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Book Review: Raising Frogs for $$$ by Jason Fulford

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Spring and the Easter season are a time of growth and rebirth no matter what tenets you hold dear. So whether your chosen tale of redemption is fluffy or contemplative, let us presently examine a work that may not directly be tied to vernal urges, but gently plants visual seeds that we may water to fruition.

When you first regard Raising Frogs for $$$ (The Ice Plant, 2006), the cover calls your immediate attention. It looks like no other contemporary photobook: just one look, and you throw the old adage out the window: this robust fire-engine red binding with the illustrated frog and plain embossed font — dollar signs curiously rising as if bellowed from the frog itself — *demands* judgement. It looks like something out of your grade school library.

The dry hilarity of first impressions gives way to an enigmatic sequence of images. A suite, if you will: eight sections of images are presented, marked off by roman numerals to further the vague impression of some scientific thesis. Some sections make more apparent sense than others: one offers a succession of near-Escherian planes, in the sharp and staggered corners of a quaintly wallpapered corner or the entwined branches of a tree. Other groups of images suggest man’s encroachment on nature, but what messages there are to be found are not heavy-handed or obvious.

Fans of Fulford’s recent The Mushroom Collector know that his sequences may seem haphazard but are far from arbitrary. Fulford said of Raising Frogs for $$$, his second monograph, that “The intention of this edit and layout is to create as many relationships as possible between the pictures as well as the chapters. I like the idea of a meticulously planned-out event that remains unpredictable.” Fulford’s photobok aesthetic has grown brilliantly from the auspicious, if more modest debut of Crushed, through Frogs and culminating in last year’s Mushroom Collector.   What will he come up with next? Enjoy the process.

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.