maandag 29 september 2008

The 10 or 25 most important and influential photography books in the last fifty or more years?

Emmet Gowin, Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969, from the 1976 classic Emmet Gowin: Photographs. Sally Mann has this picture framed and hanging in her kitchen.


The other day, in a post about The Americans, a reader named Paul asked: "Mike, any chance perhaps of giving us your opinion on the 10 or 25 most important and influential photography books in the last fifty or more years? Those books any kid new to photography could use to educate his eye and not with the idea of making a monetary investment."

I did answer his question in the comments to the post. However, as I've mulled it over since then (I love books, I love lists, and I have an essentially schoolteacherish cast of mind, so you can understand how Paul's request would appeal to me), I've come around to realizing just how impossible compiling such a list would be.

I certainly see the appeal of a "teaching set" of books that could serve as a sort of basic encylopædia of the medium's accomplishments. But as I proceed to imagine it in its particulars, the obstacles seem more and more multi-dimensional and profound. The two limitations I mentioned in my answer in the comments were 1) limitations of availability and 2) the limitations of my (or any list-compiler's) taste and critical judgment. In truth the problems extend much further than that. Read more ...

Our Entire Series of Photo Book Posts:


Great Photo Books You Can Buy New—Part I: Reissues by Mike Johnston


We All Love Photography Now, It's Official! by Martin Parr (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New, Part II)

Great Photo Books You Can Buy New—Part III: New Books by Mike Johnston

Jeff Ladd's List (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New, Part IV) by Jeff Ladd

Geoff Wittig's List (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New Part V)
Edward S. Curtis, Mosa, Mojave, 1903

The 10 or 25 most important and influential photography books in the last fifty or more years?

Emmet Gowin, Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969, from the 1976 classic Emmet Gowin: Photographs. Sally Mann has this picture framed and hanging in her kitchen.


The other day, in a post about The Americans, a reader named Paul asked: "Mike, any chance perhaps of giving us your opinion on the 10 or 25 most important and influential photography books in the last fifty or more years? Those books any kid new to photography could use to educate his eye and not with the idea of making a monetary investment."

I did answer his question in the comments to the post. However, as I've mulled it over since then (I love books, I love lists, and I have an essentially schoolteacherish cast of mind, so you can understand how Paul's request would appeal to me), I've come around to realizing just how impossible compiling such a list would be.

I certainly see the appeal of a "teaching set" of books that could serve as a sort of basic encylopædia of the medium's accomplishments. But as I proceed to imagine it in its particulars, the obstacles seem more and more multi-dimensional and profound. The two limitations I mentioned in my answer in the comments were 1) limitations of availability and 2) the limitations of my (or any list-compiler's) taste and critical judgment. In truth the problems extend much further than that. Read more ...

Our Entire Series of Photo Book Posts:


Great Photo Books You Can Buy New—Part I: Reissues by Mike Johnston


We All Love Photography Now, It's Official! by Martin Parr (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New, Part II)

Great Photo Books You Can Buy New—Part III: New Books by Mike Johnston

Jeff Ladd's List (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New, Part IV) by Jeff Ladd

Geoff Wittig's List (Great Photo Books You Can Buy New Part V)
Edward S. Curtis, Mosa, Mojave, 1903

Design Icon Voyeur by Hans-Peter Feldmann Photography

Design Icon
This piece originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Grafik magazine.

VOYEUR by Hans-Peter Feldmann
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln1994, 1997

This book is 165 x 110 x 10mm, 256 pages, 198 grams, the paper weight is just right, smaller than your average paperback, perfect bound (doesn’t lay flat), sits in my hand, fits in my pocket and gets lost on a shelf between flabby, super-size photography books. It’s small, modest, friendly and seems to me to be the ideal design icon for our time. It’s a re-sampled, re-issued, re-packaged celebration and confusion of the everyday. Black and white reproductions of photographs taken from photojournalism, stock libraries and art photography are presented to the reader, each page/spread with its own rhythm, one to six or more slightly coarse screened photographs per page ranging in size from 24 x 24mm to 150 x 98mm. This sophisticated scrapbook sits in the category of ‘artist’s book’, though I suspect Feldmann wouldn’t be happy with that distinction. He believes that everyone is an artist. Feldmann has been doing this type of thing for three decades. You see his influence amongst others in magazines like ‘Permanent Food’, the paperback journal produced by Maurizio Cattelan and co.,where every page is appropriated from magazines all over the world. The perfect post-modern product.

