William Wylie, Route 36

Bill called me when he was in Minneapolis in the late winter, during the waning weeks of a winter that didn’t have much to say for itself in terms of notable Minnesota winters. The upside of global warming is the endurable, even boring, version of the winter season that’s been the case the last several years.

Anyway, Bill was in town having a new book project printed by Shapco Printing. I offered to pick him up from the printer and take him to his hotel. I’d hoped to have had time to hang out over beers and a meal, but as it tends to do, time shrank to the point where all I could do is chauffeur him from one spot to another, and pause briefly in the hotel driveway to look at sheets hot off the Shapco presses.

I’d been eager to see Shapco’s shop, as I’d been acquainted with their work over some time; my long-time designer for McKnight materials, Mike Lizama, used to do most of our printing there. Shapco is located in the shadow of the new Target Field in downtown Minneapolis; the stands loomed over my car as Bill sat in the front seat. I didn’t get time to see inside. But Bill was extremely excited about the production, and mildly surprised to find such excellence in Minnesota. (I had to remind him about Litho Specialties.)

The book, Route 36, came out in June. Published by Flood Editions, a small (about a half-dozen titles per year) non-profit publisher in Chicago, it’s a modestly-scaled but beautifully produced volume of photographs resulting from several road trips across Kansas. The light is summer, and fall, mostly light that you can feel, light that bears upon you as an almost physical force in these photographs and in the prairie and town spaces Wylie has captured. Elegant spaces, quiet and calm. Spectacularly unspectacular.

It is good to see such quality in an affordable, and affordably made, volume; accessibility is part of Flood’s mission, and while they are publishing photography along with other types of books, they have affirmed, in Wiley’s Route 36, a clear commitment to photography engaged in a dialogue about representing place. The promise evinced in the early sheets came through in the final book; thanks again, Bill, for calling.

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