New Photography Books: Beauty, Ugliness, Oddness, Disjunction

This month’s selection of new photography books begins with a reflection on how human hands shape our environment through transformation, cross-pollination and reverse cultural and natural colonisation. Our picks also examine the Antipodean landscape and small town and how they’ve been transformed (with varying results) by successive generations – creating a unique, if not quintessential, aesthetic of ‘place’.

Plus, we explore the world of until recently undiscovered genius of colour photography, Saul Leiter; discover a contrasting black and white photography instalment on London; and finish with the latest in practical photography manuals.

In this rich and austere collaboration, photographer Martin Mischkulnig has joined writer Tim Winton to produce a meditation on the peculiar collision of beauty and ugliness that characterises our far-flung towns.
Without pulling any punches, this is an affectionate, exasperated take on ‘fugliness and the smalltown shambolic’ where both photographer and writer crate a stark beauty, despite the sad conviction that ‘there is nothing so bleak and forbidding in country Australia as the places humans have built there’.
By showing us the bizarre and funny and sometimes stubborn hope of people who live in desolate circumstances, they invite us to wonder about what we build and how it affects our communities.  What does it say about us that we build places ‘just’ to live or work in?  Is beauty a luxury we don’t believe we can afford?  Is hardiness enough to sustain people, or does it finally limit the imagination? (Publisher)

syndetics-lcOld New World
In this series of 62 photographs, Mary Macpherson explores the complex visual fabric of small town New Zealand, reflecting on its characteristics, identity and symbolism in the national psyche. In an interview by Gregory O’Brien that features as an introduction, Macpherson states: “I think that all countries have qualities- whether of their light, colour palette, spatial relationships, structures, etc – that show through in image-making. After seven years of travelling and looking at New Zealand my adjectives for it are “litlle, quick and vivid”.  Whether the viewer shares those adjectives is for each of us to ponder.

syndetics-lcBehind Closed Doors
Commissioned to complement the exhibition “Behind closed doors: New Zealand art from private collections in Wellington”  shown at the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi of Victoria University in Wellington in 2011, and currently at the {Suite} Gallery (3-27 October 2012), this book is a portrait of Wellington as a city of art collectors and lovers. The representation of art in the context of homes rather than the institutional walls of museums or galleries offers an interesting point of view. Neil Pardington, already a familiar photographer in the world of collections and museums, discretely uncovers the private spaces inhabited by art collected according to personal agenda. His black and white photographs are accompanied by extensive text by Lara Strongman, setting the context of each collection and its owners. One notable collection is that of Milly Paris, the largest private art collection in New Zealand, recently in the news as it went under the hammer. Listen to a National Radio interview with Milly Paris.

syndetics-lcTorbay tī kōuka: a New Zealand tree in the English Riviera
Wayne Barrar is no stranger to the exploration of the intersection between culture and nature, having dedicated most of his photographic career to this complex and sensitive subject.
In this new books, he looks at the strange phenomenon he observed while spending time in England of the reversal of the “normal direction of ecological colonialism” in the case of the pervasive presence of the iconic New Zealand cabbage tree (tī kōuka) that has come to represent the English Riviera to such an extent that it has been renamed the Torbay Palms. Paris-Berlin-Bretagne-Singapore_278Paradoxically, the very characteristics of the cabbage tree as a hardy, exotic looking plant has made it particular popular as an ornemental tree as far as Britain (or France for that matter, as witnessed in the photograph on the right taken on a trip to Britanny where I made the same observation and felt a need to document it) when its status in its native environment is eroding fast.  Two essays accompany the photographs, offering an artistic view on the one hand and a conservation view on the other. Barrar’s restrained, balanced and subtle image-making style respects the subject matter and lets the oddity of the situation speak for itself. This books  is a very interesting  reflection on the significance of a natural and cultural symbol.

