This is an unusual bookmaking idea, although it might not appeal to everyone. Interspersed through LIFE: The Classic Collection (U.K. link) are pages that have tipped-in versions of 25 of these undoubtedly classic pictures. The tipped-in (i.e., loose) reproductions are held in place by four slit "corners" cut into the pages and protected by a tissue interleaving sheet; behind each one, the same picture is reproduced again, so that if you remove the "suitable for framing" one, your book will still be viewable with nothing missing.
As advertised, the collection does contain many of the truly great and famous shots from the magazine's long and storied history, presented as art, with generous margins and fine reproduction quality—much like a well-restored classic movie or a remastered classic record. If you've been looking at photographs for a while, there aren't likely to be too many surprises here, but most of the great hits are present and accounted for, and it's nice to have them all in one place, burnished and gleaming.
A common fate of great literature from the past is that everybody's heard of it but few people have actually read it. (Anybody read The Anatomy of Melancholy or Gargantua and Pantagruel recently?) If the same is true of anything in photography, it's probably true of the pictures from Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz's seminal and hugely influential journal of pictorialism.
Now you can own an extensive selection of the contents of Camera Work in this Taschen "brick," a small (less than 6x8") but very thick book (U.K. link). (It's this week's "Recommended by M.J.") The reproductions won't fool you into believing you're looking at originals, but they're really quite good considering that this is 552 pages and nearly three pounds of pictures! Considering the sheer number of excellent reproductions, this book is so cheap they might as well be giving it away—you could pass them out as party favors. (I'd like to go to a party like that, now that I've mentioned it.) The best collection ever offered at anywhere near this price, this is a good addition for a basic library of photo history.
And if you're fascinated by pictorialism and don't know much about it, TruthBeauty [sic]: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845–1945, (Canadian link—not available in the U.K.), the catalog of an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, is an excellent place to start. The selection of illustrations isn't copious, but it does strike me as astutely judged and tastefully chosen. The pictures are generously sized and good to look at. Plus, this book offers a perspective that we find in precious few photography books of its type, in that it includes essays and pictures from "the Czech lands," Japan, and Australia as well as America and Western Europe, so it does more than just imply international scope. Published by Canada's Douglas & McIntyre, it includes essays by Alison Nordström, J. Luca Ackerman, Ryuichi Kaneko, Gael Newton, and David Wooters. A fine and attractive new book. I would have liked to have seen the show.
Featured Comment by Ian: "The Vancouver Art Gallery did a great job with this show! It presented some wonderful examples of pictorialism. I was struck by the beauty of this genre.
"What I found very fascinating was how the Gallery showed different samples of the same image and how the photographer would print in different ways to evoke different emotions. The printing process was quite elaborate, so I can imagine the many hours spent in the darkroom.
"I highly recommend this book if you are interested in both the history and perhaps exploring pictorialism in your own work."