Each picture paints 1,000 words in Vanessa Winship's US photos

Vanessa Winship: She Dances on Jackson, 2013

Vanessa Winship is the latest in a long line of illustrious photographers to document the lives and landscape found within the United States.

Having been honoured with the Henri Cartier Bresson Award, she spent more than a year travelling the country, crafting a series of pictures that reflect her response to the people and places visited. The result is a series entitled She Dances on Jackson.

Like her previous work, these are quiet photographs that reveal themselves over time. There's no shock factor, or in-your-face lighting. The images offer subtle grey tones captured on black-and-white film, through the lens of her large format camera.

The title is drawn from an encounter in Jackson, outlined by Winship in what amounts to the only text in the book that offers an insight into the work.

Whilst waiting on a subway platform in Jackson, Winship was close to a group of two women and two girls, one of whom moves through a crowd that has gathered in front of a band and begins to dance.

Winship writes: "She slips into the centre of the crowd, which parts as if her arrival was expected... This is a dance of her own making, her own spontaneity. She seems unaware of the adults cheering her on and the band smiling at her presence."

As the train arrives the dance ends and they board. "It's my train too and I sit facing the group, fascinated by their understated relationship with one another. My desire is to be part of it, to ask who they are, where they are going, but I know instinctively not to do so."

Just as that moment is best savoured from outside, so too are these pictures.

The viewer must build their own story and judgement about each image - there are no captions or any indication as to who or what we are looking at.

Photographers often speak about giving a voice to their subjects, and that's great. But actually the beauty of a photograph is its silence. The fact that it is mute allows us to savour it at our own pace, and the rewards are given through considered study.

The portraits of predominantly young people interspersed with the bleak landscapes Winship has captured offer us a view of their possible futures and the backdrop against which they might be lived. Of course we have no idea what will be, but photography can be about what could be, or what might have been, not necessarily what is.

This is pure photography, and in my view, when viewed as a whole, is about as good as it gets.

She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship
She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship
She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship
She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship

All photographs from Vanessa Winship: She Dances on Jackson, 2013, published by MACK.

Phil Coomes, Picture editor Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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