Archive for the “Book Reviews” Category

By Matt Miller, PRC Intern, Fall 2011

The PRC recently received a copy of Digital Photography: A Basic Manual. Written by Henry Horenstein, it is an excellent book for anyone looking to get into digital photography. The book starts with the fundamentals of how to use a digital camera and guides the reader through all the intermediate steps before arriving at the final stage, such as printing and matting the final image.

The first half of the book is largely dedicated to the instruction of learning how to operate a digital camera.  From different types of cameras to lens and filters, Horenstein covers it all.  By the second half the book, the focus turns to the processing of the images and setting up a consistent digital workflow.  This book is not for those who want to dig deep into photo editing software.  Instead Horenstein keeps it simple with the basics, such as spotting and color correction and all the steps required to properly edit an image.

This book serves well as an introductory guide to anyone who is starting out in digital photography or wants to make sure they have a basic foundation.  It is a clear and easy to follow book, allowing anyone to jump in.

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By Stephanie Robb, PRC Intern, Fall 2011

The task of creating a memorable and comprehensive portfolio that depicts our strengths and abilities is challenging and a little daunting. Larry Volk and Danielle Currier, authors of the new book, No Plastic Sleeves: The Complete Guide for Photographers and Designers, and presenters at the PRC workshop on November 12, showed us a new way to approach this project. They suggest we stick with our artistic impulses and be creative. Go figure – experts explaining to artists they need to be creative. It sounds preposterous, but ultimately, we are faced with the undeniable truth: conservative presentations always prove to be less memorable, less marketable. Perhaps we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we do.

Volk and Currier emphasize the importance of remembering the potential customer/curator perspective. Another cloth-bound book neatly composed and devoid of personal voice can easily go unnoticed on a busy desk, forgotten among stacks of other books, also full of excellent photography. The workshop included a presentation with many examples of portfolios that stand out and make a statement even before they are open.

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Paul Ickovic. Kafka’s Grave & Other Stories: Photographs. New York: Okapi Editions, 1986. Print.

BOOK REVIEW by Stephanie Robb, PRC Intern, Fall 2011

“Go down to the library, select a book, any book,” Julie gestures a wide arc, “and write a review for our blog.” She is smiling when she says this. “Great, okay!” I reply, enthusiastic about the opportunity. Moments later, I stand in the middle of the library wondering how on earth I can choose just one book. If you’ve been to the PRC library, you’ll understand my dilemma. The collection is widely varied and every single book is full of pictures—and I love picture books. Having said that, I am also a devoted lover of stories and I have developed a passion for words.

I decide to begin my search with titles. If the words on the spine of the book catch my attention, I carefully pull it from the shelf and decide if the contents capture my imagination in the way a good storyteller can. After glancing through several books and tearing myself away from several more, a familiar name catches my eye. Ever since Renée Zellweger said his name while pushing a vacuum wearing Granny underwear in Bridget Jones’ Diary, and much more frequently in the last year, the name Kafka has nagged at me. It is a familiar name, one I ought to know, whose work I have somehow managed not to have read yet. In the last few months, I have heard his name mentioned more and more regularly. I’ve always been a person prone to find meaning in numbers and repetitions. “What does all this have to do with photography?” You might be asking.

One particular book, tucked on a shelf that is difficult to access, reads Kafka’s Grave and Other Stories / Ickovic, printed in black on a cloth spine. I think it is out of place and, therefore, most enticing. I press my finger on the top corner, tip the book so I can pull it out. It’s much wider than I expected. At this point in my library assignment, I am speaking aloud to myself, “Oh, it’s wider than I expected!” I thumb through and read the forward by David Mamet, which lures me in further. His words are concise and they speak to my life experience in our increasingly globalized society. He writes:

“…I have always felt like an outsider; and I am sure that the suspicion that I perceive is the suspicion that I provoke by my great longing to belong. I would like to live a life free of constant self-examination—a life which may be ruled by the processes of guilt, remorse, hope, and anxiety, but one in which those processes themselves are not foremost in the mind. I would like to belong to a world dedicated to creating, preserving, achieving, or simply getting by. But the world of the outsider, in which I have chosen to live, and in which I have trained myself to live, is based on none of those things. It is based on observation….”

I have decided. This is the one. So begins my adventure into the photography of Paul Ickovic.

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By Todd Danforth, PRC Intern, Spring 2011

Cover of Stephanie Roberts' The Art of iPhoneography

A book arrived at the PRC recently that caught my attention. The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity by Stephanie Roberts is a perfect look into the legitimacy of iPhone photography in a world saturated with camera phones. If you are an iPhone user, this book is THE sine qua non, compiled with all the latest must-have photography applications and how to use these applications and your iPhone to the fullest.

The book, shaped much like the iPhone, is a rich source packed with creative suggestions, insights, and ideas. Roberts allows her readers to not only understand the technicalities of the iPhone and its photography applications, but to discover their own voice as well. Guidelines throughout the book keep you motivated and excited to start shooting, and continue shooting everyday! She also introduces other iPhoneographers and their work.

