What to buy in Dec. 2010

November 26, 2010

Nick Brandt: A Shadow Falls

In 2005 former film maker Nick Brandt published his first photo book “On this Earth” with black & white images from Africa. The book was a great success. Brandt showed astonishing images of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and other animals. All pictures were taken on film, handmade, and amazingly beautiful in their composition, toning, and lighting. The book showed African wild animals in their natural habitat and I never stopped wondering how the photographer managed to get this close using analog cameras like hasselblads etc.

This year Nick Brandt published another book about Africa. The theme is pretty much the same as in his former book. But this time the format of the edition is larger, and I think they even went a step further in their choice of paper and print quality.
The result is another beautiful edition with breathtaking images. You open the book and every image lets you drop your jaws, literally! I am usually not very much into Nature Photography and would always prefer portraits of people over landscapes and especially pet photography. But these images show so much character and beauty that I didn’t hesitate a second before I purchased this book.

Surprisingly the volume is not even that expensive and can easily be purchased here. I strongly recommend this to everyone who appreciated good craft and the beauty of imaging!

Also, check out Nick Brandt’s website for examples of his images. I cannot show them here due to copyright reasons.


Inge Morath: FIRST COLOR

It’ s been a while since I recommended a book. It’s a shame because I had made this a monthly habit and I was always proud of the quality of the books I had in my blog. However, I have become more and more bored with what’s in the market. Actually it might even be a certain frustration with photography in general. For me photography means images of people. I like to look at landscapes and architecture, too, but for my own work I am mostly focused on portraits. This is what I am most fascinated in: human characters, behavior, emotions etc. Once I read something like: “A good portrait is when you manage to get someone interested in the image of a person he/she does not know”. So that’s what I am after: real people, real characters, real emotions, real life!

Frustratingly (for me): Nowadays most photography is not about real people anymore but about certain prototypes, stereotypes, ideals of beauty, whatever. Sometimes I have the impression that fashion photography has taken over and it’s all about creating artificial arrangements, and the people photographed play a certain role, something which has very little or nothing to do what they really are. I am looking at hundreds of images every week. When you do this you start seeing patterns, trends, styles that start repeating themselves. So, after the 1000th half (or completely) naked girl standing at a window with a melancholic look on her face (or alternatively lying on a bed), you start getting really really bored! The same applies to certain photo shop techniques, over-saturation/desaturation, high contrast, whatever. In our world of fashion, advertising, and model culture, straight forward portrait photography that tries to actually ‘portrait’ the subject, showing the inner self, literally seems to be “out of fashion”.

So today when I was walking into my favorite photo art bookshop in Singapore, I was positively surprised to see a new edition of Inge Morath’s work, in color.

For people who don’t know: Inge Morath was one of the first members of MAGNUM photo agency and is mostly famous for her black and white portraits of actors and other celebrities in the 1950s and 1960s. She belongs to that ‘leica generation’ of photo journalists who shaped our view of that era. The fact that she was married to Arthur Miller makes her even more interesting. So while I used to know her mainly for her b/w portrait work, this volume is actually a collection of color photographs she took during travels to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and America. The images are mostly documentary and show people in their daily life, on the street, during festivals etc.

What attracted me to this book was

1. The colors. This book is A DREAM IN KODACHROME! Beautiful colors in the subtle tones that made this film so popular and typical for the 1950s – 1970s.

2. There s nothing pretentious about these images. They show real people in their real life. It’s like a window into an era that we only know in black and white and from old Hollywood movies.

I was amazed about the quality of the photographs, their sharpness and truthfulness of the colors. MAGNUM obviously did a good job in storing the negatives. There is no yellow or red touch to the pictures. They look as if they were taken yesterday which makes the experience even more fascinating and a joy to look at. And there is nothing “old” about the imaging, even though they are +50 years old. I am also not saying that back then was the “real” photography and today everything is fake. But apart from mainly Eastern European (especially Russian) photographers I find much of the new digital stuff very pretentious, commercial, more like action art than photography, and too much fashion orientated. Many portraits show stereotypes but not real characters I can identify myself with. Translating this into movies, I am afraid I am not the “Avatar” type but rather into character drama. Maybe I am getting older, too 😉

As so many books I have recommended, this is on sales and be purchased here! The volume is beautifully published by MAGNUMSteidl and printed on paper that does the images the justice they deserve.

Elliott Erwitt has been a MAGNUM member since the 1950s and is definitely one of the world’s giants of street photography. His images do not only catch scenes and situations which most of us would not even notice; the special thing about Erwitt is the particular humorist approach toward his subjects.
To me, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt is one of the best street photographers of all time. Famous are his images of dogs (and their owners), people interacting with others or with their environment.

