Photographers, Photography and Books, Books, Books

17th August 2019

Minutes To Midnight, Trent Parke

Trent Parke (2013). Minutes To Midnight. Germany: Steidl

“Minutes to Midnight is an apocalyptic book, but they are real documents, they’re real events, real moments in time that have happened,” explains Magnum photographer Trent Parke. Shot over the course of two years and covering over 90,000 km, Minutes to Midnight is a seductively dark, black and white, enigmatic narrative of Parke’s homeland of Australia.

The Editors “Juxtapoz “

This book is absolutely breathtaking. The imagery dark and brooding, intense in the hidden details. I have spent such a long time on each photograph, looking in the foreground, background and at the subjects within them.

The scenes and the people and animals that reside within them, look so detached from reality. They are unsettling in their dark worlds, and there is a feeling something bad will happen, or has happened and they are left in the aftermath.

I am left looking at the images in awe, Parke is a story teller and there is no boundary between documentary and imagination. The documentary feature is the people, the subjects and their environment and Parke’s lighting technique is the imagination. The combination of these two aspects of his photography gives us an otherworldly abstract intimacy, it is like looking at the unknown – scary but exhilirating.


21st August 2019

Gabriele Basilico 55

Francesco Bonami (2001), Gabriele Basilico. Hong Kong: Phaidon Press Limited

Gabriele Basilico by Toni Thorimbert, 1993. Photographers biography, pgs 1-2

There were so many books to choose from about Basilico and his works. If you know me, there is one thing that you know I am addicted too, and that is books. For me, looking in a book which is held in my hands, feeling the paper as the pages are turned and the smell, actually the whole experience is so much better than looking on a computer screen. I love books.

I bought the cheapest book on Basilico that I could find, purely because I know throughout this course I will want to but more. The worse thing about this purchase is that I have found out that it is a series. I am now researching the other photographers that the series covers with the intent of purchasing a few.

This book was smaller than I had imagined it would be. It is not a disappointment though. It is literally bag size, so it can be transported easily for when I want a book to read while I am out.

The photographs are presented chronologically and in black and white only. The accompanying font is a pleasure as it is not the standard font that runs through most books and compliments the photographs well, I particularly like how the text runs from the centre of the page downwards leaving a negative space above. Sometimes this negative space holds text from the previous pages photograph if it is a double spread.

The book begins with a photograph of Basilico himself (above), with an excellent introduction written by Francesco Bonami who is an Italian contemporary art curator and an international pre-eminent critic.

Following the introduction we have a series of works taken throughout Basilico’s career. The photographs are presented with the date and place they were taken and then a description by Basilico himself. The description is more than ‘this is what you see/ I saw,’ they have reflections about and a background to the place that they were taken. This gives the photographs so much substance because you begin to see more than the visual representation of the image.

Finally at the back of the book there is a brief summary of his achievements.

There are so many amazing works presented within this book, 55 in fact and hence the title of the series, ‘Phaidens 55.’ This book contains many photographs and accompanying notes that I would probably never had come across if I had not bought the book. It is a little treasure and one that I would recommend for people to purchase, especially at such a small second hand price. You wouldn’t be disappointed.


26th August 2019

Time/motion

Jonathan Shaw (2003), Time/motion. UK: Dewi Lewis Publishing

Front cover

Although this book offers only a brief introduction to Harold Edgerton and his work, I purchased it because it also covers Eadweard Muybridge, whose exhibition I went to see at Tate Britain in 2011. I loved the history of and the work and images of both Muybridge and his photography career. So it was a bonus book for me. Again a second hand purchase. I am also waiting for a book solely about Edgerton to arrive which I will review later called, Seeing the Unseen.

Dedicated pages to one image only pg95

This book is another ‘arty’ design with text split into two columns on one page separated only by their differing font. Quite nice to view as a whole aesthetically, but a little off putting when trying to read the text. The text covers the photographers process and explains them in depth using the science of photography, for example it talks about electrical engineering and labels Edgerton as a scientist. A quick read, but very informative.

Two columns, two different fonts pg94

28th August 2019

Boris Mikhailov 55

Gilda Williams (2001), Boris Mikhailov. Hong Kong: Phaidon Press Limited

This is the first time that I have come across the work of the Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov’s work. I was very intrigued by that which I have read and the accompanying images.

Mikhailov was one of the most important artists to have come from the former USSR. As a Soviet photographer he was not supposed to photograph nudes or scenes that might bring the USSR into disrepute. His work combines conceptual art with social documentary photography, this is something that I am very interested in doing within the subjects of mental health and domestic violence.

There is a very good cross-section of images within the book. For me they are thought provoking, inspiring and have already fired up my imagination for themes to shoot in the future.

One thing that I absolutely love to see in books is the artists/ photographers ‘working outs,’ whether they are drawings or notes I find it interesting to see an artists/ photographers working methods.

This truly is a must buy, or if you are not the buying of books type, I cannot recommend looking up the life of and works of Boris Mikhailov.


6th September 2019

Ansel Adams 400 Photographs

Edited by Andrea G. Stillman (2007), Ansel Adams 400 Photographs. New York: Little, Brown and Company

If ever there was a photographer to admire and inspire to take photographs like, for me, it is Ansel Adams (B.1902-1984). Adams was a landscape photographer and environmentalist who is well known for his black and white images of the American West.

