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Conceptual artist and photographer Dylan Stone created Drugstore Photographs or A Trip Along the Yangtze River, 1999 to explore the intersection of art and documentation in an archive. The physical collection consists of wooden cabinets, snapshot photographs, archival boxes, Manhattan map segments, and acrylic paint. All images are copyright Dylan Stone.
As an array of visual documents, this collection has something in common with the photographs by Percy Loomis Sperr (1890-1964), commissioned by the Library in the 1920s and 1930s to document buildings that were soon to be demolished (now held in the Milstein Division of U. S. History, Local History and Genealogy). Stone's work differs from Sperr's by its focus on the comprehensive recording of only one part of the city-the buildings existing below Canal Street. Also, it is all-inclusive, rather than selective, in its coverage.
Artist Dylan Stone was born in New York City in 1967, but raised and educated in London. Drugstore Photographs, or A Trip Along the Yangtze River, 1999 was featured in Greater New York: New Art in New York Now, an exhibition held at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City in 2000, for which Stone provided the following description of his projected, larger plan:
On an official county map of Manhattan, I have numbered every block starting from the financial district, ending at Inwood. With this numbered map as my guide, I am photographing the entire island of Manhattan. I need between one and three rolls of film to photograph the four sides of an entire block. I take the shot film to be developed at a drugstore, which returns the processed film in an envelope advertising "A Trip Along the Yangtze River." I have developed a numbering and description system to catalogue and archive these photographs. My archive will be stored in boxes designed by a company that specializes in museum-quality storage systems. My project, at heart, is about conservation. It is a living, precious photographic archive of an entire city. Yet it contains cheaply processed photographs from a typical, nondescript Manhattan drugstore. It documents the dubious decisions of what corporate and political officials choose to conserve, or - more likely - rebuild. To some, it seems, conservation itself may be a lost idea."
Stone has since stopped working on the project, which was intended originally, in part, to show the transience of New York's urban landscape. The Library's holding-which includes his 35mm color negatives-therefore comprises the most complete expression of his goal. Now, in light of September 11th's murderous destruction of the World Trade Center and nearby buildings, the utter ordinariness of his pictures and their vernacular medium have overtaken his stated narrow, polemical goal to succeed in conveying the almost elegiac contradictions of loss, memory, and impermanence that so enticed Stone to undertake the project in the first place.
"Dylan Stone - Drugstore Photographs or a Trip Along the Yangtze River, 1.6. - 7.7.2000." (2000)
P.S. 1. "Dylan Stone." [in Greater New York exhibition] (2000) <http://www.ps1.org/cut/Gny/dstone.html>
All photographs are copyright Dylan Stone.
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