The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer
by Amani Willett


A curious tale spun from the life of mysterious hermit Joseph Plummer, who lived in the woods of central New Hampshire in the late 1700s. Two centuries later an unsuspecting man purchased the mythical loner’s land and built a hideaway cabin for himself – only to discover the legend of Joseph lurking deep in the seclusion of the forest. This atmospheric photobook explores our human desire to escape and find peaceful solitude, far from the burdens and apparatus of modern society.

TRADE EDITION Hardcover, 22 x 17 cm portrait, 136 pages
Section-sewn binding; interior tip-ins; gold foil deboss on cover + spine
50 colour and 28 b+w photographs
Publication 1 October 2017 | ISBN: 9780994791931

Exploring themes of history, place and mythology, Amani Willett’s photographs track the hermit’s overgrown trail through the land his family now owns. Willett’s father, unaware of the reclusive man who roamed the area nearly 200 years before him, acquired the deed 40 years ago with the intention of establishing a rustic retreat.

Upon learning of Plummer’s existence, Willett endeavoured to photograph a fragmented narrative amidst the same landscape he once inhabited. He scoured local archives to find first-hand written accounts describing the hermit’s character, as well as bona fide personal effects which appear in the book. Adding to the visual journey are historical portrait and landscape images from the region that inspired Willett’s physical intervention in the form of destructive applique and collage.

The resulting work mirrors the past while keeping Plummer’s unknowable history intact. It also reveals how the hermit’s existence still resonates today – not only as a constant counterpoint to our fast-paced, technology-driven times – but in conjuring the same romanticised allure that tempts new generations to also venture off-grid.

Designed by Tiffany Jones

The Author

Based in Brooklyn NY, Amani Willett‘s photography is driven by conceptual ideas surrounding family, history, memory, and the social environment. His first monograph, Disquiet, (Damiani, 2013) – a meditation on starting a family in a time of social unrest and uncertainty in America – was selected as one of the best books of the year by PDN, Photo Eye (Todd Hido) and Conscientious (Joerg Colberg). Willett’s photographs feature in the books Bystander: A history of Street Photography (2017 edition, Laurence King Publishing), Street Photography Now (Thames and Hudson), New York: In Color (Abrams) and in a wide range of publications including American Photography, Newsweek, Harper’s and The New York Times. Amani completed an MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, NY in 2012.

Reviews + Press

“The first time I had the book in my hands and leafed through I had goosebumps. It is a treasure — beautiful, mysterious, each page refreshing. It sparkles with ideas and is beautifully designed.”Elisabeth Biondi, Curator and former Visual Editor at The New Yorker

“The Disappearance Of Joseph Plummer is a beautiful, elegant and cinematic tale, and more to the point, it allows Willett to stylistically flex his muscles and stretch his wings. His talent as a photographer has never been in doubt, now he has also proved himself very adept at storytelling.”
Robin Titchener, Review for Photobookstore Magazine

“A dark and affecting book, The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer draws us into the inscrutable secrets of a centuries-old story, ultimately leaving us in the woods to find our own way out.” – Adam Bell, Photoeye

“Intriguing parallels between two lives lead father and son into the haunting journey and evocative photographs that follow. Willett’s enchanting images become an ode to the art of disconnecting, the allure of being lost and the strange ways our lives circle each other.”Suzanne Révy and Elin Spring

“An intriguing and very elegant book… the appeal is obvious – drop out of the rat race, back to nature, anti-tech, authenticity – further evidence and a warning cry that how we all live today is far removed from how we should live. Human connection is all.”Simon Armstrong, Tate book buyer

“Presented as surreal and cinematic story telling, The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer is the perfect combination of nightmare and daydreams, beautifully mysterious and intriguing, in the style of all good novels.” Aline Smithson, Lenscratch

“Willett plunges us into a fictional story worthy of a film by David Lynch. Captivating.”Le Monde de la Photo, October 2017 (translated from French)

“For me this is the most inspiring photobook I’ve seen so far this year.”Carl Bigmore, photographer

See more
Review in 1000 Words Mag by Joanna Cresswell
Review in Fraction Magazine by Leo Hsu
Review in Fisheye magazine (French version)
Review in Lensculture by Alexander Strecker
Feature Interview in Huck magazine, “Getting lost in the woods, where history & myths collide”
Highlighted by Humble Arts Foundation, “A number of Really Good Photobooks Published in 2017”
Feature in IL / Il Sole 24 ORE, “L’eremita ritrovato” (The found hermit) (IT)
Feature on Hyperallergic, “A Portrait of an 18th-Century Hermit as Both Man and Myth”
Editors’ Pick, PDN Gift Guide 2017
Interview with Adam Bell on Photoeye
Photobookstore Magazine Review by Robin Titchener
Review on Conscientious by Jörg Colberg
Feature on Il Post, “Fotografie di un posto da eremiti in New Hampshire” (IT)
Feature on Phases Mag
Arts feature on Internazionale (IT), “The Legend of Joseph Plummer”
Feature in Lifo (GR), “The portrait of an 18th-century hermit that disappeared into the forests”
Feature on Creative Boom, Bewitching books for Halloween
Podcast Interview with thePhotoShow, Episode 54
Review in Réponses Photo magazine, November 2017
Review in Le Monde de la Photo magazine, October 2017
Arts pick in New Hampshire Magazine, October 2017

Special Notes

* Photo-eye Best Books of 2017 – Selected by Aline Smithson

* Selected by Humble Arts Foundation – A number of Really Good Photobooks Published in 2017

* Favorite Photobooks of 2017 by Suzanne Révy and Elin Spring

* Recommended by PhotoNmagazine (Dutch)

* Photoeye #1 Weekly Bestseller – Week ending 7 Oct 2017, #2 Bestseller – Week ending 30 Sept 2017

The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer is held in the following collections:
Bethel University Library (St Paul, USA)
University of Vermont Bailey-Howe Library (USA)
Fotobibliothek (Winterhur, Switzerland)
Rice-Aron Library / Marlboro College (Vermont, USA)
Tate Library & Archive (London, UK)