April in Photography : far away adventures and tragic lives

Our picks of the recent photography books this month include two travel books that will transport you through time and space with their collections of historical photographs that document two “polar opposite” (yet both very arid) regions of the world: Antartica (as we follow in Scott’s footsteps via his own, previously uncollected, photos of his fated expedition), and Saudi Arabia (with a collection of photographs taken between 1860 and 1950). We also reflect on the lives of three women whose common thread is their passion for photography: Diane Arbus, Clover Adams and Vivian Maier. And of course, the debate on the fate of analog photography continues…

syndetics-lcFilm is not dead : a digital photographer’s guide to shooting film / by Jonathan Canlas & Kristen Kalp ; photography by Jonathan Canlas.
To pick up on last month’s post, film is indeed NOT dead, as this book is intent on proving:
“With the popularity of digital photography growing by leaps and bounds over the last decade, some say film has been dying a slow death ever since –- or is already dead. The reality is that film has never gone away, and in recent years has experienced a surging, renewed popularity –- sometimes simply for its retro, analog status, but mostly for film’s ability to create a look and feel that many believe digital can still not achieve. If anyone can attest to this, it’s Utah photographer Jonathan Canlas, who exclusively shoots with film, and has both an extremely successful wedding photography business, as well as a series of popular workshops held numerous times per year around the world.” (summary from Amazon.com)

Incidentally, you may want to check out Jose Villa’s book, another wedding photographer who specialises exclusively in film (reviewed back in July 2011).

syndetics-lcSaudi Arabia by the first photographers / William Facey with Gillian Grant.
“The photographs in this book were taken between 1860 and 1950, at a crucial period just before the ancient way of life in the region was swept away. The selection draws on all the known photographic collections, from the earliest travel photographers, through to the 1950s. These remarkable images are accompanied by historian William Facey’s excellent text which places them in their historical context, plus detailed commentary on photographic techniques by photographic archivist Gillian Grant.” (Library Catalogue)

syndetics-lcThe lost photographs of Captain Scott : unseen photographs from the legendary Antarctic Expedition / David M. Wilson.
“The legend of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who perished with his fellow explorers on their return from the South Pole on March 29 1912 (100 years ago this year!), is an enduring one. Until now, the history of the ill-fated Terra-Nova expedition has been pieced together from Scott’s own diaries and those of his companions, the sketches of “Uncle Bill” Wilson, and the celebrated photographs of Herbert Ponting. Yet, for the final, fateful months of their journey, Scott also photographed this extraodinary scientific endeavour himself. Trained by Ponting, and faced with extreme climatic conditions and practical challenges at the dawn of photography, Scott achieved a series of images, remarkable for both their technical mastery and their poignancy. In this landmark book, the photographs are catalogues and published together for the first time, paying tribute to the last great expeditions of the Heroic Age of Artic Exploration.” (adapted from Publisher’s description)

syndetics-lcA good companion to this title would be the recently published An Empire of Ice. Pulitzer winner Edward Larson follows the triumphs and disasters of Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton, David Livingston, Roald Amundsen, and numerous other intrepid explorers, who risked life and limb to be the first to leave footprints in uncharted territory.

A few fascinating biographies have recently been published on women photographers. Besides world reknown Diane Arbus’ biography and retrospective, Clover Adams and Vivian Maier — two relatively unknown women with a passion for photography — are the subject of, respectively, a compelling biography and a collection of photographs. Three somber lives to ponder.

syndetics-lcClover Adams : a gilded and heartbreaking life / Natalie Dykstra.
“Clover, an inquisitive, loving, fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin, married at 28 the older and soon-to-be-eminent historian Henry Adams. She thrived in her role as an intimate to political insiders in Gilded Age Washington, where she was valued for her wit and taste by such artistic luminaries as Henry James and H. H. Richardson. Clover so clearly possessed, as one friend wrote, “all she wanted, all this world could give.” And yet there is a mystery: why did Clover, having embarked on an exhilarating self-taught course of photography in the spring of 1883, end her life less than three years later by drinking from a vial of a chemical she used in developing her own photographs? The answer is revealed through Natalie Dykstra’s original discoveries regarding the thirteen-year Adams marriage. Dykstra illuminates Clover’s enduring stature as a woman betrayed as she untangles the complex truth of her shining and impossible marriage.” (taken from Publisher’s description)

