Blue Pool / Cecelia [ITI Press, 2017]

Emma’s Kemp’s Blue Pool / Cecelia is the first of two companion volumes that spring from the decades-long portrait practice of photographer Jo Ann Walters. ITI Press will subsequently publish Walters’ remarkable images of women, made between 1986 and 1994, in Wood River / Blue Pool.

Blue Pool / Cecilia is a wild ride through small-town southern Illinois, where Walters made most of her work over the past thirty years. In June 2017, ITI Press sent Kemp and Walters–who had never met–on simultaneous assignment to Walters’ hometown, Alton. At the heart of Blue Pool / Cecilia is the town’s inevitably gothic watery quarry, the Blue Pool, where the body of murder victim Cecilia Crites leads Kemp from the past to the present as she follows a trail of newspaper clippings and police records to bar-room conversations with townspeople and road-trip chats with Walters. Mining these collected stories, Kemp’s writing careens along a damaged trajectory of women’s lives lived along the margins of the Mississippi. Equal parts travelogue, true crime drama and artist’s portrait, Kemp’s riveting and genre-bending text reveals how, in Walters’ photographs, time shoves itself backwards and forwards, a crooked tideline extending through each girl and woman. They are all Cecelia Crites curled up on the floor of her sister’s apartment painting her toenails gold.

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