Winter is upon us, with its chill winds and long dark nights… what better time of year to stay indoors and get cosy with a good book?
We’ve been enjoying some really good reads recently, so we thought we’d share our enthusiasm with you – read on for our recent favourites, with some descriptions from the publishers and some thoughts from us too…
Cig Harvey’s third monograph, You An Orchestra You a Bomb, is a vibrant and bold book. Possibly her most beautiful to date. It explores the photographer’s relationship with life itself. It is a book about paying attention to and appreciating the fragile present.
You an Orchestra You a Bomb captures moments of awe, makes icons of the everyday, and looks at life on the threshold between magic and disaster. Cig has always experienced the world viscerally but a raw heightened awareness of the temporary nature of life permeates this new work.
Through breathless moments of beauty, her images propel us to fathom the sacred in the split-seconds of everyday. Cig’s photographs are interwoven with her intimate poetry in this hauntingly beautiful book.
How can a book be like a dream of all the images you wish you’d taken but hadn’t?
I was sold already by the front cover, beautifully clothbound in mustardy Norfolk yellow, but inside I was treated to so much more. It’s not often a photobook excites me enough to make me want to drop it on the floor and run out of the room to grab my camera, to search out something wonderful to shoot and share.
Pouring over the pages, noting the wonderful juxtaposition of images, delighting in the colour, the play of light and the subtleties, reading the snippets of text over and over as if they were long lost poems. It’s all poetry.
Cig Harvey has such a way with images and with words that the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck, you’ll feel the goose bumps raise on your arms, and you’ll wonder when you can get to living more, when you can slow and take the time to be present, and when can you make images as poetic and resonant as in this book.
In You An Orchestra You a Bomb there is something about freedom, about appreciation, about the beauty in the mundane that is truly far from mundane, and there is so much that I want to share in.
I want to meet Cig Harvey, to thank her, to sit down at a table and drink tea with her, slowly. But instead, I’ll just keep this beautiful book nearby and let it be a constant reminder to keep looking.
You an Orchestra You a Bomb by Cig Harvey
Published by Schilt Publishing
Hardbound with linen cover
144 pages with approx. 80 photos in full colour, 22.5 x 22.5 cm
The book will coincide with exhibitions at Robert Mann Gallery, New York from 7 December – 27 January 2018 and at Robert Klein Gallery, Boston from 9 December 2017 – 31 January 2018.
You an Orchestra You a Bomb was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Karen Harvey.
Over a thirty year period, from 1987 onwards, Matthew Finn collaborated with his mother, Jean, to document her everyday life through a series of portraits taken in her home in Leeds. This is a record of the ordinary, of a daily routine with which we are all familiar. It is also a record of the gradual shift from middle age to old age, and, in Jean’s case, to the onset of mixed dementia and a move from the family home into residential care.
It is a poignant body of work, filled with warmth yet conscious of the fragility of life. Quiet domestic interiors act as a stage for life’s everyday details, and though the focus is on the individual the bond between mother and son is a powerful constant, even as the balance of that relationship begins to change. As Matthew Finn has said, “For my mother and I, this switch of roles was quick. Diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago, she fell silent and our collaboration was over. I no longer exist to her and she cannot recognise herself. What remains are these pictures.”
Matthew Finn writes such a beautiful and poignant introduction to his mother entitled ‘Coming Home’ that you hesitate for a moment, dipping into your own memories of returning home to a parental figure after a period of separation. The welcoming familiarity of the childhood home, and in Finn’s case, his mother representing both parental figures, merges to become the personified source of inspiration.
His collection of images spans over a 30 year period allowing us to follow the delicate lines (and fashions) of the slow movement of time. Their bond is obvious amidst the reportage and occasionally posed for portraits. Those which she poses for are as equally compelling as those where she’s lost in thought.
Dotted throughout the book are snippets of the home, giving us a greater sense of context to the private space they shared. Only a handful of pictures are taken outside of the household.
Finn’s mother is pictured several times as a woman at work wearing rubber gloves, including a delightful moment of her serving up a hot meal with them still on her hands. Several offerings of food feature, including a fabulous chicken wrapped in cellophane placed centrally on a dining room table.
‘Mother’ is a truly special tribute to an unmistakably adored figure and muse. This unplanned collection of images is a must for anyone interested in human stories and the trusting bond between mother and son.
