In his 2019 book, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, M. Mitchell Waldrop describes an intriguing phenomenon. As more elements are added to a system, its complexity multiplies. Until, at some point, it moves beyond complexity and enters a region termed "the edge of chaos" where a new entity emerges that is both greater than the sum of its parts and fundamentally different from them.
Photographer David Ricci's first book, Edge (Fall Line Press), is a collection of images from over 30 years exploring the visual density and unexpected beauty embedded in abandoned spaces. "The complexity of the composition is not meant to be an end in itself," Ricci says, "but rather a vehicle to reveal a surprising elegance that emerges from commonplace subject matter."
Ricci took a cross-country trip in the late 1970s in which he learned how to use his Nikon 35mm by shooting landscapes in national parks. An initial interest in shooting patterns in landscape and architectural subjects led to a fascination with repeated motifs. "I became concerned with adding a sense of pattern and rhythm in the photographs," says Ricci. "Doing more and more of that, and the images became more and more complex. I eventually started pushing the envelope of correct composition: how much could I fit into the frame?"
Quite a bit, in fact. The image above, Lawnmower, shot in a Catskill junkyard, is so overstuffed with details that it takes a minute to comprehend the scale—is it monumental or miniature? Ricci's photos of empty amusement parks, overgrown parks, crumbling buildings, and shorelines covered in lattices of seaweed require close examination to contextualize, but not to enjoy.
As Tim Davis, associate professor of photography at Bard College, writes in his essay accompanying the volume: "The book reads like a really fun party, from the awkward, sober, conventional opening greetings—'Can I get you something to drink?'—to the wet slurry of 2am unzipperings. All the while, we watch the pictures grow bolder, more ambitious, more willing to fail, until they finally succumb to chaos."
Ricci's photographs will be exhibited as part of the group show “In The Mix” at Bernay Fine Art in Great Barrington opening August 19 and running through September 24. Edge by David Ricci is available at bookstores in Berkshire County, Oblong Books in Rhinebeck and Millerton, and at Falllinepress.com.