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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



On the Human Being: International Photography: 1900-1950 / De Lo Humano Fotografia Internacional, 1900-1950 edited by Ute Eskildsen, essays by Florian Ebner, Ramon Esparza, Christiane Kuhlmann, and Sofia Diez (Turner; Bilingual edition) Featuring work by Cecil Beaton, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Avedon, Man Ray, El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko and dozens more of the most outstanding photographers of the twentieth century, this deluxe set is broken into two volumes, each sold separately, that jointly analyze photography as an artistic medium from 1900 to 2000-paying particular attention to the myriad ways that human beings have been portrayed across the years. The first volume collects 114 black-and-white images by the leading photographers and avant-garde artists of the era spanning from 1900-1950. The second features 100 more images, also in black-and-white, that span from 1950-2000. Both volumes are edited by the renowned curator and scholar of historical photography, Ute Eskildsen, who has directed the development of the Photographic Department at the Museum Folkwang, Essen since 1979.

On the Human Being International Photography, 1950-2000 / De Lo Humano Fotografia Internacional, 1950-2000 edited by Ute Eskildsen and Alberto Martin (Turner; Bilingual edition) In his study of photography and the unconscious, Serge Tisseron quotes the following sentence from Walter Benjamin's "Short History of Photography": "At the beginning of photography, no one dared to look at the faces on the plate for too long. They thought those faces were also able to see them." Tisseron goes on to wonder whether we have ever really overcome that illusion. Implicit in this question is the inevitable existence in every portrait photo of a close and powerful bond between the viewer and the subject or subjects appearing therein. This offers a fine definition of the importance, persistence and evolution of that photographic genre over time. That evolution is also largely influenced by a third element that plays a fundamental role in the determinant set of transfers occurring in every portrait: the artist, with his positions and strategies. Portraiture—perhaps photography's epitomic genre—is built on the basis of multiple dialogs between photographer and model, photographer and viewer; and model and viewer. And if there is a period in which the implications and consequences of these complex relations were pushed to the limit, it is the second half of the twentieth century. This is especially evident in photographers" conscious attitude toward their capacity to influence this play of transactions, thus modifying and questioning established roles.

Portraiture, which could be considered the expression par excellence of humanness, underwent an unprecedented growth and development with the appearance of photography, which led it into an unstoppable process of institutionalization and massive media presence. The development of photography itself has generated a multitude of accumulated references—a sort of master file—about the significance of capturing an individual's image. These reach from the desire for knowledge to the exploitation of man's inherent narcissism. There is the celebratory or commemorative portrait, the portrait as mirror of the soul, the portrait as part of a process of identification and classification, then there are scientific Iportraits, family portraits, portraits of the "other," with multiple uses and references reaching from sociologyto psychology, from filesto family photo albums, from judicial use to mere keepsakes, from science to documentation, from the fixing of an archetype to the exaltation of an individual, from the subjective to the neutral. All this has formed the basis for praxis and uses, faces and bodies that shaped the nature of the genre. Beginning in the nineteen fifties, they were subjected to a continuous and ceaseless process of exploration, revision and questioning. For over five decades, portraiture underwent profound transformations in which human presence—both individual and collective subjects—became the central axis of an entire series of creative`strategies focusing on identity, individuality, social categories, public and private, the body and gender. During those years, photography took its place as one of the artistic disciplines and both its historical and functional models, as well as its contribution to avant-garde movements, were reconsidered.

It is precisely the transparent character of the photographic image—its promise of realism and faithfulness—that has made the nature of the photographic portrait so complex. The guarantee of its capacity to identify and bear witness, its exactitude and fidelity, are always confronted with the question of its capacity to function as a vehicle for subjectivity and emotion. Cynthia Freeland successfully summed up this conflict when she defined it as the tension between the revelatory—associated with the exactitude of the subject—and the creative, linked to artistic expression. The conflict between those two elements actually involves two complementary questions.`On one hand, what is the image's capacity to objectively register what we cannot see but believe we can deduce in the presence of another person: their subjective, character-related, emotional side—their "soul" in the sense of the truism that the face is the window of the soul? That is what Roland Barthes characterized with the French term "air." On the other hand, what type of subject or`discourse on humanness does the artist construct through his practice and creative strategy? In other words, a portrait could as easily be a manner of recognizing shared humanity, as an encounter with an irreducible strangeness, as Serge Tisseron correctly observes. It can affirm individuality or negate it; it can even consider the subject a neutral and autonomous entity, or it can bring out that subject's condition as a social and historical construct.

Three elements will help us sum up what portraiture involves and what it brings into play: face, body and identity. The face is essential because it is the fundamental emitter of signs as well as the quintessential body element used for identification, control and classification. The face embodies absolute multiplicity: it is where gazes intermingle, where emotions emerge, it certifies similarity and engages in dialog`with the "other." The face is where one looks to discover at least part of the subject's inner life. It is no surprise that the face dominates portraiture and has become the paradigmatic element that defines it. But the importance of its presence is equaled by that of its absence when this fundamental element of identity and recognition is negated or transformed. A mask, a disguise, death, an inexpressive or hidden face become powerful mechanisms for questioning our reading of a subject's identity or nature, or even the function of portraiture itself. A similar group of`considerations or duality is found in the body, which is a`space in which the being projects itself into the public or social sphere. It contains and expresses the cultural representation of the subject at all times. The attributes of social and cultural identity, its conventions, stereotypes and fashions take shape in the body, as does the resistance constructed through its reconfiguration, manipulation or reconstitution. Thus, to a large degree, the face and body define a context for the construction of the subject and the play of identities expressed through the practice of portrait photography.

