Well thought-out response, Pete, and I think you nailed it.
Darrell DeCosta
61

Darrell. I characterise Plumb as an outsider, but that doesn’t mean her work is any less revelatory. And it’s my own descriptor. It’s true, that for the majority of the time Plumb was making the images she had already relocated to SF, but she grew up in Walnut Creek and before that Orinda; somewhere between 14 and 17 of her most formative years. Inasmuch as Owens was photographing daily he may have had more time with boots on the ground, but I think he made his stuff over a shorter time period than Plumbs 5 years (72–77).

Furthermore, Owens was from the South Bay I believe. While he got inside of homes and stalked around Livermore for artificially endearing scenes, we must remember he was not from that community. I think I’m returning to our discussion thread because having reread it it sounded as if we’d concluded Owens’ work was somehow better. I don’t think that, I think the works are different. I think the longer you stay with them the more differences emerge.

For Owens I keep returning to the word “artificial”. I think he gave himself time to find scenes that fulfilled a pre-existing narrative. The strength and popularity of his work is that it is a narrative that is simple and populist — that the suburbs are quirky, sterile places. Plumb, by contrast, photographed what she encountered in the streets; what was presented to her.

Owens’ photographs fit within the accepted narrative of American suburbs and in some ways confirm it. Plumb’s work pushes back and points toward the world beyond the suburbs.

I’ve really enjoyed this back and forth, Darrell, for it has brought more revelations to Plumb’s work than I even had when writing the piece. The only true answers to our speculations, though, are the thoughts of Owens and Plumb, which we may have the privilege to source at some point.