vrijdag 5 december 2008

PhotoBooks Christmas 2008 The Times Photography

The Times Christmas Books 2008: Photography
Joanna Pitman From The Times December 4, 2008

ANYONE WITH an eye for the cultural romance of 1920s Paris will love the sumptuous two-volume monograph, Berenice Abbott (Steidl, £70/offer £63). In 1926, having studied with Man Ray, Abbott opened a portrait studio in Paris and for the next few years photographed its artists, intellectuals, writers and salonistes with grace, honesty and authority. The first volume covers her portraits, the second her vision of New York in the 1930s, every bit as revealing as her human portraits.

Black and white photographs of Mexico in the 1930s fill Photopoetry, a monograph on Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Thames & Hudson, £42/ £37.80). There are portraits - of Leon Trotsky with Diego Rivera and André Breton, of Frida Kahlo, of Sergei Eisenstein - and nudes as well as landscapes and softly weathered architecture. The photographs are simple and beautiful. At times Alvarez Bravo has the elegiac punch of the French photographer Eugene Atget, but his work is overshadowed by Mexican anguish.

Unknown aspects of our contemporary world are the focus of the polemical book, Vanishing Landscapes (Frances Lincoln, £35/£31.50), a collection of contemporary photographs by 21 photographers including Hiroshi Sugimoto, Michael Kenna and the Czech-born Jitka Hanzlova. Nothing takes the light more gratefully than a plane of blue-green ice and Olaf Otto Becker photographs ice sheets in Greenland with clinical beauty. While the texts harangue us about the moral burden of man-made climate change, the photographs speak calmly with wisdom and authority.

Nina Berman's book, Homeland (Trolley Books, £24.99/£22.49), takes a wry look at the fantasies of war in the United States since 9/11. Between 2001 and 2008 Berman photographed some of the simulation drills, involving thousands of ordinary participants, in which various war scenarios are imagined: Islamic terrorists with nuclear bombs, bioterrorists, shopping mall terrorists. In her photographs, happy families creep through the suburbs clutching anti-nuclear pills, evangelical Christians dress in Afghan burkas, even senior citizens become extras in a War on Terror script.

Kaveh Golestan's images of war are real. An Iranian photographer who died in 2003 after stepping on a landmine in northern Iraq, his book Recording the Truth in Iran (Hatje Cantz, £29.99/£26.99) records in searing intimacy the horrors of the revolution in Iran, the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, the 1988 uprising in Kurdistan and other local conflicts.
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Philip Jones Griffiths, who died earlier this year, is well known for his war photojournalism, but Recollections (Trolley Books, £40/£36), on which he was working when he died, is a delicately observed album of British society, photographed in black and white in the 1950s and 1960s. Uniformed nannies chat with the policemen outside 10 Downing Street while their young charges stare fascinated at the camera; young women cheer at the Last Night of the Proms, 1960; the Beatles tune up for their first concert at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool. It is a Britain of Norman Wisdom and working men's clubs, of Welsh miners and ban the bomb marches. While we know Jones Griffiths' Vietnam work well, these photograph demonstrate how sharply attuned his eye was to the glances, gestures and expressions of his homeland.

Richard Avedon, who died in 2004, was another photographer who directed his finely calibrated gaze at people and their anxieties or joys. In his Portraits of Power (Steidl, £30/ £27) he records high achievers and significant figures in every sphere of cultural and political influence, defining a view of the second half of the 20th century. His concern is not with beauty or dignity, but with the human predicament, and posed against a stark white background, he captures the often painful essence of his subjects: of Ezra Pound, of Norman Mailer, of the Kennedys and Malcolm X, George Bush Sr when director of the CIA. My favourite is Charlie Chaplin playing a horned devil, photographed the day before he left America after being accused of being a communist.

Martin Parr's Objects (Chris Boot, £19.95/£17.96) is full of photographs of Parr's own collections of kitschy objects and ephemera, which together, in a different way, define the second half of the 20th century. Over 30 years Parr has gathered items from eBay auctions and elsewhere that are part of his reflection on history, what he calls his “shadows of human foible”. There are Margaret Thatcher mugs, plates, egg cups, a teapot and even a dart board. There is his collection of Saddam Hussein watches, cigarette lighters and masks, and Spice Girls Cadburys chocolate bars.

Glamour is the subject of Edward Steichen: In High Fashion (Thames & Hudson, £42/£37.80). Drawn from Condé Nast's archive of vintage prints, this book reproduces the best of Steichen's beautifully composed portraits of politicians, actors, singers and artists as well as his sumptuous fashion plates made for Vogue and Vanity Fair in the 1920s and 1930s.

See for more tips : photobooks for christmas by lucy davies ... &

best photography books of 2008 by pdn ...

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