While it may be obvious, there is no harm in recalling that the representation of humanness should not be confused with humanism. Indeed, the second half of the twentieth century opens precisely with the aftereffects of the wave of humanism generated in both Europe and the United States during and after World War II. As Olivier Lugon very clearly showed in his study, Le style documentaire, this wave provisionally buried the decisive contributions of two of the great photographic models from the first half of that century: Walker Evans and August Sander. These artists" systematic, serial, emotionless, neutral and straightforward approach was rejected in favor of information, individual sensitivity and emotional saturation. While the United States sought to reject any reading that failed to emphasize the nation's optimistic future; in Germany an effort was being made to break with any esthetic or ideological reference that might recall their Nazi past. But that situation began to change rapidly in the late nineteen fifties. The model of liberal social documentary photography reached its breaking point in the United States, as Liz Kotz clearly pointed out her article "Damaged, " which is reproduced in these same pages. Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander began to bring out the dark, disquieting side of U.S. society, while Diane Arbus portrayed a gallery of singular antiheroes far removed from the abundant exemplary and universal characters presented by documentary photography from the previous decade.

The unstoppable emergence of mass media and the rapidly changing social landscape—especially in cities—radically modified the parameters for constructing and perceiving subjects. Winogrand's and Friedlander's street photography show these changes better than any other. Their images are convulsed, informal, they eschew hierarchy and are almost compulsive. In them, the social setting takes precedence over the individual, who is reduced to anonymity. While Arbus reinforces subjectivity by emphasizing singularity, Winogrand and Friedlander crush it into anonymity. Nevertheless, all three share an approach to their work that is compulsive, exhaustive and systematic, an attitude bordering on that of a collector of images, which reappears in the approach of photographers like Araki and William Klein.

Friedlander's and Winogrand's approach is clearly anti-humanist, as subject and emotional content dissolve into the complex social fabric that envelops the individual. Most of all, though, these photographers bring formal considerations to their work, delving into the conditions under which the image is constructed and asking what information a photo can contain and how it is structured formally. That focus on the balance and reciprocal relation between an image's form and content would become omnipresent from then on in the observation of humanness. From very different standpoints—reaching from some of the new reporters at the Magnum agency all the way to artists like Jeff Wall or Roy Arden—a concern with the formal construction of efficient social commentary became a key element. What established this question was the link between how new documentary models were being established, and the approach to images taken first by conceptual art, and later by post-modernism. A paradigmatic example of this can be found in some of the artists who emerged with the development of color photography, for example Stephen Shore, who acknowledged Ed Ruscha's influence by stating that "form is what brings clarity and meaning to content." More skeptical, but equally revealing, was William Eggleston, who employs an esthetic very close to popular forms of imagery (postcards or family snapshots) in order to record a common, everyday world.

Paradoxically, and parallel to Winogrand's and Friedlander's use of street photography to transform the view of man and his social setting, another outstanding group of photographers returned to a more testimonial approach, revisiting concrete and, to a degree, marginal contexts. In a way, this may have been a reaction to those two artists" dissolution of both subject and subject matter. From very different standpoints, artists such as Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Danny Lyon and Eugene Richards return to clearly defined social groups or communities in which it is possible to rediscover the subject and his or her subjectivity and living conditions. In the case of Nan Goldin and Larry Clark, this return to close-up recording of humanness casts the artists themselves as part of the group they are portraying. That proximity rests, to a large degree, on its autobiographical appearance, making it the evidence of a shared experience and interrelation between the photographer and the lifestyle being photographed. Subcultures and social exclusion are areas where life experiences and testimony can easily be found. Danny Lyon records the nonconformity and rebelliousness of motorcyclists and their world, while`Eugene Richards reports on communities attacked by crack in a closed circle of social ostracism.

Since the nineteen eighties, this interest in concretely reflecting contexts that explain and determine the subject, or well defined and demarcated human, social or professional groups, has become a widespread model. It is visible in the work of Boris Mikhailov, Tina Barney, André Gelpke, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Esko Männikkö, Judith Joy-Ross, Miguel Trillo and Cristina Garcia Rodero, among others. Meiselas' strippers and Trillo's urban tribes, as well as Tina Barney's wealthy families and Martin Parr's tourists or working-class people and Gelpke's sub-cultures are joined by Cristina Garcia Rodero's rituals and Judith Joy-Ross's portraits of family members mourning soldiers who died in Vietnam. These works are clearly quite different from each other, but they share a bent for observing models of identity running from the ethnological to the sociological or anthropological. The subject is explained in terms of his or her belonging to a community or group, or by some other type of shared, common experience. This procedure can run from a close-up and highly testimonial approach to a more distant, ironic one. In a way, such work returns to a humanist attitude, whether critical or not, that tends to recover the individual's presence, attempting to explain him in terms of either his tribal or group behavior, or his subjectivity and inner emotions. Since the nineteen eighties, a clearly delineated derivation of this praxis has nearly gained the force of a sub-genre within portraiture: the photo-diary. Outstanding examples of this tracking of the everyday can be found in artists like Nan Goldin, Corinne Day, Nick Waplington, Richard Billingham or even Tina Barney. The setting favored by this type of work is the family, home or personal life, the epitomic spaces of privacy that these practices transfer into the public sphere. It is not so much a subversion as a transformation of the family photo album.

All this is very different than the approach that continues to delve into the dissolution of the subject and its loss of unity and singularity. The latter frequently appears in two forms. One refers to the appearance of the "banal," while the other portrays the individual's immersion into urban denaturalization. That the two often coincide is perfectly exemplified by the work of Beat Streuli and Valerie Jouve. In the former, individual, emotional or allegorical extremes fade away in the presence of the uniformity and anonymity of city inhabitants. In the latter's work, subjects dialog with the urban context from a position of manifest inferiority.

Yet, the city and the alienation of its inhabitants can also be seen in a different light, as in the work of Philip-Lorca diCorcia, a key artist in the continuation of Garry Winogrand's unfinished project. One of the most qualified representatives of staged photography from the nineteen eighties and nineties, he can also be considered one of the leading defenders of street photography. His works are characterized by a difficult and complex encounter between portraiture—as a reading of the model's psyche and inner world—and the strictest documentary practice. That encounter is resolved by the construction of an atmosphere that represents and perfectly merges both the public space of the city and the private space of the subject: his or her subjectivity. The artist himself puts it best: "Perhaps what I am portraying is not the subject's real psychology, but it is resolved in the image and in the projection of that psychology into the surrounding space. The image of people is that of a façade that is contradicted by an introspective gaze.

