Written and illustrated by Ken Tanaka
I am delighted that Mike highlighted Harry Gruyaert's new set of books, East/West. I was so darn excited when I saw the pre-announcement for this set that I immediately ordered it. Seeing more of Harry Gruyaert's work is always welcome to me and I salute Thames & Hudson for publishing this set. These books present nearly 100 of his images, most for the first time, organized thematically (in Russia "East" and Las Vegas/Los Angeles "West"). If you enjoyed his first book(s) you'll probably like these, too.
Still, I do have two primary issues with this publication. The first is the color. Kodachrome 64 features an abundant blue cast. Skilled color scanners and printers are very careful to retain just enough for that Kodachrome signature but pull it back on many frames where it can easily overwhelm the image palette. There are more than a few images in these books that are overwhelmed with K64-blue!
But that's a nit compared to my issue with the set's format. The books are needlessly narrow, forcing many bad design choices, such as frequent double-trucking and forcing landscape-oriented frames into claustrophobic portions of otherwise blank tall pages. I just do not understand why publishers let designers run amok in such a way. Harry's work would sell plenty of books. It should always be presented in the squarish format of his previous Thames & Hudson volume; that was perfect.
Landscape-oriented images really suffer in East/West
Same image as presented in original Harry Gruyaert book (top) versus East/West.
I do encourage Thames & Hudson to bring us more of Harry Gruyaert’s wonderful work. But please, just give us the images. They need no extreme design.
©2017 by Kenneth Tanaka, all rights reserved
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Rocardo Silva Cordeiro: "Being both a photographer and a graphic designer, I suffer in double when I see bad decisions like that. I also witness similar things happening at the design studio where I work, I have to make sure my colleagues don't indulge in the temptation of over-designing things. I often making the analogy of cooking: if you have an already good source material just let it shine, don't add too much ingredients otherwise it will be a mess. Regarding double paged photographs, I'm okay with it in certain conditions, the images have to be chosen carefully to see if they work and judiciously distributed trough the book. The cut in the image problem can be somewhat attenuated by the impact of seeing it large.
"For me the the magnum opus of bad design and production choices is Gueorgui Pinkhassov's Sightwalk book. From the horrible paper choice, weird rubbery cover to the page binding: a wonderful photography work ruined in a horrible object that wants to be different and flashy just for the sake of it."
Peter Randall: "So pleased you brought up this subject. I was a book publisher for 35 years and designed a number of my own photo books. And I’ve bought hundreds more. I’m always aggrieved by designer who wants to leave evidence they were there. The best design is invisible, allowing the reader to look at photos or read text with out distracting design!"