Bywater Bros. Editions

Moyra Davey


104 pages, softcover
Numbered edition of 200
7 1/2 x 6 inches / 19 x 15.3 cm
Colour cover and inner pages

Includes a text by the artist

ISBN 978-0-9780789-3-5

Copperheads is an artist's book which documents the most ubiquitous, although possibly least noticed, portrait in the United States: Abraham Lincoln's visage adorning the American penny which was introduced by the US Mint in 1909 on the occasion of Lincoln's centennial.

Although Lincoln's reputation as one of the most respected and revered political leaders in US history remains intact, the Lincoln penny does not command the same respect — it suffers the indignity of adorning the coin most likely to be found under the cushion of a couch or left behind on the edge of a sidewalk.

In the early 90s, Moyra Davey began collecting pennies she found in the streets of New York and then focused her macro lens on Lincoln's severely nicked, scarred and oxidized profile creating close up portraits (of the portrait) which challenged the ideas of history, value and legacy.

It's worth noting that the during the late 80s (a time remembered for its excessiveness) and the early 90s (a time when the US economy was in a tailspin) various iconic representations of currency were functioning as metaphors for the state of things, particularly in the New York art world where the Copperhead photographs were first exhibited at American Fine Arts, Co. Ltd. in 1994.

Davey has stated: "I shot the pennies on a copy-stand with a raking light; I would take the film to a lab in Chinatown that made small, white-bordered prints. Though I was not making much revenue from them (the prints), I thought of the Copperheads in some way as my own counterfeit, a deeply satisfying reverie of self-sufficiency, a bit like the shit-to-gold fantasy whereupon the dirtier and grimier the penny, the greater its potential for transformation and surprise."

This book is the only publication to feature the entire collection of 100 Copperheads photographs, other than the original suite which exits only in an edition of 3.