Riley Love Lyrics
- Riley, James Whitcomb

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Commentary

One of Alfred Stieglitz’s circle of amateur photographers, William B. Dyer, illustrated the love songs of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley in one of the earliest inclusions of the human figure into photographically illustrated poetry. Dyer’s work, however, is not especially radical in its depictions, and the pastoral elements of his photographs only hint towards the pictorial aesthetic that characterises his best pictures: most notably, the two nudes published in Steiglitz’s Camera Work in 1907. The collaboration is important, however, in demonstrating the growing concern with figure-oriented work that would become prominent in the early-twentieth century, and attendant concerns of appearance and reality. Of interest, too, is the description of Dyer’s photographs as ‘life pictures’ on the title page of the book: Dyer typically represents domestic and childhood scenes, though his figures, particularly women, hint towards the pictorialism for which he was known in Stieglitz’s circle.

Riley Love Lyricsalso possesses a claim to be one of the first collaborative photopoetry books in existence. Clara E. Laughlin, confidant of Riley, recalls in her Reminiscences of the poet, that she acted as a ‘consulting “authority”’ on which poems were suitable for illustration, selecting them herself and ensuring Dyer thought them ‘illustratable with a camera.’ (Clara E. Laughlin, Reminiscences of James Whitcomb Riley (New York; Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1910), pp.63-65.)

Book Details

Author: Riley, James Whitcomb
Title: Riley Love Lyrics
Publication Year: 1899
Poets Featured: Riley, James Whitcomb
Photographers Featured: Dyer, William B.

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