Feldmann seems to know ‘the thrill and dread of a world in which “all that is solid melts into air”’(Marshall Berman quoting Marx). Like our lives, the book is full of paradox and contradiction. It reads differently every time (the second edition has the same images as the first but in a different order). We see a complex landscape of stolen images; some violent, others pornographic, both victims and perpetrators are there: newlyweds, porn stars, a kiss, a dressing room, a car crash, a male model, a polar bear, the queen mother, a baby, a fly, a burial, a mousetrap, a lighthouse, a masked man, a seagull, an 80s model, a laughing old couple, a singing lesson, a boxer, Jamie Lee Curtis undressing, chimpanzees hugging, Princess Anne meeting dancers, a plate of sweetcorn, an empty bedroom, a girl stretching, a dog swimming, a full moon, a happy dentist and so on. The combinations and sequences of images can be playful or distressing. Each time you flick through the book you see a new image.

These are images divorced from their original text. Something I wish would happen to the Saturday Guardian, whose lifestyle supplements say nothing to me about my life. Mr public figure Smith goes to see a pop concert and in exchange his son goes to the opera. How thrilling. How middle-class. Who cares? No danger of that with this icon, this book is – as Feldmann might say – “guaranteed free of text”. There’s no guide on how to live and work in the modern world. Here the book agrees with Sontag in On Photography ‘Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.

’What about the cover? It’s not exactly an example of ‘modernist good taste’ (see Phaidon press), but equally I don’t think we’re dealing with the tired, knowing wink of irony, or the vernacular (the ‘low’ rather than the ‘high’). It’s more honest than that. While this book is more than likely bought by the ‘graphically’ sophisticated, there’s no reason this book shouldn’t have a broader appeal. It’s for your mum and dad too.

A bigger question: Is it possible or even desirable to discuss a piece of ‘design’ without mentioning the content? Can you enjoy a dutch poster without knowing what it says? Could I choose a Faucheux designed bookcover as my graphic design icon, without reading French? Can you celebrate the ‘form’ without being interested in the content? You can but I don’t think that’s healthy. To sample and re-issue an idea put by Robin Kinross in Fellow Readers: ‘It is worth trying a brutally simple attitude to design: judge it by its content. This certainly helps to clear the mind – and maybe the shops and museums too.’

Design Icon Voyeur by Hans-Peter Feldmann Photography

Design Icon
This piece originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Grafik magazine.

VOYEUR by Hans-Peter Feldmann
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln1994, 1997

This book is 165 x 110 x 10mm, 256 pages, 198 grams, the paper weight is just right, smaller than your average paperback, perfect bound (doesn’t lay flat), sits in my hand, fits in my pocket and gets lost on a shelf between flabby, super-size photography books. It’s small, modest, friendly and seems to me to be the ideal design icon for our time. It’s a re-sampled, re-issued, re-packaged celebration and confusion of the everyday. Black and white reproductions of photographs taken from photojournalism, stock libraries and art photography are presented to the reader, each page/spread with its own rhythm, one to six or more slightly coarse screened photographs per page ranging in size from 24 x 24mm to 150 x 98mm. This sophisticated scrapbook sits in the category of ‘artist’s book’, though I suspect Feldmann wouldn’t be happy with that distinction. He believes that everyone is an artist. Feldmann has been doing this type of thing for three decades. You see his influence amongst others in magazines like ‘Permanent Food’, the paperback journal produced by Maurizio Cattelan and co.,where every page is appropriated from magazines all over the world. The perfect post-modern product.

