An irascible veteran U.S. News & World Report photographer revisits the mountains and molehills, the dimples and depressions and canyons of his peripatetic life.
Lo Scalzo opens with a self-righteous blast at writers of creative nonfiction and memoir, implying that all are cut from the James Frey cloth. He then proceeds to employ many of the techniques others have pioneered and perfected: compression, flashbacks, “remembered” dialogue from decades ago—but all in increasingly effective fashion. The narrative commences with a breathtaking image of his wife Deirdre asleep in a car in Texas, then progresses to early 2003 and his preparation to cover the imminent “stupid war” in Iraq. But a call from Deirdre brought heartbreaking news: a second miscarriage. He left for the war anyway. Then a leap backward to his 11th birthday and his first camera, a Polaroid. Here and elsewhere, the author fails to sufficiently educate his readers. We learn little about his art or about the art of photography in general. He was late in switching to digital from film in 2001, and he offers some cursory, unremarkable comments about the differences between the two. He endured a rough adolescence, a “profound indifference” to schoolwork and a self-serving moral code. He landed an internship, then a job with U. S. News, making the most of his opportunity (despite a contentious relationship with a new photo editor later on). As the author matures, the narrative accelerates. He traveled the world, shot some compelling, often dangerous photographs (ranging from porn production to global warming to warfare) and gradually realized that his wife and newborn child were as important—no, more important—than his career. Not an unexpected epiphany but an affecting one.
The weight of self-regard retards but does not prevent a lovely lift off and stirring journey.