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Saturday, 21 August 2010


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On the topic of little books, I recently stumbled across Little People in the City, by http://www.slinkachu.com/>Slinkachu. It's one of the most endearing books I've ever come across, photographic or otherwise.

From the new Art Institute of Chicago's Member Magazine ---
Lectures: Magnum Photographer Josef Koudelka in Conversation - Friday, October 1 at 6:00. (in Fullerton Hall) This is just a couple days before the H C-B show closes.

BTW, Don't miss the "Looking after Louis Sullivan" architectural photographs in the lower level through Dec 12.

I for one like little and cheap, and so does my wife who says I have far too many books. Strike cheap, inexpensive lets me see far more works, and little means I can sneak it in the book shelves. Because of your blog my book count has gone up .. a lot .. that's good.. I think?

Koudeldka's Chaos is a truly great book, but gigantic pockets, both literally and figuratively, are needed for that one.

One of my favorite books is quite small: John Yang's Over the Door: The Ornamental Stonework of New York. Published in 1995 by Princeton Architectural Press, its small hardcover format gives the book a very intimate feel, and Yang's photography is exemplary.

I'm pleased to know that a slice of my amazon purchases go to you, Mike.

I love my books, but they're expensive and many go out of print before I even find out about their existance. Sometimes I've even given mine away to discover when trying to replace them that I can't afford them even used (Two-Hearted Oak, hardcover Weston's Daybooks, Time in New England, and many others).
Somebody should be making a basic series of DVDs about great photographers (not just Adams, Weston, HC-B, and Strand, etc).

I like little hardbound books too (probably part of the reason why I'm addicted to Moleskines) though I don't know that I'd seek out photography books in that mode. I'm a bit too visual; I like the large images of coffee table books.

The small hardbounds seem more amenable to things like etchings and hand-stamped drawings... though one of the oddities I possess and am rather fond of is a sort of postcard book of wooden Russian buildings, dating from (I'd guess) the '70s. It has a strange charm to it that it would lack as a large-format book.


Have you resolved the issue with Amazon where immediate purchases were credited to you whereas items held in our carts for a later purchase were not credited to your account?

Koudelka is one of the greatest photographers alive. There was a superb 2007 Aperture survey of Koudelka featuring a selection from his main bodies of work. It is out of print and a bit expensive, however, Thames and Hudson has issued their own edition of the same book for the non-US markets. It is not considered to be a first edition, so it is less expensive, and may even be still in print. The cover is different, but I believe the contents of both books to be the same. The more recent work of Koudelka has been exclusively in the panoramic format. A reprint of his book Chaos is readily available.

Like you, Mike, I have a fondness for little books that can fit in the pocket of a jacket or back-pack.

I've gone through different periods in putting together my library of photographic books: first was the period of impoverished enthusiasm when I would snap up anything on the remaindered table or used book store shelf that had photographs in it and a price not exceeding about $4.00. (Yes, that was quite a while ago.) Little books were a godsend at that point.

Then I settled down and, having switched from acting to building stringed instruments for a living, I had a small but sort-of reliable income. Cathryn and I visited the public library 2 or 3 times a week and formulated the principle that if we borrowed the same book more than six times we should start saving money to buy our own copy.

Some years later I changed careers and got a "real" job and entered my middle age and the middle class ... and our bookshelves bulged and multiplied accordingly. I eventually realised that there was no more space in our house for shelves and I had reached the point of having more money to buy books than I had time to read them.

So as I approach retirement book purchases have become a matter of careful consideration again: every time a new volume comes in the door some other book is headed to the used book store or charity sale. I'm learning what is precious.

Yes, those three volumes of Bruce Davidson's work are enticing, and I'm going to give them some serious thought. But the little pocket collections of Atget and Adams, Bullock and Brandt and all the rest have nothing to worry about -- their place is secure.

I have the opposite bias -- I hesitate to buy larger format books, as my photo book shelves are literally overflowing! (I'm definitely going to follow your lead, Mike, in the custom shelving department.) One of my favorites is also one of the smallest in my collection: Pentti Sammallahti's "Archipelago".