Mother by Matthew Finn
Published by Dewi Lewis
280mm x 200mm, 96 pages
Mother was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Laura Ward.
When you look at an image, what do you see, think, and feel? How do you want your audience to react when they view your work? For over 30 years the late Richard Zakia helped photographers enrich their creative vision through his classic book, Perception and Imaging. Now he is joined by co-author John Suler who extensively studied and worked with images throughout his career as a clinical psychologist. Together they present their insights into the principles of perception, memory, color, time, space, shapes, illusion, subliminals, rhetoric, personality style, and photo critique. Unlike any other book, Perception and Imaging will give you an extensive understanding of how photography relates to art, design, advertising, psychology, and philosophy, as well as what makes photography unique among the image-making disciplines. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, this information will help you appreciate photography not simply as a mastering of technique and composition, but as a way of truly seeing, especially now in the digital age.
“For me the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
If, like me, you think about photography a lot, it can seem as if we’ve moved beyond the point of investigative enquiry of photography, overwhelmed as we are by a deluge of imagery on every side during every waking moment of our lives. Surely, with a camera in every pocket, we have almost substituted the act of seeing for the act of taking photographs. We shoot what we see, our lives becoming an ever-expanding archive of images, moments stacked together to create periods of time that eventually define us.
Is there still room for intuition and spontaneity, questioning and sketching in the way that Cartier-Bresson described?
This work by Suler and Zakia does a great job of arguing for the enduring significance of the act of photography for the individual and in terms of its cultural importance, reflecting so immediately as it does the concerns of those (basically everyone!) who activate the shutter.
This book successfully weaves apparently unrelated threads together, giving appropriate recognition to the fact that photography exists not in a vacuum but alongside other visual art practices as well as having wider sociological and cultural references. Drawing from psychology, history and visual theory the authors put forth a compelling dissertation on the various ways that images are conceived, composed, created and perceived that would be of great interest to students in the visual arts, not just photographers, as well as providing a captivating read to anyone who is willing to look beyond the pervasiveness of the image to try and understand why platforms such as Instagram and activities such as selfies have become so ubiquitous. Covering technical issues such as the use of negative space in photographs and more philosophical topics such as the oft-discussed ‘decisive moment’ there is a lot of substance here that will stimulate thought and discussion. Suler and Zakia also offer technical observations arising from their critical analysis that photographers can use to reflect on, and develop, their own practice. Quotes, photographs and figures are sprinkled liberally throughout, to illuminate their ideas and reinforce key points.
Subjects ranging from the role of memory in the creation and perception of images, to the meaning of likes on social media, are dealt with thoughtfully and in a manner that offers sufficient depth for the student while remaining accessible and engaging to the general reader. In doing so Suler and Zakia have achieved their stated aim of producing a work that ‘will help you appreciate photography not simply as a mastering of technique and composition, but as a way of truly seeing, especially now in the digital age’.
Perception and Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing by John Suler & Richard D. Zakia
Published by Focal Press
442 pages, 340 colour illustrations
Perception and Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Justin Carey.
Lowlands began when Ester Vonplon traveled to Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean in summer 2016 for the last part of a trilogy which is about the concept of white, snow and ice. She sailed the ice-clogged seas of the Arctic Ocean on a three-masted sailing vessel, to capture the impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice.
This journey in the Arctic Ocean was the perfect beginning for Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer to compose and record Lowlands.
Lowlands is the result of their dialog, initiated by IIKKI, between April 2016 and April 2017. Limited edition to 500 copies for the book and 500 copies for the vinyl.
The book Lowlands by Shutter Hub member Ester Vonplon is a very, very beautiful thing. From the gorgeously textured hardback cover to the stunning images within, this is a book to savour, to spend time with. There is minimal text to accompany the images. Everything about its physical form suggests that this is a book to be appreciated, slowly, through the senses – through looking, and listening.
The listening part comes from the accompanying vinyl, by Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer. The IIKKI website suggests the book and music can be experienced in different ways – the book looked at alone, the vinyl listened to alone, and the book and vinyl looked at and listened to together. I didn’t have a copy of the vinyl, but there is a sample of the music on the IIKKI website, so I took their advice.