Feldmann seems to know ‘the thrill and dread of a world in which “all that is solid melts into air”’(Marshall Berman quoting Marx). Like our lives, the book is full of paradox and contradiction. It reads differently every time (the second edition has the same images as the first but in a different order). We see a complex landscape of stolen images; some violent, others pornographic, both victims and perpetrators are there: newlyweds, porn stars, a kiss, a dressing room, a car crash, a male model, a polar bear, the queen mother, a baby, a fly, a burial, a mousetrap, a lighthouse, a masked man, a seagull, an 80s model, a laughing old couple, a singing lesson, a boxer, Jamie Lee Curtis undressing, chimpanzees hugging, Princess Anne meeting dancers, a plate of sweetcorn, an empty bedroom, a girl stretching, a dog swimming, a full moon, a happy dentist and so on. The combinations and sequences of images can be playful or distressing. Each time you flick through the book you see a new image.

These are images divorced from their original text. Something I wish would happen to the Saturday Guardian, whose lifestyle supplements say nothing to me about my life. Mr public figure Smith goes to see a pop concert and in exchange his son goes to the opera. How thrilling. How middle-class. Who cares? No danger of that with this icon, this book is – as Feldmann might say – “guaranteed free of text”. There’s no guide on how to live and work in the modern world. Here the book agrees with Sontag in On Photography ‘Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.

’What about the cover? It’s not exactly an example of ‘modernist good taste’ (see Phaidon press), but equally I don’t think we’re dealing with the tired, knowing wink of irony, or the vernacular (the ‘low’ rather than the ‘high’). It’s more honest than that. While this book is more than likely bought by the ‘graphically’ sophisticated, there’s no reason this book shouldn’t have a broader appeal. It’s for your mum and dad too.

A bigger question: Is it possible or even desirable to discuss a piece of ‘design’ without mentioning the content? Can you enjoy a dutch poster without knowing what it says? Could I choose a Faucheux designed bookcover as my graphic design icon, without reading French? Can you celebrate the ‘form’ without being interested in the content? You can but I don’t think that’s healthy. To sample and re-issue an idea put by Robin Kinross in Fellow Readers: ‘It is worth trying a brutally simple attitude to design: judge it by its content. This certainly helps to clear the mind – and maybe the shops and museums too.’

zondag 28 september 2008

Dutch Eyes Edward Hopper Norman Rockwell by Erwin Olaf Photography

Erwin Olaf Rain, Hope Grief & Fall 27 September 2008 - 18 January 2009 Lees meer ...

With their averted eyes half open, staring into nothingness, the models in the photographs in Erwin Olaf’s latest series, Fall, evoke a strange kind of aloofness. The portraits are interspersed with still lifes of plants and flowers in simple ceramic vases. With its use of colour, the strange, almost awkward expressions on the faces of the models and the almost unreal setting, the series Fall is in some ways the logical successor to the earlier series Grief, Hope and Rain. This autumn, all four will be on display together for the first time in a retrospective at The Hague Museum of Photography.

Though the adolescents in the photographs in Fall (2008) have the stylised perfection so characteristic of Olaf’s work, they are not perfect examples of our current ideal of beauty. Their curious expressions are determined to a large extent by the fact that the images were taken as they were blinking. This makes it unclear what the models are actually feeling, what their real emotions are. The combination with still lifes of flowers and the title of the series highlight what may very well be the key theme of Fall – the transient nature of beauty. The exhibition in The Hague Museum of Photography will be the series world premiere.

While Erwin Olaf (b. 1959) was previously known for his hedonistic photographs of extravagant partygoers or people as actors in flamboyant baroque settings, nowadays the common themes in his work are serenity and fragility, as the four series in the exhibition clearly show. His palette is reminiscent of the 1950s, as is the environment in which the people – and plants – are pictured.

