So, before we start, care to guess what this is? Take a sec. Bet you can't....
Click past the break to see more.
(Camera provided for scale, as usual.)
This is beyond a doubt the most lavish Bruce Davidson monograph that ever has been made and that ever will be made. It comes to me (and hence to you), compliments of a generous donation to the "tip jar" from longtime loyal TOP reader Bryce Lee. (All together now: Thanks, Bryce!) And I got it because Ken Tanaka told me about it in Chicago. (Thanks to Ken, too.)
Although notionally "expensive"—here's the U.S. link and here's the U.K. one—it's also just incredibly inexpensive. It's more than I'd normally spend on "a" book, but it costs far less than you would imagine for a set this sumptuous—three volumes, a stout, beautifully made slipcase embossed with the title, 944 pages of high-quality paper, and 800 very good, generously sized reproductions. (Not to mention all that packaging, which gave me the idea of making a modest contribution to the curious new "unboxing" genre.) I can't see how they can produce this for $146, much less sell it for that.
As you might know, Steidl is a volatile publisher. Predicting future availability from them is like predicting earthquakes. I've been wrong before. Nevertheless, I think it's fair to say that if you have any special affection for the work of Bruce Davidson, you had better nab this set while you can. I can't say I'm predicting the future. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
ADDENDUM from Ken T.: I am delighted that you were able to get this, Mike, and that you find it as wonderful as I did. I'm saving mine for a cold, wet, gray autumn afternoon when I can dive right in and not come up for air for hours. (Although, yes, I've peeked already. It's really a luscious publication.)
I am also so happy for Bruce Davidson being able to produce this wonderful distillation of his life's work. He's really my kind of guy, having met him briefly a few years ago. He walks softly but carries a sharp lens.
(Hey, I also smiled to see a Canonet on the shelf! One of my summer projects has been to rehab one, installing new light seals and cleaning / adjusting the rangefinder. I'm not really a hobby-horse but it seemed like, and was, fun. Running the first roll through it now.)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Craig C.: "Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have been struck that in the past two days there have been two references on TOP to the Canon Canonet (by Ctein and Ken T.) as well as a photograph of one sitting on Mike's new bookshelf. The Canonet that sits on the shelf of my own photography library caught the eye of my eight-year-old son only yesterday, and he has been walking around the house snapping that quiet shutter ever since.
"I purchased my Canonet on Ebay a few years back for about $60. I had long wanted to experience photographing with a rangefinder and had read a review that lauded the Canonet as an inexpensive but high quality way to do so. I was not disappointed.
"The lens was indeed sharp (and fast), and I found the shutter quieter and the body more comfortable to hold than the Leica M6 that was then current (and which, for the record, I had only held for about a minute in a local camera shop). I got some really fine photographs with that little camera, and just had fun using it, until the shutter began to stick and I found myself wasting more and more frames of film.
"Not being a tinkerer like Ken and Ctein, and not being willing to shell out more than the purchase price to have the shutter repaired, I placed the Canonet on a shelf and soon made my transition to digital. But I could not bring myself to part with the camera. It serves as a reminder that photography can be enjoyed simply and quietly and without much kit. And frankly, I just like to pick it up now and again, enjoy the way it sits in my hand, and remember a different way of making pictures.
"How different? Well, when my son picked it up he asked if it used electricity and was shocked when I told him that no picture showed up anywhere on the camera after the shutter was released. But rather than being scared off by this dinosaur of technology, he just looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said that it would be cool if we could put some film in it so he could take some pictures. That's my boy!"
Featured Comment by James McDermott: "Mike, When we donate, it's for you to buy value-brand baked beans, single-ply toilet tissue and the occasional tube of mosquito ointment (ahhh, Wisconsin)—not to fill spaces in your book press. It'll be bed linen next."
Featured Comment by Boglev: "I bought this monograph from Amazon almost a month ago. Beautiful, beautiful pictures in it. And, it is a must for whoever appreciates an exceptional photograph, and there are three books packed with them in the collection."
Featured Comment by Matt Weber: "Hi Mike, I lived right down the block from Bruce for 28 years and met him a few times. The thing that impressed me the most is that at his age, he still starts almost every day at 5 a.m. in his darkroom. He is obviously a very accomplished printer and still does all of the archival printing for galleries himself! He is a soft spoken man and deserves this treatment of his life's work...I wish I could afford to buy this set of books."
Featured Comment by Ari: "Mike, are you able to compare the printing and reproduction between individual pictures in this set against the same picture in older publications? I ask, because I noticed significant differences in the way the photos looked in the (relatively) recent reissue of East 100th Street vs. the first edition. I had the opportunity a few years back to attend a lecture and book signing with Davidson at the ICP in New York City. I asked him about it while he was signing my copies of both the old and new editions. He told me that he'd reprinted all the images for the new book, and his style had changed to a more 'open' look. (He flipped through the two editions and pointed out a couple of the more obvious examples.) So a different look to new publications of older work is not always due to reproduction fidelity or printing technology."