syndetics-lcManly affections : the photographs of Robert Gant, 1885-1915
“Robert Gant was an English immigrant, an amateur photographer and a lover of men. Manly Affections takes us into Gant’s lost world of small town New Zealand. What happened when an artistic ‘new chum’ and his camera met the rugby and cricket playing locals? Manly Affections explores men’s intimate lives in 230 images. A visual history of place, gender and sexuality, this book poses new questions about settler masculinity. As sitters for the camera in the small towns of Masterton and Greytown, Gant’s companions crossed the lines between friendship, emotion, pleasure and eroticism”–Publisher statement.

syndetics-lcSaul Leiter – Retrospektive
Produced as the catalog of the exhibition “Saul Leiter–Retrospective” at the Haus der Photographie Deichtorhallen Hamburg earlier this year, this book unveils the work of this until recently little known American photographer and painter. “Saul is the missing link in the history of color photography, a covert operator, an artist painting in secrecy for decades, an artist almost lost to us.” states Margit Erb. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Pittsburg in the 20’s, his penchant for art found little support at home and he soon left for New York to explore painting initially and then photography, which he discovered to be well suited to his personality and artistic pursuits. His photographic style has much to borrow from abstract painting, incorporating multiple layers of complex planes of diffuse, sometimes lyrical, sometimes cubistic juxtapositions. His colour palette is bold, graphic and adventurous, using colour at a time when it was still considered a trivial relation to noble black and white photography.  The result was a long career in Harper’s Bazaar, spanning the 40’s to the 70’s until the magazine folded. For all the years he spent photographing fashion, Leiter admitted to having mixed feelings about a world that he found shallow and empty. His element was the street. Even his fashion shots were mostly created on the streets of New York. His portrayal of New York is unique, colourful, graphical, showing a taste for radical compositions often masking the majority of the frame with an out of focus foreground or one vibrantly coloured element. Thanks to some persistent supporters, he  was finally brought to fame in  the 90’s with a solo exhibition Saul Leiter: In Color which attracted a lot of interest and produced good sales, but more dramatically, by a book published in 2005 after a decade spent hunting for a willing publisher, following an exhibition noticed by Gerard Steidl. Early Color’s publication saw Leiter’s fame shoot to the stars almost overnight where he truly belongs. This current publication incorporates photography and painting, illustrating the dialogue between the two medium in Leiter’s artistic practice.

syndetics-lcAnother London : international photographers capture city life 1930-1980
In the years between 1930 and 1980, some of the best-known photographers from around the world came to London and made its streets, buildings and communities their subject. For some, the British capital was to become home; for others it remained a foreign city, as enigmatic perhaps as any they had visited. Each brought their own distinctive perspective, subverting or perpetuating national stereotypes, seeking out the typical or the exotic, attempting to penetrate the fabled British reserve with their lens. Together their work creates a portrait of a great world city, changing and mutating, a restless and fascinating muse. This book demonstrates the breadth and variety of the responses London provoked from visiting photographers during the period, from portraits to reportage, from social realism to whimsy and humour, the changes in their technique and attitude demonstrating developments in photography itself.

syndetics-lcTeach yourself visually Photoshop Elements 10
“If you want practical coverage of the most important features of Photoshop Elements 10, this book is for you. Packed with step-by-step instructions illustrated with full-color screen shots, this book clearly shows you how to do tasks, rather than using lengthy explanations. Even better, the book includes an associated website with all the images in the book available for download, so you can get hands-on practice as you go. It’s an efficient, easy-to-follow way to get up to speed on the latest and best that Photoshop Elements 10 has to offer.”–Publisher description.

And finally, our first photographic eBook!

Cover image for Digital Photography FAQsDigital photography FAQs an eBook
Straightforward, clear answers to the most commonly asked digital photography questions. What’s the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom? Do more megapixels equate to better photo quality? Why is there a delay after I push the shutter release button before I can take another picture? If you’ve ever asked a question concerning digital photography and wished you had a helpful resource to provide you with clear, reliable answers, then look no further.With nearly four decades of photo experience under his belt, author Jeff Wignall responds to 365 of the most common digital photography questions with informative, practical replies.