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Tuesday, 13 September 2011


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I always wanted a copy of _Gypsies_, since I saw one of the photos reproduced in _Bystander_. Imagine my pleasure when I found a discarded copy on the street in Manhattan! The condition was not perfect, but the price was right.


Mike you may need to eat some words, 'Gypsies' by Josef Koudelka is being republished by Thames & Hudson not Steidl.

As mentioned last week, I ordered Koudelka's book along with the new Ernst Hass book. I like the new edition of "Gypsies" a lot -- it's sort of the "director's cut" of the first edition.

As you mentioned Exiles, I was sitting in a university library, and searched the catalog.

Took me two minutes to get it from the shelves, and I read it cover to cover. It's truly an amazing book, still fresh, and formally it's a masterpiece. Koudelka teaches HCB a couple of things about decisive moments...

Now I think I'm going to tell the librarians to put the book in the rare books section...

Mike, is your last name "Sauron"? Nothing seems to escape your gaze, at least in the photo book realm. As with the Kertesz book, you've forced my hand yet again to buy a book that was on my Amazon wishlist before the TOP Effect wipes it off the face of the inventory earth. My wife officially hates you because you don't leave her any gifts to buy me.

The original was a wonderful book. but mine got lost in one of many moves. I'm happy to hear that it is available again, and now even better.
Thanks for the tip.

Steidl...? I read "Aperture" on the Amazon.com and Bookdepository copies, and Thames and Hudson on the Amazon.uk one. am I missing something?

PS: TOP is tops.Yay!

Koudelka is your all-time favorite photographer? I seem to recall you called Erwitt the best living photographer not too long ago... :)

(Me, I love both, but for me the best living photographers are Klavdij Sluban and Paulo Nozolino.)

And, hey, I have "Exiles", bought it when it was new. Glad to see how much it is worth nowadays, but I won't sell it... :)

Agree that Koudelka is a remarkable photographer; his style is unmistakable and continually prompts 'second takes' (and more).

I no longer buy many photo books, but will have to check this one out. Seems that Aperture was wise to use Steidl (despite the potential delay) in lieu of the Hong Kong printer used in the 1975 printing. And the Amazon price is less than $5 more than I paid then. Sweet.

Got my Color Correction two days ago from Amazon.

Could you please say more about how the new edition compares with the original? I too was enthralled by the images, but I recall that the contrast was overbearing (I don't have a copy now to check). Is that one of the ways the new edition is a better one?


Argh. There go more of my ill-gotten gains.

With regard to the "New Gypsies"; these don't seem to be images of gypsies to me, they appear to be photographs of a different nomadic community, "new age travellers", who express a semi-hippy, eco aware, pagan lifestyle.

Thank you for this Mike! Just purchased this (via link on your site) as well as what appears to be the last copy of Color Correction that Amazon USA had in stock.

In my zeal to get the news out about the Koudelka reissue, I forgot to mention there is another very (very) good book just published also entitled Gypsies, by Patrick Cariou. This is different from The New Gypsies, which FWIW, I was not very impressed with. The book by Cariou is also on the traditional Roma people (as is Koudelka"s). http://patrickcariou.com/main_menu.html

I ordered my copy yesterday from Amazon and just received it an hour ago. It is really beautifully done book and definitely worth owning.

I never saw the original, but this edition is beautiful. To my untrained examination, I believe most, if not all, of the images are printed by a gravure process of some sort. The tonality of the images in this book certainly improves over that of the same images in the Delpire Koudelka book. This new edition is truly a treat for the senses, right down to the heavy matte paper it is printed on.
LJ Segil