It is obvious that urban life is alienating, but since I am the one choosing what appears in my images, I may also be the one who feels the need to express my own vision of the pathos of daily life [...] I focus excessively and dramatically on what was never really hidden, even though it is rarely noticed." Comparing some of diCorcia's images from the series, Streetwork, with photos by Winogrand reveals the potential of the latter's approach and the degree to which his project could and should be continued. In some cases there is an almost literal translation that reveals just how decisive the previously mentioned question of balance between form and social commentary really is.

While diCorcia occupies a place of honor somewhere between staging and snapshots, it is clear that an inclination toward staged photos—an attenuated form of theatricality in portraiture—has taken the fore in recent years. Poses, gestures, clothing and references to classical iconography—drawn preferably from painting—are frequently employed procedures in the practice of portraiture since the nineteen eighties. The results are very estheticized, elegant and beautiful works that use historical references as vehicles for critical discourse. Such is the case of Andres Serrano or Bernhard Prinz. The former uses religious iconography to represent characters on the very edge of social acceptance, while the latter questions and reveals the ideals of perfection and superiority employed by totalitarian regimes. A similar use of highly classical referents appear in the work of Craigie Horsfield, although his discursive objectives are very different. He, himself, states that he is working with the concepts of nostalgia, memory and recognition. The idea is that, while we may not actually know the subjects in his photos, he hopes we may be able to recognize them and thus develop a sense of solidarity towards our fellow human beings. That recognition would thus act as a primary but efficient form of social construction and resistance to barbarity.

A more literal approach to the use of pictorial references and the reuse of classical forms of representation associated with portraiture began to appear in the so-called Dutch school in the nineteen nineties. It drew on the intensity of its own local historical tradition. The use of a polished and meticulous esthetic that favors detail, setting and lighting has generated widely imitated identity traits. This practice has focused mostly on the recording of unstable identities, either by approaching moments of intense change and transformation, such as adolescence, or by reflecting on population groups that bear witness to the changing and intermingled nature of our societies, or else by concentrating on persons linked to some sort of traumatic situation. Artists such as Hellen van Meene or Koos Breukel are clear examples of a school that well defines the reigning sensibility toward the end of the twentieth century.

In a more subtle and nuanced way, it is also possible to find clear references to historical iconographic models in the work of Rineke Dijkstra, one of the leading names in portrait photography in the nineteen nineties. Her approach to the genre has been defined as a new form of monumentality, which is totally reasonable in an artist who has managed to reinterpret and combine diverse models for representing the subject in a very precise use of photographic series. Her approach is unquestionably among those that have proved most capable of updating August Sander's project. Perhaps what most draws our attention in her work is that, at a time of clear skepticism about photography's capacity to transmit and bring out an individual's subjectivity, she manages to do just that. Beneath an appearance of neutral objectivity projected by her use of series, these images clearly invoke the possibility of extracting some sort of invisible information from the faces and poses of her subjects. The dialog between identity and human condition, between individual specificity and universal values of existence, between presence and essence, is there. And to a certain degree, that dialog is a part of the very genealogy of portraiture, an underpinning that has remained and developed over time. Here are some examples: John Berger said that the subjects of Paul Strand's portraits became narrators, and that the photographer offered us not only their presence but also their lives. And, referring to Robert Mappelthorpe's portraits, Susan Sontag stated that most of them portray people discovered, persuaded or captured in their own self-assurance. Roland Barthes analyzed Richard Avedon's portraits and reached the conclusion that no sure adjective is offered by the bodies represented in his photographs. They simply insist on being and continuing to be. And with regard to Pierre Gonnord's work, I myself concluded that his portraits offer each subject its own representation: the characters in his images construct themselves and refer to nothing but their own being. Following these diverse lines of interpretation and creation by four different artists, we find a shared element that marks a certain sense of continuity, as if there were an ineluctable drive that easily emerges in portraiture: the aspiration to attain a freedom from the body that can bring out what is more than skin deep.


Icons Of Photography: The 20th Century by Peter Stepan  (Prestel Publishing) (Hardcover) Ninety seminal images by the world’s greatest photographers provide a stunning tour of the twentieth-century’s greatest camera work.

From the first image, Heinrich Zille’s Nine Boys Practicing Handstands, to the final, Nan Goldin’s backstage portrait of transvestite performers, this generously illustrated volume explores photography’s impact on the way we experience the world. Every major photographer is represented in double-page spreads, which feature one full-page image, a brief essay on the artist, and additional images of note. Presented chronologically, photographs testify to the evolution of an art form that is continually reinventing itself. From portraiture, photojournalism, and abstraction, to landscape, fashion, and works that transcend genre labels, the selection of masterworks presented here demonstrates the beauty of photography in all its variety.

 The third of Prestel's "Icon" series, which is devoted to gathering landmark work from a featured medium, this chronological assembly of 90 photographers, from Berenice Abbott to Heinrich Zille, offers a carefully gathered spectrum of photography in this century. Each artist is given a two-page spread, including a portrait shot and an example of a key image; there are 165 images in all, representing the artists' best and most challenging work. In the hands of these daring practitioners, photography looks like a tool of revelation, with imagination, mystery, and the range of human experience on display throughout. These captured instants-framed, composed, labored over, and at times accidental create an important legacy that will be reviewed for a long time to come. They also reveal what parts of the 20th century have looked like. Recommended for the value of its content and its careful, consistent presentation of great photography.

Immune by Floria Sigismondi (Gestalten Verlag) Floria Sigismondi is a multi-disciplinary artist whose photography, videos, films and sculptures have had a major impact on contemporary visual culture. Six years after we released her first book Redemption, we are publishing Chaos, a second collection of Sigismondi’s groundbreaking images that reflect the evolution and diversity of her recent work.

Chaos features a remarkable blend of new photos including previously unreleased footage from the prize-winning video clips she has created for music acts including Christina Aguilera, the Cure, Incubus, Björk, Leonard Cohen and the Living Things. These are complimented by more personal artistic images and self-portraits.

