maandag 1 december 2008

Photobooks for Christmas by Lucy Davies Photography

Haunting: William Eggleston, Untitled

Christmas books: photography
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 01/12/2008

Lucy Davies enjoys a visual feast of the amazing and the odd

This has been a good year for photography books about America. Helen Levitt's images of the working-class neighbourhoods of New York and Chicago stretch back to the Thirties. I have never seen work with such an eye for gesture and form. Some of her subjects seem to dance past each other on the street. Others are so engrossed in their activities - hunching over a newspaper, scrabbling under a car - that they seem to have crumpled into deformity. Helen Levitt (Powerhouse, £37.50) shows her best-loved pictures alongside newer work. Levitt's super-saturated colour photos of the Seventies and Eighties compare with William Eggleston, the subject of a monograph (Yale, £35). Both are masters at lifting the everyday into a haunting new realm.

Eugene Richards's Blue Room (Phaidon, £35) is an eloquent investigation into abandoned houses of the American West. Enigmatic scenes - a wedding dress hanging on a wall, snow falling on a bed by a window - take on a poignant, enigmatic quality.

Wayne Miller: 1942-58 (Powerhouse, £36) documents America's wartime experience (including empathetic portraits of Hiroshima survivors) and the storefront churches, fish peddlers and drunks of slumtown America. In less capable hands they might have been contrived, but they are quiet, imaginative pieces.

Bill Wood's Business (Steidl, £25) is a collection of "found" photography. Salvaged from a studio in Fort Worth, Texas by the actress Diane Keaton, these images are a portrait of one town's citizens over 30 years or so that is by turns beautiful, mawkish, awkward, ugly, hilarious ("man and woman examining carpet") and odd.

Larry Towell's The World from My Front Porch (Chris Boot, £40) is a well-blended selection of photographs of his Canadian farm: a menagerie of barefoot children and animals, remnants from his great-aunt's Edwardian family album and his father's songbooks. Towell has an Arcadian style: wet hair rippling the surface of a glassy lake; the same surface iced and skate-scarred six months later.

There has also been a wealth of vintage photography this year: monographs on stalwarts such as Fox Talbot (Phaidon, £19.95) and Lewis Carroll (Phaidon, £19.95), and Josef Heinrich Darchinger's images of the reconstruction frenzy in Germany after the Second World War (Wirtschaftswunder, Taschen, £24.99).

Did you know that the Moon's surface was photographed in detail as early as 1862? Brought to Light (Yale, £35) is a terrific chronicle of scientific photography from its dawn in 1840 until 1900, and includes experiments with electricity, motion studies, X-rays microscopes, and even the spirit world. Spelterini (Scheidegger & Spiess, £45) is a forgotten series of aerial photographs from a Swiss balloonist born in 1852, who sailed as far as Cairo.

Fashion seems to have fallen out of fashion this year. Two books that merit a mention are Steichen (Thames & Hudson, £42), a plush look at Twenties and Thirties couture, and Gothic (Yale, £19.99), a wide-ranging examination of the visual vocabulary of death, decay and the erotic macabre employed by Dior, McQueen et al. Valerie Steele draws on 18th-century horror literature, cinema and Victorian melodrama in her fascinating narrative.

Portraiture triumphed in Second: the Face of Defeat (Magenta, £25), a wry look at sore losers, and two hefty books from Richard Avedon, Portraits of Power (Steidl, £30) and Performance (Abrams, £40), and a debut by Danielle Levitt, We Are Experienced (Powerhouse, £36), picturing the vagaries and vanities of American teens in all their baton-twirling, anorexic, prom-date glory. I loved Vee Speer's costumed children in Birthday Party (Dewi Lewis, £30) and James Mollison's The Disciples (Chris Boot, £40): fans emulating their rock star idols (fat Rod Stewarts, and so on).

Robert Wilson's Helmand (Jonathan Cape, £30), featuring his portraits of soldiers in Afghanistan, is a picture of strength and resilience. The wildcard award goes to Simon Foxell's Mapping England (Black Dog, £40): maps of the British Isles going back 450 years. Try looking at the 1940 German board game based on air battles for England without shuddering.

Martin Parr's Objects (Chris Boot, £19.95) includes pictures of his ephemera, from Abba soap to cans of lager from the Fifties featuring a woman in various poses: reclining on a brown sofa, sitting by the fountains in Trafalgar Square and emerging from a car, "testing our new service van".

Thanks, and on behalf of Rod's two superfans, by James Mollison/James Mollison

1 opmerking:

João Soares zei

Thks for posting an update from Steve Bloom´s (Eco)Art.
See you soon and welcome to my Bioterra. Hope you write somenthing about.
Abraços form Portugal