Alone, the images are stunning. Opening the pages of this book is to be plunged into a hauntingly beautiful, ethereal world of dreamy soft snowscapes, distant ice-capped mountains, and wonderfully abstract forms in subtle hues of white, grey and blue. The images evoke at once peace and tranquility, and a poignant sense of impermanence and fragility. The music, when listened to alone, is a dream – a gentle, soothing balm to the senses. Both are lovely just as they are. But when the music and the book are brought together, both take on a new level of wonder. The music brings the images alive – they become more tactile, more real. And the images make sense of the music. What alone were unexplained, abstract sounds become the creaking of icebergs, the drip of glacial meltwater, the tremble of a sail in a gentle breeze.
Lowlands is a treat for the senses, a call to slow down, to pause and take stock – and appreciate this fragile, beautiful world.
Lowlands by Ester Vonplon
Published by IIKKI Books
Book: hardcover book (30cm x 22 cm),112 pages, 88 photos, printed on Munken print white paper 150g/m2, logo, slot and anthracite circle embossed
Vinyl: cutting lacquer, printed on polish paperboard
Lowlands was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Rachel Wright.
The long-awaited new edition of this seminal text features clear, reliable, step-by-step instructions on innovative alternative and traditional photographic processes. Over and above a full update and revision of the technical data, there are new sections on digital negative making, electrophotography, and self-publishing. Foremost practioners, including Edward Bateman, Dan Burkholder, Tom Carpenter, Mark Osterman, France Scully Osterman, Jill Skupin Burkholder, Brian Taylor, and Laurie Tümer, have contributed their expertise to this edition. Perfect for practitioners or students of handmade photography, the book covers classic black-and-white film and paper processes, hand-coated processes like Cyanotype, and Platinum/Palladium. Also featured is an enhanced section on gum bichromate, invaluable instruction on workflow, and the integration of digital, promoting the effective union of one’s concepts, materials, and processes. The book showcases work and commentary from more than 150 international artists.
This fourth edition of Photographic Possibilities brings our knowledge of analogue processes right up to date to include digital negatives and use of hybrid methodologies. In a time when more photographic practitioners are continuing to embrace traditional processes and students are discovering the excitement of the darkroom and chemical processes, this is a timely update on just how to go about doing so successfully.
It is however not just a book of techniques but also a guide to creative approaches which aims to bring thinking and practice conceptually closer in terms of how we see and produce. Part of this process is in understanding the skills needed to realise the creative vision and an awareness of what is possible.
The book gives us a snapshot of key photographic processes in the history of photography to contextualise how we might also use those techniques and processes now. There is a welcome chapter on ‘Predarkroom Actions: Imaginative Thinking’ to consider ideas and rationale. For the various processes discussed each is explored with a brief introduction, how the process works and the steps needed to work in that medium. There is in-depth information on chemicals, alternatives and scope for experimentation, all sections have images illustrating an example of that process by a contemporary photographer/artist.
It’s more a book for those with some knowledge and experience to build on but also for anyone interested in the enduring magic of photography, ‘Photographic Possibilities’ will take you further down that path. It blends chemistry with digital technology and the pure craft of everything photographic.
Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Concepts, Ideas, Materials, and Processes by Robert Hirsch
Published by Focal Press
280 pages, 200 colour illustrations
Photographic Possibilities was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Lynne Connolly.
Between around 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States attracting several million visitors each year. At its height, three enormous amusement parks – Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park – competed for visitors with the latest thrills and spills. Consequently Coney Island became a focus for the latest technological innovation, with electric lights, roller coasters, and even baby incubators appearing there in the 1900s.
Rob Ball explores Coney Island to tell a story of a resort rich in history and with a special cultural significance for many New Yorkers. Ball articulates this historical context through the use of the handmade and unpredictable tintype process, once widely used in Coney Island. This is balanced by his colour work documenting the area’s current diversity and popularity, with images made during the busy summer period.
For Ball, this is part of long-term photographic project engaging with the history of coastal resorts and their cyclical rise and fall in popularity. It is also a sequel to his previous book, Dreamlands, that looked at the popular amusement park in Margate. As with Margate, Coney Island in Brooklyn has undergone a period of repair after years of neglect and this is reflected in the work.