The bizarre, otherworldly look that Sigismondi has become famous for is still clearly recognizable, but Chaos also highlights the range of her creative vision. In addition to presenting classic images, the book shows work that is subtler and at times irreverently critical of current politics.

Saga: The Journey of Arno Rafael Minkkinen by Arno Rafael Minkkinen (Chronicle Books) Saga is the first major monograph of the work of Arno Minkkinen, published to accompany a series of exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. Offering a comprehensive retrospective of this vital photographer's work, Saga gives new meaning to the self-portrait. Eschewing digital manipulation, Minkkinen juxtaposes his own body (and occasionally those of his family) with details in the landscape so that, in whole or in part, the human form collaborates with nature to create a work of lyrical beauty. Essays by a stellar roster of writers and scholars— novelist Alan Lightman and critics A.D. Coleman and Arthur Danto—explore the inner world of Minkkinen's pictures. Surreal and humorous, documentary and artful, the photographs of Arno Minkkinen leave the viewer moved and captivated.

A self-described "trickster," since 1970 Finnish-American photographer Minkkinen has created images that whimsically explore the relationship between his naked body and nature. Many of his photographs deliberately deceive, making it appear as if his hands and feet are walking across water, say, or his arm extends the length of a canyon. The photographs gathered in this retrospective are organized around The Kalevala, Finland's national epic poem. In them, Minkkinen bends his body around trees, buries himself in snow and bends a knee to match the curve of a rock formation. There is an undeniable grace to the way Minkkinen uses his body to mimic nature—his images are often startling and at times beautiful. There is also, however, a lack of variety; the images taken in 1973 look much like the ones taken in 1999, and the thematic organization of the book makes it all the more difficult to trace any development in his style or technique. The book's essays—by noted art critics Arthur Danto and A.D. Coleman and novelist Alan Lightman—are eloquent, intelligent and well written. However, like Minkkinen's photographs, they try too hard to reposition the self-portrait as a running, whimsical dialogue with the physical world.

Arno Rafael Minkkinen was born in Helsinki in 1945. Raised in New York, he has had numerous international exhibitions and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Alan Lightman is the author of The Good Benito and Einstein's Dreams. A.D. Coleman is a prolific writer of photographic history and criticism. Arthur Danto is Emeritus Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and art critic for The Nation.

Light in the Dark Room: Photography and Loss by Jay Prosser (University of Minnesota Press) (Hardcover) Photographs are not conduits for the return of memory, but memento mori: reminders of the fact of death itself. And in this, Jay Prosser tells us, we find the gift of photography.

Engaging the photographic reflections of figures as different as Roland Barthes and Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gordon Parks and Elizabeth Bishop, Light in the Dark Room offers a vision of photography as real­ization of loss—and a revelation of how photographs can shed light on the dark rooms of our lives. The grief this book recalls is poignant yet universal: a son loses his mother; an anthropologist, his culture; a photographer, his youth; a poet, her lover. Among these losses and the remarkable photographs that accompany them, Prosser weaves his own meditations on photography, on the interdependence of loss and enlightenment, on the emergence of our technologized society—and the world we have lost in the process.

Excerpt: We treat photographs as if they had a kind of presence. Photography is the commonest way for us to record our own and our loved ones' lives. And we arrange photographs in our rooms of our beloved, often because they cannot be with us there—often (and eventually) because they are dead. Photography is the medium in which we unconsciously encounter the dead. Yet herein lies photography's hidden truth. Photographs are not signs of presence but evidence of absence. Or rather the presence of a photo-graph indicates its subject's absence. Photographs contain a realization of loss. This book on photography enters into that loss.

Photographs contain a realization of loss in the fundamental sense that every photograph represents a past real moment that actually happened but is no longer. It is a myth that photographs bring back memories. Pho­tographs show not the presence of the past but the pastness of the present. They show the irreversible passing of time. Our most lyrical writers on photography have understood the tense of photography. Walter Benjamin: in "the cult of remembrance of loved ones, absent or dead," "the aura emanates from early photography in the fleeting expression of a human face." Susan Sontag: "Photography is a message from time past," "a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask." Roland Barthes: "what I see ... has been here, and yet immediately separated; it has been absolutely, irrefutably present, and yet already deferred." For all, photography is a melancholic object. Not an aide-mémoire, a form

for preserving memory, it is a memento mori. Photography is not only a reminder of our loved ones' death, it tells our impending own. It is evidence of the fact of death itself. Photography's commentators have been less concerned to convey the significance of the realization of loss in photography. There are two senses to photography's realization. Photography makes real the loss. But then it makes possible the apprehension of this loss. This is my recovery. As offering insight into the inexorable loss that is life, pho­tography captures a reality that we would otherwise not see, that we would choose not to see. It holds out the promise of a kind of enlightenment. It is this that makes me enter the dark room of photography.

The earliest responses to photography understood this mystical quality. Some of the first photographs were shown in magic shows; its innovation was thought to make visible the invisible. To some eyes so apparently mi­raculous was the new medium, so unprecedented its realism, that something of the divine seemed to inhabit photography. Only God had previously had, only God should have, that kind of reproductive power. Photography's emergence was coincident with a decline in religious belief. Along with the development of other forms of technological reproduction, the invention of photography was both enabled by, and contributed to, the death of God. But perhaps something of the faith in the divine as ultimate reality and elucidating force transferred from God to photography. Certainly the first names for photography suggest the marveling in a form of creation almost beyond human capacity, that required limited human intervention: heliographs, or "sun-drawings." It was as if light alone produced the image. The name eventually chosen, photography, means "light-writing."