Whether Stephanie Roberts is a pioneer of iPhoneography or not, it is quite apparent that the ability to snap a photograph and share it on the go almost instantaneously has become a sensation among iPhone users. Start defining, broadening, and sharing your unique and creative vision today by reading The Art of iPhoneography.

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Cover of The September 11 Photo Project (click to go to Amazon)

Like most, I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I had only moved to Boston the previous week for school, and was living in my dorm. That day, I didn’t have to be on campus until 1 in the afternoon, and planned to take advantage of being able to sleep in. I woke to my roommate banging on the wall just around 8, yelling for the boys next door to be quiet. She assumed, incorrectly, they had taped the Monday night football game, and was watching it. Not even a half hour later, my third roommate burst into the room, crying “Someone bombed the World Trade Center, what are you two still doing asleep, I’m turning on the radio.” For the next couple of hours, I remember sitting on the floor of my dorm room, wrapped in a blanket, being on and off the phone with my parents, listening to the news as it trickled in. By the time afternoon rolled around, my one roommate announced she was leaving the city for her parents’ house on the South Shore; I decided to go with her.

It is stories like these that make up The September 11 Photo Project, quilted together to form a single tapestry from the individual experiences people had.

This book, edited by “amateur photographer and Wall Street professional” Michael Feldschuh, is one of many 9/11-related books in the PRC Aaron Siskind Library collection. Its photographs were selected from submissions by over 500 amateur and professional photographers to a spontaneously created SoHo exhibit space. Published after the initial showing in the gallery, the book includes the photographs and words of the artists, reflecting the original gallery installation. Over 40,000 people visited that gallery to share, learn, and mourn.

My favorite is the story of a little girl, whose father worked in the World Trade Center. He had stayed home from work that day, and she remembers waiting for her school bus, which never came. The girl and her mother returned to the house, and while trying to find out why the school bus was late, they heard the news. She later reflected it was a good thing that her bus had not come—her elementary school was not far from the World Trade Center.

This is only one story. There are others from firefighters, police officers, pedestrians, tourists, shopkeepers, college students, from a rich tapestry of New York life.

And there are still more. Stories from that fateful day not yet shared, and others silenced forever. But this book is a contribution to those memories, and this day.

Michael Feldschuh, ed. The September 11 Photo Project. New York: Regan Books/Harper Collins, 2002. Now catalogued as HV6432.7 .S47.

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Click to see images from Extraordinary Boston on Dunwell's site.

Extraordinary Boston is Boston at its finest. Photographer Steve Dunwell does well to capture the eccentricity and uniqueness that is this city. In the book’s introduction Dunwell writes: “This is a special place in America. Here, at the confluence of powerful natural, historical, commercial, and cultural currents, a unique metropolis has risen, sculpted by these forces and expressing their interplay.” Dunwell’s photographs showcase all these bits and pieces of Boston.

Boston is a city of contrast. It’s a city of neighborhoods. While it is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, sometimes you forget you’re in a city. There’s something about Boston. It gets to you; it gets in you. I’ve lived here for a decade, and I still can’t cross the Charles via the Red Line without needing to see it.

Dunwell showcases Boston in all its glory: in all four seasons, in all times of day. He highlights what this city is about, mixes the modernity with the Colonial architecture. He shows Boston for how it is.

He photographs Frog Pond in the summer, the East Boston Harbor, and Nantasket peninsula. He shows Copley Square covered in snow, and the narrow streets of the North End. Two of my favorites, the Freight Yard skyline, Brighton and Turnpike Toll Station, Allston, come early in the book. He photographs the people who live here, and the fireworks celebration on the 4th of July. He shows the Charles River at sunrise, the busy morning at Haymarket, Bunker Hill Monument at sunset, the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island, and of course, Fenway Park.

He shows Boston, which in the end he says “is, indeed, illuminated by a special light. As the sun clears the horizon by the nation’s oldest lighthouse, it shines on a tiny gem of urban imagination set in a dramatic harbor of history.”

Which perhaps sums this book and this city best.

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From the photographer's web site.

Sometimes, the point of photography is to be controversial. Photographs share something of the world which we see around us, and sometimes, that world is not pleasant. In the 1960s South, photographer James R. Holland traveled to different Klan rallies, often photographing up-close and personal. “The fondest goal of every photographer,” he writes in the introduction of his book Klan Rally: A Photographic Essay, “is to produce photographs that are so powerful and clear in their meaning that even the simplest captions are not necessary.” In allowing the photographs to speak for themselves, he lets viewers develop their own interpretation of the photographs. His feelings and emotions are not what we are seeing here; rather we are seeing only what he is photographing. These raw images, whether or not we agree with the context, show only what Holland saw in those moments he took them: men and women in white robes, burning crosses or sitting down to lunch, or preaching their ideals to a rapt audience.