The images in Grief (2007) raise all kinds of questions. We see people, some of them crying, others staring out through the windows of a 1960s interior. What has happened? What has befallen these people? The subject of Hope (2005) and Rain (2004) is the American stereotype. In almost surreal Technicolor settings we see stereotypical figures like a boy scout, cheerleaders and a housewife, often with an apathetic look in their eyes that raises more questions than the picture can answer. There is something endearing about the figures who populate these photographs, as if they were completely at a loss, about to beg us for answers.

The series consist of scenic photographs, portraits and video works, all of which will be included in the exhibition. The works will be shown chronologically, showing how Olaf’s work has developed in his recent series. A process that begins with the first sources of inspiration for Rain, the anecdotal, narrative visual language of American painters like Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, and culminates in a pure ‘Olafian’ representation: hideous, grotesque, captured in an extremely elegant yet deceptive ambiance.

Erwin Olaf is not only photographer but also film maker. At a special evening that arthouse cinema Filmhuis Den Haag is planning in association with the retrospective, some of his most recent films will be shown. Aperture is publishing a book to accompany the exhibition, incorporating the first three series of photographs, as well as an extensive discussion of the films belonging to the series, including stills and a DVD. After The Hague, the exhibition will move on to the Institut Neerlandais in Paris (May 2009).

Dutch Eyes Edward Hopper Norman Rockwell by Erwin Olaf Photography

Erwin Olaf Rain, Hope Grief & Fall 27 September 2008 - 18 January 2009 Lees meer ...

With their averted eyes half open, staring into nothingness, the models in the photographs in Erwin Olaf’s latest series, Fall, evoke a strange kind of aloofness. The portraits are interspersed with still lifes of plants and flowers in simple ceramic vases. With its use of colour, the strange, almost awkward expressions on the faces of the models and the almost unreal setting, the series Fall is in some ways the logical successor to the earlier series Grief, Hope and Rain. This autumn, all four will be on display together for the first time in a retrospective at The Hague Museum of Photography.

Though the adolescents in the photographs in Fall (2008) have the stylised perfection so characteristic of Olaf’s work, they are not perfect examples of our current ideal of beauty. Their curious expressions are determined to a large extent by the fact that the images were taken as they were blinking. This makes it unclear what the models are actually feeling, what their real emotions are. The combination with still lifes of flowers and the title of the series highlight what may very well be the key theme of Fall – the transient nature of beauty. The exhibition in The Hague Museum of Photography will be the series world premiere.

While Erwin Olaf (b. 1959) was previously known for his hedonistic photographs of extravagant partygoers or people as actors in flamboyant baroque settings, nowadays the common themes in his work are serenity and fragility, as the four series in the exhibition clearly show. His palette is reminiscent of the 1950s, as is the environment in which the people – and plants – are pictured.

The images in Grief (2007) raise all kinds of questions. We see people, some of them crying, others staring out through the windows of a 1960s interior. What has happened? What has befallen these people? The subject of Hope (2005) and Rain (2004) is the American stereotype. In almost surreal Technicolor settings we see stereotypical figures like a boy scout, cheerleaders and a housewife, often with an apathetic look in their eyes that raises more questions than the picture can answer. There is something endearing about the figures who populate these photographs, as if they were completely at a loss, about to beg us for answers.

The series consist of scenic photographs, portraits and video works, all of which will be included in the exhibition. The works will be shown chronologically, showing how Olaf’s work has developed in his recent series. A process that begins with the first sources of inspiration for Rain, the anecdotal, narrative visual language of American painters like Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, and culminates in a pure ‘Olafian’ representation: hideous, grotesque, captured in an extremely elegant yet deceptive ambiance.

Erwin Olaf is not only photographer but also film maker. At a special evening that arthouse cinema Filmhuis Den Haag is planning in association with the retrospective, some of his most recent films will be shown. Aperture is publishing a book to accompany the exhibition, incorporating the first three series of photographs, as well as an extensive discussion of the films belonging to the series, including stills and a DVD. After The Hague, the exhibition will move on to the Institut Neerlandais in Paris (May 2009).

zaterdag 27 september 2008

Welcome in the Baghdad Suite Heimat Hotel Breda Martin Parr's World Photography

Starring : Edie Peters, Erik Kessels, Jan Banning ( slideshow ), Maarten Schilt, Rob Hornstra (more ...), Andrew Phelps, Ernest Potters & Yannick Bouillis ...

