StreetHunters Bookshelf: Ed Templeton’s “Wayward Cognitions”

StreetHunters Bookshelf: Ed Templeton’s “Wayward Cognitions”

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Wayward Cognitions Frontal


Building a collection of photobooks, for most of us, is a slow process. It’s not cheap. With that in mind, I made my first few purchases sure-fire investments. They were collections from greats. Winogrand, Evans, Maier. The books were safe bets. They had been in print for some time, reviewed positively, sold well and contained a good amount of images that I had seen before.

So it was time for something new, something fresh. I made the decision to make the next purchase one that was work from an active photographer. Ed Templeton immediately came to mind. I had recently stumbled across his work online and was just beginning to dig for more. Wayward Cognitions(Um Yeah Arts, 2014) is his latest collection available and it became the next one to arrive on my doorstep.

Who is Ed Templeton?

Ed Templeton, born 1972, is not only a photographer but he’s also an artist, a professional skateboarder and the founder of the skateboard company, Toy Machine. With skateboarding and his art, Templeton has traveled the world and Wayward Cognitions is a selection of images from the past twenty years. The photographer has had other work published before, some being themed projects with titles like Teenage Smokers and Teenage Kissers. But Wayward Cognitions has no distinct theme and the images are captured in places ranging from Tokyo to Ohio.

Wayward Cognitions

Wayward Cognitions Cover

Judging the book by it’s cover, Wayward Cognitions is very, very cool. The eye graphic on the slate gray cover just works. After devouring the book’s contents, it makes perfect sense. Templeton has a great eye. The book itself has a personal, artisan feel. The pages aren’t slick and glossy, and the unfinished feel makes each page feel like you’re touching a homemade copy. The book, as a whole, feels personal. According to Um Yeah, Templeton built the book from scratch in his home studio, printing and scanning the images and creating the layout and design. Wayward Cognitions looks like a craftsman’s work, and it is. But after spending time with the book, you realize the package is fitting for the pictures inside. Templeton is a craftsman of composition when behind the lens.

The bulk of the images in Wayward Cognitions can be categorized as street, and it is quickly evident that Templeton is quite comfortable there. The posed portraits, though not many, are strong. Some more powerful than others but all great subjects that Templeton catches expertly. They’re characters. Characters with stories that we’re left to linger on, their faces providing the only clues to how their stories have played out.

Wayward Cognitions Inside more

Wayward Cognitions Inside

But Templeton’s candid work on the street is where the money’s at. Mostly monochrome, the street photographs give a tip of the hat to past greats. One can catch a whiff of Henri Cartier-Bresson or Garry Winogrand from some of the images, but Templeton doesn’t copy a style outright. The influences are felt, but it seems more of a subconscious homage than rip off. Ed Templeton is producing, dare I say, “modern classic” work.

Templeton’s eye is sharp but that is meaningless in photography unless the shot can be composed properly. That’s where this photographer truly nails it. There’s not a clunker in the lot. I felt the hot, dry wind in the image of the New Mexico cowboy on the payphone. I wanted to drink, or rather have him drink the soda spring on top of the phone. The smoke breaks… I wanted to take one. When eye contact is made with the subject, I wanted to smile or nod at them. Templeton successfully frames random slices of our common lives in a way that’s empathetic, but artistic and quietly powerful.

But street photography is not all Templeton and Wayward Cognitions has to offer. Nudes, some landscape, bits of writing and some animal/wildlife shots settle themselves in between the street photographs and give the reader notice that Templeton isn’t a one-trick pony.

Wayward Cognitions spine

Why do I enjoy it so much?

But, after repeated looks at this book, it finally hit me why I’ve enjoyed it so, so much. It’s wonderfully random, just like real life and like the title implies. The layout, even though at spots it has clever juxtapositions from page to page and side to side, urges you to move on and keep looking. You’re wondering what’s going to happen next and then your done. You’re left wondering what just happened, like a lifetime had just blown by. Specific images, moments, stick and you want to go back and live it again. And again. That’s a recipe for a good photobook in my little world.


Wayward Cognitions Back cover

With Wayward Cognitions, the reader gets a something greater than a collection of street photographs. The book provides a real look into the crowded, busy mind of a photographer and his creative process. Highly recommended not just for photographers, but for fans of photography as well. And we’re all fans anyway, right?

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