Before I get started, thank you to all of you who helped make the first day of our print sale yesterday such a soaring success. People just love those pictures and those prints is all I can say. We had a very good first day.
And get this. Without revealing details, Peter found himself on the receiving end of a bit of blowback from within the art world for selling his prints just too low. As one dealer lambasted me once, "the idea is to make art more exclusive [i.e., keep prices as high as possible], not more democratic!" Be that as it may, there's still plenty of time to get yours. I can tell ya, you'll appreciate a print you like for a lot longer than you'll keep your current camera or shoot with whatever lens you're currently jonesing for. But enough of my harangue—on to the news:
...Bad news first:
Remember that small cache of gorgeous photobook remainders from the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s I told you about, discovered in the storage rooms of a major Midwestern art museum? Well, they're here—the samples I mean—and all of them are good, and five of them are great, and two or three of them are superb. And—still in the good news column—the cache isn't so small, turns out. There is a decent supply of the most desirable of the books; there should be enough for everyone who wants one, at least if you claim yours in the first few days. And it will be very cheap for what you'll get, if all goes well.
But the bad news is that institutions move slo-o-o-o-wly—more slowly than I could have conceived—and the museum folks won't be ready to field orders until, I was told, March at the earliest. I was thinking we should have popped the cork on this project very soon—say, last Friday. In that timeframe somewhere. But then I'm a ninja and move with the stealth of a bat and the swiftness of a striking snake. (And I don't carry me no load. Heck, a blogger will pick up and move like a M*A*S*H unit bugging out. California threatened to tax Amazon affiliates and Ken Rockwell jumped clear across the country before you could say "support my growing family," and was I not hunkered in Wisc. just a few short months ago—?)
Ahem. Anyway, it's on the back burner now. We're a-takin' the long view. I just hope the museum doesn't change its mind 'twixt then and now, because if you get the chance to get your hands on 'em you are going to love these books, believe me.
And now the good news
...Which is that my luck regarding book purchases has changed recently. I sometimes order promising books and just...well, don't like them. For example. I bought Charles Harbutt's last book, called Departures and Arrivals. Charlie Harbutt died last June, and I'm a big fan of his work in general (I have a signed original copy of Travelog that is one of my treasures), but...I just didn't like Departures and Arrivals. I thought whoever made the selection was trying too hard by half to pick the frames he'd shot that were as loose and enigmatic as possible, the better (perhaps, I don't know) to establish him as art-gallery-worthy. The results is a book and a view of CH that's gassy and soft, lacking his usual sardonic edge and his "enhanced reality" darkness, and one I couldn't in good conscience commend to your attention. YMMV.
Then I received Alec Soth's Songbook. Didn't like that one either, sorry to say, much as I like and approve of Soth and Co. and its various projects and peregrinations. It just had no center, and the worst pictures have that fey, arm's-length arty hothouse quality that I hate, with that attitude toward subject matter like a monocled countess holding a dead rat by the tail. (Disclaimer: the foregoing sentence does not consist of approved art-critical terms, and if your name starts with Ale- and ends with -oth please ignore me.) Can't commend that one either. Won't go on my shelves next to Niagara, Sleeping by the Mississippi, and Dog Days Bogota. Seems like a touch of by-rote might be creeping into the churn as the Soth books tumble forth in their plenitude.
But my luck has changed. I received Harry Gruyaert, which Ken raved about in these pages a while back (the impression it made on Ken was like the effect Miles Davis's Kind of Blue had on jazz fans when it was new...there was one fan who loved Side One so much he was afraid for months to flip the record and listen to Side Two). I, too, love love love Harry Gruyaert (not the guy—I don't know the guy. The book. Didn't I just link that twice? I did). One of the best photo books I've accessioned in the last couple of years.
He might be a "photographer's photographer." Some of the pictures don't seem to be about much. If you "read" them in a normal way, you think, that's just a woman walking past some discarded flowers. But as page after page goes by you realize what he's really after is the feel of places and moments limned and delineated by color, and that the use of color in every picture is what he's really after and what makes each picture sing. "Town of Liège" above is really une étude en vert. The moment you realize that is when the book comes into bloom, and you "get it."
...And you should get it. (Didn't I link it twice?) Strong buy rec on that one. Especially if you shoot in color, and care about color, and respond to color, and want to learn to use color better yourself.
Book of the Year 2015
And in further news, I've found TOP's Book of the Year for 2015. No, it's not Harry, although it could be, and it's not friend Peter, although it could be. It's a black-and-white photographer, a major black-and-white photographer, who I had never heard of. Seriously. (There are not a lot of major black-and-white photographers I've never heard of.) I'll write about that one as soon as I can get the writing done. It's my favorite photobook since the miraculous Here Far Away, Pentti Sammallahti's 2012 masterpiece.
In the meanwhile, buy a print! Seriously, whatcha waiting for? Time's a-wastin', and TOP can't roll out the red carpet like this every day*.
*Speaking of days, did I miss Cyber Monday? I did, didn't I. I am completely hopeless.
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Rich: "Mike—I need to thank you for your book recommendations. Over the years I've compiled a nice collection, and the ones I haven't been crazy about I've sold at a profit. In many case one or two hundred dollars profit ! Unbelievable...and proof to my wife I don't just lose money reselling depreciated cameras."
John Krill: "I have a real problem with your blog. It's costing me big bucks. I just ordered the Harry Gruyaert book. From the picture you have posted and the photo on the front cover of the book it looks like my money is well spent."