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Saturday, 04 February 2012


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"Although they're different for each of us, I would guess that everybody has those dreaded "photographers you're supposed to like." You know, famous photographers whom everybody admires but who for some reason just don't grab you."

I absolutely do know what you mean Mike, and for me most of them are Magnum photographers. I know, I'm weird. You're probably wondering why I'm hanging around here...

"...for me most of them are Magnum photographers."

My condolences.


I came across this book before Christmas while browsing through a bookstore in Carlton, Melbourne (some still exist). Bought it as a present for myself and have been looking through it intermittently in the evenings since. The photographs stand alone on their own terms - famous and not so famous. This is the most frequently opened book recently despite the following being on the shelf nearby.
Cartier Bresson Photographer, Koudelka Gypsies, McCurry Portraits, Kertesz, Eggleston's Guide, Weston 125 Photographs, Davidson Outside Inside, Hass Color Correction, Adams In The National Parks.
This blog has cost me a small fortune in books, DAC's, music CD's and the odd lens (Olympus MFT 45mm).
Fortunately I had spent all that was necessary on coffee, tea and espresso machines before your foray into these areas.

Yipes. I must say, slagging the whole page-a-day thing might be too strong. I used to quite like having a daily dose of "The Far Side". (Well, no, I don't get any calendars like that anymore, but still.)

"I must say, slagging the whole page-a-day thing might be too strong."

There's nothing wrong with it, of course, when it's appropriate--a cartoon, news, a TV show, or a photography blog. Or when it's volitional by the creator, since anybody can do whatever they want to with their own work. It's not very appropriate for serious work, especially when authors, editors, and publishers are implicitly entrusted with serious work created by others who might have had different and various expectations for how they wanted their work to be respected. I hope I articulated my reservations about it coherently--in this case I don't think it's anywhere close to an ideal way in which to present this work. I didn't judge it any more harshly than that, but well might have.

A parallel might be the various exploitative "Ansel Adams" books that are showing up on bookstore shelves, with mediocre to poor printing and layout. Lord knows how or why--or if-- they're authorized, but they are disrespectful of the work and the artist's intentions for his work.


Here are a few photographers many (most?) people like but I don't:

- ******* *********
- ***** *********
- **** *********

I hope I didn't offend anyone!

PS: None of them are Magnum photographers.

Magnum's archives are so extensive that any book they publish is likely to be worth the price. A few years ago I bought a small oblong hardcover called Magnum Landscapes, and it's a nice small book I can pack in my travel bag and check out when bored in a motel room. Some photobooks are being printed in behemoth sizes these days, and I wish that trend would end, but I don't think it will...

Your phrase presented without story or background sticks in my mind a bit.

On the first hand, if I sang you six notes - even doing a fair impression of a bassoon in the process - you are never going to deduce that these represent the character of a Grandfather[0], let alone the rest of the story, *without prior knowledge*. Art simply does not carry intrinsic specific messages of that kind. And yet some of us are regularly told that "a way to make a photograph good is to have it tell a story". This is one of my inner conflicts.

On the other hand, I recently bought a friend's Blurb photo-book; his work is stuff that's caught his eye, processed with Vignette for Android and similar. During the days, I zone out of most of the individual works being posted; however, having bought the book, the raw feeling behind the collection hit me square behind the eyeballs - had me consciously thinking about progression of photos on opposing pages, etc. So I can deduce *something* from works of art after all.

[0] Prokofiev's _Peter and the Wolf_

Personally, a magnum of my favourite brew would be probably more satisfying.

I tend to prefer minimal commentary, but I ran into the same issue with the otherwise excellent Haas Colour Correction book I got after seeing it reviewed here. Captions at the end of the book? Very annoying. Would a very tiny "New York 1965" etc distracted from the images? I was more distracted by having to turn to the back after looking at each shot.

I came across that book today and had a similar reaction. I would prefer if Magnum would come out with a book of recent work rather than yet another monster anthology from the past.

Actually most photographers (and 99.9999999% of all people) leave me cold.....famous or not.....I don't care about photographers I care about pictures and one good picture can make a book worthwhile for me!

Greetings, Ed

"Pointless. It's just an excuse for publishing a stack of pictures."

I see a lot of books like that in various categories I study... they're just excuses to have a book on that topic on the publisher's list. The most annoying to me are books on submarines... Even today, 90% of the general works follow the pattern laid down in the early 60's. A chapter or two pre WWII with the Hunley prominently featured. Three quarters of the book taken up in varying proportions with the Battle of the Atlantic and the US campaign in the Pacific. Two "golly gee gosh wow Buck Rogers" chapters on nuclear submarines and boomers...

Only 365 pictures? Don't they know this is a leap year?

Seriously though, it looks like the material for a writing exercise where you are supposed to build a narrative around a found image.
For instance the cover image suggests that something disruptive happened in a public place (or at least somewhere with pavement and soft ice cream vendors) that caused someone , perhaps a child, to drop an ice cream cone. And there is that shadow of a nearby 2 or 3 inch diameter pole nearby to the right of and behind the photographer.
Could be the aftermath of a teather ball mishap, but more likely and sadly a traffic accident scene.

It's kind of interesting to remove photos from their context since on their own the meaning is quite different, and as photographers we should be aware of how an image can have meaning that is separate from the meaning of the photographer.

I'd mention the treachery of the image , but you allude to that in the next post.

Can't find the reference, but I believe it was none other than Robert Frank that said something to the effect that words would be the end of photography when it was suggested that captions might have suited The Americans.

This question may be rather too late for comment, but I was wondering about the issue of providing comments on the same page as the photos.

I, too, much prefer to have a comment on the same page as the image, just as I prefer to have footnotes rather than endnotes (and the hassle of flipping between pages). However, in order to reduce printing costs, some publishers preferred to place all the notes at the ends of books. Does the cost issue the photo book publishing world, too, in that some publishers find it less expensive to separate photographs from related comments when doing the page layouts and printing? Or, the decision more often based on aesthetics?

The following link illustrates the difference between a picture good enough to grace the cover of a Magnum book, as opposed to a disposable snapshot by a happy-go-lucky-enthusiast: Ice cream :-)


All tongue-in-cheek, obviously :-)

I hate captions personally - or at least ones that constrict the interpretation of the photograph. A lot of photography is ambiguous, and not necessarily in an intentional way. Quite often a photographer will be attracted to an image without perhaps knowing what is actually going on, and I like it when this ambiguity is passed on to the viewer.

I fell in love with this book at an airport bookstore of all places (SFO has the best bookstores of any airport). This book is pure candy for this photographer. even though I've owned it for over a year, i still flip through it regularly. It hasn't gotten boring yet.

I have this very book - a Christmas, 2010 gift - and I love it!


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