25 March 2013
The suffering of light is a comprehensive monograph on the career of Magnum photographer Alex Webb. It covers a thirty year period 1979 to 2009. Featuring work from previous bodies of work including, Dislocations, Crossings, and Istanbul, It also features work not previously published. The book is arranged chronologically beginning in Graneda in 1979 and finishing in Pennsylvania in 2010.
From a photographic style point of view there is no real change during this period. His visual vocabulary in place from the start, allows him time to absorb, experience and organise the many complex elements within the frame. For Webb's images are visually complex, layered, highly structured, energetic and at the same time cohesive. They are joy to behold! They show a mastery of timing, gesture, light, colour, and composition. He uses the entire area of the frame, all in the classic 35mm landscape format.
As street photography goes, this is as good as it gets. Worthy successor to Henri Cartier-Bresson, he has the same innate sensitivity for geometry and timing, while adding colour to the mix. This indeed is inspirational work and if one has an interest in documentary street photography, you owe it to yourself to buy this book so you can absorb and enjoy it over time, for these images are not to be rushed.
The book is large 31 x 34 cm. Printed on good paper with nice rich colour. Layout design (see photos) is not fussy, presenting the images with a simply elegance.
Book contents can be seen here on Alex Webb website.
Hear Alex Webb talk about his work
19 March 2013
Music is a great form of inspiration to me in my photography and it teaches me so much. I’ve been an admirer of the work of Christina Pluhar and her group L’Arpeggiata in bring medieval music to life for present day audiences. They have a new CD out titled ‘Mediterraneo’ The group are joined by singers Mísia, Nuria Rial, Raquel Andueza, Vincenzo Capezzuto, and Katerina Papadopoulou. It features music from Portugal to Turkey, Spain, Catalonia, Greece, and Italy. You will hear plucked instruments of the Mediterranean region – the qanun, saz, Greek lyre and lavta, the oud and Portuguese guitar – and the Baroque strings of l’Arpeggiata. I’m a bit old fashioned in that I like to get a hard copy so I still await mine to come. Have a listen to the wonderful voice of Mísia, a fado singer from Portugal accompanied by these great musicians.
12 March 2013
It is good to see a new monograph being published of the work of the great photographer Arnold Newman. He was one of the most productive, creative and successful portrait photographers of the 20th century. I first came across his work about 35 years ago and it made a big impact on me at that time. This new book titled Masterclass by William A. Ewing is a selection of over 200 photographs from Newman's archive. It is the first to be published since his death in 2006. A good insight, by the author into this collection, which is the basis of touring exhibition can be seen here.
I also have in my collection the book published by Taschen, mine from 2000, but it has been updated since. Comparing both there is some overlap of material but not as much as you would think. One has only to look at the covers. My Tachen copy has Woody Allen on the cover. That photo is not even included in the Thames and Hudson book. But equally the Masterclass cover of Robert Doisneau is not in the Taschen book!
These are carefully structured highly controlled portraits. Spontaneity is not a feature of his work. As Newman himself has said, "For me, I am interested in what motivates individuals, what they do with their lives, their personalities, and how I perceive and interpret them. But of equal importance, or of perhaps even greater importance is that, even if the person is not known or already forgotten, the photograph itself should still be of interest or even excite the viewer. That is what my life and work is all about."
I'm really happy to have both books as they compliment each other. Apart from the excellent essays which gives good insight into Newman’s life and work, there are also short biographies of the people, mostly artists, whose portraits feature in the book. But if I was to have to choose only one I would go for the Taschen. In scale it is larger but more importantly I prefer the reproductions, which have in general a lower contrast then Masterclass, with better mid tone and highlight detail. Some may prefer the slightly higher contrast, cooler blacks and perceived sharper detail of Masterclass. To me the Taschen reproductions have a greater 'stillness' quality about them and serves the portraiture style better. In either case look, learn and enjoy from a master.
Arnold Newman Foundation website