As a modern technological form photography emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century when the discovery of a certain combination of chemicals made possible the fixing of images first on metal, then on glass, and finally in the form in which it has been predominantly practiced, on celluloid film printable on paper. But photography has a much longer history prior to its chemical invention. The Han Dynasty Chinese (from 200 BCE), who were possibly the first to use spectacles and lenses, were among the most advanced in optical technology in the world. The Chinese Lan-tern contains in embryo the Magic Lantern. The thin paper shade of the Chinese lamp serves to catch in a play of light and shadow the movements and objects around it, what would later be more firmly outlined and the shades distinguished by the slide projector, or Magic Lantern. The effects of light in a dark room become evident in any country that is hot enough one needs to shut out the light to keep out the sun. Plato might have dismissed the shadows on the wall of his cave. But his most famous student, Aristotle, succumbed to the magic that happens when you sit inside a dark­ened room and allow a bright light to bring in a piece of the world outside. Aristotle, in effect, knew all about the camera obscura. The camera obscura, literally a "dark room," was the earliest form of a camera. It consisted of a darkened space in which a hole or window cut into one wall projected onto the opposite inside wall the scene outside the room. Initially because light reflects objects, the scene appeared in the image in inverted form. Later a mirror was added to the "lens" of the window and the dark room; and this combination, lens, mirror, and dark room, remains the basis of every photographic mechanism today. The "room" of the camera may have shrunk, the camera become progressively more box-like and eventually handheld. But the camera retains, in its name, a reference to that magical space one originally occupied: the dark room where one went to receive an illuminated version of reality…

I begin in chapter 1 with the seminal essay on photography as loss, Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida. Barthes gets real on photography when he declares he is writing a palinode. "Camera lucida" is literally the light room, but Barthes's thoughts on photography actually take shape in the dark room of his incomplete mourning for his mother. The loss of his mother propels him to see the real of photography and to retreat on his previous, structuralist skepticism toward photographic realism. Looking with Barthes at the autobiographical loss of his dead mother, I also revisit the extraordinary circumstances of Barthes's death which followed so soon after hers. The double loss frozen by Camera Lucida proves ultimately unrepresentable, except in photography—an original loss before speech that we are born into.

Chapter 2 reads the photographic memoir of the structuralist anthro­pologist who provided Barthes's initial terms for thinking about photogra­phy. Like Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss in his career rejected a documen­tary approach to cultural reality, and with it photography. Photography had a foundational role in anthropology. Lévi-Strauss worked hard against this to find the signs and symbols of complex cultures in what had been denigrated as given and simple referents. But what loss is incurred in the focus on the sign? In his last published book, his autobiographical collec­tion of his old photographs, Lévi-Strauss returns to the outset of his career in Brazil in order to realize what is changing at its end. His wonderful, overlooked photographs tie loss to advances in global technology and want us to see something now. His need, finally, to fall back on photography in order to warn of impending and massive planetary perdition is bothenabled by the latest technology and returns to a more magical, and in his inverting, appreciative terms, primitive, relationship to photography.

Chapter 3 takes up the legacy of the realistic tradition of documentary photography. It was this that generated the field of visual anthropology, to which photography in anthropology now belongs. The documentary photographer Gordon Parks has worked most successfully as a participant observer to produce what amounts to a visual anthropology of African American lives. But what is exacted in return, what are the costs of a life of documentation? Who gets to represent reality, and how? Parks worked for Life magazine, where we see the (U.S.) nationalization of documentary realism. I tell the story of how, at Life, Parks's photographs redeemed a life; but I also look at the worst instance resulting from the encounter of the tirer: the horrible realness involved in the "taking" of life in the act of photo-graphing. Parks in his photographs of a Brazilian boy initially thought he was bringing light, in his words, to a dark underworld. But his return a decade later to reconsider his assignment, and his second journey to the slums of the Rio de Janeiro shantytown called "Catacumba" ("tomb"), recall more than one ghost that he had sought to use his photography to dispel.

The poet Elizabeth Bishop saw Parks's assignment in Life magazine while she was living in Brazil. In her poetry concerned to convey the re­ality of places, she was persuaded to edit a book collection of photographs for Life's World Library series about this country she loved and in which she had made her home. But the realism of this largely overlooked photo-graphic edition turns out to be thwarted by political causes that entailed the suicide of Bishop's lover, the partner for whom she had settled in (and fallen in love with) Brazil. The political circumstances resulted in Bishop's deepest regret for this book. Chapter 4 recovers Bishop's original drafts and correspondence for her collection and discovers how her profound sense that she had failed to capture reality catalyzed her plans for another book about Brazil, one that would contain her own photographs and would be more autobiographical. I focus—and this marks their first encounter with criticism—on Bishop's lyrical photographs, which are as precise in their detail as her poetry and equal to if not surpassing the observant eye of her recently published paintings. I try to recover as much as possible this book Bishop said would have been about loss, all the while aware that Bishop found her losses so insuperable she did not publish the work. This may be the palinode taken to its most extreme, elusive mode.

Chapter 5 provides an instance of a palinode in the making—my own. I return to an earlier use I made of photography as referential. Contrary to the claim of my preceding book that photographs show the sex change of transsexuals, I now realize what I had left out of this manifesto about trans-sexual autobiography: precisely the fact that transsexual narratives can't be realized, can't be closed. My misapprehension of photography turned on a misreading of Camera Lucida, or more precisely a failure to take in what Barthes leaves out—a photograph of his mother that Barthes couldn't show. I, too, now touch on inevitably lost parts: photographs cut from my own and another transsexual's book, a cut footnote about photographs, and ultimately for me a sense of lost body parts. Circling back to Barthes and chapter 1, I show how reading others' losses (Bishop cites Lévi-Strauss as well as Parks) can spur our own realizations. Light in the Dark Room stemmed from looking, in photography, at my own autobiographical losses. This chapter was first presented in Brazil.

