For over 20 years, Bob Walden worked as a freelance legal photographer throughout the New York City area. By the time he retired in 2012, he had worked on nearly 10,000 cases, most of them plaintiff’s negligence cases. The photographs display scars, injuries and deformities caused by accidents, medical malpractice and defective products. Others show where accidents occurred — apartments destroyed by fires, broken and raised sidewalks, potholes, street intersections, planes, boats, trains, vehicles, elevators, and more. Some of his images were used in the largest legal cases of the past few decades, but most of his subjects were everyday people that became victims of unfortunate circumstances.
Bob has said that “truth is not presented in photographs; they are tools that are used to get at the truth,” and this is ever apparent in his work. Taken on their own, without the context of the legal case or the story of the subject’s life, the images become poetic meditations on the body and the body transformed. Plastic and metal implements turn a limb into a mechanical still life. The inner layers of the body are literally exposed. Figures assume new forms that seem impossible and otherworldly. It is difficult to look, but more difficult to look away.
About these people, Bob writes, “Instantly, their lives were physically and emotionally shattered and changed. In a society obsessed with beauty and youth, their ravaged bodies confront the viewer’s own notions of immortality. How one deals with traumatic experience in terms of chosen body language, clothing and environment is part of the enigma presented here.”
There is also a component of the series that confronts questions of class and race in the New York of the mid-1980s through today. The lamentable truth is that most of his subjects were middle or low-income and people of color, segments of society that are often more likely to be victims of negligence. They are not the victims of national wars, but the victims of class warfare, living in neglected neighborhoods and receiving inferior services. In this way, the images are not just portraits of individual victims, or a portrait of pain and suffering, but also achieve what much documentary photography hopes to achieve: to portray a group of society exhibiting survival and resolve in the face of adversity.
Legal photography is not a well-known genre of photography, but it plays an important role as evidence in civil law proceedings. The American legal system supports the concept that victims are entitled to compensation as a result of the negligence of others, be it a person, corporation or government.
Bob’s work has been the subject of in-depth articles in the New York Law Journal and Photo District News, and has been included in many exhibitions over the years, but has never been gathered and published in a single volume. With your help, we can finally produce a beautiful book of these important and prescient photographs.
We’ve already begun the layout and sequence for the book, have identified a printer in Italy, and have been working with Bob and his son Jesse to gather the images. There is still a lot of work to be done – in some cases, finding the original subjects – but we’re excited to make it all come together. Our KickStarter funding goal is to cover our out-of-pocket costs only: scanning, printing, shipping, and distribution. This is a labor of love for Bob and us – our goal is simply to bring these images to a wider audience. We’re aiming high because we want to give these pictures the book they deserve.
Why we need $30,000: Here is a break down of the costs
Writing for book and Scanning of photographs: $5,000
Printing and Proofing of the book: $20,000
Shipping of the book from the printer: $4,000
PR and Distribution: $1,000
$10: Thanks! Your name will be included in the acknowledgements section in the book.
$25: Receive a special set of 5 postcards, each with a different image from the series, plus your name in the acknowledgements section of the book. Postcards are only available to KickStarter backers.
$50: Receive a copy of the book, plus the postcards, and your name will be included in the acknowledgements section in the book.
$100: Receive a copy of the book, signed by Bob Walden, along with a signed 4" x 6" print from the series. Your name will also be included in the acknowledgements section of the book.
$250: Receive a signed copy of the special edition of the book, which includes a signed 7" x 10" print from the series. Your name will also be included in the acknowledgements section of the book.
$500: If you live in the New York area (or are traveling here), Bonnie and I will take you out to pizza (probably at John's, but you can also pick the place) and we can talk photography, books, and whatever else you want. You'll also receive the signed special edition of the book and acknowledgement in the book.
$1,000: Receive a special 8" x 12" print from the series, signed and numbered in a limited edition of 15. You'll also receive a signed copy of the special edition of the book and acknowledgement in the book.
$2,500: If you live in the New York area (or are traveling here), Bonnie and I will take you out to pizza and the man himself, Bob Walden, will join us. You'll also receive the signed special edition of the book, the limited edition print, and acknowledgement in the book.
About BCBL Books
BCBL Books is a new publishing imprint started by Bonnie Briant and Collin LaFleche. We’re both photographers and have always loved books. We’ve been involved in publishing in different ways over the years (Bonnie works for a book designer; Collin has published several of his own artist books), and we started BCBL Books because we wanted to find interesting projects and make them happen.
Risks and challenges
If the KickStarter is successful, there are very few risks involved in realizing this project. Bonnie and Collin both have experience in the publishing world, and we'll do everything in our power to make sure that the project stays on schedule and that the book is printed in August for a September 2014 release.
If you live in the New York area (or will be traveling here), Bonnie and I will take you out to pizza and we can talk photography, books, and whatever else you want. You'll also receive the signed special edition of the book and acknowledgement in the book.
If you live in the New York area (or will be traveling here), Bonnie and I will take you out to pizza and the man himself, Bob Walden, will join us. You'll also receive the signed special edition of the book, the limited edition print, and acknowledgement in the book.