Saint Lucy

Launched in 2011 by Mark Alice Durant, Saint Lucy is devoted to writing about photography and contemporary art. Saint Lucy features essays, portfolios and wide-ranging conversations with artists, writers, and curators.

Saint Lucy Books extends the mission of the website with a publishing venture that has, thus far, published four titles: 27 Contexts: An Anecdotal History in Photography by Mark Alice Durant, Hidden Mother by Laura Larson, Friends, Enemies, and Strangers by Oliver Wasow, and Conversations with Saint Lucy, featuring wide-ranging interviews with five important contemporary photographers: Sarah Blesener, Elinor Carucci, Doug DuBois, Ron Jude, and Rania Matar.

Saint Lucy Books aims to publish idiosyncratic books that combine words and images that investigate the marginal, hidden, and parallel histories of photography. Among the many accolades and enthusiastic reviews, Hidden Mother was shortlisted for ‘Best PhotoBook of the Year’ by Aperture and Paris Photo. Reviewing 27 Contexts in 4Columns, UCLA art historian, George Baker writes: “Durant’s writing—his storytelling—is often thrilling, wrenching, beautiful.” Of Friends, Enemies, and Strangers, Marvin Heiferman writes: “One of our shrewdest image makers and takers, Oliver Wasow pits the sentimental against the sinister, nature against human nature, and private lives against public ones.”

The name Lucy derives from the Latin word for light – Lux. Saint Lucy (283-304) was a young Sicilian woman who was martyred when she refused to marry a pagan nobleman.  Sentenced to be defiled in a brothel, legend has it that when the nobleman’s guards came to take her away she was immovable as a mountain. She suffered numerous tortures including having her eyes gouged out.  Another version of the story has Lucy taking out her own eyes because her would-be husband admired them.  Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind, of eye disorders and the protector of sight. The Catholic Church describes her as “One of the brightest ornaments of the Sicilian Church”.  She is often portrayed in religious paintings holding a golden plate upon which her eyes rest.  Her feast day is December 13, which in the Julian calendar was thought to be the shortest day of the year.  In Sweden her feast day is vividly celebrated with processions in which the youngest girl of the house wears a headdress of candles.

During the summer of 2010, when I was thinking about launching a website, I made lists of possible names, ‘Light Box’, ‘Caja de Luz’, many of which were unavailable.  I would stay up late into the night purchasing numerous lame domain names (‘Luminous Flux’, anyone?).  I was reading Maggie Nelson’s compelling meditation on the meaning of the color blue – Bluets – in which she invokes the legend of Saint Lucy. I remembered all those plates full of eyes: Lux, lucid, Lucy in the Sky, Camera Lucida, even. I was struck. Lucy acknowledges darkness and the coming of light.

Mark Alice Durant is an artist and writer living in Baltimore. His essays have appeared in numerous journals such as Art in America, Aperture, Dear Dave, Photograph magazine, Afterimage, and many catalogs, monographs and anthologies, including Vik Muniz: Seeing is Believing, Jimmie Durham, Marco Breuer: Early Recordings, Richard Learoyd: Portraits and Figures, and The Passionate Camera: Photography and Bodies of Desire. He is author of 27 Contexts: An Anecdotal History in Photography, Robert Heinecken: A Material History and McDermott and McGough: A History of Photography. He was co-curator and co-author of Blur of the Otherworldly: Contemporary Art, Technology and the Paranormal. He was co-curator and co-author of the traveling exhibition Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post War America, curator of Celestial at the Camera Club of New York and Notes on Monumentality at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He has served on the faculties of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UCLA, the University of New Mexico, Syracuse University, ICP, and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. He is a professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Maryland.

Thanks:  One rarely gets the chance to acknowledge people properly, you know? So in no particular order, I send my gratitude and good thoughts to Cecile McCann, Maria Porges, John Bloom, Henry Brimmer, Andy Grundberg, Brian Wallis, Allison Boyer, Roxanne Ramos, Trudy Wilner Stack, Lynne Tillman, Lesley A. Martin, Michael Famighetti, Diana Stoll, Melissa Harris, Susan Arnott, Allison Gamble, elin o’hara slavick, Valerie Mendoza, Susan Otto, Christopher Phillips, David Levi Strauss, Deborah Bright, Grant Kester, Anne MacDonald, Jane D. Marsching, Marco Breuer, Mina Takahashi, Jimmie Durham, Jeanne C. Finley, Eileen Cowin, Paul Foss, Mark Street, Linda Viens, Phyllis Galembo, Bill Sebring, Stephen Janis, Kathy O’Dell, Darsie Alexander, James Crump and Lyle Rexer. A special shout out goes to Stephen Frailey, who has been incredibly supportive of me and so many others. The fantastic Nick Prevas rocked the design for Saint Lucy assisted by Joseph Faura’s awesome programming guidance.  And as always I bow to Beatriz Bufrahi and Aiden Durant for every other good thing.


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