Why Brazil? Lévi-Strauss's photographic memoir is called Saudades do Brasil, and the term saudades appears in two other works here and runs as the spirit of them all. Saudades is as intrinsic to Brazil as it is to the conception of photography in this book. It is a word that Brazilians are proud of as hav­ing significance to their country. I avoid direct translation; Bishop writes there's always loss incurred in translation. But at the outset, saudades is best glossed as a realization of loss. My choice of these writers is considered: in reverse order, a Canadian-born (and ultimately U.S.-settled) American; an African American; a European Americanist, all of whom moved between Brazil and the United States; and, key start, a Frenchman who, in his book on photography, sees at the end of his life the United States as the worst example for the way in which reality is subsumed into signs, in which photography is made yet another readable text. My writing about realizing loss in photography in these particular authors moves toward a larger ques­tion about where exactly we are locating reality in an age dominated by global technologies: what's left of the real in our lives when our ultimate realities seem taken by technology, with its attendant progress, acquisition, development, gain—corporate, national, and individual? The United States and Brazil are not the confines for my concerns about the losses incurred in modernity's technologization; but as the United States is the greatest source and purveyor of global technologies, and as Brazil shows some of their more obvious effects, the relations between these two countries form an apt and animated backdrop for reading loss in photography. In brief and to foreshadow: I suggest in the focus on Brazil that Brazil may (yet) contain an instance of the real lost from the dominance of the U.S. symbolic. I end, then, in my epilogue with a few autobiographical snapshots going back to my own recent trips to Brazil and my own saudades or realizations of losses there. Like my authors here I go with the I and the eye—in a form that, like photography, doesn't master reality but lets it go. As well as chasing some of the referents of their photographs—mostly, of course, lost—I tell how, in the Amazon on the Rio Negro, there's a particular quality of light that made me want to take, and then give, up photographs ... and to live with the realism and illumination (attention to presence, acceptance of absence) given us by photographs.

Corpus tritone photography by Alejandra Figueroa, Afterword by Phillippe Sollers (Rizzoli International Publications) with 69 tritone illustrations, is the first major monograph on the photography of Alejandra Figueroa, introducing the photographer to the North American audience. The fruit of several years' work, this series of black-and-white photographs of statues from the world's greatest museums captures every nuance of flesh and exalts every detail of the human body-proof of the classical beauty of Figueroa's art and her dedication to the sensuality of forms.
This breathtaking collection of sixty-nine tritone photographs is an invitation to a voyage through past and present, matter and flesh, sacred and profane, life and death, seen through the most subtle and sensuous of lenses. Figueroa's closeup images of sculpted bodies follow in a double tradition: that of great painters, in her skilled framing and lighting, which give every picture the illusion of life; and that of such great photographers as Edward Weston and Manuel Alvarez Bravo or Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastido Salgado..

Alejandra Figueroa's work is a driven but dreamlike exploration of the role of the body as a vessel of boundless desire and timeless eroticism. Her gaze is entirely without voyeurism, guided simply by a will to see; always balanced, always calm and always passionate, it allows us to glimpse fleeting impressions, sense imaginary embraces.

Male Bodies: A Photographic History of the Nude by Emmanuel Cooper (Prestel) From paradigms of physical perfection to gay icons, this illustrated survey`of male nude photography presents in one stunning volume various portrayals of masculinity as seen through the eyes of the world’s most renowned photographers.
For a century and a half, photographers have been documenting the male form in order to serve a variety of purposes, from motion and anatomical studies to models for subsequent paintings to purely aesthetic and erotic ends. The entire continuum of male nude photography is the subject of this new volume in the Icons of Photography series. Fifty extraordinary images by such masters as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Minor White, Diane Arbus, Joel-Peter Witkin, Duane Michals, Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol and Grace Lau are presented in vibrant two-page spreads with illuminating commentary by an expert in photography. Together these pictures trace an arc through the development of photographic history, technique, and style, while also following the cultural patterns that helped define our ideas of male beauty.

Icons: 200 Men and Women Who Have Made a Difference by Barbara Cady (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing) A dramatic, distinguished record, Icons is a powerful and provocative look at the giants of our time—the groundbreakers, thought-provokers, visionaries, tyrants, trendsetters, and style-makers who have left an indelible mark on our world. The culmination of ten years' research on the part of author Barbara Cady and photo editor jean-Jacques Naudet, it features two hundred of our century's most recognizable faces—individuals who have helped form our modern sensibilities, for better or worse: men like John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, Mao Zedong, and Pablo Picasso; women like Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, Aretha Franklin, Amelia Earhart, and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

A lavish album, Icons presents an extraordinarily wide selection of people chosen by a panel of more than sixty international leaders in the arts, sciences, politics, fashion, and technology. Barbara Cady's lively and probing biographies tell the fascinating stories behind these individuals' great accomplishments, exploring the views, personal backgrounds, and dramatic contributions each "icon" has made. Through Cady's treatment, the politician, philosopher, scientist, artist, athlete, and entertainer is presented in his or her unique greatness—or infamy. 

The rare black-and-white photographs in Icons establish the book's unparalleled visual impact. They are by turns elegiac and haunting, celebratory and enchanting—all are arresting portraits of the century's most familiar faces caught in unfamiliar and revealing lights. Culled from archives around the world, the images in Icons represent the best of modern photography, with works by such masters as Henri Cartier-Bresson himself one of the icons), Helmut Newton, Cecil Beaton, and Robert Capa. 

Powerful, intriguing, and informative, Icons is a visually stunning, historically sweeping work, destined to become a collector's item.

The two hundred individuals included in Icons of the Twentieth Century were chosen with the help of a multi-national Board of Advisors, respected leaders in the arts and sciences, in politics, publishing, education, fashion, entertainment and technology. Asked to base their deletions, nominations and rankings on their following definition of an icon: "Individuals whose names and faces have impacted us all and whose deeds—for good or ill—have literally shaped the course of modern history." When the ballots were tallied, about fifteen percent of the 200-name list—the nominations which garnered only a few votes each—fell at the thin end of the statistical bell curve. It was here that the combined efforts of the author, the publisher and the project's editors and researchers were called into service.

No grouping, of course, can ever be complete, nor can there be any objective criteria for hierarchical importance—not even for who is included and who is not. Questions will immediately arise: Why Nasser and not Khomeni? Why not Idi Amin, whose face came to symbolize the destruction of Africa in the post-colonial period, or Kwame Nkuma, whose independent Ghana initially offered a better hope for a continent in turmoil? Why not Konrad Adenauer, who out of the ruins of the Third Reich established the beginnings of post-World War democracy in Germany? And why Emperor Hirohito and not Tojo whose leadership of Japan may have had more to do with World War II in Asia than the imperial family? In the end, it would have been impossible to include every famous political leader of the century without eliminating key individuals in, say, music or literature.

