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Monday, 04 April 2011


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I like the sample Lewis Baltz image you show. Please tell me which volume it is from. I can't justify buying the entire set but I believe they are also available as stand alone books, so I might get that one.

Six hundred dollars? Sheesh. Way outta my league.

Too bad my copy of Park City isn't in better shape, it might be worth something too.

Price goes up; supply dwindles. People read your posts, silly. Should have posted after you called.

I'm sure you've worked out that 10 books at $600 is less per book than 1 at $100.

Yeah, well, yes...and no. In a sense they're separate books, in another sense it's one book in more easily handled pieces.

I would consider it if Baltz were an important artist to me--meaning someone central to MY interest and my enthusiasm for photography. He happens not to be. That's not a value judgment on him, it's a statement of who I am and what I care about. If he were one of the core artists for me, then I'd consider it.

Also, $100 is my effective *MAX*, not my norm. Apart from the very occasional exception. I still will think long and hard before springing for a $100 book.


I like Lewis Baltz as much as the next guy / gal, but is he worth the $600 Treatment (and about 1/4 of a book shelf to himself)? Not even close for me, sorry.

BTW - not to take much away from the NY Time's hagiography of Gerhard Steidl, but maybe this is the "dark" side of one person having so much power: He becomes a principal arbiter-adjudicator of which Artist / Photographer (I believe Baltz prefers Artist) is worth the $600 multi-tome worship. And though his taste is often on-the-mark (read: similar to mine), it misses quite frequently as well (your example of the snapshots of Robert Frank's father is a good one).

A much more tempting offering is the forthcoming 2-volume Robert Adams retrospective from Yale Press:


My only concern is whether this set would be redundant, given the 5 or 6 Adams books I already have.

@ Michael W:

The photo is "Costa Mesa 1969" and it appears in the volume titled The Prototype Works. A version of this book is (was) available separately (although the version in this set includes additional images), but it is unfortunately no longer in print and has become a collectible, which means its price now ranges from 25 to 50% of the cost of this complete set.

This is also true for several of the other books included in this set, which is why I swallowed hard and decided to buy it despite its considerable cost.

Unfortunately, I came late to Baltz -- it wasn't until a year ago last March that I learned of him and his work (or the entire New Topographics genre, but that's another matter) -- so the ability to buy a fairly complete collection of his work, printed very well by Steidl, was simply too attractive for me to pass by.

That said, when I bought this collection last week, the price was "only" $449 and to be honest, I'm not sure I would have paid $600 for it. In fact, now that I think about it, I can't recall ever having paid this much for any piece of art I have (unless you count the $800 I loan I made to an artist friend back in the early '80s, which he repaid by giving me a gorgeous 4'x6' photorealistic painting of a clown fish), but in this instance, the book was to be my annual birthday present to myself and Hey, I'm worth it, so why not? :-)

That is a book I would purchase if I had $600 to toss at a book.

I viewed the Lewis Baltz show at The Art Institute of Chicago six or seven times. I remember talking to a friend here in Chicago, who I only know through photography, and he asked how many times I saw the HCB show? I replied, once and I (gasp) enjoyed the Lewis Baltz work much more.

I saw Baltz' "Prototypes" show at the National Gallery of Art last Friday. For good or evil, small prints of minimalist art (badly lit) don't really hold up against the Monets and Leonardo da Vincis seen around the corner. Perhaps his work (which I don't dislike) is seen better in these books.

Here in Chicago (at the Art Institute of Chicago) we've recently had a "Baltz" year, thanks to an excellent show that Matthew Witkovsky curated for us last year. Amazing as it might seem, it was the first U.S. exhibition of Baltz's work for nearly 30 years.

Lewis Baltz's images are certainly not everyone's sweethearts. I was among those who thought little of the work...until I saw his actual prints and learned more of his process and intentions from those who know him (actually, "knew" him from his days using a camera which he no longer does). The degree of obsessive/compulsive craftsmanship he devoted to each print was remarkable. For example, he scribed a very think black ink border around the edges of many of his original prints. The purpose was to set them off as individual objects...floating on the objects of their mounts...which float in the frames..which float on the wall. It's an esoteric effect that you have to see the print to fully imagine.

