Saturday, October 20, 2007

So This is How They Do It

Image Makers, Image Takers

by Anne-Celine Jaeger
Thames & Hudson, May 2007
272 pages/paperback/218 illustrations/ $34.95

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

If your summer book list didn’t include Image Makers, Image Takers, then now is the time to pick up your copy of this handbook that examines the creative methodology of today’s leading image makers and shapers. The book provides Q&A-style interviews with some of photography’s heavy hitters.

There are also plenty of well chosen images to study and their addition to the text greatly enhances the book’s value. Various quotes are pulled and presented in large font and sprinkled throughout for even more punch.

To demonstrate how journalist Anne-Celine Jaeger meticulously amassed the complete picture on what it takes to get the complete picture, consider the breadth of the book’s seven main sections: Art; Documentary; Fashion and Advertising; Portraiture; Next Generation; Curators and Gallerists; and Agency Directors, Editors and Publishers.

Jaeger engages William Eggleston, Sebastião Salgado, David LaChapelle, Tina Barney, Alec Soth, Camilla Brown and Kathy Ryan. These industry notables represent just one of four equally accomplished veterans who were interviewed for each of the above categories.

Naturally, there is inspiration and insight in the book, purely because of the grand-scale achievements of the makers and takers profiled. There are also enlightening details in the conversations about how they approach their craft on large and small scales, from why an anthology was given a particular name to wondering if it is important to employ a personal philosophy in order to be a great photographer.

Although primarily aimed at budding photographers, Image Makers equally gives pros an opportunity to vicariously pick the brains—and share the creative process experiences—of some of our favorite colleagues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All the Leaves are [not] Brown

A New England Autumn

by Ferenc Máté
Albatross Publishing, September 2007
160 pages/hardcover/103 color photographs/$39.95

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

Novelist, master sailor, winemaker and yes, photographer, Ferenc Máté’s new book, A New England Autumn, showcases the region’s most pristine forests and tranquil locations. The book lives up to its promise: “For lovers of nature and fine writing.” Unfortunately, this marquee pronouncement is mistakenly placed in an obscure location on the inside jacket flap. Until readers peruse the contents pages and beyond there is little on the face of this book to indicate the riches inside.

While the cover image of a white country church surrounded by fall colors is pretty, the overall concept is missed if the book is not opened. The substance of the project is the assembling of Máté’s images with passages by New England writers. These are significantly familiar authors including Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings, and Henry David Thoreau.

Once drawn in, New England Autumn is formatted in a brooding style. An excerpt from a legendary book or poem is followed by uncaptioned photographs celebrating the season’s palette and splendor. The pace is relaxing and writing and image selections appropriately flatter each other.

Máté’s images are spotless in this collection and he captures the unharmed glory of New England. Typical fall symbols show up. There are pumpkins, old barns, reflecting pools of water, antique farm equipment, tranquil harbors and billions and billions of leaves. There are few never-before-seen subjects from these well-traveled and overly photographed North East locations but the images are comforting.

The large trim size provides ample room for Máté’s photographs to be appreciated. Yet, because the famous accompanying text has such a strong impact upon the ensemble, a smaller and accordingly more intimate volume is imaginable. Either way, New England Autumn is enjoyable and a great rumination.

After these inspiring words and visuals is another surprise by way of a closing appendage. A New England Tour Planner explains which routes to take to see fall color displays. The section includes illustrated state maps and identifying drawings of indigenous trees and leaves.

There is one more hidden element. The book has a subtitle: A Sentimental Journey. Under full examination such a voyage unfolds.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Exposing the Beaten Track

Small World

by Martin Parr
Dewi Lewis Publishing, November 2007
96 pages/hardcover/69 color photographs/$45.00

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

Photo editors and researchers have recently seen photo requests for soft-filtered shots of children running through flowery fields for real estate ad campaigns, insisting there should be no house in sight. It seems to follow that in the near future, travel clients won’t need photos of the actual attractions anymore when it comes time to feature the highlights of their destinations. To meet that spec when it arrives, you’ll find just the right images in Small World by Martin Parr.

In this delightful satire, Parr turns his camera away from the monuments and onto the tourists. In doing so, he reveals that during our search for authentic cultures, we haven’t exactly left behind our own. This redesigned and lengthened edition (copies of the 1996 original allegedly now demand a high premium), has an amusing new introduction by Geoff Dyer that matches Parr’s photographic knack for comedic timing

Parr’s images in Small World are not ones likely to be added to our family trip albums. He has exposed us: being attacked by a pigeon in the town square; queuing up for a tour in the rain like ants; standing in the street with our head buried in a very large map; and wearing hometown logos, maybe to trade for a native craft?

The publisher notes: “These Small World citizens become symbols of the freedoms of Western prosperity; declaring their power and their right to travel, to choose and, above all, to consume.” If you need witty illustrations for your next travel article or ad, take a spin through Small World. The more these images are published, the more we can celebrate the coming atonement of the world traveler.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Invisible Preservatives

David Plowden: Vanishing Point

Fifty Years of Photography by David Plowden
W.W. Norton & Company, October 2007
340 pages/hardcover/280 duotone photographs/$100.00

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

Taking the cellophane wrap off of the large new volume of David Plowden: Vanishing Point feels like blowing years of dust away from an old box of keepsakes. Inside, the images taken by the quiet and prolific master photographer David Plowden have been righteously preserved. Plowden deserves a big heap of recognition with the publication of this tribute to his examination of American over the last half century.

Journalist Steve Edwards reveals fascinating background insights about Plowden in the book’s introduction. In Plowden’s case, it is impressive to read that he studied with Minor White, but what is more informative is to discover that when they first met, Plowden was so intimidated by White’s room displaying works by Edward Weston and Paul Caponigro, “I almost turned around and fled,” he says.

If rural America is disappearing, we can thank Plowden for steadily recording the forgotten pockets of the country for all these years. We have his images of ramshackle porches, abandoned factories, bar-and-grill waitresses, and deco furniture in an Iowa home. One day, photography enthusiasts might compare the August 1, 2007 photos of the Twin City bridge collapse with those taken by Plowden of the rusted and worn steel sides of Chicago’s 100th Street Bridge. “What a wonderful, marvelous example of steelwork. We don’t make bridges like this anymore,” he said upon seeing the photographic value of the underside of an old drawbridge.

Plowden is adamant that his technique should remain invisible; he insists that the subject is lost if technique overwhelms the picture. Yet the book ends with notes from Plowden about his experiments with all kinds of equipment, films and developer temperatures. This inclusion is just one of many compelling reasons for adding Vanishing Point to your book collection.