As a working photographer I often find myself financially embarrassed but in need of a book fix and for these moments I have found the excellent Icons series of books by Taschen and the 55 series by Phaidon as an brilliant fix. They enable to to sample work by photographers at a reasonable price. As a bonus they are pocketable and are therefore perfect for those public transport moments.

One of THE most incredible (small) books of B&W photography I've ever purchased is called Wonderland by Jason Eskanazi.


Koudelka is awesome. Chaos is my favorite, to date.

The Koudelka "photofile" book you mention is excellent. A perfect introduction as you say.

The whole collection, which I believe is the English version of the original French "Photopoche", is great. Over a hundred names. I have a few of them and like them a lot.


One can almost judge the age of my photography books by the space between the shelves. Some of my favorite books - most now out of print - require very little storage space, while the more modern ones often require flexible shelving to accommodate far greater dimensions and weight.

In general, there is an inverse relationship between the size (and age) of these books and my enjoyment level, and unfortunately to the cost as well (at today's prices).

Photography and art books seem not much different than many other consumables. Producers often seem to think that if something is small and good, then bigger must be better (electronics excepted). Car models, houses, burgers, photographs, etc., seem to get bigger every year. Recent economic and environmental concerns may have caused a shift in some of these trends, and one can only hope that a similar reversal will eventually apply to both photography books and prints. I for one would embrace the change.

The size of photo books is certainly non-trivial, but even more important to me (I doubt I'm alone) is reproduction quality. I'd rather view small, high-lpi reproductions than large, low-lpi ones. I think everyone who discusses and recommends photo books should buy a halftone screen determiner (Google it; $5-10) and include the lpi in their review. Maybe I'm a fetishist, but I rarely find photo books printed at 133 lpi or lower entirely satisfying. For b&w, it also really should be duotone.

amazon says there is only 1 left in stock. if that's true i just bought it.

more in stock soon, though, says amazon.

can't wait to see what is in store for me.

Is the "not liking little books" a symptom of the twin facts that you have a lot of US readers, and the well-known love of Americans for large things (such as cars)? This isn't meant in any way to be derogatory, I genuinely think there's a US cultural preference for things to be impressively sized. Anyway, while I was in California once, I remember being very struck by wandering around a large bookstore, and noticing that all of the books were large - even paperbacks were both outsize and thick. (Personally I love compact hardbacks, I have a treasured copy of Middlemarch which is truly pocketable, perhaps 5x4" and maybe an inch and a half thick.)

But now I think about this more, surely I'm wrong - I can't remember ever paying attention to the size of a book purchased online!

I recently purchased Philip Toledano's Days with My Father. Mike, you'll recall highlighting the work for some Random Excellence last year.

It's only 8x6 but it's a perfect size. The work is so intimate, holding the little book close only makes it more so. It's really well made and an absolute steal.

Koudelka has been very well supported by the Aperture Foundation over the years. The collection, "Koudelka" just went out of print, has a large fraction of the prints from Gypsies and Exiles, and may be reasonably available. Does the Aperture connection mean that his work is off-limits to the Steidl juggernaut?


I was reading this book at my local library while my son was reading Beatrix Potter´s "Peter Rabbit". I went specially to the library on Friday after reading Voja´s story, I had read and borrowed the book before, but knowing that Voja printed Koudelka´s work I was convinced I would probably look at the images in a different way.

I am very happy to see that your links are helping to fund your consistently outstanding site. Count me in the group that is very happy to support you through them.

Small well made books are a delight and when I started bookbinding with the (free) tuition of a master bookbinder several years ago, with the aim of turning it into a home business, he started me on some repairs of a variety of small volumes, some from the late 19th Century which now stand proudly and handsomely in my only glass doored bookcase. When I progressed to making bespoke wedding albums, I would often advise a reduction of size to clients initial desire for some imposing A3 tome, partly for practical handling considerations (and large books attract damage more frequently) and because I felt a smaller size added an intimacy to the viewing experience.
Incidentally, here in the UK nice quality small books seemed to have a revival, that has thankfully lasted, from around 1995 with the publication of Dava Sobel's 'Longitude', (Fourth Estate), but I'm no bibliographic historian. And finally, my thumbs up for Phaidon's '55' series on photography, measuring 6 1/8th by 5 3/8th. (I don't know if they are currently available, however). Thanks Mike.

