woensdag 21 september 2016

Views & Reviews Photographers A-Z Books on photo Books Hans-Michael Koetzle Photography

Book o' the Week: 'Photographers A-Z'

Photographers A-Z
By Hans-Michael Koetzle
Published by Taschen, April 2011
12.8 x 10.2 x 1.7 inches, 444 pages
Reviewed by Geoff Wittig
Two idiosyncratic German publishers stand out in the photo book world. Steidl reflects its founder's passion for photography, exemplified by a range of beautifully produced books for connoisseurs, such as Mike's favorite Bruce Davidson opus, Outside InsideA recent article on Gerhard Steidl in the New York Times reflected on his almost monastic lifestyle, devoted to his art. The other publisher is Taschen, at first glance the "anti-Steidl." Active members of the L.A. "glitterati," founder Benedikt Taschen and partner/wife Angelika seem to go out of their way to be provocative, with a goodly number of fetish- and sexually-themed titles. If the reflectiveOutside Inside exemplifies Steidl, Helmut Newton's brash and campy Sumo(the big one) may characterize Taschen. But giant expensive tomes likeSumo are matched by many more affordable titles. Taschen has published a range of very reasonably priced large monographs on photography icons from August Sander to Edward Weston to Paul Outerbridge. They also have released a range of modestly-sized and very inexpensive small softcover monographs. And $10.19 for a hardcover Atget, Paris? Hard to beat for pounds (or kilos) of book per dollar. Reproduction quality has varied from just okay to pretty good. More recent titles include Sebastião Salgado's beautiful book Africa [now out of print —Ed.], with reproductions that are very good indeed.
This is a long-winded preface to Taschen's recent encyclopedic survey of photographers past and present. Photographers A–Z (here's the U.K. link) is a large, heavy volume that provides brief but pithy coverage of literally hundreds of individuals. The author's explicitly stated criterion for inclusion is "those whose contribution to the culture of the photographic image is beyond question, whose work is internationally recognized, presented and discussed–even if controversial." Koetzle acknowledges a preponderance of Americans and Europeans, but there is also extensive representation of Asian and Latin American photographers.
The book's design is clean, slick, pure modernism (rather than post-modern). Most entries get a single page, with a select few extending across the gutter to a second. Each begins with a terse but spot-on summary of the photographer's work. For example, Annie Leibovitz is introduced with "Staged portraits of American celebrities from the worlds of (pop) culture, politics, and high society. Star photographer of the 1980s and 90s in two respects." This is followed by a dense chronological survey of the subject's career and important projects. Next is a telling quote from a photography critic, ranging from the well-known (Vicki Goldberg, A.D. Coleman) to the obscure. Finally there is a list of important exhibitions, followed by (Hallelujah!) a selected bibliography for each photographer, including monographs and projects as well as relevant anthologies containing the artist's work.
A sample spread (pages 46–47) from Taschen's Photographers A–Z.
The photo reproductions included with each entry are not full-bleed large images. Instead, as with Errata Editions, you get reproductions of the covers and 2-page spreads of photo books. These provide you a sample of the photographer's work in book form. And this photo reproduction format spells out this volume's mission. It deliberately treats photo books as the primary location for significant and accessible photography. If you want large, high-quality, beautifully reproduced examples of each artist's work, you will not find them here—but this volume will tell you exactly where they can be found in book form.
This book is an irresistible browse. You can page through the entries and in just a few minutes reacquaint yourself with a dozen great photographers you're already familiar with, and find a bunch of great leads for books to seek out at the library or Amazon. Better yet, you'll get a tantalizing look at great talents you've never heard of, but may find well worth looking into. For me the biggest delight was being reminded of many wonderful photographers who had fallen off my radar screen, but whose work I love. Now I know where to find more of their best images in print.
There are some older books out there with a similar mission. Abrams'PHOTO:BOX featured one or two images from each of 200 famous photographers. Phaidon's Centurywas more explicitly a survey of the 20th century in photography, but covers some of the same ground, with a very well-chosen selection of images. Finally, Phaidon's The Photo Book is the closest equivalent, with "500 pages on 500 photographers," each represented by a single iconic good-quality reproduction. Taschen's new book has a rather more eclectic mix, with a wider selection of Asian and Latin American photographers. In customary Taschen style, there's also a larger representation of nude and erotic subjects—Araki gets two pages, Walker Evans only one. Overall it's a fascinating selection of styles and eras. And for the lover of photo books, the bibliography entries are priceless. Just be forewarned that this feature may end up costing you far more than the purchase price!
Here's the link again.

