Coffee Table Curator: April 2017
Deep Springs is Sam Contis's first book, and sees the California-based photographer investigate the mythological American West. Her subject is Deep Springs College, an isolated all-male school (established in 1917 and located north of Death Valley and east of the Sierra Nevada) where pupils are taught to tend to the land and care for cattle. Her images evoke the heat of a sun-drenched day in the desert. There are photographs of blood, flies, dust, meat, and sunburnt skin, as well as young men working, asleep, and at play (a crotch, an Adam's apple, a stomach, and muscular back all make appearances). Shot in both black-and-white and color and paired with archival imagery, the images collectively form a vital, exhausting portrait of Deep Springs. Contis is both kind to her subjects and conceptually confrontational in pointing to long-established established understandings of masculinity.