Saturday 20 July 2024

MAGA autos

A compact handy light-weight guide to the excesses of Detroit. The 320 pages are crammed with art taken from period brochures and ads. This was an age when illustrators were the kings of the media and the pages are crammed with meticulously painted dashboards, engine blocks, chassis without any seats or bodywork and close-ups of exclusive bits of technical design. Frequently these land cruisers are occupied by families of midgets and it's a wonder that Dad could see over the dashboard. At the other extreme, the more expensive models are surrounded by stylish-looking ladies and husbands in morning suits and bow ties.

There are a few photos in the book and the 60s edition is almost all photos and I thought not quite so visually interesting. The twenty-four chapters, each devoted to a brand, reveal the various models released each year with some caption tech specs. Considering that one car sort of looks like another the page layouts cleverly use the car art and simple graphics to create a quite a breezy look.

Thursday 11 July 2024

Walt had an eye on the future 4/5

If you were a child, teenager, or adult in the fifties and sixties and visited and Disney theme parks, this book is for you. Pure nostalgia to capture the fun times of yesteryear. The book is probably sixty percent images with a huge selection of Disney concept art for the various pavillions and hotels. Mixed in with the colored images I thought there were too many contemporary news PR photos that don't contribute too much but fill up a lot of page space.

The twenty-six chapters cover everything the Disney Corporation got up to in mid-century and not only in the US. Page 129 refers to the Brussels World's Fair of 1958 where the company showed 'America the Beautiful' film on a huge circular screen. Walt was very much looking to the future and Monsanto built a plastic future house in LA Disneyland with a ten-year lease. EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was a future look at the Florida Disneyland. Architect Welton Beckett (he designed the Capitol Tower in Hollywood)  created Progressland, Disney's contribution to the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Author Don Hahn ties all the Disney ideas together with his breezy copy and nicely the book, originally published in 2017, isn't too expensive now. 



Monday 8 July 2024

Have a look at the out of sight coal industry 5/5

The 112 plate photos in this excellent book are a small selection of the 2,800 Russell Lee took in the five months from June 1946 while visiting more than ninety mining communities in eighteen states. The Truman administration was concerned about strikes and the living conditions of coal miners and commissioned Joel Boone to write a report about American coal: 'A medical survey of the bituminous-coal industry.' 

Filmmaker Pare Lorentz suggested his friend Lee as the photographer for the survey because of his work ethic and the powerful images he took of the Depression years for the Farm Security Administration. Most coal mines were in small rural locations, away from the public eye where companies owned and supplied everything for miners and their families and charged for everything. They all had railroad tracks but frequently no roads other than rough tracks. Lee's photos perfectly capture the communities with their houses (built a few feet from the railroad tracks) a general store, a church, a school and maybe a swimming pool.

Looking through the photos I was struck by the phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words but it's reading Lee's captions that make certain photos come alive. Page 116 shows a little girl drinking from a saucepan the caption reveals that the water is red and thick with iron rust. Page 137 has a a lady getting water for washing from a stream, the caption says that livestock wade in the stream and a dead animal was a short distance from where she was collecting the water.

The book has a twenty-nine-page illustrated essay about the coal communities and the Boone report. The photos (all with excellent captions) use a 175 screen printed on a good matt art paper. I think it's worth saying that the book is about the living conditions and people in the coal towns with less than twenty-five photos covering the actual mining operations.