Monday, 21 September 2015

Light after dark

Photographer Lynn Saville discovers the virtues of artificial light in this collection urban work. It could be street, office or security lights, garish neon and shop decorators naked bulbs but they all create an intriguing palette of colors and shadows. After dark many of the buildings sites in the photos have enhanced texture created by light from different directions. On page ninety-one there's a fabulous shot of abandoned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, beautifully framed against a black sky, even when not lit a large vertical neon sign saying JACK'S provides the color while the white brickwork changes into various shades of grey as it ages. A similar photo of a boarded up warehouse in Chicago provides an interesting display of ochre brickwork and red panels over the windows. Detroit, the urban ruins capitol of America, provides a brilliant straight on photo of the huge abandoned Michigan Central Depot lit by unseen spotlights from below.

Empty stores and those being renovated seem to fascinate Lynn Saville, minus the merchandise means large expanses of glass and bare walls creating slabs of changing color depending how near they are to neon strips and spotlights used by interior decorators. Of the eighty photos in the book only one has a visible person suggesting that all this street night light is not used for most of the time. The photos were taken in various cities but without their daylight visible landmarks these places at night become an anonymous collection of shapes, shadows, color and silence.

Lynn Saville has captured a worthwhile collection light and dark in her book.

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Big Apple's outer peel

A wise move by William Meyers to escape from Manhattan and show us what the rest of the Big Apple looks like. Any bookshop in the city probably has plenty of titles with photos of the area from Central Park down to the financial district, especially colour night-time shots of skyscrapers but take these out and many of the street photos in the book could just as easily be on that thin strip of land between the Hudson and East River.

Most of the eighty-six photos in the book are exteriors, I didn't think the few interior shots in churchs, restaurants or houses quite worked, either the folk in the shot are moving or they looked posed. The exteriors include some wonderful nightime shots of deserted streets in Brooklyn and Queens and others, in daylight, are mixture of what can be seen everyday in the streets away from Manhattan. All the photos were taken between 1990 and 2006 and nicely include thickish black frame round each.

It's a well produced book in the classic photobook style: all the photos are on the right-hand page with a single line caption on the left. A 250 screen gives the images a lift and so does the paper, a silky to the touch GardaMatt (I wish other publishers would use this for their art books)

There is life away from Manhattan and for more than twenty years Bill Meyers found plenty to catch his and our eyes.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The plain facts: too much wind, too little rain

An enlargement of the photo above showing the double wall of the house, so essential in wintertime.

The meridian in the book's title refers to the hundredth which roughly divides the US in half.  Interestingly Walter Prescott Webb in his classic book The Great Plains prefers the ninety-eighth as the dividing meridian.  To the east there is enough rainfall for crops, forests and industry, look to the west and the rainfall is mostly less than twenty inches a year, fierce winds and sun and an almost flat landscape for hundreds and hundreds of miles. 

Out of this vast Plains country photographer Andrew Moore travelled from the Dakotas down to Texas and took sixty remarkable photos for the book.  What makes so many of his images rather special is that they were taken with a camera mounted on the wing of a small plane.  This enabled him to cover the vast distances easily and land near visual interesting places for a ground shot.  The idea clearly paid off because as well as the aerial shots there are others well away from roads and tracks which a road bound photographer would never find.

I thought the aerial photos particularly fascinating because the Cessna Cub allowed Moore to get close enough to buildings (frequently abandoned) and vegetation to reveal the feel of landscape.  The first photo in the book stretches over a spread and shows a small schoolhouse, built in 1900, set in the brown countryside with no road, pupils went to school by horseback.  Other aerial shots show farms with two or three building and no other structures or trees for miles.  This is more than a book of excellent landscape photos, the human side of the Plains is revealed with images of fracking in North Dakota, pipelines, freight trains, pivot irrigation, cattle farming and some portraits of hardy folk who are happy to live in this rather inhospitable country.

Dirt meridian is a beautifully produced and printed book, the back pages have two essays and thumbnails of all the photos with interesting captions.  Like his 2010 photo book of Detroit ruins (also published by Damiani) Andrew Moore has delivered a fine selection of Plains imagery. 


Friday, 4 September 2015

The complete cuts

Sybil Andrews beautiful linocuts capture the sights and feel of rural and industrial life in Britain and Canada from the thirties up to the late eighties. Over all these years Andrews only produced eighty-eight linocut prints which are all shown in this catalogue. The first fifty-three were completed in England up to 1947, she then married Walter Morgan, a boat builder and they moved to a remote logging town in British Columbia where the remainder of the prints were created.

Andrews was born in Bury St Edmunds (1898) where she met Cyril Power in 1921. He was an artist and twenty-six years older than her but over the following years they both influenced each other by interpreting European art movements into their linocuts. Power's work is much more fluid than Andrew's, she concentrated on a more solid and angular graphic style with robust shapes, colour and easily noticed focal points in her prints. This style is especially noticeable in the various cuts showing workers in an industrial setting. Apart from the agricultural and manual work pictures there are several showing religious scenes which Andrews created in Canada.

Author Hana Leaper contributes a front of book essay about the life of Sybil Andrews and then her work is shown with one linocut a page. Usefully the comprehensive captions also include some background detail for many of the pictures.

Andrews and Cyril Power were both significant contributors to British printmaking in the thirties and forties. Lund Humphries has already published a complete catalogue of Power's linocuts in the same format as this book.