Book Review: Photographers A-Z

A fascinating book about four hundred photographers that obviously invites comparison with Phaidon's The Photo Book which featured five hundred alphabetically. Both books come from European publishers and reflect a world view of the art though I thought Koetzle's was perhaps a more personal choice.
There is an important visual difference between the two books that might be relevant to potential buyers. The Phaidon book has a simple format of one large photo a page for each photographer plus some short biographic detail and it works well enough. The Taschen title presents the photos as facsimiles from a photographer's published books so the actual shots are really large thumbnails, very similar to Parr and Badger's two volume history of the photo book. As a publication designer I love this format but it might not suit everyone especially if they expect to see large photos in their art books.
As well as the book spreads each photographer has a hundred words or so biography and a selective exhibition and book listing. The four hundred chosen by Koetzle for inclusion do seem to me rather personal. Jack Delano and Russell Lee are not included, Julius Shulman is but not Ezra Stoller. Magazine art directors Alexander Liberman and Alexey Brodovitch are here and so is painter David Hockney but James VanDeZee isn't. Still, there are a lot of European and Japanese camera folk I'm not familiar with so turning the pages was a pleasant bit of photographic serendipity.
The really big names, for example: Capa; Cartier-Bresson; Frank; Lartique; Leibovitz; Renger-Patzsch; Rodchenko get two pages with spreads from two or three books or magazines (oddly Walker Evans only gets a page with two spreads from Fortune magazine). The book's production is the quality one would expect from Taschen, a matt art with 175 screen. I found a slight annoyance with some of the text setting, though. The biographies are set in one long block with no paragraphs and the book and exhibition listings are printed in a grey tint making them a bit hard to read in artificial light. Nicely all the book and magazine facsimiles have a tone drop shadow which gives them a slight dimensional feel on the page.
The Phaidon and this one are both reference books to great photographers but presented in two different formats. I like looking through both but have a preference for Koetzle's edition.
Photographers A-Z - 04
Snap. Two books look at the same folk, each in their own way. See also 

Child with Toy Hand Grenade the Photo Book Ian Jeffrey Photography

Photographers A-Z - 05
Title spread.
Photographers A-Z - 01
Photographers A-Z - 02
Both books look at Larry Burrows. Left, the Phaidon edition that has one big photo a page throughout the book. Koetzle's book uses facsimile spreads of each photographer's work.
Photographers A-Z - 03
Photographers A-Z - 06
Photographers A-Z - 07
Photographers A-Z - 08
Photographers A-Z - 09
Photographers A-Z - 10
Photographers A-Z - 11
Photographers A-Z - 12
Photographers A-Z - 13

Damian Zimmermann
Fotografie und Texte zur Fotografie
30. März 2011
“Fotografen A-Z” von Hans-Michael Koetzle

Das Fotobuch lebt. Das merke ich nicht nur daran, dass die Zahl der Publikationen, speziellen Buchläden, Internetblogs, Festivals und nicht zuletzt auch die Preise für vergriffene Exemplare ständig steigen. Ich merke es auch, weil der Kölner Taschen Verlag, der ja eher für Mainstream-Ware bekannt ist, nun einen dicken Wälzer (444 Seiten, 49,99 Euro) zu diesem Thema herausgebracht hat. Der Titel “Fotografen A-Z” suggeriert eher ein Fotografen-Lexikon wie die ebenfalls bei Taschen erschienene Foto:Box, doch es geht in dem Buch von Autor Hans-Michael Koetzle tatsächlich weniger um die Fotografen, sondern vielmehr um ihre “schönsten Monografien”, wie es in der Pressemitteilung heißt.

So ist das Buch nun auch eine Art Enzyklopädie geworden, streng alphabetisch (und nicht etwa chronologisch) geordnet, die kompetent Auskunft geben will, die aber nicht den Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit erhebt. Wie soll sie auch? Dafür lädt sie ein zum ziellosen Blättern, Stöbern, Surfen – kurz: zum Entdecken. Und zu entdecken gibt es viel, denn das Buch geizt nicht mit großen, populären Namen wie Nobuyoshi Araki, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Anton Corbijn, Peter Lindbergh, Man Ray, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Leni Riefenstahl, Cindy Sherman, Wolfgang Tillmans, Ellen von Unwerth und Weegee, stellt aber auch weniger bekannte vor.

Das ist zwar alles schön und gut und lockt sicherlich auch Kunden an, die sich sonst eher nicht mit dem Thema Fotobuch auseinandersetzen würden. Wahrscheinlich aber auch nur die. Denn die Texte, die Koetzle dem interessierten “Leser” liefert, sind wenig aufschlussreich: Ein als Fließtext getarnter Lebenslauf wird durch die Auflistung von Ausstellungen und weiteren Büchern des Fotografen angereichert. Auf die Bilder geht Koetzle kaum, auf die vorgestellten Monografien gar nicht ein. Dafür werden Journalisten, Kuratoren, Sammler, Fotografen und weitere “Foto-Prominente” kurz zitiert und beziehen so wenigstens ein wenig Stellung.

Natürlich ist es nicht einfach, ein gescheites Buch über Fotobücher herauszubringen, schließlich haben Martin Parr und Gerry Badger mit “The Photobook: A History” die Messlatte sehr hoch gelegt: Die zweibändige Publikation gilt heute als Kanon, Standardwerk und Bestellkatalog für Sammler zugleich. Der Taschen Verlag tut gut daran, sie nicht einfach zu kopieren. Gleichzeitig muss er dem Leser, der immerhin 50 Euro für “Fotografen A-Z” hinblättern soll, inhaltlich mehr liefern als bloße Faksimiles aus Büchern und Zeitschriften. In der jetzigen Form wirkt es jedenfalls wie ein Schnellschuss aus der Hüfte und verkommt zum bloßen Coffee Table Book. Und genau das sollen gute Fotobücher ja eben nicht sein.

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