Coney Island is a landscape of Clam bars, buffets, paint peeled and worn out fairgrounds, fully clothed sunbathers and buff fitness fanatics. Like a lot of seaside resorts across the world, photographs of this seasonal tourist attraction are afforded the status of pure poetry. The majority are in decline of some kind, used as dumping grounds and sparsely populated.
Coney Island is a New York City peninsular residential neighbourhood, beach, and leisure destination, boasting an amusement park featuring the famed Cyclone roller coaster, street performers, a baseball ground home to the Brooklyn Cyclones and famous hot dogs. There’s a lot going for Coney Island, and all of these things feature in British photographer Rob Ball’s book in their full glory.
Ball has also photographed Margate too, and describes these two projects as ‘an ongoing photographic research project looking at the notion of repair and reparation in coastal locations. The research examines our interaction with coastal communities and how seaside resorts are undergoing a cyclical rebuilding or repair often after a period of neglect or trauma’.
These locations, though weathered and worn, are full of crowds and families making the most of the sunshine and enjoying the coastal treats on offer. Where there is evidence of low income generating businesses, there is also a positive energy in this book. Scenes such as these may have been photographed many times before by many different photographers but Rob Ball’s book is a welcome addition to this subject.
Coney Island by Rob Ball
Published by Dewi Lewis
210mm x 280mm, 96 pages
Coney Island by Rob Ball was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Laura Ward.
This third edition of Digital Restoration from Start to Finish walks you step-by-step through the entire process of restoring old photographs and repairing new ones using Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, GIMP and more. This best-selling guide is now updated with the latest software advancements, and new techniques including hand-tinting in lab, repairing water damaged photos, and tips for the spot healing brush and masked layers. No process detail is overlooked, from choosing the right hardware and software, getting the photographs into the computer, getting the finished photo out of the computer and preserving it for posterity.
As the title hints, this book takes the step by step approach to guiding the reader on the path to transforming old, knackered, physical paper photos, slides and negatives (even tintypes) into the digital realm. There they are restored using (mostly) Photoshop, finally appearing on the other side as a new digital file and print. The author Ctein, using a wealth of photo illustrations as examples, writes in a folksy and rather charming fashion, surprising in such a technical book. I was keen to read these tutorials as I am myself currently attempting to restore a badly faded and damaged 19th century photo of my grandfather as a baby, surrounded by his/my family.
If you are a wiz already with Photoshop, and by that I mean you have mastered Curves, Layers, Masks and histograms, basically all those fiddly and bewildering bits on the right of your desktop when the programme is open, you will rush through the middle sections of this book without any problem.
If however, like me, you have only really played around with exposure sliders and colour correction filters and the sight of a graph leaves your mind numbed and heart slightly sick, a quick thumb through this hefty tome will prove daunting. Ctein clearly loves the programme’s Curve tool and insists on it’s primacy in all steps of the retouching processes. Acknowledging that “many photographers understandably have trouble warming to the Curves tool” and that relating “levels of brightness in a photograph to numbers on a graph doesn’t always come naturally”, he gently shoves along the novice user (in this case me) with clear case studies and I have spent many an hour since experimenting with them on my own project, a project which remains uncompleted, and this is partly the result of a soup to nuts book like this. This is not a collection of short stories to be dipped in and out of. The chapters constantly cross reference and as such this had to be read like a novel in a linear process.
There is so much that is new here that I am still absorbing it and, through practice, attempting to master at least some of it by my deadline to complete the rescued picture of my grandfather. Some sections of the book will probably prove irrelevant to the general reader, telling us for example far more about scanners and printers than most will ever need to know. Similarly most of the plug ins or extra software will be a purchase too far for many users of this manual who will I suspect, like myself, be attempting something personal rather than career changing. However the full picture, so to speak, is here in one paper location if needed, rather than attempting to find tutorials through scattershot web searches. As a bonus for once the illustrations of software panels actually match what is on my screen (something that never seems to happen with online guides). While Ctein’s technical hard work is no doubt beyond fault, I do wonder how many American citizens would mistake the Jefferson Memorial (which appears in one of his damaged pictures) for the Lincoln Memorial and what sort of editor would let such a slip still persist into the third edition of the publication?
Digital Restoration From Start to Finish: How To Repair Old and Damaged Photographs by Ctein
Published by Focal Press
Digital Restoration From Start to Finish: How To Repair Old and Damaged Photographs was reviewed for Shutter Hub by John Rankin.
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