I have to preface my review of Jessica Dimmock's powerful book, The Ninth Floor, by describing its photographs as raw, unflinching, many of which are frightening and that have dragged me into the depths of a world heroin addicts, for whom there's seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. In a way, I'm glad to have been given the chance of reviewing that book because it forced me out of my"comfort zone", both personally and photographically-speaking.
Jessica's forceful photographs document the drug-addled lives of residents on the ninth floor of a Manhattan's flat-iron district apartment building. For almost three years, she follows these drug addicts in their day-to-day activities, managing to become invisible in the process. While she gained access to the ninth floor residents through the help of a cocaine dealer, how she managed to gain the trust of her subjects is a tribute not only to her photography abilities, but also to her interpersonal skills. It appears that her subjects forgot about her presence, and she effectively became invisible while documenting their vortex of self destruction.
Deservedly, her work is receiving a copious amount of media attention before and following the publishing of The Ninth Floor.
This is documentary photography which, in my opinion, is best described as voyeuristic. Photographs of the apartment dwellers injecting the drugs, sleeping, arguing and fighting, having intercourse, being beaten up by their partners, hospitalized, and begging in the streets are all gripping and repellent at the same time. The self destruction of these people (I almost described them as unfortunate, but I can't) is palpable through Jessica's lens.
As many have said before, I wonder who is the audience for this book. Some in my immediate circle found the photographs to be disturbing and weren't able to go through the whole book, others have found it to be a gripping documentation of hopelessly wasted lives, and others have even suggested that it ought to be mandatory reading for college students.
The book is published by Contrasto, and is very well designed. Its many gatefold pages come almost as a surprise and probably have the best photographs in the book.
There's no question that we will be seeing more of Jessica Dimmock's work in the near future.
MediaStorm has just published a multimedia feature of The Ninth Floor