Friday, October 19

Bound Paper Treasure

I am a big e-reader fan. Digital ink allowed us to give box after box of our books to charity, books that were taking up much needed living space in our tiny shoe box of a home. We've moved since and have a living space just the right size for the two of us. Still, it's nice not to have five double-stacked shelfing units towering over us, we now only have one in our living room (okay, I am willfully ommitting the ton of books shelved in the stair cupboard..).

The dusty smell of old paper is like perfume, but I much prefer reading print on an e-reader, which does wonders for those of us who have to close physical books due to eye strain after only a couple of hours and can't deal with small print. However, there are some books that aren't suitable e-reader material: The one shelf in our living room is where my photographic monographs hold pride of place.

When I was studying I loved hiding out in the library and I always had ten books on loan at a time. Some I kept taking out over and over again and when I finished my studies and handed back my library card there were a few books I missed thumbing through more than any of the others. Over the following Christmases and birthdays my own collection of photographic monographs began to grow. I thought I'd make a start at sharing some of my all time favourites (in no particular order) with you today :)

Richard Avedon's In the American West is a collection of photographs taken between 1979 and 1984 when Avedon set up his studio equipment and 8x10 camera in 13 states and 189 towns from Texas to Idaho. He sought out his models in state fairs, factories, slaughterhouses, ranches and roadside diners. I bet you've all seen at least one of the images in the series: The beekeeper

Avedon's blank white backgrounds, the tight frame and unusual cropping.. man. Sometimes picking up this books makes me want to burn my cameras because I'll never create something anywhere near this awesome, but other days it spurns me on instead. It's a truely insipiring piece of work.

You can read a more detailed account of this piece over here.

I am the girl with the snake around her neck and My brother the mud monster by Denise Dixon

The devil is spying on the girls by Sebastian Gomes Hernandes

Secret Games contains few of Ewald's own photographs. Instead it collates her collaborations with children in various countries and across different social groups between 1969 and 1999: She would equip groups of kids with instant cameras to depict their daily lifes, hopes and dreams. Through a child's eye you thus gain a glimpse into the day to day of youngster growing up in different cultures and across social classes.

The spontaneous, uncomplicated way in which these children turn their dreams into images and the unselfconscious way in which they record their family life is inspiring and the striking similarities across the globe just go to show that we have a lot in common eventhough our backgrounds may vary.

Sally Mann might just be my favourite photographer of them all. I have most of her books, but these three are my favourites. 

At Twelve collects photographs of young girls between childhood and adolescense. The composition of each photograph is stunning and many of the captions are rather hard hitting.

Immediate Family is an uncompromising selection of family photographs depicting not only the special occasions we usually record in our family albums but also those moments of childhood we fail to record. Tears, bloody noses and wet beds, the kind of moments every family experiences but we usually aim to forget. I don't believe she set out to shock but that her work is just plain honest.  Not everybody does: Immediate Family was her most controversial series.

What Remains contains three seperate series of photographs centering around mortality, landscapes where much blood has been shed and very literally: The decay of the body after death. Now, some people have had a look at this book and recoiled but I find it beautiful and reassuring.

To me there seems to be a calmness to all of Mann's work, a curiosity and deep sincerity in the way she expresses herself through the camera.

You can see interviews with Sally Mann below:

That's all folks.
More of my bookshelf another day :)


  1. Very interesting. I remember looking through the American West one long ago. I loved it.  I never heard of the others but the photo of the bedroom of the 12 year old was really cool. 

  2. Amazing post... thanks!

  3. Thank you, I had never heard of Sally Mann. The documentary is great. What an artist.