A Good Morning to you—
Recently a reader named Chris Hunt offered a nice contribution to the library at TOP Underground HQ—a copy of Charles Harbutt: Departures and Arrivals, a retrospective book that came out two years ago. I only have one book of Charles Harbutt's—a signed copy of Travelog from way back—but his work is right down my alley.
Chris was trying to find a good home for the book because, as he explained, "sometimes a given photographer's work just doesn't resonate."
So true. I've always likened it to taste in music, or physical attraction between people, or the "voice" of a favorite poet—there's sort of a rough consensus as to what's good, but it's perfectly normal for individual people not to agree with it, and there's a sort of magic, a mystery, to what really clicks with each of us. So it is with photographers.
It's often actually difficult to isolate exactly what it is about a photographer's work we're responding to. It might be personal associations, interest in some aspect of the subject matter, a technique we love the look of, similarity (or dissimilarity) to our own work, any of a hundred things.
My friend Geoff Wittig has a great passion for pure landscape. It always helps me to meet people who have passions for various kinds of photography different than what I like—it reminds me that there are many rooms in the mansion.
I'm sure I'm going to enjoy Departures and Arrivals—but I can completely understand why it might not resonate for Chris. I get rid of a lot of books too, ones I know I'm not going to get much nourishment from. It's not that there's anything wrong with the work, necessarily. It's just that it doesn't resonate.
Hope you discover something that resonates for you, in your Monday.
"Morning Coffee" is auto-published weekdays at 3:30 a.m. Central Time to be in time for morning coffee breaks in the UK and Europe. It'll also be there for Americans who might get up very early in the morning, say at 4:50 Eastern Time.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
John: "I bought Ray Metzker's Landscapes through TOP almost two years ago after reading about him here. I looked at the photos and skimmed the information, and I decided his style was not for me.
"Recently I came back to the book, looking and reading more deliberately. I now enjoy the photos, the way he approaches tone, composition, and subject matter.
"I also find interesting Metzker's remarks about tone in an exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado's, comparing this printing to how he (Metzker) printed tones for one of his exhibitions. I know some TOP readers were recently asking about books for learning black and white photography. The photos and comments on tone in Metzker's Landscapes are a great B&W education. So, Mike, this is a photo book that now resonates with me."
[A different] John: "Few photographers' work resonates with me like Harbutt's. I attended his show in Tucson, was deeply moved, and have since bought two of his books. Like you say, it's hard to explain what draws one to certain work. But one thing I like about Harbutt is his pictures are those anyone could make. No exotic locations or events required. Mostly just ordinary life, but very well seen and rendered. Plus, he usually includes some insightful writing. I find both inspiring and motivating."