Regarding yesterday, Geoff did feel a little sheepish that the Bruce Davidson book, Circus, has gone out of print already. It's partially my fault, because I've had that review in the queue for a month. I blame Steidl, too, whose distribution is starting to seem a little suspicious to me—like somebody somewhere is playing games, or there's a power struggle going on somehow, or—something. Maybe they just have production irregularities or problems with the pipelines. I don't know. But it seems I get jerked around a lot with Steidl titles going in and out, and in and out of print all the time.
Bruce Davidson is a photographer you should know about, if you don't already, unless his social documentary style is just too far from your own visual interests. I can see how that might be. He's on my list of "100 Photographers You Should Know About," though. I think the best place to start is probably England/Scotland 1960. (It's a Steidl book too, so please don't blame me if it goes away tomorrow and then comes back again next week.) Some of Davidson's work is too "project-oriented" for my taste, in the words of one of our readers, like an (over-) extended magazine assignment. And I have to admit that I never clicked with his "big and important" book, East 100th Street. It's always been a bit too blacks-by-a-white-guy to me (see if you can find Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective in your local library for a far more engaging look at black communities and culture in New York City and elsewhere—that one would make my all-time top ten list of favorite photo books). I feel that some percentage of the pictures in East 100th Street have a clinically over-descriptive quality that lend the subjects something of the feel of stuffed fauna in a museum diorama. It's funny (as in funny-peculiar) that would be true, too, because most of Bruce Davidson's 35mm work has the appealing grabshot quality of life caught on the fly, the aesthetic of the "casual-but-intense glance" that I personally like so much.
England/Scotland 1960 is more wide-ranging and lyrical that some of Davidson's more focussed, project-oriented books...which, oddly, makes it more consistent in feel to me. Bear in mind that I have a tendency to like minor masterpieces as well or better than more ambitious and politically relevant ones; I like Cannery Row better than East of Eden and First Love and Sketches from a Hunter's Album better than Fathers and Sons—and Sherwood Anderson better than F. Scott Fitzgerald—and I suspect my affection for England/Scotland 1960 is another, similar case. So beware of that.
But it's a very fine book, easy to like. Given what day it is today, I sure wish it were called "England/Scotland/Ireland 1960." Alas, no Éire. But Happy St. Pat's to all you Irish, and all you honorary Irish.
I also like Bruce Davidson: Portraits a lot. It's out of print too, like nearly everything.