In this way, the photographs speak volumes. There are the required photographs of a cross-burning, including two photographs of only the sparks against the blackness of the night. There are portraits taken in shadows of the men involved in the organization, and one of a Klanswoman, face uncovered, unaware she’s been photographed, caught in a candid conversation. As a stark contrast, another woman, not dressed in white robes, head in her hands, the diamond in her engagement ring startling. She might be mourning, or she might be praying.

There are also photographs of the police officers there to see order is kept, of the Wizards and Grand Wizards, and of the protesters standing on the sidelines, holding their signs reading “Does a white sheet make a man?” or “The Klan Best Manure So… Bury Them Deep.” Here, you can see the officers standing between the protesters and the Clansmen, only their back lit profiles protecting each group from the other.

Cars stopped on the highway to see the flames in the sky, but were waved on by the police. People signed up at alarming rates. Klansmen mounted horses, and rode deep into the fields, waving American flags.

In the book’s afterword, Holland includes two articles he wrote detailing his experience photographing the rallies. He clearly states he did not photograph these rallies with an open mind; he wanted photographs which would reflect as negatively as possible on the Klan. But likewise, the Klan did their best to control their media coverage, referring to the cross as a means to purify the world, and wrapping themselves in American flags.

No matter his personal feelings, Holland is able to create life-size portraits of these men and women. While certainly controversial, at least this is one book which will not go quietly, its meaning powerful and clear.

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Portraits from Martha’s Vineyard – Photographs by Stephen DiRado (self-published, 2010) link

Politics: Puns & Parody – Photographs and writing by James R. Holland (A Bit of Boston Books, 2010) link

In Eastern Light: Diptychs of Downeast Maine – Photographs by Steven D. Keirstead (published 2009 via Blurb) link

Surviving Cambodia – Jim Krantz (Paper Mirror Press, 2007) link

Moonpies: Mardi Gras, Mobile, AL – Photographs by Warren Thompson (self-published, 2009) link

All of these are welcome additions to the Library. Please note, too, that these and other independent and self-published books donated to the library over the coming months will be considered for the fall 2011 exhibition of the Indie Photobook Library (iPL) at the PRC.

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Wide Open: Photographs by Linda McCartney was an exhibition on display from June 4 to July 2, 1998 at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York. McCartney never saw the exhibition, having passed away April of that year, although she had been involved in the preliminary processes. “Last September, I spent time with Linda, in England,” writes gallery owner Bonni Berubi in the book’s introduction, “and quite literally looked at every photograph she had made in the past thirty years.”

Very different from her early years spent photographing the “swinging sixties” music scenes and Rolling Stone stories, Wide Open is a series of nature photographs, just a small microcosm from a lifetime of work. Published to correspond with the exhibition of the same name, the book is divided into four section—platinum prints, photogravures, silver-bromide prints, and Polaroid transfers. Subject matter includes garden variety photographs, desert scenes, forest glades, and flowers. The flowers, and my personal favorite Several Autumn Maple Leaves, 1996, are featured in the Polaroid transfers section, also the only color photographs in the book.

In their simplicity and starkness, McCartney’s photographs showcase a beauty more elaborate images never could. Sand Sea Sky, a platinum print from 1995, is a photograph of the horizon. Sand, sea, and sky all continue forever, meeting at a point in the distance, only to keep continuing. That it’s photographed in black and white only further illuminates the extending horizon, drawing the viewer in. Staring at this photograph—into this photograph—one can almost feel the sand between toes, waves lapping at ankles, sunlight warming skin.

John Lennon once said of Linda McCartney, “she has an eye for an eye.” While he was speaking specifically about her uncanny ability to capture people’s emotions, one can argue he was referring to her other photographs as well. Wide Open is a slice of life as its best, the wide open spaces we’ve long forgot, only to be reminded when we least expect it.

“UNCATALOGUED” contributor Stefanie Maclin is a published poet and recent graduate of Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library Science. Currently, she’s organizing the “uncats”—books on the shelves in the PRC’s Siskind Library yet to receive Library of Congress catalogue records. Stefanie will regularly be highlighting books from this collection for BPF.
Editor’s Note: The code ‘UM78’ following the title of McCartney’s book indicates that it is the 78th title in the series of uncatalogued books by photographers, authors, or editors whose last name starts with ‘M.’ This system, reflected here and in subsequent titles in the UNCATALOGUED blog entries, is how nearly 1,500 uncatalogued volumes were arranged on the Siskind Library shelves before we secured an internet connection in the library (late 2010) to enable our librarians to look up Library of Congress call numbers for books that were published without that information. GS.

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The Black Eye by Michal Chelbin, published by Twin Palms Publishers

Recently posted at photo-eye, this review of Chelbin’s body of work subsequent to Strangely Familiar, seen here at the PRC earlier this fall.

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