I found my copy of _Gypsies_ on Prince St., in NYC. I mean, literally on Prince St. Someone had thrown it out. Softcover, and the cover was slightly damaged, but really, who cares?

Considering that the softcover of "Gypsies" now goes for $130 and up, I'd care!

"Gypsies"--I also have the paperback--was a gift from my photo students, class of '89. A fine gift it was, and still is.


My favorite little photography book is Robert Adams's "Why People Photograph." Not the same kind of book I know, but it is little, and it is a photography book...

I was lucky enough to be in Gothenburg this spring when the Hasselblad Center was having its 30 Years of Hasselblad Awards exhibition (real name may be different, but you get the picture) and among the many great photos on display I returned several times to the Koudelka prints. There were some huge prints on display there but the Koudelka photos were probably about 8x12", which just seemed right. They were still powerful and I think they looked gorgeous (perhaps they were printed by Mitrovic? I'm a rank amateur, maybe those weren't great prints but they looked great to me).

My little book recommendation (available via Mike's Amazon links of course), a real gem.
The Early Years / Andre Kertesz

Mike, I wasn't going to name names, but given your response to Cecelia regarding perceived lack of size inflation, my books by the following photographers offer a somewhat contrary view: Brassai, Levitt, Strand, Kertesz, Krull, Evans, Frank, Winogrand, DeCarava, Funke, and many others.

Some caveats, however. Many of these pre-date the 60's. Many are small (one might say 'normal' size), but not tiny. Not all of my books by these photographers are small, but none are very large by today's standards.

There are of course exceptions (Cartier Bresson's 'Decisive Moment' or 'The Europeans' are rather tall). I guess I just don't see as many small books by 'important' photographers in this day and age as I did in the past; and I don't see many 'huge' from earlier times compared to what I find for current purchase. I also don't personally own very many old books that I can't put in my smaller bookcases. If I need to store a book horizontally due to size, chances are it's relatively recent. As they say, your mileage may vary.

It's too bad the little Fototorst book of Koudelka is out of print (as far as I can tell). While I'm sure the content is largely the same as in the Photofile edition, and the height is about equal, the Fototorst is square, so no book-rotating necessary. Unfortunately it looks to have gone out of print. I'm glad I grabbed one a few years ago--it's a great selection. It's gotten a little worn in the corners from being carried out and lent around--one advantage (or disadvantage) of smaller books.

I own a copy of Photofile's Saul Leiter, and I am very happy with the quality of the materials and printing, as well as the portability.

Speaking of books, I finally received the copy of Leiter's Early Color that I ordered over a month ago (yes, I finally took one out of circulation for you, Mike) and was surprised how small it is (about 8 inches square). A jewel of a book.

re the Koudelka Thames & Hudson book, check it over soon as you buy it as you may have to return it, mine was printed at an angle so parts of the pictures were cut off. Amazon aren't the fastest with returns, but I agree with Mike that the book's contents are very good.

For photo books that are just showing off the photos, I like 'em big, to be able to give complex pictures the space they need. But for more textual books, I definitely want them to be easy to hold and fit in a backpack.

Another vote for the Photofile Koudelka and Leiter books, truly excellent little works. I also own a number of the Phaidon 55s (through which I first discovered the incomparable Gene Smith), and went through a phase of buying one a month from the local bookstore in lieu of another pointless photo magazine. The accompanying essays in each can vary in readability but some of them are an excellent bonus. The Van Der Elsken, Evans, Sudek and Moriyama tomes are all worth collecting if you own none of their other work; most of them appear to still be available (from Amazon UK anyway).

HCB and Josef Koudelka are the best $9 I have ever spent on books, the HCB insightful and different from all the other books and the Josef Koudelka beautiful reproduction.


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