syndetics-lcAn emergency in slow motion : the inner life of Diane Arbus / William Todd Schultz.
“Schultz confesses that his subject, revered and controversial photographer Diane Arbus, remains a mystery after nearly seven years of inquiry. His struggle to understand Arbus and her indelible portraits o. freak. makes for a strikingly candid, indefatigably inquisitive, and poignantly unsettling psychobiography, a meticulous yet passionate attempt to decode her inner life. Born in 1923 to wealth and misery in a New York household of silence and secrets, including a sexual relationship between Diane and her brother, the future poet laureate Howard Nemerov, Diane married photographer Allan Arbus very young. The marriage didn’t last, and Schultz offers no insights into what sort of mother Arbus was to their two now accomplished daughters. Instead, he focuses on Arbus’ signature fascination with weirdos and grotesques and reveals her compulsive and risky sexual adventures, and argues that sex was her true artistic obsession, right up to her 1971 suicide. Exceptional prose, illuminating psychological theory, and the visceral memories of those who knew her add up to a haunting portrait of Arbus as a tenacious and quixotic artist whose outre photographs blaze on in all their strange romance, protest, and longing.” (Booklist)

In the light of this psychobiography, it is interesting to revisit some of Arbus’ most iconic photographs in the Aperture’s 25 Anniversary edition published last year:

syndetics-lcDiane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph was originally published in 1972, one year after the artist’s death, in conjunction with a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art. Edited and designed by Arbus’s daughter, Doon, and her friend and colleague, painter Marvin Israel, the monograph contains eighty of her most masterful photos. The images in this newly published edition, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the collection’s original publication, were printed from new three-hundred-line-screen duotone film, allowing for startlingly clear reproduction. The impact of the collection is heightened by the introduction, which contains excerpts of audio tapes in which Arbus discusses her experiences as a photographer and her feelings about the often bizarre nature of her subjects. Diane Arbus’s work has indelibly impacted modern visual sensibilities, evidenced by the intensely personal moments captured in this powerful group of photographs. (adapted from Library Catalogue)

syndetics-lcVivian Maier : street photographer / edited by John Maloof ; foreword by Geoff Dyer.
Were it not for the accidental find by historian John Maloof of 100,00 photographs hidden in a storage locker, no one would have discovered the amazing work of this nanny during the day, self-taught photographer in her leisure time, who scouted the streets of countless cities in her quest for human urban tableaux. An outsider and observer all her life, she remained invisible until fate decided otherwise. In this book her impressive body of work is presented in print form for the first time. Also highly recommended is the Vivian Maier website , a brilliant showcase of her photography and further facts about this intriguing photographer. And finally, watch out for the documentary film “Finding Vivian Maier” currently in production.

And for titles in the compendium style, we will focuse this month on the new addition to the Prestel 50 Series — 50 Photographers you should know

syndetics-lcThis series is growing at a regular pace and each new title is a welcome addition, guiding the novice and filling up the gaps in the enthusiast/student’s knowledge. This title is a concise and portable (not often the case with art books) collection of chronologically ordered greats of photography, from Nadar to Tillmans. The timeline for each photographere is a very useful element, placing the artist in historical, political and cultural context. A good reference with just enough photographs and facts to wet the appetite for further research.

Further titles we hold in the 50’s series are:

50 contemporary artists you should know

50 architects you should know

50 paintings you should know

50 women artists you should know

50 american artists you should know

50 fashion designers you should know

50 Bauhaus icons you should know

50 modern artists you should know

50 British artists you should know

Photography in February – a tribute to Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold's PeopleIt seemed appropriate this month to dedicate our picks of the photography books to those the library holds on legendary photographer Eve Arnold – who died on the 5th of January this year. Eve Arnold’s People, the most recent book on the subject of her amazingly diverse and long career was published in 2009.

Born in Philadelphia in 1912, Arnold left medicine for a photographic career after receiving a Rolleicord as a present in 1946. These were the heydays of documentary photography and Arnold dived into it wholeheartedly with only 8 weeks of training. Her career really began in 1951 after the British Picture Post published a story she had shot in Harlem which no American magazine wanted to take on. In 1957 she joined the acclaimed Magnum photo agency, becoming their first female photographer. She moved to London in 1951 and used the city as her base for the rest of her life, while travelling extensively on her many assignments for publications such as Life, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Geo, Epoca, Paris-Match and the Sunday Times.

