Field Notes and Factual Photographs in the Work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson

Among the many autograph manuscripts in the John Brinckerhoff Jackson archive is a book of field notes dated 1957, in which Jackson lists points of scenic, architectural and social interest observed day by day in the course of a trip from New York State to the Deep South. Deliberately pared down to the syntactical limits, the style nonetheless zeroes in eloquently on the situations Jackson wanted to capture. In addition to aiding our understanding of his fieldwork, the diary indirectly casts light on a use of photography – and more specifically of slides – that came to dominate his work in the 1960s. It would seem that he abandoned the field notes approach, settling instead for a photographic record enhanced, after the films had been developed, by texts hewing closely to the images.

John Brinckerhoff Jackson, « Route du XIXe siècle ; route à péage », Californie, 1976, diapositive, 5 x 5 cm. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico, CSWR (2-E1-06).

Jordi Ballesta is a researcher at CIEREC (Université Jean Monnet in Saint-Étienne) and UMR LARCA (Université Paris VII, Denis Diderot). He co-wrote Notes sur l’asphalte. Une Amérique mobile et précaire, 1950–1990 and was co-curator of the corresponding exhibition. In 2016 he co-edited the issue of Carnets du Paysage devoted to John Brinckerhoff Jackson and published Habiter l’Ouest, the French language version of A Sense of Space, A Sense of Time, by Jackson and Peter Brown. He and photographer Geoffroy Mathieu are currently working on the documentary project Nimby. Une collection de dispositifs anti-installation.

Citation: Jordi Ballesta, « Notes de terrain et photographies factuelles chez John Brinckerhoff Jackson », Transbordeur. Photographie histoire société, no. 3, 2019, pp. 174-187.

Annual peer-reviewed journal