Sunday, 18 March 2018

A graphic solution to the why of our world

An excellent introduction to science, especially for any teens and of course, curious adults. The five sections: Matter; Energy and force; Life; Space; Earth, explain the basics in a visual format. Each spread covers a particular aspect with colorful flat graphic diagrams and text. Fortunately the graphics have been designed to put across the information in a straightforward way unlike a lot of contemporary info-graphics that end up being far too visually complex.

The pages are quite busy but in a very controlled way blending the illustrations, colored panels and typography together seamlessly over each spread. A clever feature on lots of pages are circles that contain questions and answers, just the sort of thing any curious person would ask.

Considering the amount of information in these pages and the clever way it's presented this book has to be a bargain for the price.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Another quirky issue

You can't miss Toilet Paper on websites because of its distinctive colourful covers. First published in 2010 it looks like a very professionally produced photographic zine. This is a special edition with forty-two pages featuring ten spreads of Martin Parr's work, I think that's his feet on the cover.

Toilet Paper has always had quirky, off-beat photos but what's interesting about this issue is that it's not so easy to tell Parr's work from the usual (or unusual) TP photos. Some are obvious like the Coca-Cola cup and saucer with a distinctive lipstick mark on the cup rim or the tourists photographing the Mona Lisa on their mobiles but did he talk the face of the blow-up sex doll? Inside the back cover the credits reveal all but as none of the pages are numbered it's not obvious and the pages are presented as spreads so page one is inside the front cover rather than starting on the right-hand page.

It's a weird and wonderful title, no text, just bleed colour photos (with two hundred screen printing) to stir your imagination.


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Down from up

Two things separate Milstein's excellent book of photos from other looking down titles. One, he shoots vertically rather than the more usual bird's eye view and two, the very fine printing screen to reveal the amazing detail. The eighty-four photos are divided into four chapters: neighborhoods; commerce; parks and recreation; transportation and industry.

The straight shot look has the advantage of reducing the perspective so that the top of something becomes clearer in relation to nearby buildings. Mid-town Manhattan, with its grid streets seems far more interesting than an angled shot. The Carnival Vista cruise liner, docked in New York, looks amazing with decks full of dazzling color, the photo is opposite the rather staid looking Queen Mary in Long Beach. The big, wealthy homes on the curving North Doheny Drive in LA are a mixture of styles with their pools, tennis courts and trees everywhere and on those with flat roofs the air-con can clearly be seen. A few pages before this photo the straight streets in the LA city of Carson show middle class homes packed tightly together, very few trees and no pools. Some of photos are taken at dusk like Century City and Times Square aglow with street lights and neon or the container port in Long Beach looking straight down on a ship surrounded by a black sea.

Transportation and industry has an interesting selection of scrap yards, refineries, container ports though oddly no rail yards. Airports always look fascinating, five photos here show the usual shape of jets contrasting with different shaped buildings and ground markings.

I thought the vertical photos certainly gave this book an advantage over the usual birds eye view aerial images. A volume two?


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Breaking up is hard to do

Claudio Cambon took these photos in 1997/98 when he joined the last voyage of the US tanker SS Minole from Baton Rouge to a breaker's yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. A slightly unusual book because as well as photos of the voyage and beak-up Cambon also wrote the text that fills fifty-three pages after the photos. The ship had four names since it was launched in 1961: Stanvac Meridian; 1962 Mobil Meridian; 1990 Seminole: 1991 Minole (minus the Se of Seminole). Page seven has a photo of a lady smashing the traditional bottle of bubbly against the bow.

I thought the photos of the voyage and crew rather ordinary, nothing of the engine room, bridge. cabins et cetera but Cambon's work comes alive with his shots of taking the ship apart, basically by hand back then. The gas cutters get to work cutting the steel into ever smaller pieces until they can be man-handled onto trucks and carted away for recycling. There's a two page fold-out with sixteen photos, taken over five months, showing the Minole getting smaller and smaller.

The breaker yards in Bangladesh are the poor cousins of those in India, principally centered in Alang and Gadani in Pakistan, there the workers mostly wear hard hats and gloves and crawler cranes help pull ships apart. Since 1998 the workers lot has probably improved in Bangladesh but as labor is cheap and plenty of it it's a slow process.