Acknowledging that in this century government leaders—whether mass executioners or sun-kings—ipso facto dominated the world stage, it was decided they would not overrun Icons.

There were many others who made us think differently about our world—originals like Alfred Kinsey, Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan—who were not included. In some cases, it was because heir faces were simply not as recognizable as others, an important consideration because of the book's defining concept of eikon, or image. A similar point can be made for many of the century's innovators, individuals whose inventions—the television, the computer, the jet engine, the Pill, penicillin—are much more well known than they are. But Icons was about people not things.

Given that the major categories of human endeavor were to be represented, choice was difficult when there were too many candidates in one category, which was often the case. Why Nureyev and not also Nijinsky or Balanchine? Why Billie Holiday and not also Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald? Marcel Proust and not also Thomas Mann and William Faulkner? Why Babe Ruth and not Joe DiMaggio? Why not dozens of other high profile sports stars and performers, all iconic in their way due to the development of mass media in our century? Behind each inclusion and exclusion lie endless arguments. But the selection made at the end of the day is at best a selection. 

The Sea/Day by Day photographs by Philip Plisson (Harry N. Abrams) is a magnificent book of photographs. Anyone who loves the glamour moods, and mystery of the oceans will find awe by Philip Plisson's stunningly shot seascapes. He captures the oceans in all humors, in all their glory - gentle, tempestuous, mysterious, terrifying, powerful. There is the beautiful tranquility of the Caribbean, and the stormy violence of the North Atlantic. And Plisson also captures the elusive quality of light, and the way it falls on water. His successful efforts to capture the right light, at the best moment, to enhance the particular quality of the sea he wants to exhibit, is worth the price of the book alone.

Many of his remarkable images feature lighthouses, ancient tall ships, and modern sail boats, regattas, and sailors alone with the elements. The vast sea, however, is the dominant presence in all the photographs.

There is very little text here. The monumental photographs speak for themselves. Yann Queffelec's Introduction does provide a perfect setting, and Elaine Georges' text is well written.

Following the international success of The Sea-Abrams' deluxe, oversize volume of photographs by Philip Plisson-The Sea/Day by Day offers a new compilation of the acclaimed marine photographer's work in an affordable, compact format. These spectacular images-including almost 200 new photographs-are the result of Plisson's 25-year obsession with the planet's waters, capturing the sea in all its power, drama, and changeability.

We see crashing waves, placid waters, jagged rocks rising from foamy mists, and the overwhelming force of the currents, as well as sailboat regattas and races on the high seas. From solitary lighthouses to seaside communities, Plisson's photographs also explore our desire to live close to the ocean and the need to adapt to its rhythms. A book for photography lovers and open-sea adventurers alike, this breathtaking volume celebrates-in 365 of Plisson's most evocative images-our never-ending fascination with the sea.

Leica: Witness to a Century by Alessandro Pasi (W.W. Norton & Company) The fascinating history of a twentieth-century icon—the first handheld camera—and the people who use it.

The Leica is both a product of the twentieth century's inventive spirit and the means by which that spirit could be documented for posterity. As the first handheld camera, the Leica made possible a new kind of documentary photography, and included among its devoted fans are many of the century's greatest photographers. Its combined qualities of precision and compactness made it an essential tool for photographers everywhere, and today more than ever the Leica is prized by collectors.

Leica is a social history of the people behind the camera—its ingenious inventor, Oskar Barnack, and the great photographers who found it indispensable, including Rodchenko, Kertész, Cartier-Bresson, Capa, and many others. This completely new volume is richly illustrated with details that will satisfy even the most avid collector: diagrams, patent drawings, advertising posters, and biographies of some of its famous users. It belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who loves photography. 120 color illustrations and photographs.

Marakele: The Making of a South African National Park, includes DVD designed by Irma Boom, photography by Louise Agnew, Andy Rouse, Paul Van Vlissingen, Tet Van Vlissingen, (Distributed Art Publishers) Paperback, 696 pgs / 500 color. The Marakele National Park in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, as its Tswana name suggests, has become a place of sanctuary for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa. The park is characterized by contrasting majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills, and deep valleys. Rare finds of yellowwood and cedar trees, five-meter-high cycads and tree ferns, are some of the myriad plant species found here. All the large game species, from elephants and rhinos to the big cats, as well as an amazing variety of birds, including the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures in the world, have settled here.~Despite having one of the most overwhelming landscapes in South Africa, Marakele was heavily neglected until a few years ago. Together with the South African government, an exciting new model of private-public partnership was developed to help reinvigorate the park. Ideas first hatched in an inspiring conversation with President Nelson Mandela have since become a systematic and strategic approach that addresses pressing needs of people and animals in and around national parks in South Africa.~But wait, you are thinking, this is incredible--why am I reading about it in a catalogue devoted to books on contemporary visual culture? Because Marakele: The Making of a South African National Park is perhaps the most avant-garde animal book yet created. A feat of design and photo editing, it is a witty, sophisticated reinvention of a book form that rarely strays from the National Geographic model--at best. Dutch designer Irma Bloom has chosen 500 photographs, surprisingly detailed, sometimes funny, but always amazing, from 11,000 originals, and organized them following different themes: To Move, To Stand, To Crawl, To Wag, To Breed, To Flee, To Assemble, To Poo, To Yawn, To Hide, and more. The result is a touching and astonishing photographic essay about the animals that live in this wonderful park. Completing the book are a short essay about the project by Paul van Vlissingen, a list of all the species living in Marakele, and a DVD featuring "The Marakele Story" by Caroline`Tisdall.

Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography by Bryan F. Peterson (Watson-Guptill) Almost everyone can "see" in the conventional sense, but developing photographic vision takes practice. Learning to See Creatively helps photographers visualize their work, and the world, in a whole new light. Now totally rewritten, revised, and expanded, this best-selling guide takes a radical approach to creativity. It explains how it is not some gift only for the "chosen few" but actually a skill that can be learned and applied. Using inventive photos from his own stunning portfolio, author and veteran photographer Bryan Peterson deconstructs creativity for photographers. He details the basic techniques that went into not only taking a particular photo, but also provides insights on how to improve upon it-helping readers avoid the visual pitfalls and technical dead ends that can lead to dull, uninventive photographs. With this book I learned that I can look at a field of flowers along the side of the road and by simply "flopping down on my belly" see the world from an different perspective. This is what the author teaches. How to shift your view of the world around you and find true inspiration in the common and ordinary. The author teaches when to use a telephoto and when to use a wide angle lens and also talks about the usefulness of the much maligned 50mm lens. The reader also learns how to incorporate color into photographs, how to interpret and accommodate line, form and texture. The sample photographs are in full color and provide the reader with examples that illustrate the lessons beautifully. One word of caution, if you're looking for a book that discusses the more technical aspects of photography such as aperture, shutter speed or depth of field charts, this is not the book for you. This books assumes you have a basic working knowledge of photography and is written to take you to the next level beyond the fundamentals of photography.

This revised edition features the latest information on digital photography and digital imaging software, as well as an all-new section on color as a design element. Learning to See Creatively is the definitive reference for any photographers looking for a fresh perspective on their work.

Offerings: Buddhist Wisdom for Every Day color photography by Danielle & Olivier Föllmi (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) A book to contemplate each day, Offerings is a deeply thoughtful collection of wisdom and knowledge from the masters of Tibetan Buddhism. Three-hundred sixty-five photographs by Olivier Föllmi present an evocative new image every day-each I accompanied by a choice Buddhist quote. This spiritual advice, which is suited to people of any belief or religious tradition, is organized into 52 themes, including spirituality, ancestors, money, trust, and dependence. The photographs are especially stunning and will appeal to the aesthetic eye of many.

Danielle and Olivier Föllmi share a message of peace and hope in this new book. Through subjects that preoccupy us today, the masters of`Tibetan Buddhist thought-including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa, Shabkar, Jack Kornfield, and Arnaud Desjardins-convey to us their vision of existence. Their collective and individual vision celebrates humanity and encourages continual self-improvement. 

Basic Book of Photography (Fourth, 2004 Edition) by Tom & Michele Grimm (A Plume Book) For nearly three decades, Basic Book of Photography by Tom and Michele Grimm, freelance photographers and writers, has been the ideal handbook and the definitive guide for beginning and experienced photographers alike. This comprehensive edition has been expanded to include the latest technological innovations in digital photography and the most modern methods and products used in traditional film photography.
Whether you use a single lens reflex (SLR), compact, Advanced Photo System (APS), single-use, instant, or digital camera, you'll learn everything you need to know about how to operate your equipment successfully to produce the most striking pictures.
This work presents the myriad technical aspects of photographic equipment in an easily understood manner: cameras and lenses, how to load film and adjust lens openings, film, selection of lenses, use of flash equipment, lighting and composition. This enlarged edition also includes:

  • An all-new chapter on digital cameras and imaging
  • Indoor and outdoor lighting techniques
  • Descriptions of all color and black-and-white films
  • Procedures for processing your own pictures
  • Ways to enjoy photography on the Internet

The final chapter and appendixes offer an abundance of useful information, including recommended books, photography schools, workshops, and competitions.

With more than 395 instructive illustrations and an extensive glossary of photographic terms, whether you are a beginning photographer or a pro, Basic Book of Photography will help you become the photographer you always wanted to be.
A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice by Robert Cochran, photography by Geleve Grice (University of Arkansas Press) In a selection of more than one hundred black and white images taken over a period of sixty years, A Photographer of Note bears witness to the life of a remarkable photographer and to small-town African-American life in the middle of the twentieth century. Geleve Grice was born and raised near Pine Bluff , Arkansas , and he has documented the ordinary life of his community: parades, graduations, weddings, club events, I and whatever else brought people together. In the process he has created a remarkable historical portrait of an African-American community. Through his lens we glimpse the daily patterns of segregated Pine Bluff , and we also participate in the excitement of greeting extraordinary visitors. Martin Luther King Jr., Mary McLeod Bethune, Harris S. Truman, and others all came through town.
Folklorist Robert Cochran, professor of English and director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies at the University of Arkansas , worked with Grice to select these photographs from the thousands he has taken across a lifetime. They organized the work chronologically, reflecting Grice’s early years in small-town Arkansas , his travel as a serviceman in World War II, and his long career in Pine Bluff . Cochran’s accompanying chapters link Grice to the great tradition of American community photographers. He also shows how work for pay – at the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College in Pine Bluff; at the Arkansas State Press daily newspaper; through his own studio – shaped Grice’s work. Cochran shows that Grice not only made his living taking photographs for jobs, but that he also made his own life by making photographs for himself – and now for history.
Here an important story is told in images. A Photographer of Note is a warm, heart-rending visual chronicle of what we were. The book also stands as a monument to one man’s mission; the pictures, with quiet dignity, said to the people of
Pine Bluff the opposite of what white society was telling`them, “Yours is a life of significance.”

David Armstrong: All Day Every Day  color photography by David Armstrong (Scalo) Several pedestrian ways of viewing David Armstrong: (a) a myopic outlook on the city; (b) unfocused analysis of urban artifacts; (c) photoimpressionism; (d) photo sans lens deference to first photographs. The conversation at the end of the book focuses on the main outlines of Armstrong’s development and influences, especially this departure from his better known duotone work. The idea of erasing texture and the hard line of cityscapes creates a “homage to pictorialism or painterly impressionism.” 

My eye was most captured by the flat affect of color that suggests a slightly paranoid scenario. Also the diffusion of light against form opens up or shuts down the spaces to a forced “where’s Waldo” hunt for definition and line, place; or a more unlocking reverie and play of possibilities beside the real images. 

The few images derived from parks and other manicured nature space contrast with the drivenness of the cityscapes. No matter your inclinations David Armstrong has excellent production values and is a full folio in size that these digital reproductions cannot match. Recommended.

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