The people have spoken, and there's no doubt about it: our "Book of the Year" for 2010 is Bruce Davidson's magnificent Outside Inside. Our readers bought more copies of this set this past year than any other title that came out in calendar 2010. It was published by Steidl in April. I wrote about it here.
I hope you were among the many people who took my advice and purchased yours while you could, because, unfortunately, it's already gone. Out of print. Used copies are selling for $450 on Amazon. The publisher lists it as "SOLD OUT." (You can see a few sample spreads and the three individual book covers at the publisher's site, however.)
If you want it but don't own it yet, don't give up hope. Steidl books tend to go in and out of print with little predictability—a wild-hare chase we've followed along with a time or two—and its popular books often receive additional printings. It's quite possible that another run of Outside Inside is coming. In fact, just as a blind guess, I'd peg the chances at better than 50-50. The reason that a book goes out of print in less than a year is because it's popular—people want it. Why wouldn't a publisher do another printing of a book that people want? Although it's possible it's so expensive to produce that it amounted to a loss-leader. It does weigh 22 lbs. in the shipping box. I'm just guessing, though. Maybe it will do nothing but go up in price from here. I don't know.
I find it nearly incredible that two of our three best-selling books of the year—by unit numbers, not with any kind of conditions applied—were expensive multi-volume sets. I have to say that of the two—this and the bargain-priced seven-volume set of August Sander, which is still available—I have enjoyed, and treasure, the Sander set more. I've long held that how you feel about a great photographer's work is essentially a matter of chemistry, similar to, or analogous to, the way some humans beings appeal to us as objects of desire and others don't. Who clicks for whom is different for everybody. And, even though I found a lot to love in these books, I just don't quite click with the way Bruce sees. Even though his work is "my type" so to speak (I've noticed that I tend to respond to reportorial-style 35mm B&W most readily, of all kinds of photography). Not a critical condemnation, certainly—but, just as certainly, something I learned from this set.
A great many people utterly love Bruce Davidson's work, however, and for them, the Steidl set is a stone masterpiece. It presents a huge amount of work (944 pages, 834 tritone plates) in a form that should be a model for photographic book publishers—a simple, elegant, high-quality presentation that makes the work a pleasure to experience. It's difficult to imagine there will ever be a better summation of Bruce Davidson's distinguished and dedicated career.
...Unless (or until) Outside Inside is reprinted, that is!
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ctein: "I bought the Davidson set. One of my very rare expensive book purchases (it's not that I have too many books...I have too many unread books). In fact, the most expensive book purchase I've ever made, not correcting for inflation. Worth every penny. Not only is the art excellent, the books are a serious bargain purely in terms of the number of pages of really high quality photographic reproduction per dollar. And the shipping case was charming (and functional!), I am going to love this book(s) to death, and I am really grateful to TOP for letting me know of its existence; I'd not have learned of it any other way."
Featured Comment by JSL: "I've spent time with both Gerhard Steidl and Bruce Davidson this year—for different reasons—and both say that they hope and expect the book to be reprinted. When it might happen is another question: Steidl's operation is pretty much maxed out: his press (and he only has one) run 24 hours a day, and the company produces close to 300 books a year. That's almost one a day, from one press. So it's really just a matter of finding time on the press for a reprint—which isn't easy."