Our next book review is for Danny Ghitis’ Deep Valley, Dark Days, a body of work self-published in 2015. Ghitis is a Brooklyn-based photographer who has “developed a lifelong interest in documenting the lives of strangers and culturally ambiguous communities.” In Deep Valley, Dark Days, we follow Ghitis during his wanderings, photographing the small communities in New York’s Harlem Valley.
When you open the inside cover to Ghitis’ monograph, one is immediately welcomed by a black and white aerial view of a vacant suburban neighborhood. This image sets the stage for the region just a few miles north of New York City Ghitis spent nearly two years photographing–New York’s Harlem Valley. During a residency between 2012 and 2013, Ghitis began taking trips to this community and photographing his surroundings, “searching for answers without really knowing the questions.”
A symbol of a short-lived American dream, Harlem Valley is now a place nearly forgotten. Deep Valley, Dark Days is a document of the rural and suburban life left behind from an era that once flourished from iron mines and dairy farms. Through this collection of 43 color photographs, we get a sense of the life lived by this community just on the outskirts of New York City. We observe their local spots to eat, where they shop, and at times witness members of the region in moments of quiet reflection within their homes. Ghitis’ book contains portraits of those living in this area–laborers, children–documents of the geographical surroundings, and various records of these people’s belongings.
During his explorations of this place, Ghitis sought out images that ‘triggered memories’ in himself. The resulting photographs feel like something we all know and have experienced at some point in our lives, but with closer inspection reveal things unfamiliar. This series of work functions as a sort of family album for this New York community, the photographs often uneasy, tense, and full of subtle, twisted humor. Each photograph provokes a viewer to reflect on their own life and situation, as we gain insight into Ghitis’ work, which touches strongly on the human condition.
The creation of his book Deep Valley, Dark Days allowed Ghitis to convey his experiences among the communities of New York’s Harlem Valley in a new, physical form. By photographing a community in the midst of an identity crisis, Ghitis was able to reflect on his own internal struggles as well. Looking through these pages, we, too, are able to access the personal journey and relationships formed by Ghitis during his intimate exploration of this nearly abandoned place.
Ghitis has been recognized by American Photography for three consecutive years, Magenta’s Flash Forward, nominated for PDN’s 30, the Nikon Emerging Talent Award, the Hearst Photojournalism Championship, the National Press Photographers Association, and nominated for UNICEF Photo of the Year, among others.