Interesting video

Back in April I posted about a photographer, whose work I generally respect, but who seems to have a strong aversion to people who use phone cameras (See: A rant). He seems to feel that you can’t be a ‘real’ photographer if you use a an iPhone. In another post (See:You’re a photographer. You’re not a Photographer) I noted that I don’t feel that the quality of your photograph depends on the tool you use.

So I think that this guy should take a look at the above video, which contains some amazing photographs taken with an iPhone.

His website can be found at Eric Mencher Photography.

Still more postcards – this time by Ansel Adams

I recently posted about Cornelia Cotton and her wonderful used book store/gallery in Croton-on-Hudson (See: Cornelia). While there I bought an Ansel Adams Yosemite National Park Postcard Folio Book.

It consists of 25 postcards (23 photographs, a title page, and an introduction). I think there were supposed to be more. The title page mentions “Front Cover Photograph: Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1944″ and “Back Cover Photograph: Ansel Adams by Mimi Jacobs” (Mimi Jacobs took a number of photographs of Adams. Since I don’t know which one was included in this collection I can’t provide a link), both of which seem to be missing. I’ve included five images here to give you a feel for what they’re like. Of course my low resolution scans from my cheap, poor quality scanner don’t come close to doing justice to the the postcards themselves.

My interest in photography started around 1978 when my wife gave me a brand new Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII. Maybe I mentioned that I would like a camera? Maybe she just thought it would be a good idea? Little did she know what a monster she was unleashing. Not long before, an Ansel Adams print (Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico) had sold for what then seemed to be the astonishing amount of $71,500 (the same print sold for $609,600 in 2006 and the current most expensive photograph is Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) by Man Ray, which sold in 2022 for $12,400,000). Around that time a friend lent me one of Adams’s books (I believe it was “The Camera“). With my new found enthusiasm for photography I wanted to be Ansel Adams, to make those lovely black and white photographs. Over the years my interest for landscape photography has waned a bit. I live in the rather picturesque Hudson Valley so I still take plenty of landscape pictures, but my photographic interests have broadened to include street photography, macro photography, nature photography etc. I still like black and white photography though and to me he’s still the master of that.

Curiously, while I was working on these images ended up temporarily in a folder, which also contained ten black and white pictures I’d taken of the New Croton Dam. Of course they weren’t anywhere near as good as the Adams photographs. But I was pleased to see that they didn’t look that bad either – at least as seen in low resolution on screen. I’m sure that Adams prints would blow anything I could produce out of the water.

Half Dome and Clouds, Yosemite Park, c.1968, Ansel Adams.

Merced River, Cliffs, Autumn, Yosemite National Park, 1939, Ansel Adams.

Fern Spring, Dusk, Yosemite National Park, c.1961, Ansel Adams.

Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, 1938, Ansel Adams.

Mirror Lake, Mount Watkins, Spring, Yosemite National Park, 1935, Ansel Adams.

The complete set Copyright 1996 by the Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Published by Little, Brown and Company.

The Making of “Exiles”

This is the kind of book that makes me want to give up photography. The images are just so far beyond anything I’d ever be able to make.

I subscribe to many photography-related YouTube channels. T. Hopper‘s is one of the more interesting. She recently posted a video on Joseph Koudelka. Other than the famous picture of the arm, the watch and Prague, and that he was a Magnum photographer I didn’t know much about him. Since I don’t need much of an excuse to buy a photobook I immediately went online to buy one. This is what I came up with.

At the moment I’m so blown away by this book that I’m at a loss for words, so I’ll content myself with merely copying what Amazon has to say about it. Later, when I’ve had more time to absorb it I may come back with some thoughts of my own.

