Tuesday, 9 February 2016

This is the camera speaking

Mirrors and windows: American photography since 1960 was published my MoMA in 1978 and can still be picked up quite cheaply, worth getting for the 127 photos and the excellent sixteen page essay by John Szarkowski.. 

The 330 photos, from 250 photographers, in the book provide a stimulating look at how this art form has progressed over the last few decades. The eight chapters each start with a four page essay looking at a particular aspect of photography, it cold be the body, documentary, performance or experimental then followed by examples from artists who specialize in their genre. I thought the range of material revealed in these images quite extraordinary and very wide ranging. Chapter eight covering experimental work has pictures made from film that might not have even been inside a camera: Marco Breuer's Pan (2003) is scratched chromogenic paper; Bruce Conner creates cameraless portraits.

With so many photographers included this is an excellent way to discover somebody new to me and compare their work with others in the same style though the work of truly big names is included with their most well produced images like Eggleston's 1973 red motel ceiling or Shore's 1975
Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. The MoMA collection is obviously strong on American born artists but the rest of the world, especially Europe and Japan, are included. This is the first book of a three volume set, the second considers work from 1914 and the third surveys the origins of the medium. If the other two are as good as this title it will be a remarkable set.

I think it's worth commenting on the book's production, it can't be faulted. Excellent typography, paper (150 gsm Creator Silk) and printing with a very fine screen (possibly 300) by Brizzoli, Madrid. If only all photobooks looked this good.

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