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Vista Visions From the Camera Eye

by Robert Jones , Dan Auiler & Aimee Sinclair ; photographed by Robert Jones and Aimee Sinclair

ISBN: 978-0-9837376-3-6
Publisher: Middlebrow Books, L.L.C.

In this debut book, two photographers and a writer pay tribute to the cinematic language of Alfred Hitchcock.

Jones, Auiler, and Sinclair’s work begins with an introduction by Bruce Dern, the actor who starred in Hitchcock’s 1976 thriller, Family Plot. Dern’s writing, enjoyable if unremarkable, makes the case for Hitchcock’s distinctive genius. The best of Dern’s stories is the one where he and director John Frankenheimer have the prop master at Paramount build them a dummy to take in a car so they can drive in the high-occupancy vehicle lane. After Dern’s lively intro, each of the three authors presents a short essay on Hitchcock. Jones, a photojournalist, pens a love letter to cinema, describing his childhood experience of seeing Psycho for the first time. Thrilled and terrified, he became a lifelong “Hitchcock fanatic.” In 2014, while visiting Bodega Bay, California—one of the filming locations for The Birds—Jones got the idea for the book: “In that moment I knew I would revisit these scenes out of Hitchcock’s celluloid nightmares with a ‘widescreen’ camera and shoot them over…to recapture the essence of the feelings that Hitchcock had instilled in me.” Next is a short, academic essay by Auiler, a Hitchcock expert and movie historian, who focuses on how film locations informed and enriched the auteur’s work. Finally, Sinclair describes her first encounters with Hitchcock’s movies, her relationship with photography, and the experience of shooting “Souvenirs of a Killing,” a series of staged re-creations of memorable moments in the director’s films. These 17 photos are interspersed throughout the work. But the meat of this project is Jones’ 80 photos, vivid and glowing, of California locations featured in Hitchcock’s movies. After the photos comes the transcription of an exhaustive conversation between Jones and Auiler and a brief afterword by author Dorothy Herrmann, the daughter of Bernard Herrmann, who scored many of the director’s films. Though this is an eclectic and varied collection of writing and images, the majority of the book is Jones’ photos. The volume’s dimensions—it’s almost twice as wide as it is tall—are a fitting tribute to the widescreen format Hitchcock preferred. The photos of California are beautiful, but the strongest effect they have is to make readers want to see the source material: a Hitchcock film. Looking at the photos, one can’t quite escape the impression of viewing a slideshow from a road trip that, while clearly a blast for the traveler, isn’t quite as enchanting secondhand. But Jones’ photos are still appealing—even, at times, haunting. In the conversation between Auiler and Jones, the former delivers an accurate assessment of the pictures: “I think even the casual observer…can sense Hitchcock’s ghost there.” Sinclair’s photos strike a different visual tone. Sometimes they’re unexciting, rote re-creations, but a few are genuinely titillating, like her picture of a camera in a sandwich from Topaz. Some of these visual odes add little, though—like a shot of cornstalks more evocative of stock photos than the crop-duster chase in North by Northwest. Despite its unevenness, the panoramic book captures and conveys the authors’ delight in Hitchcock’s work and in the potency and splendor of his images, moving or still.

A rich and vibrant homage to a singular visual stylist.