Sunday, 14 October 2018

Design in your daily life

Originally published in 1997 this wonderful book is still topical because it deals with everyday things in our daily life and why they look the way they do. Amazingly all the hundreds of things pictured throughout the book can be seen in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

What I found fascinating is that the contents are not only what might be considered fine art but items that can be found in any home: a clock; picture frame; book jacket; cup and saucer; detergent box; radio. The word design applies to all these items and three chapters (Design for daily life, Design for shaping space, Design for communicating) explores the way design from the past influences the appearance of things today.
The chapters start with an illustrated essay followed by pages of images with excellent captions, for example, pages 120 and 121 has eleven photos of lights including an Italian first century BC oil lamp, 1777 chandeliers, an Edgar Brandt standing light he designed in 1925, Poul Henningsen famous 1958 artichoke hanging light and 1980s flashlights.
A really nice thing about the book is the first class design by Drenttel Doyle Partners (and still going in New York) the page layouts and typography are just perfect and it's a pleasure to turn the pages. The other nice thing is that if you look around the net a good copy can be picked for very little, a 192 page bargain.




Farm mug shots

Who can resist not looking at well cared for and content farm animals? 'Radiant' is an interesting attempt by photographer Traer Scott to capture the warmth these animals radiate. It doesn't quite come off because I found the title's sub-head 'farm animals up close and personal' rather problematic. So many of the photos really are up close and the severe cropping drastically reduces the natural beauty of these friendly looking creatures and why did Scott decide to photograph the black or very dark ones against a black background? Most of the book turns out to be a collection of farm mug-shots.

The best photos for me are the two legged fowl. Pages fifty-two and fifty-three has a beautiful profile shot of a buff Orpington chicken, seventy-two has another excellent photo of a Ameraucana chicken, both these pictures feature nearly all the body and if Scott had pulled her camera back to show more of the four-legged animals I think the book would have been much more visually interesting.

Oddly nearly all the animals get just one shot, the facing page to most of images has some detail about the breed but there is plenty of space to allow for two or three other smaller photos, maybe in a field or feeding or just resting (could these be in a future book?). Radiant ends up with a rather slight glow.


Thursday, 11 October 2018

More than just a fleeting look back

Tod Papageorge moved to New York in his mid-twenties and his friends Gerry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz suggested taking street photos as a possible entrance to getting commercial work. The sixty-one images in the book show his budding potential. He had a fondness for windows, especially shop ones, the book's title is from the name of an optometrist's shop next door to a florist, shown on the title spread. I think these window photos are the strongest in the book, they have a natural framing especially when taken head on which doesn’t allow for any distortion and the viewer can appreciate the objects within the frame.

The non-window photos are a mix of typical New York street scenery but actually with a twist because Papageorge managed to capture some wonderfully quirky shots, for example, a, man minus his jacket, with his back to the camera, hands on hips and bent over the engine of a Cadillac that’s parked at the kerb or a beautifully framed shot of five young women sitting on a stone step and talking but all of them have a cigarette in their hand.

The photos are all in color and printed on an excellent matt art with a 175 screen and unusually for a photo book these days with the images only on the right-hand page. The book’s size, eleven by twelve inches, also makes looking through it a pleasure.