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Friends With Books

Jun 27

In Books at 10:19am

Tim Mantoani, for most of the last 5 or 6 years, has been a man on a mission. His self assignment was the most daunting of tasks–to document historically important photographers, a group notably reluctant to trade places and get in front of lens instead of behind it. Further, he could not simply go to the photographers, and meet these constantly circulating creatures at such places as hotels, or airports, which they are known to frequent abundantly. No, he had to convince them to come to the camera, in this case, a behemoth Polaroid 20×24. Not exactly a street camera, its lens offers up a remarkably beautiful study of the subject standing in front of it, in this case, photographers, holding a print of their favorite, or most famous image. The camera, married with Tim’s simple, one light approach, has a certain stately quality, a rectitude, if you will, it seems to stamp its subjects with. Given the somewhat motley, ragtag assemblage of subjects constituting Tim’s project, this is a good thing. With each turn of the page, the book gains power,  authority and fascination. The photogs’ choices of imagery alone is intriguing, and offers a visual road map to some of the most famous images ever made, along with a look at the person who made it. It’s a worthwhile investigation on Tim’s part, a benchmark of photographic determination and tenacity. Well worth the time it took to create it. Very worth the time to turn the pages. Here’s a link to more info. And below, some of the subjects.

Neil Leifer

Barbara Bordnick

Douglas Kirkland

Jay Maisel

At the Polaroid studio, and an amazing array of portraiture.

Alex Webb has been on the streets and borders of the world, shooting color in his truly distinctive way, for over 30 years. The result is his new book, a startling, arresting survey from one of the most expressive color shooters in the history of the field. He has always been not so much after the facts of a place, but more of the feel of it. Called The Suffering of the Light, it was cited by American Photo as one of the books of the year.

Alex’s photographic energy flows from the street. An inveterate wanderer, he has never really hewed close to a narrative, rather, letting the wander itself become the narrative. You don’t really get the specifics and information of a place on earth, having looked at one of his many books, but you do get an emotional notion, be it a quiver, or a shudder, feel in the gut, for what it might be like to be there. He’s continually able to mesh the disparate, seemingly conflicting elements of turbulent, vibrant street life with a beautiful awareness of light, and the results are not so much answers or facts, but questions in color.

His mate, Rebecca Norris Webb, also a color photographer, just published an personal reminiscence of her time growing up in South Dakota, called My Dakota. Recently profiled in the NYT lens blog, the book is an intensely personal journey through open spaces, running counter to her most recent book, The Glass Between Us, which largely dealt with walls and confinement.

We all feel things when we’re kids, without really knowing what they mean, and those feelings, when you’re a photographer, inevitably surface in your work. The book is a return for her, I suspect, both visually and emotionally, to truly open skies and an earth not papered over with concrete, such as here in New York where she currently resides. Remarkably evocative, there is no urgency to the turn of the pages. Rather, with its color palette and framing, it encourages a certain languid type of looking, a slow and thoughtful pace, similar to the pace one might adopt if one were actually confronted with the heat, the skies, and the land of a truly sparse place such as South Dakota.

By contrast, there is an urgency to Stacy Pearsall’s book, Shooter. Though not available quite yet, it has already provoked strong reaction. Long time picture editor Jim Colton, formerly of Newsweek, currently at Sports Illustrated, said in a review: “The powerful images put a face, not only on our troops, but also on the civilians who are involuntarily brought into the fray. The images do not glorify but rather document the reality of war….through both critical and intimate moments. After seeing the photographs, the viewer will feel like they’ve just ridden shotgun with our troops abroad.”

There is the intensity of the observation of combat, made all that much more compelling by the simple fact that Stacy was not simply an empathetic observer, she was a soldier, on the streets with her unit. The fact that the soldiers she photographed were her friends, people she lived with, walked with and ate breakfast with, makes the book more than simply a compelling document. It makes it personal and emotionally resonant.

And Ron Martinsen, who just topped a million viewers of his blog, came out with a definitive guide to printing. Printing 101, An Introduction to Fine Art Printing, came out as an eBook recently and has rapidly gained a following as a definitive guide to getting the most out of your ink jet printer. Replete with interviews with printing masters such as Eddie Tapp, John Paul Caponigro, and Greg Gorman, the book is a 90 page road map to great prints.

And Steve Simon has chipped in with his latest book, The Passionate Photographer. A veteran observer of the human condition, Steve offers not only his pungent and heartfelt images, but a large store of practical advice for the shooter thinking they might be poised to take a plunge into the world of documentary photojournalism. As the cover suggests, he takes you through, step by step, the logic behind the passion–the planning, the research and the underpinnings that go into any sustained documentary effort. If you are taking up a camera with documentary intent, it’s well worth the read.

More tk….

10 Responses to “Friends With Books”

Mike says:

on June 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks Joe…I always love your posts. I didn’t know about Ron Martinsen’s book, I’ll check it out.

Kristina Jacob says:

on June 28, 2012 at 1:43 am

Hi Joe,
I was fortunate to see Neil Leifer speak at the Annenberg Space for Photography’s IRIS Night lectures here in LA, and one of the photos he showed was the Ali photo in his hands. Such a historical moment, and such a great sports photographer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these books, the Steve Simon book has been on my list for a while.
~Kristina

Lewis Coward says:

on June 28, 2012 at 3:07 am

Great to get recommendations. There are so many books out there and it is difficult to get (find) something good. Cheers Joe.

David says:

on June 28, 2012 at 8:13 am

Tim Mantoani’s book is amazing. I received this book as a gift earlier this year.

Libby says:

on June 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I may have to get Behind for the picture of Jay. Love that. He’s my hero – you’re next ;-)

Fashion Photographer Jerry Avenaim says:

on July 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Such iconic images and photographers. Thank you for sharing, I hope to get this book soon!

wayne prankard says:

on July 23, 2012 at 3:19 am

great work! Thanks for an inspiring blog.
Wayne

David says:

on October 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Joe,
‘Shooter’ just arrived. POWERFUL! Thank you for the recommendation.
David
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