“Koudelka’s unsentimental, stark, brooding, intensely human imagery reflects his own spirit, the very essence of an exile who is at home wherever his wandering body finds haven in the night.”–Cornell Capa

In 1988, Josef Koudelka published what was to become one of his most famous and canonical series: Exiles. These gorgeously austere black-and-white images described the travels and everyday life of the peoples he encountered while roaming Europe. Josef Koudelka: The Making of Exiles is an exploration of the genesis and the making of this photographic journey.

Enhanced by numerous photographs that have never been published―in particular the photographer’s self-portraits―and captions by Koudelka, it includes numerous archival documents (such as reproductions of his travel journals), thumbnail reproductions of the book’s layout, an introduction by curator Clément Chéroux and an essay by photo-historian Michel Frizot, who spent hours interviewing Koudelka.

Josef Koudelka was born in Moravia in 1938. Initially an aeronautic engineer, he launched full time into photography in the late sixties. In 1968, he photographed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, publishing the results under the pseudonym P.P. (Prague Photographer). Koudelka left Czechoslovakia in 1970 and was briefly stateless before obtaining political asylum in England. Shortly afterwards, he joined Magnum Photos. In 1975 he published Gypsies. Koudelka has exhibited at the MoMA and at the International Centre of Photography in New York, at the Hayward Gallery in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Peter Lindbergh on Fashion Photography

I haven’t shown a lot of interest in Fashion photography. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it – I do, and I have a number of photobooks by/about well known Fashion photographers including Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz and Edward Steichen. I’m also somewhat familiar with the work of others including Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Horst P. Horst, William Klein, David LaChapelle, Lord Snowden, and Mario Testino. It’s just that I don’t think, much as I might like to take pictures of gorgeous women on a beach I don’t think I’ll ever have the opportunity to do so. Moreover, I’m not really comfortable taking pictures of people in general.

However, my interest was piqued when I saw this video on one of my favorite YouTube channels: Alex Kilbee’s: The Photographic EyeThe Photoshoot Which Changed Fashion Photography

I’d heard of Peter Lindbergh, but had not really appreciated how influential he had been. So I immediately ordered “Peter Lindbergh. On Fashion Photography“, Taschen Books, 2020. In his introduction Lindbergh says:

In 1987, I got a call from Alexander Liberman then the creative director of Condé Nast

I’ve got a couple of books by/about him too. I decided that I would get them after being invited over to the house of, as it turned out, someone who used to work for him). But back to the post:

He couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to work for American Vogue. I told him, “I just can’t take the types of photographs of women that are in your magazine.” I simply felt uninspired by the ways women were being photographed”. He said: “OK, show me what you mean, show me what kind of women you’re talking about.” I wanted a change from a formal, particularly styled, supposedly “perfect” woman – too concerned about social integration and acceptance – to a more outspoken and adventurous woman, in control of her own life and emancipated from masculine control. A woman who could speak for herself.

A few months later, following Mr. Liberman’s proposition, I put together a group of young and interesting models and we went to the beach in Santa Monica. I shot very simple images; the models wore hardly any makeup, and I wanted everyone to be dressed the same, in white shirts. This was quite unusual at the time. Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Karen Alexander were all there that day.

Back in New York, Vogue’s editor in chief at the time, Grace Mirabella, refused to print the images. But six months later, Anna Wintour became the the magazine’s editor and discovered the proofs somewhere in a drawer. She put one of them in Condé Nast’s big retrospective book “On the Edge: Images from 100 years of Vogue (1992)”, calling it the most important photograph of the decade. The “supermodel” would go on to represent the powerful woman that I had articulated, and their images dominated fashion visuals for the next 15 years.

The book consists of two distinct parts: a short, but very interesting introduction by Lindbergh himself followed by the heart of the book – Over 300 hundred images (that’s what the book’s sleeve says, but the book actually has 505 pages and the introduction – in English, German, and French – takes up only about 30 of them, and itself contains a number of photographs). Such a large number of images requires some kind of organization and in this case it’s alphabetical by client e.g. Azzedine Alaïa, Heider Ackermann, Giorgio Armani etc.