Dear Mr Johnson,
Are we looking at the same book? You think it an improvement over the original while I consider it a disaster. Yes, there are some good points. Both the velvety inking and paper stock are first class, doing justice to the original prints - plus it smells good when freed from the shrink-wrap.
However, Koudelka, Milan Kopřiva the graphic designer, plus everyone else connected with its production have ignored the fact that a book is a physical object, the reality of which unavoidably present both possibilities and limitations.
The first and minor irritation is the sloppy letter spacing of the dust jacket with the title GYPSIES being split as G Y P S IES. However, what for me destroys the individual pictures, and completely wrecks the whole enterprise, are the interlocking decisions to run the pictures across the double spread of a portrait format book that is nearly thirteen inches (33 cm) tall.
From Gutenberg onwards type has been kept out of the gutter for one simple reason – so that the book can be read without struggle and contortions. Keeping the type block on the flat area of the page means no distortion and no beginnings and ends of lines disappearing down the gap between pages. As David Vestal has been pointing out for years, putting a photograph across the gutter is deeply illogical as it destroys the legibility and integrity of both type and pictures. This, in this case, is then compounded by the zit zit zit of white stitches, plus both the inevitable misalignment between right and left pages and the occasional glue bleed that produces irregular, vertically torn white patches up and down the divide between paired pages. The fold outs also don’t lie flat and will quickly develop further vertical disruption as the fibres flex and the ink breaks up.
Then, making the book as large as it is renders a bad job much, much worse as it is impossible to see the whole of each image without excessive scanning, even for someone like myself with the arms of gorilla. Koudelka’s extraordinary compositional ability is effectively neutered and ignored. An issue you’ve dealt with previously when pointing out that certain (contact) print sizes are ideal in the hand.
The original version, though not as well printed, has a coherence, vigour and sustained visual integrity, which clearly shows Koudelka’s ability to compose within the frame both ricocheting activity and eye to eye portraits - the blink and the stare. Despite superior reproduction, the perverse belief underlying the new version that bigger is better completely dissipates this visual vitality.
The additional images seem to me to be a mixed blessing, with some being a genuinely positive addition while a few others seem mere padding.
Two that definitely add an extra element are the interior shot of a bow topped cart, (P.59 60) with the fond glances exchanged between a young child holding unseen horses reins and the women, probably her mother, haloed beneath the arch of light formed by the curved roof, while in the foreground the likely father and husband looks directly at the camera and viewer from beneath the dark brim of a hat the curve of which echoes the backlighting. This contrasts with (P.66-67), showing the isolated face of a young women peering out of an opening in the back of a similar cart wrapped in plastic fertiliser sacks. Interestingly, both of these have been published previously, also in portrait format, though without being spread across the gutter, thereby necessitating the book be turned. Maybe not an ideal solution, but far better than destroying the picture with the guillotine of the gutter.
A number of years ago, during a conversation with Magnum’s David Hurn about book design and picture sequencing, Hurn, who for several years had provided Josef Koudelka with winter accommodation and darkroom facilities in his London apartment, recounted how he had seen Koudelka produce a number of layouts variations of the ‘Gypsies’ book (which presumably led to the original version). Interestingly, he, Hurn, doubted that any were particularly better than another. In this context I would also be curious to know how much influence the very experienced Robert Delpiere had on the selection, sequencing and page layout of the original. I suspect it was substantial, while considering it is a real shame that an opportunity to produce a better book has been squandered.
With care and attention, photographic book design is not enormously difficult, yet time and again a lack of respect for the image and the constraints of the form end up producing results that affront the viewer and insult the photographer’s work. Perhaps more surprisingly, as in this case, it is not uncommon for the photographer to willingly conspire in the process of degrading the presentation of their own work. I also find, while by no means suggesting it’s foolproof, that books which are small in scale are frequently much better than their larger brethren.
John Garrity

Any idea if these are scaned from the negatives or new prints?
S. Basu

The extensive copyright and acknowledgements page at the rear states:
Photographic prints by Vojin Mitrovic Paris
Scans by Steidl's digital darkroom

I have a practically new copy of Exiles, I didn't know it was so rare!

I agree with you on all counts. I would have gladly paid double the price for a book of proper proportion. I have the original as well. The decision to run the image of the fiddlers (page 6) across two pages with the white binding thread stitched across the bass players face is horrendous. That said I will enjoy the book anyway.

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