Our Baltz show has recently been installed at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.. Do try to see it if you're anywhere near the place.

Yes, $600 seems like quite an investment for Baltz. Only the most devoted follower would not find such a large collection of this type of work monotonous. But a good sampling would be a good addition to your library.

May I suggest the catalog from the "Prototypes" show? Printed by Steidl it's an exquisite presentation of Baltz's frank simplicity, crafted with much the same obsession for quality as Baltz's original prints. And much less costly than the super set, too! It looks like the first edition of Prototypes from our show has sold out and that a 2nd edition is in the works (probably available at the National Gallery now). It's definitely worth pursuing if you're an enthusiastic book collector and/or a fan of Baltz's work.

There is something"Baltzish" about Jeffrey Goggin's work (a commenter on this post). I mean that in the most complimentary sense.

That correction is interesting in large part for its value as confirmation that most of us, including seasoned photography writers with years of experience with Leica and Olympus gear, can't reliably tell the difference between photos taken with the two.

Not really a surprise, but it does go nicely with your excellent "metaphysical doubt" essay.

"impecunious"...wow, had to look that one up. Your site could just as well be called TOV--The Online Vocabulator.

FYI, late last year Jeff Ladd of the esteemed 5B4 photo-book website called 'Works' the best photo book of 2010:


If you are indifferent to the photographic style of Lewis Baltz, John Gossage and Robert Adams (who are often grouped together), seeing collected works like this one might just change your mind.

It should also be pointed out that Baltz's 'Works' was limited to just 1,100 copies which were numbered and signed by the photographer. Given his reputation as well as the quality of the works of individual books from this set which were previously published (and well reviewed), I think that 'Works' ought to be a good investment as well as a good book by itself.

I pre-ordered the Baltz books from Amazon in August about a week before the set was released by the publisher and thought I would get it for a typical Amazon discount. My pre-order was never fullfilled. I called their customer service to see if they could send me one now that they have them in stock. They are now refusing to honor the pre-order price. The first customer service person said they don't have to honor the price because the list price had changed (this is not true). The "manager" said they cancel pre-orders after an underdetermined amount of time for the convenience of customers but it has nothing to do with the current price difference although she also refused to honor the pre-order price due to "company policy." The circumstances in which Amazon does not have to honor a pre-order are apparently not published the web as neither of us were able to find it after a 10 minute search. I would like to own this book, but can't bear to pay Amazon full price at this point.

On remainders
In his autobiography Wright Morris talks about finding a stack of first editions of The Inhabitants on a remainder table for $0.79 each.
Mine was a little more. Lead with your eye and heart and if all else fails you can always use the thin ones to prop up a wobbly table.

"There is something"Baltzish" about Jeffrey Goggin's work (a commenter on this post). I mean that in the most complimentary sense."
Posted by: Rob Atkins

Ha! True indeed, Bob! In fact I posted just such an observation today on Jeffrey's blog!

@ Rob Atkins:

And I'll take it as a compliment ... thanks!

I suspect the similarity of my work to Baltz, both in style as well as subject -- Yes, I've noticed it as well -- accounts for much of my outsized enthusiasm and explains why I was willing to pay a price well beyond my usual $75ish limit for this particular collection whereas others may not be.

@ Ken Tanaka:

Your comment about Baltz's use of a thin black border to outline his prints caught my notice. I don't recall that he did this with the prints I saw at the New Topographics show at the CCP in Tucson last May, but I started doing this myself way back in 1997, when I first started printing digitally. I'd like to think this is because great minds think alike, but maybe it's because fools rarely differ?

@ Ben Crane:

I'm sorry to hear of your recent experience with Amazon. Truth be told, I wasn't even looking for this book on the visit when I bought it (I was there to pre-order the Lee Friedlander book that was featured last week), but when their software version of Carnac the Magnificent recommended it as another book I might like (how did it know?) and I then saw it was discounted 25% to boot, I decided this was an omen and One-Clicked my way to happiness.

Per Ken's comment above, I went digging and sho'nuff, I found a link to the Baltz exhibition catalog (just $55 plus shipping!) at the National Gallery's online giftshop:


Out of curiosity, I ordered a copy -- in for a penny, in for a pound, eh? -- and it wasn't rejected, so it appears they may actually have them in stock.

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