Saturday, 8 April 2017

Master of the street scene

Despite having twelve one-man shows from 1959 to 1999 and also included in several group exhibitions Louis Faurer is not too well known though buyers of American fashion magazines in the fifties and European ones in the late sixties have probably seen his fashion photography. This delightful book of photos looks at his non-commercial work in Philadelphia but mostly New York from 1937 to 1952 .

Faurer was one of the New York School of street photographers who lived and worked in the city, they explored the potential of capturing everyday life of ordinary people. Several photos in the book suggest that Faurer sought out the downtrodden on the streets, beggars, cripples, the retarded and took very sympathetic pictures of them. He also liked to work at night in the streets surrounding Times Square. Photographer Sid Kaplan says this was because there were thousands of incandescent bulbs in use during the forties for movie marques, ads, shops et cetera, Faurer said this provided a brilliant light for black and white shots (I've since found out that when neon replaced the incandescent bulbs it changed the quality of light for the worse as far as photographers were concerned).

The hundred mono photos in the book show people on the street walking, resting, talking, waiting and especially, in the night shots, gazing. Very few show anyone looking directly at Faurer's camera. All but three photos have people in them. What I particularly liked about this book of photos (printed as tritones with a 175 screen) was their presentation on the page. The book is about the size of a hardback novel and the photos roughly postcard size with very generous margins but because so many of them have dark areas or were taken at night as medium or close-up shots their relatively small size gives them a special sort of intimacy as I turned the pages.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The ultimate encyclopedia

I recently reviewed the disappointing McNally and Rayman's Greyhound Scenicruiser which turned out to be a few pages of text but mostly dozens and dozens of bland amateur snaps of the bus tipped into the book. Paul Von Fange's 498 page title is what I was really after. Every nut, bolt and washer of the amazing Scenicruiser is revealed through meticulous research and nicely the author considers similar models historically from ACF, White, Kenworth and Fageol who all produced deck and a half buses in the 1920s and 1930s and into the 1950s Beck, ACF, Flxible and Sultana (from Mexico) who turned out look alike Scenicruiser versions.

The initial bus, in 1948, was the GX-1 developed from a Raymond Loewy concept and introduced by Greyhound as 'The highway traveler' though only one was built and run. Next was the GX-2, in service from 1952, carrying forty-two passengers. Both of these morphed in the Scenicruiser PD-4501 (Parlor Diesel with 45 referring to the number of seats) and General Motors produced 1,001 between 1954 and 1956. The author writes about the development and making of the bus in a very readable style which is more than can be said for the 'Greyhound Scenicruiser' I mentioned above or the almost illiterate Robert Redden self-published titles about the bus.

By the late 1970s Greyhound had sold all their PD-4501 buses (even an icon can't produce passenger revenue for ever) and an interesting chapter looks at what happened to the few hundred that have survived over the years and mostly changed into what the owners wanted but there are a precious few that have been restored to what a new Scenicruiser looked like inside and out.

The book's back pages have a very comprehensive bibliography, index, technical diagrams (especially electrical) and a fascinating sixteen pages reproducing two Greyhound brochures for the GX-1 and GX-2, thankfully big enough on the page to read most of the copy.

If you want to know all about Greyhound Scenicruisers this is the only book you'll need. The slight downside is the picture quality, there are several hundred and it's unfortunate that print-on-demand inkjet printing and the paper just doesn't allow for the best reproduction of all these photos and illustrations.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Inside out

Look inside is one of those books you can open at any page and be grabbed by what you see. Though the titles says cutaway illustrations this has been interpreted in the widest possible way. There are some of those glossy, slick Photoshop renderings of technology, usually transport or tech products but the authors have gone out of their way to select some excellent examples of unusual graphic cutaways.

Perhaps the oddest are from Jason Freeny who creates sculptures of popular children's characters, Mickey Mouse, a gingerbread man, that partially reveal their anatomy. The architectural firm Foster+Partners produce eye catching cutaways of their buildings, a development in Kuala Lumpur intriguingly has photos of real people walking about the complex.

The book has a brief eight page historical overview of cutaways with examples of work, for example GH Davis, who for forty years provided art for the Illustrated London News, Frank Soltesz is mentioned but no examples of his magnificent cutaway buildings he did for the Armstrong Cork Company advertising campaign in the 1940s. Five masters of the genre are highlighted with mini portfolios over several pages. Two of these are worth mentioning: Bryan Christie uses see  though photos of the human body to illustrate how muscles and bones work, Fernando Baptista paints meticulous cutaways of historical buildings or exploring caves in the natural world, much of his work has appeared in the National Geographic.

The book's large size brings out the best in many of the illustrations because most of them are full of detail, there are also three fold-outs at thirty-seven inches wide. The book will obviously interest graphic designers and illustrators who produce information art.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The icon drives up a one way street

The right-hand page has one long paragraph.

No color correction to even up the quality of the photos.

Just how bad can a photo be before someone says we can't use this...middle photo on the right-hand page

This page layout is repeated again and again and again.

Nearly all the pages have grey bland looking mono photos.

A rather tacky looking and amateurishly produced book about America's finest bus. The basis of the contents are dozens and dozens of amateur snaps, in color but mainly black and white, of the Scenicruiser run by Greyhound and in later years when it was operated by other companies or individuals. The two authors know their technical history of the bus but they aren't writers and it shows, paragraphs are hundred of words long and Iconografix don't seem to use editors or designers to turn the words and photos into a professionally produced book.

The upright format isn't the best way to display most of the photos which are landscape (Iconografix other bus archive titles are landscape) and there are pages of them mostly with the same layout and almost all exteriors ones. Where are the interior shots? A worthwhile chapter would have been a portfolio of photos showing every aspect of the inside (including the engine) the publisher's should have send a snapper to the Greyhound Museum in Hibbing to photograph inside their Scenicruiser.

None of the color photos show any signs of process work to even up the quality and black and whites come out as a bland grey with no real blacks in them. Overall the book looks no more than a huge collection of very similar photos just tipped into the pages with no real editorial judgement at all. PD-4501 deserves better than this.