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Thursday, 06 December 2012


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"My only complaint is that the typography is rather charmless..."

It's so rare for reviewers or critics to mention typography. I hope you start a trend. Mind you, if this were an e-book, readers could just change the font at will.

"Mind you, if this were an e-book"



Strange I've never seen what you call "Rebud Trees in Bottomland" called that before. Perhaps I haven't been paying attention. It's my favorite Porter image for many reasons; among them is the fact that it was made in the Red River Gorge in central Kentucky (my home state/commonwealth). Ironically, Porter visited the Gorge around the same time Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Wendell Berry made their somewhat famous trek through the gorge that resulted in the book "Unforseen Wilderness" (UK Press 1971). Those quite different images are of course in black and white, but like Porter's they have suffered from inadequate reproduction as anyone who's had the chance to study the original prints can attest. (As far as I can tell Porter and Meatyard never met.)

"none are defaced by printing them across the gutter"

It's nice that you specify this. Pictures printed over the gutter upset me quite a bit. I hardly understand why some (most?) printers can think it's a good idea.


Electronic delivery has great potential for delivery of reproductions of colour (and even B&W) artworks. I don't know how many times I've been to an exhibition, made the obligatory visit to the bookshop only to put the accompanying catalogue (or other books on the same artist) back on the shelf because the colour reproduction sucks. The differences are stark straight after viewing the artworks on the wall.

Want to see what the future holds? Check out Art Authority on an iPad 3 or 4. Or my humble efforts here (warning 25MB download):


I've just ordered it, thanks. I have Porter's Iceland and The Place No One Knew. Any idea how they rate against the ones mentioned in the post?

I would buy Porter's books regardless of the quality of the reproduction. He stands head and shoulders above most others IMHO.

Looks beautiful. I wonder, if I add it to my Amazon wish list through your link and buy it later do you still get the bonus money [No] or do I have to come back to TOP when I'm ready to buy? [Yes. --Mike]

Will there be an e-book released? That will make it reading easy and practical on iPad.

Thank you Geoff, book order duly placed with Amazon UK.

I'm looking forward to this because seeing a Porter print is a sublime experience. But I haven't seen one since the 1980's, and I was beginning to think it was my memory at fault in being less than inspired with some book reproductions (and editing). So thank you for clearing something up.

I saw the redbuds shot and smelled the Chattahoochee river and heard a redwing blackbird.

Sold. Thanks, Geoff.

Thanks for the link Geoff.

I found Porter's book Appalachian Wilderness in a thrift store when I was 10 back in '87 and was hooked (Ed Abbey's history piece in this book is wonderful too). I went out into the the woods with my camera and spent my teenage years in the Smokys and Shenandoah Valley, carrying a small pocket sized In Wildness in my pack with my Minolta XG-M. My memories are a mix of real images and Porter's photographs - maple leaves, mountain streams, low growing rhododendron, wood ferns, flowering dogwoods...

Urban street photography seems so popular today, but taking a camera into some woods is the stuff to tap into a calmer side of walking with a camera. It's also incredibly difficult to get anything remotely decent - try to capture that wonderful mix of autumn colors that litters a foot path, or that dark pool in the creek underneath the tree roots - all those muted browns and greens...you'll realize that Porter is a giant.

I haven't seen "Redbud Trees in Bottomland" before (at least that I can remember) so I have no basis for comparison. I have seen an exhibit of his original prints and was reminded of a comment that Porter said Ansel Adams made. After viewing a newly hung exhibit of Porter's Ansel told him "You don't get good whites". Based on the exhibit I saw (in the '90s?) I had to agree. That said I like Porter's landscape photographs and I'll have to check out this book.

I found an interesting little book written by Porter titled "Summer Island" at a library used book sale. This book is more text written by Porter than photographs and is probably of interest mostly to someone interested in his life, especially his family and his youth, more so than his photographs since they're a mixture of color and b&w and aren't particularly well produced. But for $1 I thought it was a nice find.

(I submitted a comment to this topic on Thursday which never appeared. If at first you don't succeed...)

First, thank you for your usual excellent book summary, Geoff. Nearly anything published by the Getty or the Met will be worth at least a look owing to the quality of their collections and curatorial staffs.

During the past year or two I've had several opportunities to see quite a few of Porter's prints first-hand, as well as his portfolios. Being ever the color enthusiast I fully expected to enjoy Porter's work. Of course his bird photos are jaw-dropping landmarks in nature photography. But, frankly, his general nature images are as spotty as any rank amateur's work. In fairness, I find nearly all straight landscape and nature photography to be narcotic and dull, with its highest aspiration being "pretty". But I do appreciate any good photography and especially a good print. Many of the Porter prints I saw were simply not good images or good prints. Muddy, over-saturated/mis-saturated, not sharp, often with scenes that have no decisive or cohesive composition.

Presumably this book features little or none of that work. But such an experience certainly reinforces the recent topic, "Never let 'em see your sh*t". It left an indelibly poor impression on me.

I was delighted to see Charlie Cramer ring-in with his comments, since it's his work that I found myself silently (and sometimes not-so-silently) screaming for as I looked at Porter's leavings.

For those interested in getting a bit of an orientation on Eliot Porter's work visit the Amon Carter Museum's site. The Fort Wort, TX museum holds Porter's archive and has a nice overview of much of the best of his works and writings.

great comment! A bad print is a bad print, regardless of the source.

Eliot Porter's best work, or at least the part that sings for me, involves photographs like Redbud in Bottomland- rather chaotic compositions that nonetheless hit the spot aesthetically and put me in the middle of the woods. I like Robert Glenn Ketchum's work, especially his Hudson River book, for the same reason. But it's very much an acquired taste. Different strokes and all.

What I like about this version of Redbund is that it does not have "full" range. Sometimes that is exactly what the light is like. There is a type of beauty that is subdued, muted and understated to a degree that we often do not appreciate. But it is beauty when we stop and just absorb.

I worked in dye transfer for many years and Porter's color work was never taken too seriously for its technique among my peers. I heard rumors of assembly-line methods and Mr. Cramer's revelation that he left out a critical element in the process explains a lot.

One of my mentors, Bob Pace, told about a phone call he made to Dr. Porter back in the 1960's. He complimented him on his fine eye and then begged Porter to give him his work in order to print it properly.

I believe the call ended rather abruptly.

I remember Bob Pace.


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