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Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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...and Ken Rockwell jumped clear across the country before you could say "support my growing family,"

BWAH-HAH-HAH! That'd totally be my new sig file, if those were still a thing.

California threatened to tax Amazon affiliates and Ken Rockwell jumped clear across the country before you could say "support my growing family,"

Ha! Great tax dodge. Based on the images on his web site he never moved from CA.

"...fey, arm's-length arty hothouse quality..."

Don't sugar-coat, say what you mean. :)

Mike, you have cost me a lot of money with your book recommendations. I have both the Gruyaert and Sammallahti books and agree with your assessment of them. But my favorite photography book of recent years is another that you recommended highly: Alex Webb's "The Suffering of Light." As a predominantly B&W aficionado, I am amazed at his use of color. It is one of the very few books that I can open to almost any page and find an image that grabs and holds my attention.

"Speaking of days, did I miss Cyber Monday? " You have also missed "Giving Tuesday" according to an email I received from PayPal this morning :( .

"that fey, arm's-length arty hothouse quality"

Missed opportunity to use "poncy," a word I only recently encountered on the Photothunk blog http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2015/11/art-kitsch-subjectivity-and-all-that.html

"...fey, arm's-length arty hothouse quality..."

Yep, those words will be remembered. But it's a nice description of the deliberately alienated and alienating, detached perspective that I have seen a lot in "fine art" circles. It sells, I suppose.

My least favorite example I'll obfuscate a little, but it goes like this: there is a hobby that involves dressing up (there are many such), and thus is somewhat photogenic. (I.e. interesting images are like shooting fish in a barrel.) The photographer chose to keep their subjects at arms length, and depict them in an unsympathetic and unflattering way. And in a way that suggested they didn't know how to "read" the ethnographic context the costumes were made in.

If they didn't understand who they were photographing, or what was important to them, that's okay, we are human and have limitations. But if you can't get some kind of insight, then why not at least flatter your subjects? Isn't that one of the basic tools in a photographer's toolbox? I think there is some little room for flattery without resorting to artifice, or diluting the power of one's seeing.

Anyway, thanks for letting me natter on. I feel like there is a fruitful essay dangling from this notion of "detached photography", but I don't know that I'm the one to write it.

I was hoping the good news was related to that Mark Surloff book that was talked some time ago ;)

Regarding the books you mentioned, it's curious but for me it was quite the contrary: I liked Alec Soth's new book, even if it had a different tone compared to his other work. Harry Gruyaert's book disappointed me a bit, I mean it was ok, but maybe my expectations were just too high.

Oh, and I'm curious about that "that fey, arm's-length arty hothouse quality that I hate". This is because I have a problem with the art-world regarding photography that I can't quite explain, maybe you could elaborate a bit more on this (a dedicated post?).

I really don't get the whole pricing thing. I mean, Peter's photos are good but I have and know photographers who have photos just as good but have trouble selling any at a fraction of Peter's "too low" price. Personally, I am utterly uninterested in photos of Paris, it's a city and I don't care for cities, so maybe that enters into my view. At any rate, the whole pricing thing is a mystery to me.

RE: Books. Lately, I've been buying used Elliot Porter books through Amazon. Well, not all are used. I got a brand new copy (still in shrink wrap) of "Elliot Porter" for about $20 (Jacket price is $75) and several other used books for much less. The price on his classic "In Wildness is the preservation of the World" maintains its price well, but the others are a steal. There are several other excellent photographers whose books sell well below their value IMO I suppose because they are currently out of fashion.

I'll bet your book of the year is this one: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300208251/theonlinephot-20

It is fantastic, well surveyed and extremely detailed.

I bought Harry's book based in Ken's recommendation and agree it is a superb book. Rich in color, most likely more a photographers book as you stated. One of the best book investments this year, along with the Saul Leiter Early Black & White Steidl books, his Painted Nudes book and Ghirri's Kodachrome.

