Book Review: The Regulars by Sarah Stolfa

Photography book

The Regulars is a beautiful and inspiring book. Beautiful as the beauty we find in coarse textures and inspiring as daily life can be. Forty artistic pictures of regular clients from a Philadelphia small bar and the story of a bartender seeking for a change in her life.

Sarah Stolpha was a surly bartender at McGlinchey’s, "…a hole in the wall in the middle of Center City Philadelphia…" in Sarah’s own words. A place that sold cheap booze for three generations. Not a place to have loads of fun or find business partners. Just a place to have a drink and chat with strangers or friendly faces.

During those years, Sarah became a photographer to find her way out of McGlinchey’s, and ironically she discovered her inspiration right there at work time: the regulars that she’ve been serving for many years in a row.

Her story is inspiring. It is a simple story and it can happen to any of us. It doesn’t mean it was easy for her, but it is a clear demonstration of reaching attainable goals with passion and success.

Saying that The Regulars is only a collection of photographs of common people is telling less than half the truth. The photos are beautiful, but knowing the story behind these photos turn them into outstanding documentation of mundane life. You can perceive the whole collection of 40 images as a wonderful grunge texture of non photoshopped average people.

On each picture, Sarah shows her expertise. She has a superior use of illumination, set up according to each subject. Clear details and good contrast. The images are balanced along the middle axis allowing the reader to get a grasp of the situation instantly. There is a sense of harmony and identity in the concordance between the images and the story being told.

The whole collection is perceived in the reader’s mind as one big image with a rhythm defined by the singularity of each subject’s expressive value. Just like building a human jigsaw of the McGlinchey’s Bar regulars.

Sarah has created a moving book, with a simple and inspiring story that lectures us how to find inspiration in the common details and subjects of our everyday life.

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