A self-confessed workaholic, her work encompassed such diverse subjects as Hollywood stars (she will be most remembered for her intimate portraits of Marilyn Monroe, with whom she had a very long and productive professional relationship), but also (and as powerfully) underprivileged members of society – and even great heads of states. She travelled to China during a time when Westerners were only allowed in under strict supervision. She didn’t want to work under such conditions and relentlessly applied for a visa that would give her free rein. 10 years on, she was granted permission and in 1979 finally succeeded in making “a book about the lives of people, a book that would go beyond the ubiquitous blue suits and bicycles we had been seeing pictures of so many years”. She “wanted to penetrate their humanity, to get a sense of the sustaining character beneath the surface”. She travelled thousands of miles in the most remote parts of the country and documented “the tripod on which China had built her revolution – the peasant, the worker and the soldier”.

Compassionate, understanding, generous, courteous and soft-spoken were adjectives often used to describe this gentle woman. She took her work to heart and her work reflects it.

A new retrospective book on her whole career titled All about Eve, is about to be published by teNeues. Watch this space. It will be hot property! In the meantime – check out her most memorable shots in the Guardian and watch a slide show and interview produced by Magnum in Motion, or delve into our comprehensive collection of books dedicated to this inspiring photographer. Here are a few of the titles we hold:

Eve Arnold in Retrospect Marilyn Monroe: an appreciation Eve Arnold Film Journal Magna Brava - Magnum's Women Photographers

syndetics-lcHollywood Portraits
After having admired Eve Arnold’s stunning portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and Clark Gable among many others, this book is the perfect transition from looking at a great photographer’s portraits to making portraits of your own, in the classic Hollywood style. It provides useful insight on how to set up, light and shoot, based on specific examples described with diagrams and step-by-step instructions.

syndetics-lcRobert Rauschenberg Photographs 1949 – 1962
“Painter, sculptor, printmaker and photographer Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) provided a crucial bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art. His exposure to photography while at Black Mountain College in North Carolina was so great that for a time he was unsure whether to pursue painting or photography as a career. Instead, he chose both, and found ways to fold photography into his Combines, maintained a practice of photographing friends and family, documented the evolution of artworks and occasionally dramatized them by inserting himself into the picture frame. This volume gathers and surveys for the first time Rauschenberg’s numerous uses of photography. It includes portraits of friends such as Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham and John Cage, studio shots, photographs used in the Combines and Silkscreen paintings, photographs of lost artworks and works in process. This allows us to re-imagine almost the entirety of the artist’s output in light of his always inventive uses of photography, while also supplying previously unseen glimpses into his social milieu of the 1950s and early 60s. Considered one of the most innovative artists of his era, he died in 2008.” (Adapted from amazon.com)

The August Photo Selection

Create Great iPhone Photos – Apps, Tips, Tricks, and Effects


“I’ve been obsessed with photography since I was a teenager. I got an SLR when I was 15 and proceeded to spend an absurd amount of time watching the silver drift off photographic paper in my high school’s darkroom. I loved it – the amber glow of the darkroom light, the acrid odor of the fixer, the sheer magic of images apearing from nowhere.

Yet, I never had as much fun with photography as I have with my iPhone camera. Here is why:” Allan Hoffman, author of this new revelatory book, goes on to explain the great advantages of  iPhotography or, as it seems to be called, “iPhoneography”.

I have just discovered a new dimension, a new world I didn’t know existed. And I want to go there, quick. All I need now is an iPhone…

(Staff member)

Detroit Disassembled – Andrew Moore


I first came accross Andrew Moore’s new work on Detroit in Aperture Magazine last year (Winter 2009 n197) in an article called Urban Archaelogy, and had the pleasure to discover the whole series in this new large format publication, perfectly suited to the large scale images of this urban landscape project on decaying Detroit.  As depressing and bleak as the subject may be, the resulting visual narrative is spectacular, the colours lucious. Rust, dust, moss all contribute to give a rich patina to the disused urban and industrial sets visited, transforming them into almost grandiose tableaux. Awe, sadness, irony are some of the emotions elicited. (Staff member)

The Pressure of Sunlight Falling – Fiona Pardington


Fiona Pardington’s latest work is a series of large-scale portraits of life-casts made of Maori and Pacific peoples during Dumont d’Urville’s voyage to the Pacific in 1837-1840. Life-casts were a pre-photographic form of recording a person’s image and were often collected for ethnographic studies, phrenology and as curiosities. As works of art in a contemporary context they are poignant reminders of the humanity embodied within the casts and the photographic image. This exhibition explores the meaning of the casts, their individual history and their function in relation to portraiture and photography. (Summary from syndetics-lc)

Fiona Pardington was interviewed on National Radio on 31 July about this new work. Click here to access the Audio archive. 