Please tell, did you just have a good night's sleep, or have something special for breakfast before writing this wonderful, inspired, entertaining post?
On print prices:- I had a handful of prints in a local gallery for two months earlier this year at 80 Euros each - sold none. Then in August at a one day art market I took along a box of reject and experimental prints which I priced at 10 Euros each - sold lots.

[Actually, I did have a good night's sleep last night, for once, and have had noticeably more energy (and vim, and vigor) today. Maybe that accounts for it. --Mike]

I'm not crazy about Songbook, either (although I don't have quite the same reaction). However, I really enjoyed the LBM Dispatch project from which the Songbook images originated. The geographically themed serial newspaper-ish format with article-ish texts was really interesting and enjoyable, but somehow distilling that lively effort into a more conventional art book format sucked the life out of it (for me, at least). Still, even though Soth's individual works can be hit or miss, I really admire his enterprise as a whole, particularly the many publishing experiments.

"the idea is to make art more exclusive [i.e., keep prices as high as possible], not more democratic!"

That dealer just understands money. He doesn't understand art, especially photography. The glory of photography is that it is democratic in the highest sense.

Just clicked on the link to the Gruyere book and seemed to have ordered it! Only 5 left apparently. Looks great. Thanks.

Thanks to your earlier post, I got the Harry Gruyaert book a few weeks ago. I echo your enthusiasm: he's one of the great color photographers, in a league with Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel, and Fred Herzog. He also does wonderful things with deep shadows, which remind me of Alex Webb.

This offers a nice online tour of his work....nice viewed large on calibrated monitor...

http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYD1KJ10Q

"most of them are in boxes on the second floor of the barn"
I don't know your boxes or your barn but isn't that a recipe for mould? I am reluctant to offer advice on something you are probably well aware of but maybe if the barn is suitable you could put bookcases there. Dehumidifier?

This is a recent book purchase that I have enjoyed a lot. It is called Ernst Haas: On Set and consists of work he did for Magnum on movie sets. It was a great addition to my book collection.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/3869305878/theonlinephot-20

Commenting about exclusive vs democratic prices - YourDailyPhotograph.com (by Duncan Miller Gallery) regularly sells prints with prices in the same ballpark where TOP sales are, although I've no information regarding their position in the art world.

Looking forward to the Book of the Year, I've bought several books on your recommendation (including Gruyaert which I reviewed here: http://karelkravik.com/blog/2015/11/13/book-review-harry-gruyaert) and I've never been disappointed - quite the contrary :)

I like Song Book very much.

Mixed feelings on Gruyaert. Great photos but the reproductions are inconsistent. Some are no better than posterized jpgs.

I'm guessing your favorite book is the new Dave Heath book, but I could be wrong. Curious to see your review, whatever it is.

Actually I believe I sent you the Harbutt book. :)

In fact it inspired this post which didn't get much attention: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2014/09/91514-the-morning-coffee-resonance.html

I wanted to pass it on because I didn't get on with it as well, and my (brief) comments hopefully didn't color your view on it, but I suspect not. I believe you captured better why it just does not 'work' more than I can or did. I, as you, just did not like it.

However, I've liked and purchased more than a few books mentioned by you and others on the site. This I consider one of the benefits of TOP, even though as some have commented, it can get costly buying all these books. Much like my experience purchasing albums from reading Pitchfork too much; a very hit-or-miss undertaking (but the hits are great). The fun's in the journey though, I suppose. Getting a copy of the Sammallahti book was a challenge, as I recall, which added to the fun.

When I do get a book that I like, it is an experience almost like no other. Take Turnley's French Kiss, for example. Going through that took a long time for me, as I just couldn't get enough of one page to bear turning to the next. I don't exaggerate; I just could not bear the simple act of flipping a single flippin' page for fear of overload. So much of a good thing there.

Anyhow, keep it up with mention of photobooks. Many thanks.

C Hunt

Rich says that he has sold photography books for a profit. Would like to know his secret. I am culling my collection before I move next year and it's difficult to get much for them. Maybe there is a website that is better for selling books than eBay.

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