I like this series of Taschen books. Most photobooks are quite expensive, large format, heavy and difficult to hold. This series is more compact (6×9 inches) and fairly inexpensive. I have a number of them. I guess the only problem with them is that the photographs are relatively speaking rather small, but they’re good enough to provide a thorough overview of his work. Taschen also has a larger format series. I have a few of them too (e.g. Sebastião Salgado‘s wonderful “Genesis” (10×14 inches, but still quite inexpensive for a photobook of this quality), but I find them too big and too heavy to comfortably hold and read.

The Europeans

I’m a huge fan of Henri Cartier-Bresson. So it’s somewhat surprising that until recently I had only one, very small, very thin and not very thorough book on or by him.

So when I was compiling my Christmas Amazon wishlist (the best way for my family to buy me gifts that I actually want) I included a couple of books about him. This is the first. It’s called “Europeans” and in his introduction, Jean Clair states:

In 1955 a collection of photographs called Les Européens was published. It was conceived and designed by Tériade, with a jacket by Jen Miró. Henri Cartier-Bresson had worked on it for five years, a short period if one considers that the celebrated photographs in Images à la Sauvette (1952, published in English as The Decisive Moment) were selected from work spanning twenty years. The book offered a closely woven portrait of Europe after the war: accumulated ruins and the marks of hunger and woe on people’s faces still appearing very clearly.

After that it was all downhill for the introduction as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know who Mr. Clair was so I looked him up. He’s described as follows:

Jean Clair is the pen name of Gérard Régnier (born 20 October 1940 in Paris, France). Clair is an essayist, a polemicist, an art historian, an art conservator, and a member of the Académie française since May, 2008. He was, for many years, the director of the Picasso Museum in Paris. Among the milestones of his long and productive career is a comprehensive catalog of the works of Balthus. He was also the director of the Venice Biennale in 1995.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by what followed in the introduction: lots of big, arcane words and tortured sentences. The following is fairly typical:

Now, as a wizard of speed, he needed a certain lightness of touch, something airy, mercurial. Hermes, god of commerce and thieves, could well be the god of photographers. With quicksilver as the escutcheon of his equipment, this disciple of hermetic knowledge, borrowing the the powers of the god with winged hat and shoes, sets out to purloin the the fulgurating moment at the crossroads of appearances and to conserve something of Mercury’s spark.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t relate well to this kind of “criticspeak”. When I was in university many years ago I had to read a book by Messrs. René Wellek and Austin Warren. I can’t remember the title (I’ve probably blotted it out) but it was something to do with principles of literary criticism. Their best know work seems to be Theory of Literature, but that title doesn’t ring any bells. Anyway I read that book from cover to cover and after I finished it I found that I couldn’t remember a single thing. Still, I remember thinking that the book must have been important or why would they have made us read it. So I read it again with the same result. Maybe now I’m older I should read it again. Who knows – third time lucky.

But on to the pictures. They are of course remarkable, for the most part. We’re so used to seeing Cartier-Bresson’s masterpieces that it’s easy to forget that not all of his pictures fall into that class. Of the 200 or so pictures I only really liked about 43.

Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious how the photographs are organized. There’s no table of contents and at first I thought that the pictures were randomly organized. However, after a bit of study I realized that they are in fact organized by country, but that the order of the countries is not alphabetical. Rather it goes as follows (with the number of photographs for each country in parentheses): France (36); Portugal (7); Spain (18); Italy (20); Switzerland (5); Yugoslavia (5); Greece (6); Turkey (5); Romania (4); Hungary (3); Austria (3); Germany (16); Belgium (1); Netherlands (3); Poland (6); USSR (17); Sweden (3); Denmark (1); UK (13); Ireland (10).

Still despite the minor criticisms I really enjoyed the book.

Now on to the second book: Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Modern Century , but first I have to figure out how to read it comfortably. It’s longer, bigger and heavier that the above book.