This book documents Adams work in chronological order from 1916 to his last photograph in 1968. Those photographs chosen are beautiful, breathtaking and inspiring and although consist mostly of his iconic works they have included not only lesser known ones but portraits as well.

The photographs are presented well, some pages have just the one photograph while a few have two printed on them, all with a large white border around them. Other people have complained at the negative space size of the border and wanted larger pictures to dominate the page, but I think the white borders compliment the black and white images. Each photograph is accompanied by the photographs title, place of capture and year.

At the back of the book is an appendix, titled ‘NOTES ON SELECTED PHOTOGRAPHS.’ This section contains chosen images and with them text containing some of Adams notes and writings that relate to them.

An inspirational look into the stunning work of Ansel Adams.


9th September 2019

Harold Edgerton SEEING THE UNSEEN

Edited by Kurtz, Douglas and Kayafas (2018), Harold Edgerton SEEING THE UNSEEN. Germany: Steidl.

For me the highlight of the book is the appendix which show pages from Edgerton’s laboratory notebooks. These provide a detailed insight into his working mind complete with photographs and handwritten notes. The accompanying notes are often complex, scientific, technical and show mechanical workings in the form of diagrams.

This review is taken from Amazon.uk and is written by one of their top reviewers known as Robin.

Without Harold Edgerton’s pioneering laboratory strobe work so many things in the natural world just wouldn’t be visible. This fascinating book of his photos reveals the unseen in colour and mono. His most famous image was the ‘Milk drop coronet’ taken 1936 (on page fifty-five there’s a 1957 colour version) though, as the book reveals, Arthur Worthington took a similar but cruder attempt in 1895.

The photos, taken in the laboratory during the early thirties are technically interesting but lack the visual excitement of Edgerton’s later work as he developed the flash technique that produced amazing action shots. Page 107 has a 1938 photo of golfer Densmore Shute taken with a flash that fired a hundred times second to reveal the golf club revolving round his body or the 1940 shot of a fan of playing cards leaving a right-hand and cascading to a left-hand. Some photos just make you stop and stare, for example a 1963 multi-flash photo of a member of the Moscow State Circus on seven-foot stilts doing a backflip or David Tork, in 1964, doing a pole vault, the photo shows him six times as he leaves the ground and drifts over the bar, both of these pictures are in colour.

Capturing the rhythm of movement was Edgerton’s forte and the book’s 158 photos clearly show this. There are four short essays by people who knew him and how he worked and taught at MIT. Steidl have gone the extra mile and reproduced thirty-two pages from his notebooks full of technical drawings, stuck-in photos and handwritten thoughts on setting up various shots, these pages will certainly interest any photographer who does highly technical work other readers will enjoy seeing the unseen.

Robin, Amazon.uk.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harold-Edgerton-Seeing-Unseen/dp/3958293085/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Edgerton+seeing+the+unseen&qid=1568060557&s=gateway&sr=8-1

The following photographs are taken from the website, bookshop.thephotographersgallery.org.uk


13th September 2019

Karl Blossfeldt (Icons)

Edited by Hans-Christian Adam (2001), Karl Blossfeldt (Icons). Taschen

Karl Blossfeldt (1864-1932) was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher, and artist who was trained in the arts at the Academy of Royal Crafts Museum in Berlin, Germany. He is best known for his stark close-up photographs of plants, twigs, seeds, leaves, and other flora. 

I already have some of the Taschen Icons series, so I was more than happy to purchase this book to add to my collection.

It is a lovely pocket sized book, so yet again, I am able to take it out and about with me for company when I have that cheeky coffee break while out sketching or while I am on a photography shoot. There are many photographs in this book and I am finding that the images are not akin to biological study material but, for me, come across very artistic due to the plants composition within the borders. I am also finding looking at plants and seeds this way as quite fascinating, certainly when you isolate the plant/ seed from their background and view them on their own, their outlines and shape become very important to our eye. I am also liking how Blossfeldt captures lines and textures so vividly, with his lighting it is like I can run my fingers on the page and feel, for example, the lines on the leaves.

It shows 200 examples of Blossfeldt’s black and white photographs of flowers and has a biography at the back starting from his birth year through to 1932.


21st September 2019

In Focus – Manuel Alvarez Bravo

PHOTOGRAPHS from THE J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM

General Editor Western Naef (2001), Manuel Alvarez Bravo (In Focus). Getty Publications

I managed to purchase an old library edition from eBay and luckily the condition is very good apart from the usual stamps and additions of codes etc… on the inside cover. Buying such bargains has its good points for me as I am able to buy more books for the price of one this way.

 Mexico’s most famous photographer. In eight decades as a photographer, he interacted with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Sergei Eisentein, Tino Modotti and Octavio Paz, and created works of art that display an array of styles and themes. This volume contains 50 images with extended commentaries on each by Robert Tejada, an independent curator and critic. There is also a transcript of a symposium on Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

Amazon descriptions

Another A5 sized book. This is a tally quite a good learning source. Not just being introduced to some of Bravo’s work but each photograph comes with a description of its content and Bravos intentions with subject matter and composition etc… This enables a student to learn from a good photographer not just by seeing but learning about concepts and story and descriptions which the images hold.

I certainly will read this a couple of times as I always seem to be inspired by other peoples work which not only informs my own practice but helps me to step forward with it on the learning curve.

All 50 images are black and white and there are various themes within the book such as portraits, architecture and the street life of Mexico


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