"Turning the pages of Freese's book of West Coast photographs, you can almost hear the thundering beat of waves against the shore and smell the salt and seaweed-wracked air. The images are stark and tonal, presented in small-format prints that contrast with the vast landscapes they capture. Journalist Simon Winchester's accompanying text explores the geologic forces that shaped the landforms portrayed. Together, the two offer a cohesive portrait of an often-fragmented coastline that stretches from Alaska's mountainous Aleutian Islands south to the sand dunes of Baja California."
—High Country News, December 9, 2013, Vol. 45 No. 21 (read the pdf of the article here)
"Photography professor David Freese created this visual travelogue of 115 black-and-white plates depicting the varied 5,000-mile coastline of North America, from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. Also included is a foreword by photography historian Naomi Rosenblum, as well as explanatory observations of a more scientific nature by Simon Winchester. Their text supports the images, giving a comprehensive account of the geological forces that have shaped the landscape.
"What elevates West Coast: Bering to Baja above the level of a mere coffee-table book is the consciousness behind it. This deftly balanced combination of ecology, geology, geography, and history is presented through a photographic vision in which its environmental message comes through as clear as the natural imagery. While areas of the Pacific Rim have been captured visually many times before, it's rare to find them presented sequentially in one volume. Though the reproductions are not as large as one might expect from a hardcover, the quality of the presentation compensates by offering very educational contents. Ultimately, this book instills within us an awareness of both the fragility of the landscape and the majesty of the vast geological forces over which we have little control."
—Richard Mandrachio, The San Francisco Book Review and The Sacramento Book Review
"This black-and-white photography book has an unusual format in that some photos are rather small, about 4 x 6 inches framed by a large amount of white space surrounding them on each page. Mr. Freese is the first to make a book of photographs documenting the entire west coastline of North America from the Bering Strait in Alaska to the tip of the Baja peninsula at Cabo San Lucas. The photographs are presented as if you are traveling from north to south in the order in which a driver would see the sights. Each photo emphasizes nature, omitting almost entirely the impact of man, so that the resulting images could have been made in the 19th century. However, the skilled photographer that David is, he has combined film photography with digital and has manipulated the photos in the computer to their best presentation. The accompanying text is beautifully written and deeply enhances each image, as well as explaining what is depicted. A lovely book, but I wish the smaller pictures were much larger."
—Bonnie Neely, owner of Real Travel Adventures and book reviewer for Amazon
"David Freese's unforgettable images are part of a larger effort to respect, draw attention to, and preserve the magnificent natural landscapes of North America's West Coast. Freese's photographs do a great deal more than provide information, for he offers us the opportunity to marvel at both the grandeur and beauty of the natural formations and the elegance of their photographic representation. And it is noteworthy that Freese combines photographic techniques from the past with digital capabilities. This blending of old and new techniques, coupled with his discriminating eye, results in a book of exceptional photographic images."
―Naomi Rosenblum, photographic historian, curator, and author of A World History of Photography and A History of Women Photographers
"Experienced freelance photographer David Freese and writer Simon Winchester have gotten together to change the way readers see the West Coast. They do it through a book of photographs of wild landscapes from the northwest tip of Alaska to Baja California. The photos are in black-and-white, beautifully printed with plenty of white space, and owe a great deal to Alfred Steiglitz and Ansel Adams. As simply a book of landscape photographs, they owe too much to Adams and Steiglitz, though they are often breathtakingly lovely. This is where the book's idea comes in. By combining digital sepia and black-and-white toning effects from the Photoshop tradition with skilled 35mm camerawork from the Adams/Steiglitz tradition, Freese's images get readers to notice that the iconic images of pioneer photographers are the same territory as contemporary California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. In its careful balancing of deep honesty and sleight of hand (in Los Angeles, the wilderness of the Santa Monica mountains is now a portrait of the sky), the book inspires us to ask where we have come from, where we are now, and where we may be going. It's an equally good question about art, the environment, and culture. The book's foreword is by photographic historian and critic Naomi Rosenblum. Winchester's text is a spare, restrained partner in the project. He focuses the reader's attention on geology, the fluid tectonic nature of landscapes that, on the scale of a human lifespan, seem poised between changelessness and catastrophe. The book offers a postmodern turn with old-fashioned care for skillful, serious craft. For any general reader, it can be simply a quietly beautiful coffee-table book. For readers tuned to its key, interested in photography, wildlands, West Coast history, or contemporary art, it may also inspire wonder on another level."
—Eithne O'Leyne, Editor, ProtoView, Ringgold, Inc.
"There's a natural serene beauty that the Western side of North America carries, unique to it and it alone. West Coast: Bering to Baja is a collection of photography focusing on the western coast of the continent, from the frost touched coastlines and forests of Alaska to the sun and sand of California, using sepia tone to set a mood all throughout the coast with high quality photography all throughout. For those who want to experience much of North America's natural beauty, West Coast: Bering to Baja is a much recommended pick not to be overlooked. "
—Midwest Book Review, March 2013
|"Water's Edge" by Victoria Donohoe
from The Philadelphia Inquirer1
"The Pacific Rim of North America has an intense identity. Certainly, there are many emphatic suggestions of it in David Freese's handsome black-and-white photos of the subject at St. Joseph's University.2 For his nearly completed series of digitally toned photographs From Bering to Baja, Freese has spent five years photographing its 6,000-mile seacoast.3 Geologists' descriptive name for it is 'Ring of Fire,' for its history of earthquakes and volcanoes. Freese, however, warms to it as the world's 'most rugged, diverse, and enchanting' coastline.
"It ranges from rich, umbrageous, rugged terrain at the water's edge to smooth expanses of ocean seemingly etched to a nocturnelike softness, and Freese's subtle objective seems to be to capture inexpressible beauty otherwise hidden from view. In this impressive sequence, Freese also manages to focus on specific qualities of each place, doing so with extraordinary acuteness. Absent so far is a geologist's commentary; Freese has plans for one, however."4
1. Victoria Donohoe is the art critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer. This review was published in the February 6, 2009 issue on page 30 in the "Weekend" section of the paper.
2. The exhibition was held at the St. Joseph's University Gallery, Lapsley Lane at City Avenue, Merion, Pennsylvania, from January 20 to February 13, 2009.
3. The project eventually required twelve years in the field to offer as much coverage as possible for the book that followed: West Coast: Bering to Baja (George F. Thompson Publishing, 2012, in association with Furthermore, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, and the American Land Publishing Project, founded in 2001 by noted writer and conservationist Charles E. Little).
4. Simon Winchester has since provided the text to Freese's book, West Coast: Bering to Baja, which also features an introduction by the noted writer, curator, photographic historian, and critic Naomi Rosenblum.