“Paris” by William Eggleston

“Paris” is a handsome book published by Steidl on the occasion of Eggleston’s exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2009.  Eggleston – father of color photography – was commissioned by the Fondation Cartier to photograph Paris over the course of a 3 year period.

But don’t expect your typical tourist shots of the Eiffel Tower and the Musee Rodin.  “Paris” is the places and spaces in between: graffiti on glass, posters on walls, trash in see-through garbage bags.  It’s all the things that you looked at without seeing while you are in Paris.  There is a particular focus on planar surfaces and patterns and this is reinforced by Eggleston’s abstract drawings which are interspersed in between his photos.

The drawings are almost like maps or lines one would draw with their eyes while looking at photographs.  Or maybe even a type of visual sheet music juxtaposing all the visual elements and motifs which Eggleston has honed throughout the years in his photographic practice.  It’s wonderful how photographers like WE and HCB also choose drawing as a creative outlet.  The camera is after all nature’s pencil.

As is expected from Steidl the book is beautifully crafted with sensuous black satin covers. It is organized into Books One and Two with Book Two containing several more drawings than Book One.  Most spreads contain one photo/drawing with some containing two.  This has the effect of forcing you to search for similarities or reasons for the pairings.  Most of the pairings are drawings with photos although there’s always some pairings that break the rule.  It’s quite an effective way to create more opportunities for the viewer to linger over the materials.

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“Postcards from America” by Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Alec Soth, Mikhael Subotzky, Ginger Strand

From the Postcards from America website:

“Postcards From America Box Set

In May 2011, five Magnum photographers –Paolo Pellegrin, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Alec Soth, Mikhael Subotzky – and a writer, Ginger Strand, set out from Austin, Texas, in an RV. Two weeks and 1750 miles later, they arrived in Oakland, California.

The resulting limited edition book is a collection of objects – a book, five bumper stickers, a newspaper, two fold-outs, three cards, a poster and five zines, all in a signed and numbered box – that collectively document the experience. Edition of 500, signed by all five photographers and the writer.”

I received my copy this past week and it has exceeded all my expectations of what a photobook can be. It’s like receiving a care package from your college friends who just went on a road trip – but this one is filled with photographic goodies. Aside from the typography the box is unassuming and it could have said Fedex or DHL instead. This sets the overall tone of what’s to follow as you open the box and discover its contents.

Even the sticker where the photographers and writer have signed their names is stuck on in a very non-ornamental way. The “cover page” as shown in the photo above is comprised of high contrast images of the objects and “postcards”. It gives a sense of cohesiveness to the disparate jumble of materials. This is definitely not Robert Frank’s “The Americans” as there is no singular view imposed but instead multiple disparate narratives. Whereas “The Americans” focuses on what can be seen “Postcards” is more about what is absent and searching without finding.

I think what the authors are getting at is that only in America can such contrast exists side by side. That America is a whole bunch of parallel universes both perceived and actual all wound up into one big hodge podge. This reading of the work is strongly alluded to in Ginger Strand’s writing in the various zines. And also in the “I went right, Jim went left; I went left, Mikhael went right” wherein we meet a conflicted character that is both a caregiver and abuser?

One of my favorite photos is the abandoned pool that is filled with turf and grass. It’s about making do and turning contradictions into something that seems almost natural. You don’t see that it’s a pool until you realize where the diving board goes. It’s photos like these that provide the anchors to the entire collection. I’m sure I’ll find some more gems as I digest the work over the next few weeks.  Here’s a link to the official site.

“East: For the Record” published by Steidl

“East” is a photographic record of the historic events that occurred between August 1989 and January 1990 that brought down the Berlin Wall and reunited East and West Germany.  However instead of using cliched newsroom photos of people standing on top of the Wall, it is the everyday lives of regular people during that time that is featured in the foreground and the “historical events” that serve as the backdrop.

The book is mainly written in German for a German audience however it does contain an English translation of the Forward, essays and photo captions to be found at the very end of the book.  The main body of the book is the Photography section which is divided into the months August, September, Oktober, November and Dezember.  Each spread is spaciously laid out with photographs, the Day. Month., name of the contributing photographer and a short caption.  The overall effect is one of non sentimentality letting the photos individually stand on their own but all the while contributing to the overall tone and momentum.  90 % of the photos are in black and white with color serving as accents here and there.

It is a powerful testament to how history is written by regular people just by living the way they choose to and changing the course of history in the mean while.  Would be great to see more photobooks like “East” that gives a clearer view of the everyday context that accumulate and add up to momentous events that affect all our lives.

If you like this review enough to buy the book, please purchase from the Amazon link here:
“EAST: FOR THE RECORD”

“Photographers A-Z” by Hans-Michael Koetzle

Received a copy of “Photographers A-Z” published by Taschen over the Christmas holidays.  It’s a great book for getting to know more about the masters as well as some up and coming photographers.  Although a hefty tome it is by no means exhaustive in scope and professes to be selective rather than encyclopedic.

It’s similar to “The Photobook” by Parr and Badger in that it showcases the photobooks of the photographers.  For aspiring collectors it also contains some selected exhibitions and bibliographical info as well.  The writing is a little rushed and summarized for my tastes but it does contain some useful information (the writing in the Parr and Badger book is much better).

It’s a good collectors item in and of itself and is definitely well made.  The font and layouts are elegant and very accessible for the reader.  Plenty of white space surrounding text and images which is good.  Overall I am quite happy with “Photographers A-Z” and highly recommend it for your bookshelves.

Photographers A-Z on Amazon.com

“Buenos Aires” Daido Moriyama

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[UPDATE] Be sure to check out the book preview with sample images here

On my recent trip to Tokyo I picked up a bunch of photo books three of them by Daido Moriyama: “Buenos Aires”; “Light & Shadow” and “Erotica”.  I’ll first review the “Buenos Aires” in this post.

This 2009  edition is a re-release of a larger and more expensive book initially published in 2005 by Kodansha.  The original edition’s dimensions are 11.5 x 8.5 inches while this one being more portable and easy to flip through stands at 7 x 4.5 inches. Though cheaper than the original it is no less well packaged as it has an obi band and a softcover dust jacket.  The green cover you see in the photo comes off to reveal a darker greenish gray cover which on closer inspection is a subtlety printed photo.  All pages have matte finishing.

The book’s first dozen pages depicts sparsely populated streets and open spaces.  As it progresses the visual rhythm picks up and the streets get more crowded and frenetic activity starts taking over.   The restaurants and the bars become full with couples dancing – legs and bodies entwined.  Packed subway, cluttered storefront displays and a merry go round spinning wildly at night bring the book to a crescendo which then begins to finish the way it started.  Desolate streets, a pile of garbage and stray dog mark the final pages.

What I most appreciate about “Buenos Aires” is that it begs to be picked up and flipped through revealing new details and insights each time over the course of several readings.  It’s a great book for those who enjoy street photography whether Daido fan or not.

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Here’s the link to the first edition of Buenos Aires on Amazon

“Buenos Aires” Picture Previews