the Big Bend. Going well beyond his highly regarded black-and-white work in Big Bend Pictures, this new book displays magnificent landscapes in full color, including panoramas that reveal the immensity of the desert. It contains dramatic time-lapse night photography and sensuous nudes that exhibit the striking similarities between the contours of the human form and the land. Several portraits of Big Bend residents that reflect Evans’s long acquaintance with and affection for people who are at home in this remote place complete the new volume.
James H. Evans will be signing copies of Crazy from the Heat at the Gage Hotel in Marathon on Friday, August 12 from 6-7 pm.