Sunday, 31 January 2016

The local store...almost gone

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The Murray's return with huge, wonderful second helping of Big Apple store fronts (actually this is the third book, the second was New York Nights, featuring the stores after dark) and like the first book so many of these will have stopped trading, usually because of rising yearly rents.  The book's format repeats the elegant presentation of the first one: the five boroughs are divided into their districts and each starts with a map and essay about the area; the store front photos are one to a page (sometimes a spread) and a location caption; many have a brief history of the premises and interviews with the owners.  I thought it's these comments that make the photos come alive with references to neighborhoods and trading over the decades.

The only way to photo these stores was straight on because they are full of detail and color, mostly because the lettering, window displays and frontage are so amateurish and frequently in need of a make over.  What does the shabby front of the many meat markets here say about products they sell inside?  Using a creative window display to pull in the customers is mostly absent from the mom and pop store world.

Like the first book this one is well printed on a matt stock using a 175 screen, the back pages Index lists all the stores.  There is a little bit of design whimsy where a 0 is used with all the page number: 01 to 0343.  As these stores are slowly disappearing you can spend a pleasant hour or so using the caption address to find the buildings (or their replacements) on Street View.  I did this and found that there are still plenty of stores for the Murray's to photograph for Store Front III.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Small man, big landscape

The three extras inside the back cover.

The hand of man on the landscape.
Look through the sixty-five, mostly landscape, photos here and you could get the impression that so much of the land hasn't been touched by man, least in the mid-west and west.  Sambunaris has managed to show huge, wonderful panoramas of countryside and if you look carefully you'll spot some human activity: highways; trucks; railroads (several) mining; pipelines; crop circles and more but the human side of things in so many of these images seems quite insignificant.

There's a shot of the Bingham Copper Mine, one of the deepest open-pit mines anywhere (three miles across and well over half a mile deep) with the mining equipment hardly visible.  Actually if you look at an aerial shot of the mine it looks a lot smaller in area than the nearby Utah Lake.  Many of her photos are taken from a vantage point looking down on a rather barren landscape, either with a mountain range in the far distance but maybe basically flatland stretching to the ranges.  Mixed in with these extremely long shots are several, almost close-ups, of shipping containers or freight cars.  a rather odd mix you might think but that's what makes the book rather fascinating.

The folks at Radius Books like to go the extra mile for their book buyers and this title is a good example of this.  The photos are one to a page (except for three spreads) with generous margins, printed with a 175 screen on a reasonable matt art paper.  Inside the back cover is a pocket with three extras: a twelve page essay by Barry Lopez;  a five page concertina fold-out with 125 thumbnails of photos Sambunaris took on her travels showing a lot more human activity than the images in the book; a large sixty-six page book, with photos of ephemera she has collected over the years, like rocks, books, journals.

Taxonomy of a landscape delivers an impressive photographic package into your hands.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Commonplace flashback

The bomber was removed in 2014.

Some other road books.

The American highway has provided a treasure trove of images for photographers over the decades, it could be amateurishly made structures promoting a local enterprise or a national franchise that has spread across the country.  Richard Longstreth focuses on restaurants, gas stations, motels, stores and drive-ins rather than non-commercial vernacular buildings that could be found away from the Interstates.  His photos, taken from the late sixties and the seventies, are an interesting record because so many of these places have disappeared, even Art Lacey's bomber gas station in Milwaukee, Oregon is no more (after sixty-seven years, too).  

The chapter on stores is unusual for a commonplace photo book, large buildings that don't quite fit in the frame like a gas station, restaurant or motel, the thirty-two here are well worth including, some of which show a certain amount of streamline flair reminiscent of Arraswmith's Greyhound Terminals.

Wonderful though all these photos are the book really doesn't present them in the best light.  Probably not the author's fault but Universe (part of art publisher Rizzoli) should have known better because they have made this an upright book when the majority of the photos are landscape.  There are fifty-eight pages with a photo in the middle of the page and a slab of light grey above and below, combined these equal the depth of the photo, white page numbers on the light grey don't read too well either.  If the book was  landscape there would have been no problem.  Fortunately there are plenty of pages with two landscape photos, one above the other and they fit perfectly. 

In the tradition of travel books Road trip's cover and pages have rounded corners and a silk book mark so that the armchair traveller doesn't loose their place.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The perfect Parker

Another fine illustrator title from Auad Publishing and like their Albert Dorne book this one shows of Parker's work as it should be displayed. There are probably more than two examples of editorial art, magazine covers and ads. I like the way so much of the work reproduces the end result with the headlines and text in place but there are plenty of examples of paintings as they were delivered to the client and before the Art Directors got involved.

Nicely there are several series here, twenty-four of those wonderful mother and daughter covers for the Ladies Home Journal Parker painted between 1939 and 1952, seven covers for the TV Guide and work for McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and nine paintings for American Airlines ads. There's also a fascinating twenty-one pages of mono photos (and the finished art) of models taken as reference to get the compositions just right.

Parker like other artists of the forties and fifties defined commercial art of these decades though I think people like Dohanos, Dorne, Briggs, Fawcett, Fuchs or Whitmore were just as good but Parker had a little something extra, he was adept at changing style to suit whatever the client wanted. Cosmopolitan for September 1954 rather uniquely used him to illustrate every story with each one having a different look, there are ten works from that issues over four pages.

A slight disappointment with the book (and the same applied to the Albert Dorne title) is that there are no technical details about how Parker worked, types of paper or canvas, brushes, paints, preliminary roughs and changes. How he created this great art would have made the book complete for me.