Photography in May – from conceptual to practical, the many facets of photography today

This month we start by showcasing three books that reflect on the world of contemporary photography, its major players and current themes, and then continue our monthly journey on a more pragmatic note — looking at titles that will help you improve your own photography — before finally taking a leisurely stroll along the cobbled streets of the coveted French capital.

syndetics-lcAltered Landscape: Photographs of a changing environment
“A comprehensive look at the work of 100 contemporary photographers who capture the impact of human activity on natural landscapes. The Altered Landscape is a provocative collection of photographs representing a wide range of artists, techniques, visual styles, subjects, and ideological positions. Organized chronologically, the more than 150 images-by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Chris Jordan, Catherine Opie, and Edward Burtynsky-reveal the ways that individuals and industries have marked, mined, toured, tested, developed, occupied, and exploited landscapes over the last fifty years. From Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, two of the most influential photographers to document environmental destruction in the American West, to Richard Misrach and Mark Klett, who examine abuse of natural resources, these moving images reveal the diversity of voices within the field of contemporary photography. In Association with the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.”–Publisher’s website.

syndetics-lcCollect contemporary photography
The best little book in a long time. Regardless of whether you are considering collecting contemporary photography or not, this book is definitely worth a look. Deceptively low key (its small format is at odds with many books on photography, and you will find it in the small books section of the Arts Music and Literature department of the central library), it confirms the place that photography has gained as an entirely legitimate artistic medium. Due to the nature of the medium and its ability to be reproduced, photography is still accessible, which can be quite an incentive to start collecting — rarity and quality of the print commanding the highest prices. Handy, useful, informative, this little book got me hooked. I read it from cover to cover in a couple of days, getting inspired by the well researched and yet succinct biographies of some of the influential names of contemporary photography. It also contains useful descriptions of the main photographic and printing techniques.

syndetics-lcCindy Sherman
You cannot get a more up-to-date publication on this “grande dame” of contemporary photography than this comprehensive retrospective produced as the catalog of an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art from Feb to June 2012 and further afield from June 2013. The book reviews her most important series chronologically through high quality reproductions. The introductory essays by the exhibition curator, Eva Respini, and art historian Johanna Burton together with an interview between Sherman and John Waters give depth and perspective to the artist’s impressive body of work and the themes that pervade it.

syndetics-lcFor an interesting documentary on Cindy Sherman check out the 5th season of the excellent Art 21 PBS series, from our DVD documentary collection.

syndetics-lcFood photography
This practical guide presents in a clear and simple way the basics on getting the right camera equipment — lights, lenses, reflectors, etc. — and takes you through the key photographic principles of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Lighting and composition and food styling are explained and post-production techniques illustrated. Whether you want to improve your food photography to create vibrant blog posts or just want to improve your photography techniques from shooting to post-processing in general, this book is a good tool along the way.

syndetics-lcSketching Light
“Photographer Joe McNally explains how to experiment with light in photographs. Using many colour photos as examples, he details how a flash works, basic lighting techniques, lighting modifiers, one-light solutions, individual images, flash technology, and lighting styles and approaches he has used, along with behind-the-scenes pictures and sketches that show light placement, power settings, f-stops, and shutter speeds, as well as detailing what motivates his choices.” (

And finally, for light visual relief, Paris in Colour

syndetics-lcis a series of colour coded “postcards” of the city of light. A delicious little book, like a soft buttery brioche on a beautiful automn day. For more visual feasts on Paris, check out this blog: Portrait of a place: Paris.