Monday, 22 June 2020

Abe's private city

In the Preface, written by the book's editor Jurgen Tesch, he writes that he asked Frajndlich many times to consider a book of New York pictures but the idea was always rejected because, he said, his city photos could never meet his standards for a photobook. Eventually Tesch got his way and this book is the result. I've looked through it several times and I wonder if Frajndlich was maybe right.

The seventy-five mono photos seemed to lack any particular focus, a varied mixture of street scenes, architecture, especially skyscrapers, portraits, Central Park, Coney Island and more. They were taken between 1978 and 2017 and maybe Frajndlich was correct, these photos taken during his wanderings through the city are essentially private and don't easily lend themselves to a photobook. Another point is that, although the photos are printed with an impressive 250 screen, the paper ends up giving them a constant grey look. The paper doesn't allow any of them to sparkle on the page but maybe the original negatives were uniformly grey and dark.

Monday, 15 June 2020

The bright star monthly

A timely and worthwhile reprint of the original 1993 edition. The book is a lavish coffee table visual history of the magazine with page after page of spreads from its eleven year life. Art Editors like Harry Peccinotti, David Birdsall and David Hillman created stunning pages month after month. Helped, of course, because back in the days before the pc, page design was much more considered and designers couldn't just add personal graphic whimsy to their work with just a keystroke.

The first pages reproduce all the Nova covers and then, nicely, you'll see some spreads from other leading consumer titles which had an influence on publication design. Harper's Bazaar, Show, McCall's, Eros, Elle, Town, Queen and especially twen led the way with stylish looking pages in the Sixties.

Nova faded away in the Seventies, an increase in paper costs reduced it to a digest size monthly, advertising decreased and so did the circulation, the last issue was in October 1975. Even with a smaller size the spreads shown in the book for the last years are visually as fresh as any from Nova's start.

There's an interesting Appendix over fourteen pages listing the Contents and staff for each issue, followed by an Index. The book's large page size allows plenty of photography and graphics to be shown almost the same size as it appeared in the original pages. A  book for anyone interested in consumer publication design.

Friday, 12 June 2020

British thirties coastal culture

I've just finished reading this interesting book and I feel it should have been titled 'The British seaside in the thirties'. Though the art deco aspect does contribute to the editorial there are sections where the deco term could only be very loosely be applied. The chapters on buildings, interiors and transport cover the deco feel, especially commercial and domestic architecture which get a good showing (incidentally open Street View and go to Waltham Way, Frinton-on-sea where there are some still standing examples of houses) interiors obviously doesn't reflect a seaside look but new materials allowed furniture designers to be creative with the design of casual chairs though I don't consider Dryad or Lusty furniture anything to do with deco.

The chapters on paintings, fabrics, ceramics and the quest a healthy outdoor life, which take up about half the book, struggle to get any deco involvement but are obviously connected to the British seaside in the thirties. The book is an addition to an exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (held in the first six months of 2020) where the author, Ghislane Wood is a Deputy Director. She was a co-author for an extremely thorough illustrated study on art deco published by the V&A in 2003.