Layers of History on Indigenous Land
Imprint: George F Thompson Publishing
100 Pages, 10 x 8.5 in, 61 color photographs and 1 map
- September 2022
- In Stock
Occupying Massachusetts: Layers of History on Indigenous Land is an art book that engages with history. Featuring photographs of dwellings and vernacular structures found in rural Massachusetts, the book is a meditation on the human occupation of land, with an emphasis on the long presence of Indigenous people and the waves of settlement by people from other countries that began during the early 1600s and continues today.
Utilizing a muted color palette, Matthews’s photographs of both structures and historical markers are subtle and haunting. They suggest the presence of histories, embedded in the landscape but often invisible. Although the book is focused on Massachusetts, it implicitly raises larger issues of settlement and nationhood. How did the United States of America come to occupy its land? How is this story told? As a longtime occupant/occupier of Massachusetts herself, Matthews aims to understand more deeply the land on which she lives.
The main text of the book comes from photographs of historic markers, which were installed around the state at different times by different interest groups. The words on these markers describe early relations between Indigenous people and largely English settlers, from diverse points of view. In this way, the book explores how difficult histories are written and how they change over time. Concluding essays by Indigenous activist David Brule and poet Suzanne Gardinier provide important perspectives as well, connecting the past and future. Occupying Massachusetts is a moving story whose message will be appreciated for years to come.
“The places on which we stand flicker with the subtle traces of peoples who have come before us. In this moving book, Sandra Matthews asks us to look—really look—at the relationship between us and them and meditate on what such things as possession, occupation, and settlement might mean. Her photographs are haunting and also disturbingly beautiful.” ~Anthony W. Lee, Idella Plimpton Kendall Professor of Art History at Mt. Holyoke College, author of six books about photography, and founder/editor of the acclaimed book series Defining Moments in American Photography
“Thank you for sharing your work, Sandra. Occupying Massachusetts is a striking composition of images and words, lending a gleam of light into long stories that linger on the periphery. They're always there, next to us, but are seldom seen full frontal—it's more, rather, that they are sensed. Your juxtapositions enable the clarity that can come when, for example, you can see a hazy star more distinctly by looking next to it, rather than directly at it.” ~Rich Holschuh, Elnu Abenaki Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
“A beautiful volume to browse through on fascinating and informative page at a time Occupying Massachusetts is a moving story whose message will be appreciated for years to come—and could well served (sic) as a template for similar historical studies of other American states.” ~Midwest Book Review
“[A]n eloquent album of images of ordinary structures and historical sites around the state—accompanied by information about the human history associated with each before the Pilgrims… All the more powerful for the modesty of the presentation.” ~Harvard Magazine
“[This] book is marvelous—great pictures, and moving and poignant in concept. It provides much to think about, and I hope that many people will see and learn from it.” ~Keith F. Davis, author of The Origins of American Photography
“…a meditation on how histories are written, and how they can change over time. [Matthews] photographs a wide range of structures — crumbling old houses, woodpiles, sheds, gravestones and stone walls — as a means of looking at how Native peoples who first lived on these lands were pushed aside by white colonists.” ~Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Another entry in the lengthening line up of publisher George F. Thompson’s output, which spans decades and includes some of the best books about places out there.” ~The Center for Land Use Interpretation