And finally, not from our Photography collection, but still a book of photographs, you will find this book in the Dance section on our shelves:

A Dance – Alexander Barabanov


Alexander Barabanov, a key figure in the Russian dance world, has sifted through many thousands of photographs of dance to accumulate an extraordinary collection of pictures, ranging from historical ballet photographs to shocking avant-garde imagery.

This work has been collected and edited to form an astonishing sequence. Rather than being assembled as an anthology, the sequence has in fact been ‘choreographed’ so the book is constructed to form a dance in ten movements. It begins with creation myths, follows erotic engagements and leads to a series of mass movements in the modern age. It includes such gems as the young Nureyev’s first performance with the Kirov and Baryshinikov’s debut as well as images with brutal reference to Abu Ghraib or the march of fascism. (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Timeline in photography

This month’s new picks in photography range from the most contemporary and high tech artists to the rediscovered pre-digital alternative techniques, not to forget the book on technique, this time about wedding photography, the best in a long time.

Contemporary Photography from the Far East


A true catalogue raisonné, Asian Dub Photography presents the works of twenty-one of Asia’s most important contemporary artists who have made their mark on the international contemporary art scene in the fields of photography, video, and film. It features works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Yang Fudong, Cao Fei, Kimsooja, Nobuyoshi Araki, Yasumasa Morimura, Daido Moriyama, Tabaimo, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Ai Weiwei, among others. It is accompanied by in-depth biographies and artists’ statements and is introduced by critical essays by Filippo Maggia and Taro Amano, chief curator at Yokohama Museum of Art.
(book cover) 

Shadow Catchers Camera-less Photography


“At the dawn of photography, various image-makers explored camera-less techniques, and today there are a number of artists who continue to challenge the belief that a camera is necessary to create a photograph. Shadow Catchers presents the work of five leading practitioners – Pierre Cordier, Susan Derges, Adam Fuss, Garry Fabian Miller and Floris Neusüss – who, by casting shadows on light-sensitive paper or by chemically manipulating its surface, capture the presence of objects, figures or glowing light. The results are powerful images, often with surreal effects and symbolic content. This is the first book to gather together the exciting works of these key contemporary artists, revealing the technical processes and creative practices involved in their art. In an age of mass-produced imagery, Shadow Catchers offers hand-crafted photographs that are both haunting and thought-provoking.
A unique survey of the most prominent contemporary artists creating photographs without the use of a camera.
An authoritative and sumptuously produced account of the history of camera-less photography and the processes involved”.
(book cover)

Photographers A-Z – Hans-Michael Koetzle


The greatest photographers of the last 100 years

A comprehensive overview of the most influential photographers of the last century and their finest monographs: Richly illustrated with facsimiles from books and magazines, this book includes the major photographers of the last hundred yearsespecially those who have distinguished themselves with important publications or exhibitions, or who have made a significant contribution to the culture of the photographic image. While most of the 400-plus entries feature North American or European photographers, the scope is worldwide, with significant emphasis on the photography of Japan and Latin America, Africa and China.
(amazon.com summary)



When you see your work referenced in a music video, you know you have reached a certain level of recognition. First it was Nick Cave, then came Beyoncé. Beyond those, some will remember the striking and hauntingly beautiful portraits of The Hyena & Other Men that established Pieter Hugo’s place among today’s influencial photographers.
In Permanent Error, the award-winning photographer depicts in the same format, colour palette and intense gazes, the  livehoods scavenged on a wasteland dedicated to e-waste by a local community on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana’s capital. Jim Puckett’s essay on the issues raised by e-waste trade and the devastating consequences it has on poor countries communities is as thought provoking as those impossible to ignore photographs.
(staff member)

Fine Art Wedding Photography – Jose Villa & Jeff Kent

Acclaimed wedding photographer Jose Villa was a pioneer in fine art wedding photography before it became a trendy buzzword. Here, he shares his secrets for bringing a stylized sense of composition, lighting, posing, and most important, design, to your images, while still keeping them organic and narrative. You’ll learn Jose’s trademark technique of capturing the more natural moment after a pose, and tips for getting images right in-camera to avoid the need for heavy postproduction.
(amazon.com summary)