Thursday, 23 November 2017

Come home with a cable car

A worthwhile souvenir of your children's visit to San Francisco. Open the string bound folder to find an upright book and two punch out models to make, one color printed and the other waiting to be colorized. The models are 6.5 inches long by 2.5 high and these can be placed on the inside of the folder which is printed with a street surface and a turntable that can be rotated. The model is car 52, maybe you travelled on this when you visited.

The twenty page book has an illustrated route map of the three lines (and oddly includes the F Market and Wharves tramline) how the system pulls the forty cars around their routes with a top speed 9.5mph and other bits of history and facts and figures including a cutaway illustration of a car. Did you know the underground cable is only 1.25 inches thick!

The complete pack is a handsome design job by Kit Hinrichs and written Delphine Hirasuna.

Wire man

Anyone familiar with Friedlander's work knows that he can't resist a chain link fence, they keep people out (or in) but they're useless in stopping photography. He's been looking through them for over fifty years with the biggest selection, up till now, in his 2004 book Sticks and stones: architecture in America.

This new title has ninety-seven wonderful shots of chain links dividing the background into hundreds of little diamonds, of course, the best fences are partially broken ones where the diamonds get stretched into unrecognisable shapes and when Friedlander finds one of these he playfully likes to include his shadow in the shot.  The chain link doesn't always cover the whole image, lots of the photos have the fence only half-way up the frame or maybe a corner post with the fence occupying just an upright half of the picture.

The photos cover fifty-four years with the first one from New York in 1963 (taken when Friedlander was only twenty-nine) a beauty of a double fence with what looks like a two foot gap so extra uprights and horizontal sections are added into the mix. The latest shot is from Santa Barbara in 2016.  The last image in the book is Freidlander's face close behind some broken chain link and looking at the camera.

Long time Friedlander collaborator Katy Homans did her usual immaculate book design and Steidl printed it with a 175 screen, no jacket instead a photo tipped onto the front and back covers.

Surely it's only Friedlander who can use an incredibly mundane product like a chain link fence and deliver page after page of photos full of fascinating detail of what is behind the wire.  

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Reveals yesterday and probably today as well

Tria Giovan visited Cuba several times in the 1990s and the 120 photos in the book have been selected from the thousands she took during these visits. The photos, now some years old, have assumed a slight green and ochre cast which gives them extra credence as historical evidence.

Giovan went out of her way to capture the everyday, interiors of houses, doorways, a kitchen and bathroom, lounges, bedrooms, queues outside an ice cream kiosk, inside a hairdressers, getting on a bus, kids playing in a park, relaxing on a beach and lots of street shots showing the crumbling infrastructure, years old paint, broken windows with tape over the cracks (several of these).

I thought this was an excellent selection of Cuban photos from the recent past though I wonder how much of this has changed since the photos were originally taken, Cuba imports between 70% and 80% of its food (amazing for what is essentially an agricultural economy) the US prevents the country from joining the IMF or the World Bank so cheap loans to the state aren't available, rationing persists with some food essentials costing virtually nothing though expensive when bought in a local farmer's market. The difference between Cuba and other central American countries is the absence of huge wealth for some and poverty for the majority.

My only criticism is that none of the photos are captioned, were the street scenes taken in Havana, Santiago de Cuba or maybe Camaguey, where was the cinema on page 40 or the train going to on page 159. Despite this minor point I found it an interesting photobook. The presentation is straight forward with one photo a page and well printed by Damiani on matt art paper with a 300 screen.

This book of photos is a worthwhile look back at one countrie's attempt at equality for all and despite the odds still struggling on.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The feel of the city

Original editions of this 1969 book can cost hundreds of pounds on the rare book market but as Martin Parr says in his introduction: So now the cat is out of the bag and the book is now known and appreciated by a London audience.

I regard the contents as a visual stream of consciousness photobook. The presentation is much more graphic than photographic, most of the images have a very reduced tonal quality, some are cutouts, pages have tear shapes either of photos or black panels, images butt together and huge grainy blow-ups reveal Butturin's view of London at the end of the swinging sixties. I wonder how far he was influenced by Klein's famous photobook 'Life is good & good for you in New York' because the presentation is very similar.

There are no captions to the photos and with so many close-ups of people's faces the only real indication that everything was shot in London are a few photos of the Underground, the head of a Horse Guard, a bowler hatted gent but if this book was shown to most people and they were asked to identify the city, without revealing the book's title, I bet London would be at the top of the list. Without doubt it has the feel of London.