One Picture at a Time - Gunnar Smoliansky

blogEntryTopperIn 2012 I discovered the photography of the Finnish photographer, Pentti Sammallahti. Last year (2013) I had another lovely discovery, that of the Swedish photographer Gunnar Smoliansky. His first ever exhibition in the UK, at the age of 80, was held in the Michael Hopper Gallery in London and I subsequently read about it in Black and White Photography Magazine. Impressed by the photography in the magazine, I sought out his retrospective book One Picture at a Time published by Steidl in 2009.

The book covers his entire career, at the time of publication, 1952-2008 and is one generous book containing as it does over 230 tritone printed plates.


Smoliansky has said that he dislikes getting involved in projects preferring instead to take one picture at a time. A great title for the book, as the viewer is asked to experience the pictures one by one. There is no sequencing, images sit side by side independent of each other, strong, bold, enigmatic, playful, abstract, tender.


As Gerry Badger says in his concise essay in the book, ‘Smolliansky is not making art but responding to life’


At times one see’s the influence of photographers like Lee Friendlander, Aaron Siskind or even Andre Kertész. His compositional style is clean, precise, one might say classical.


Smoliansky has said that ‘You need fresh eyes and not experience when you are about to take a photograph'


The book also contains an essay by Marie Lundquist which is nicely spread out, a page at a time, throughout the book, encouraging one to read it as you encounter it.



As to the production of this book I can have only the highest of praise. Printed on a nicely weighted warm paper stock, the tritone printing is up to Steidl’s high standards. About 30cm x 30cm, it comes in a cloth bound hard cover with dust jacket.


At time of writing it seems difficult to get new but hopefully a second edition will come soon. This photographer deserves to be better known worldwide.

Gunnar Smoliansky’s website

Saul Leiter

blogEntryTopperRecently BBC 4 TV aired Thomas Leach's documentary In No Great Hurry - 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter but I failed to see it, only becoming aware of it's showing the following day.

In No Great Hurry - 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter TRAILER from Tomas Leach on Vimeo.

The same can be said of his 'little book' as he calls it Saul Leiter Early Color as it had already sold out by the time I went to order it. I subsequently ordered 'Saul Leiter' published by Steidl in 2008, a catalogue published on the occasion of his exhibition at the Foundation Henri Cartier Bression in Paris. I believe it is currently sold out but if you come across it, it really is a little gem.


Comprising of early black and white as well as colour work, what immediately struck me was the high number of vertical compositions and for a 'street photographer' that is fairly unique.



It is good to have the black and white work alongside the colour, which he has become famous for, as it shows the transition in approach and where colour brought him visually. Using out of date Kodachrome (?) and film for it's slightly unreal rendering of colour allowed his painterly sensibilities to flourish.



What I love about Leiter’s work is that is is based on a living experience, on perception as opposed to conception. He uses a natural strength of photography, namely optics, and it's ability to manipulate the rendition of space. He also accepts and uses the photographic colour of out of date film.



The book has an understated elegance. Beautifully printed on slightly creamy white paper stock, which gives a warm and quiet base for the images. The overall design serves the work and, with excellent binding, it's a pleasure to handle.


I hope that a second printing of this book will be published in the future. It deserves a place on photographers bookshelves. In the meantime Early Color is out in a new edition but already seems to be in short supply.

For more information on Saul Leiter check this out.
Artsy info page

Color Correction - Ernst Haas

blogEntryTopperAmong the first few photo books I got was Ernst Haas 1975 book In America I had seen his work featured in, I would say, a copy of the American magazine Popular Photography and was really excited by it. Shortly after, a photographer friend of mine gave me a copy of Haas' book as a birthday present. Of course I soaked it up. I shot mainly black and white at that time and had just set up a darkroom. But this introduced me to colour, it's language and power and how a great photographer handled it.

Haas died in 1986 and in the intervening years his personal work seems to have got little exposure. So it was, with some excitement, that in 2011 I read that Steidl were to publish a book of Haas' work called Color Correction. At the start of the book, William Ewing explains the title '' I have chosen to use the term metaphorically, to suggest that we owe it to Ernst Haas, and our understanding of the history of colour photography, to re-evaluate his importance in light of this marvelous imagery, kept under wraps for so many years."

The book itself is a model of simple elegance. It's almost square format ( 25.8 x 27.3cm) is ideal to give equal space to both landscape and portrait formats from Haas' kodachromes. The book is also easy to handle. Divided into 12 sections, the work is presented an image per page with a little bit of 'breathing space' around each, (see photo) all the way through. This results in creating a visually quiet setting in which to enjoy these photographs which, by their nature, are poetic visual meditations. One gets a sense of the respect and joy for the world the photographer had. The reproductions are excellent on good quality paper. The book contains lots of work I had not seen before. Of those I had, it was interesting to see that the cover shot for In America was not used in Color Correction but a variation of it , one where Haas has changed his position slightly and used a wider angle lens resulting in, among other things, a repositioning of the reflected flagpoles.


At the time of writing I believe the first edition is no longer available. Lets hope that it will be back in print soon again. It's a book I treasure and highly recommend to anyone especially those who have come across his work on the web and would like to have a book of his work. Steidl’s publication sets a high standard.

More background
Ernst Haas philosophy
Alex Haas interview about his fathers work