DEAR DAVE,

In an e-mail message to me, Dustin Wayne Harris wrote: “After a first date with someone, I ask her to bake me a cake. I give no direction, but the way the cake looks never fails to become a metaphor for the relationship. I am convinced I have stumbled on a valuable tool in the arsenal of psychoanalysis: cake reading.” Cake photography, although not a formidable photographic genre, usually portrays the subject as a utopian object of desire, bounty, fantasy and skill. Here Harris implies a more human, if failed state of the art, and the poet Max Blagg provides vivid poetic accompaniment.

Lydia Panas undermines another photographic genre that is more familiar—-of the family portrait. In these brooding images, family and friends are haunted and monochromatic, often tentative. Despite generational difference they are guarded of strangers, wary of the viewer, uncertain of themselves beyond their perimeter. The work forms a psychological portrait of uncommon depth and authenticity.

The work of menswear designer Michael Bastian is the subject of an elegant portfolio of images by Bon Duke. The photographs employ androgyny—a familiar staple of fashion—— to gesture to the past through the period references of the clothing, and to the future in the ethereal white luminosity of the images.

Larry Sultan, who died in December after a short illness, was a beloved figure in the photography community, as well as a brilliant and influential photographer. Three of his close friends, Ellen Brooks, Mark Alice Durant, and Philip Gefter contribute some thoughts on his work and life, and each have selected an accompanying image. His work will continue to inspire, and his playfulness, intelligence and mirth will continue to be aspired to.

In a series entitled “A Book of Signatures,” Shuruq Harb has collected 250 signatures in Palestine of men named Mohammed, and several are excerpted here. The work challenges stereotypes of Islam by playing a well-known name, and the generalizations it may invoke, against the individuality of signature. The digital variation on the archive is available on the Dear Dave, website, the first video portfolio of what will become a regular feature with each issue.

Mark Alice Durant has provided an overview of the work of Tim Hetherington, an accomplished photojournalist. As have several of his generation, Tim has explored the distribution and access of images and engaged practices from contemporary art in an effort to rejuvenate some of the ineffective conventions of the genre.

I’m writing from the BA lounge in Lagos, on the way back. See you Monday.

Thanks & love, 
Stephen