Review Boston Phoenix circa 2003 The Illuminated Walden: In the Footsteps of Thoreau (Friedman/Fairfax, 144 pages, $19.95), photos by John Wawrzonek, edited by Ronald A. Bosco, foreword by Don Henley, text by H.D. Thoreau
Sometimes books of nature photos are just pretty, and Southborough-based photographer John Wawrzonek has no trouble producing pretty pictures. But his latest book, devoted to scenes at Walden Pond and around Walden Woods, shot between 1991 and 2002, is far more than a bound collection of calendar photos. Wawrzonek, who’s senior partner at LightSong, a company that specializes in a state-of-the-art method of reproducing large-format color prints for display, brings a level of artistic involvement to his work that puts it miles ahead of the commercial " scenics " for which your grandmother might mistake them. The sensitivity to light and weather showcased in his Walden photographs imparts a tangible quality that rivals any achieved by America’s 19th-century landscape artists. In addition, the photos function as an essay — a document of Walden that echoes the subtleties of the excerpts from Thoreau’s book that accompany the prints. By using Walden as his touchstone for philosophical discourse, Thoreau, perhaps the purest American thinker, turned a small kettle-hole pond in Concord into a shrine, visited annually by 750,000 people — many seeking a mystical connection between Henry David’s 1854 treatise and their own lives, most of whom leave reinforced and inspired. Wawrzonek, in an introduction to The Illuminated Walden, describes making his own connection — between Thoreau’s writing and the site’s common, fragile naturalism that’s rendered monumental by those words. Clearly, this photo book is the product of honest and deep inspiration. Wawrzonek’s well-mastered craft has been applied to a high purpose; the result is nothing short of a prayer book for secular humanists. And, yes, it’s very pretty.