Sunday, 12 June 2016

A bland look

Ernst Haas (1921--1986) is a world renown photographer and any book dealing with the history of the medium will have his name in the Index and maybe a photo or two, probably color as this was his passion. I recently found this 1975 book remarkably cheap from an on-line seller.

It turns out though to be rather disappointing probably because the book's theme is too broad to be summed up with one hundred and five photos. There's a bit of everything here: Grand Canyon; Amish country; native Americans; the mid-west; football; Disneyland; suburbia; skyscrapers; Civil War and more. Fortunately the book is not quite as bland as those photo books sold to tourists at airports and full of bright, glossy color pictures of the Nation.

There are some great photos in the book but not enough of them to say these were obviously taken by Haas. It does include his famous 1969 black sky shot of Route 66 going through Albuquerque but nothing from his photo essay of New York that Life magazine ran over two issues in September 1953, some of these are now classic images.

The book's layout is rather disappointing too. Whole page bleed photos are mixed in with others half a page with big blocks of empty page space either side. The white paper comes across as prominent as the photos. The back of the book has sixteen pages of comprehensive captions written by Haas.

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