Archive for the “PRC Library” 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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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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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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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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[review by PRC fall intern Ming-Chieh “Pandora” Hsieh]

Jessica Backhaus, One day in November (Kehrer, 2009)

While glancing at the photos in the book, you may not find them particularly unusual. Just like the title, “One day in November,” that suggests a simple concept, these photos are taken of things or scenes from our everyday lives, ranging from tree and shadow to window view from the inside of a room. They are easily accessible and easy to relate to. That said, there is more in the essence of the book.

The book was created in memory of a great friendship between photographer Jessica Backhaus (born 1970) and her mentor Gisele Freund (born 1908). Despite their huge age difference, they became good friends after their meeting in November 1992 while Backhaus was a photography student in Paris. The book was named after the occasion to demonstrate the great impact Freund had on Backhaus. However, during the elder artist’s life Backhaus showed her only one of her own photographs because she didn’t consider herself eligible back then. Now as an established photographer with her unique style, finally she could proudly present what she had photographed over the years to her mentor, despite Freund having died in 2000.

If Backhaus learned anything from Freund, it was to take photographs with heart and go beyond technical aspects. The following quotes from Backhaus reflect on the lessons she learned from Freund:

  • “Despite the importance of knowing the technical aspects, the most important thing is to follow your heart in taking pictures.”
  • “Good photographs will stay with you, go beyond rules of composition and technical expertise, and convey or express a certain feeling.”

It was Backhaus’s feeling and heart that made those photographs featured in this book special. Probably, these might also be the messages that Freund wanted to convey through Backhaus.

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Two more publications that deserve notice.

  • Prefix (Scott McLeod, editor/publisher), appearing biannually from the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in Toronto, now on its 21st issue
  • Photoworks (Gordon MacDonald, editor), published biannually in Brighton, England, now on its 15th issue

We have examples of these in the PRC Library. I find myself drawn to Photoworks; its selection of artists and the tone of its writing seem like a good fit with my general aesthetic and insights about photography.

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As the PRC moves closer to releasing its revamped magazine Loupe in October (renew your membership now to insure delivery), I’ve been collecting odd lots of contemporary magazines that explore photography in various ways. They’ll be in the library; take a look.

  • Fantom (3 issues, nos. 2, 3, 4, from 2010): Published in Italy editors Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Selva Barni
  • Foam (2 issues, nos. 22 and 23, from 2010): Published by the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam editors Marloes Krijnen (editor in chief), Marcel Feil, Pjotr de Jong, Sara Despres
  • Light Leaks (5 issues, nos. 12-15, 17, since 2009): “Low Fidelity Photography” (journal of toy and plastic camera photography) published in Canada editor Steph Parke
  • The Sun (7 issues from 2007 and 2009): Published in Chapel Hill, North Carolina editor Sy Safransky art director Robert Graham (literature and photography; “Unless otherwise indicated, photographs are independent of writings published in The Sun: photographs do not illustrate incidents, events, or characters depicted by writers; writings are not intended to describe incidents, events, or characters depicted in photographs.” small print disclaimer note on contents page)

There are several more that are left over from Minnesota Center for Photography’s library that will arrive soon; I’ll send an update once they’re in the house.

If anyone feels strongly about these, we can look into getting a subscription, or fleshing out the back issues.

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Two exhibition catalogues recently acquired for the PRC’s library:

Joshua Chuang’s First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography (Yale University Art Gallery, 2008)


Sylvia Wolf’s The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age (Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 2010)

These two volumes form a useful compendium of the challenges of reading photographs as “truth.” Wolf’s exhibition in Seattle includes many of the blue chip names in what is emerging as the canon of digital imaging, represented by work made before 2000: Paul Berger, MANUAL (Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill), Nancy Burson, Peter Campus, Martina Lopez, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Pedro Meyer, and Esther Parada. Also included are those whose digital imaging has evolved in step with the evolution of the tools, less avant garde, or ahead of the digital wave, than riding it in full splendor. Digital Eye is largely concerned with this group, from which I’d identify Tom Bamberger, Aziz + Cucher, Noriko Furunishi, Ben Gest, Anthony Goicolea, Simen Johan, Chris Jordan, Isaac Layman, Loretta Lux, Jason Salavon, Paul Shambroom, and Angela Strassheim as leading exemplars.

“First, doubt” is a useful mantra when reading photographs. Bring skepticism, or at least a momentary suspension of disbelief, to the encounter with any image. Don’t believe everything you see. The work in Chuang’s exhibition, selected from the Allan Chasanoff collection at Yale, is resolutely anti-digital, or at least committed to the ambiguities that are inherent to photographic syntax. Blurs, cropping, overlapping objects, unusual angles–all of these contribute to “difficult reading” and a distinctive pleasure of many photographs, which is knowing just what you’re seeing. Not always easy, and there are many noted photographers present here who have realized this over time, including Brassai, Ray Metzker, Lee Friedlander, Claude Cahun, Gilles Peress, Larry Fink, David Maisel, and John Szarkowski (the photographer as much as the curator). One of my all-time favorite “optically confused” images is present here, by Terry Husebye from the 1979 series Ocotillo Flat.

Terry Husebye, Untitled, from the series Ocotillo Flat, 1979 (plate 93 in First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography)

These two volumes also reproduce work by a number of New Englanders. As I settle into my role at the PRC and as a member of the Northeast photography ecosystem I find myself increasingly drawn to the locals, those who’ve graduated from one of the local schools, grown up and/or taken up long-term residence here, or those who’ve had connections with the PRC, and I want to point them out when I find them in good exhibition company. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Lorie Novak, Nick Nixon, Karin Rosenthal, Julie Blackmon, and Penelope Umbrico (Brooklyn, not Brookline–former New Yorker/native Midwesterner’s misread) are among those who show up in the books and on the PRC database.

And, I’d like to give a special tip of the close catalogue-reading curator’s cap to Stephen Marc. Marc, a photographer and art professor at Arizona State University’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, appears in both volumes. He is without doubt a first-rate digital eye, but his work in First Doubt, recording a wild mess of wind-tousled hair (plate 41, an untitled work from 1981), meets Chuang’s adigital criterion. (He is also one of the world’s fastest talkers, as I learned during his presentation of his new book, Passage on the Underground Railroad, at the Visual Studies Workshop Photo-Bookworks symposium in Rochester earlier this month. There’s a lot of information in his work, so he’s got to talk fast to communicate all the essentials.) Is he the only one to crossover from analogue doubt to digital preeminence? I’ll leave the answer to that question to anyone intrigued enough to come in and compare the books side by side.

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