Focusing the photobooks : Almost Every Picture, Useful Photography,(Hans-Peter Feldmann) Ansichten von Autoradios in denen gerade gute Musik spielt 1970s-90s, (Christian Boltanski) Kaddish, Bureaucratics, 101 Billionaires, Baghdad Suite, (Jodi Bieber) Schemertijd, (Willem Poelstra) 112 * Ambulance Amsterdam ...

The Buffet is open ... & lees verder ...

See for more ...
& see for an ode to Dutch Graphic Design in the 50s ...



Welcome in the Baghdad Suite Heimat Hotel Breda Martin Parr's World Photography

Starring : Edie Peters, Erik Kessels, Jan Banning ( slideshow ), Maarten Schilt, Rob Hornstra (more ...), Andrew Phelps, Ernest Potters & Yannick Bouillis ...

Focusing the photobooks : Almost Every Picture, Useful Photography,(Hans-Peter Feldmann) Ansichten von Autoradios in denen gerade gute Musik spielt 1970s-90s, (Christian Boltanski) Kaddish, Bureaucratics, 101 Billionaires, Baghdad Suite, (Jodi Bieber) Schemertijd, (Willem Poelstra) 112 * Ambulance Amsterdam ...

The Buffet is open ... & lees verder ...

See for more ...
& see for an ode to Dutch Graphic Design in the 50s ...



donderdag 25 september 2008

Roger Dyckmans Doods Domeinen Bertolotti Photography

Doods domeinen by SCHOUWENAARS, Clem & DYCKMANS, Roger
Antwerpen, Uitgeverij Walter Soethoudt, 1972, foto's, gebonden met stofomslag

Eerste en enige uitgave. Gedichten van Clem Schouwenaars en erotische foto's van Roger Dyckmans. "Als ik de naam Clem Schouwenaars zie, denk ik aan mijn uitgave van Doods domeinen met de sublieme foto’s van Roger Dyckmans, nog altijd een van de mooist uitgegeven dichtbundels in Vlaanderen", dixit Walter Soethoudt. See also Alessandro Bertolotti Books of Nudes...

Doods Domeinen (Deadly fields, 1971) written by Clem Schouwenaars with photographs by Roger Dyckmans, fits in with the Dutch tradition of the beeldroman (story in pictures). In the 1950s, artists had already speculated as to whether the image could permanently replace the world as a means of communication. In this case, the photographs and fragments of text alternate on the pages like two equivalent and complementary forms, telling the story of two naked, enigmatic, sensual women, inside a ruined building and on a deserted beach.



Roger Dyckmans Doods Domeinen Bertolotti Photography

Doods domeinen by SCHOUWENAARS, Clem & DYCKMANS, Roger
Antwerpen, Uitgeverij Walter Soethoudt, 1972, foto's, gebonden met stofomslag

Eerste en enige uitgave. Gedichten van Clem Schouwenaars en erotische foto's van Roger Dyckmans. "Als ik de naam Clem Schouwenaars zie, denk ik aan mijn uitgave van Doods domeinen met de sublieme foto’s van Roger Dyckmans, nog altijd een van de mooist uitgegeven dichtbundels in Vlaanderen", dixit Walter Soethoudt. See also Alessandro Bertolotti Books of Nudes...

Doods Domeinen (Deadly fields, 1971) written by Clem Schouwenaars with photographs by Roger Dyckmans, fits in with the Dutch tradition of the beeldroman (story in pictures). In the 1950s, artists had already speculated as to whether the image could permanently replace the world as a means of communication. In this case, the photographs and fragments of text alternate on the pages like two equivalent and complementary forms, telling the story of two naked, enigmatic, sensual women, inside a ruined building and on a deserted beach.