I don’t even know whether There are any publicized images in color, Elliott Erwitt is and will be known as a black&white photographer. This volume shows a number of his most famous photopraphs in a big size book with a great layout on beautiful paper. Special about this publication is also that most o the text is by Erwitt himself, giving an introduction about himself, his life, and his photography.

From the book:
“The dedicated photographer works with his own sensibility, instincts, and experience. He stays curious about everything visible. He looks, looks some more, and then looks again, because that is the fundamental basis of photography. And that’s all…just looking and making your own unique connections.”

This is his website!

You get this edition on discount here!

What to buy in October 2009

October 15, 2009

Steve McCurry (by Anthony Bannon)
steve mccurry
Steve McCurry is one of the photographers that I was always a bit ambivalent about. Maybe that’s because much of his fame was so much based on this one famous image of an “Afghan Girl” (1979) that he had become much of an icon of mainstream travel photography. Every guy with a big SLR + long lens seemed to try copying that style, the colors etc.

However, when I walked into Kinokuniya Book Store (Singapore) yesterday, I had a look at the Phaidon Edition of Steve McCurry. Phaidon has been publishing this great series of books, introducing icons of photography like Mary Ellen Mark, Andre Kertesz, and others. It turns out that Steve McCurry is an absolute master of color photography, and a great portrait photographer, too. Of course I knew that before, but looking at these fantastic color portraits taken in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I realized that McCurry was at the time able to record South-/Central Asian life in a way which is hardly possible anymore. At the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 the country was already wrecked by civil war. However, the general attitude towards the West (i.e America) was not yet as negative as it is today. As McCurry points out himself: Portrait images like he took in Pakistan back then would hardly be possible anymore. Too much china has been broken, I guess.

This edition only gives a glimpse into this famous MAGNUM photographer’s work. The great thing about this series is also, that every image comes with a comment about how it was taken (not technical!). That makes it a pleasure to read. It’s also printed in high quality (Phaidon is a fantastic publishing house!) for a very low price. You can either buy it at your local art book store, or order it here! Check it out, it’s worth it!

What to buy in September 2009

September 21, 2009

The Polaroid Book:
pola book
The Polaroid picture has become an icon of 20th century photography. The possibility to create instant results was a small revolution when it was first presented to the market.
What also made the Polaroid camera special was the close cooperation between famous photographers and Polaroid. People like Ansel Adams contributed to the development of the Polaroid film to achieve the best possible results. The fact that artists embraced this technology lead to a whole new genre of photography.

“The Polaroid Book”, published by TASCHEN, gives a fantastic overview over the range of Polaroid Photography since the 1950. This includes images by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Danny Lyon, Barbara Hitchcock, Bill Burke, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elliot Erwitt and many others. It also gives an overview of the history of the Polaroid camera, its creator Edwin Land, and all the different models since its introduction in 1954.
It’s a beautiful book to browse through. Highly recommended!

Russel Miller: Magnum 50 Years
In my last post I was talking about Eve Arnold being one of the most important members in the history of MAGNUM. I guess this is an opportunity to introduce a book that gives a good overview of the history, background and members of the world’s most famous photo agency.

Russel Miller’s work describes not only the way MAGNUM was founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and George Roger in the 1950s. He also gives very good insight in the psychology and dynamics of the agency by describing the life and the photography of some of it’s most famous members, including Werner Bischof, Eve Arnold, Inge Morath, David Seymour, Josef Koudelka, Philip Jones Griffiths, and others.

Miller not only talks about the grandeur of the agency and all its achievements. He also describes the struggles, arguments, and crises that MAGNUM went through in its 50 years of history, almost almost being at the brink of collapse and bankruptcy. And it describes the way MAGNUM had to adjust to a world in which the still picture seems to have lost it’s position to the moving picture and TV coverage of world events.
MAGNUM stands for honesty and finding the truth in photo journalism. It was always a creation of it’s time, both catching and at the same time struggling with zeitgeist and the conflict between the freedom of art the commercial need of it’s members. A book definitely worth reading.

This edition can be purchased here!

“Eve Arnold’s People”
eve arnold
Eve Arnold is one of the classics of MAGNUM – photography. She joined the agency in its first decade in the 1950s and has been one of the members that shaped MAGNUM and symbolized the spirit and the style of probably the most famous photo agency in history.
Eve Arnold has always been famous for her portraiture. Especially her images “on set” of Maryllin Monroe or her China images pop up when we think of her legacy. For me her style very much stands for an approach towards the subject that creates emotional depth by building up a relationship with the photographed person before shooting. especially her images taken on Hollywood film sets demonstrate this. Her intimate portraits of Hollywood actors are exceptional.

This volue is a compilation of Eve Arnold’s portrait photography. I had been looking for something like this for a long time. Most of her original books have not been published for a long time and could only be purchased on the art market for very high prices. This book is a good quality volume for an affordable price, always appreciated!

It can be purchased here!