Tags Posts tagged with "Street Hunters Bookshelf"

Street Hunters Bookshelf

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Elliott Erwitt Personal Best Cover

Introduction

When editing written work, one of the more difficult tasks is to “kill” or “murder your darlings”. That phrase can be traced back to Arthur Quiller-Couch from his 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures, “On The Art of Writing”. What does the phrase mean? To myself, it means to basically trim away the fat. Eliminate the self-indulgent elements that don’t necessarily aid in furthering the work. Even though the fat is where the flavor is, excess of it isn’t a good thing. The writer Stephen King has said,

“kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

So, too, must the photographer kill their darlings when selecting images for a photo book, zine or exhibition. The more images in their library, the more brutal the process must be. When I look at work by prolific master Elliott Erwitt, I imagine the photos “left on the floor” are likely images I could only dream of making. After repeatedly devouring his massive collection, Personal Best (teNeues, 2014), I wonder if Erwitt had to kill any of his darlings. Or, if the man had ever taken a bad shot in his sixty-plus year career.

Before I go on, I must give a disclaimer. Elliott Erwitt (born 1928) has taken the top spot on my list of favorite photographers. Not that’s worth anything, but consider it an advance apology for my unabashed gushing over his work.

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The Weegee Guide to New Yorkv

Introduction

Visiting New York City is on many a street photographers’ to-do or wish lists. And rightfully so. It’s New York. The reasons for wanting to make a photographic pilgrimage there are abundant.  Think of all the famous street photographers that have shot there. Garry Winogrand, Paul Strand, Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, Mary Ellen Mark and Elliott Erwitt to name just a few. And there’s up-and-coming, future famous photographers putting out superb work right now. Khalik Allah comes to mind. And these photographers work in a streethunter’s nirvana. The Big Apple is an American city at maximum. A bottomless cup of cultures, characters and scenes. And, needless to say, the city is also a wellspring for the news photographer. In a city of over eight million people, there is news happening all the time. Crime, fires, traffic accidents. And no one photographer in the 1930’s and 40’s could work the streets better than Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee.

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Introduction

Few books have shaken up and influenced the street photography world like Robert Frank’s The Americans has. Fifty-seven years after its initial publishing, the book still is referenced heavily to this very day when discussing the advancement of photography and the genre of street. But The Americans is criticized and analyzed as much as it is praised. Rightfully so, considering it is such an iconic work. But is there a point where a landmark like The Americans starts to fade away as the landscape of photography itself changes? As street photography becomes more popular and diluted? As it becomes, dare I say, less “special”?

Those questions were part of the reason why I wanted to own The Americans for myself. That and because it almost seemed mandatory. Because it’s cited so often in the street photography world, I felt like I had to own it. That a photography library, no matter what size, could only be built around this cornerstone. The only other book that I can think of to bear such a heavy load would be Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. But, at close to $90 USD for its latest edition, that piece would have to wait. At under $25 new, The Americans, now in its ninth edition, demanded to be purchased, and sooner rather than later. Questions needed answers.

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I’ve often referred to photo books as investments. When you think about it, a decent photo book is an investment. You invest your money and your time. The reward is the book, with pleasing images and, at the very best, inspiration.The inspiration to become a better photographer. The inspiration to push yourself to new limits. The inspiration to challenge yourself to new levels.

Like all investments, investments in photobooks are not without risk. Akin to the financial world, there can be safe investments and risky investments. It comes down to dollars and cents, really. There’s enough work from published photographers out in the webland, where a potential investor can get a pretty good idea of what they’re likely to get when they purchase a photo book. So, considering you’ve done at least a little research, a little homework, the only risk is in how much dough do you want to lay down for a book. Are you getting a good deal? That’s to be determined isn’t it? You can find great books under $40 USD, like Walker Evans’ American Photographs or Ed Templeton’s Wayward Cognitions. When you venture north of $50, a photo book best bring the goods. In both quality and quantity. Good examples here are Josef Koudelka’s ‘Exiles’ or the massive Garry Winogrand catalogue.

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The zines of Sean Maung - Cover photo

Introduction

In the previous installment of Streethunters’ Bookshelf, I sang the praises of the photo zine with my review of Hamburger Eyes #18. I likened the photo zine to the punk zines that I was so fond of. However, Hamburger Eyes is a compilation of various photographers’ work. A hedging of the bet, if you will. And it paid off. Hamburger Eyes was a smorgasbord for the eyes. Different photographers. Different styles. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly, highly recommended.

I had been bitten by the zine bug and was eager to further explore these printed dispatches. After further exploring the photographers featured in Hamburger Eyes, I was reminded that one shooter I had already been following on social media had his own zines available. That being said, it was an easy decision to reach out to Sean Maung and see if he had any zines available for sale. Maung was quick to respond and he did. A literal handful of them were in my hands within a few days.

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HAMBURGER COVER

Introduction

When I was a teenager, my friends first turned me on to “underground” music. By underground, I mean the music you didn’t hear on the radio. Punk, metal, new wave. And for that, I am forever grateful to them. The exchanging of cassette tapes, tape trading, buying records and going to shows were activities on the short list of the things we cared about. Being from a relatively small town, we had to rely on word-of-mouth to learn about new music. No internet then. It was discovery via mail or phone. Or by going to the record store. We would have to call clubs in the bigger cities to listen to their “concert line” messages to find out what bands would be coming. But the single greatest resource for discovering new music, outside of a friend’s testimony, was ‘the zine.

The zine was a wealth of information. Independently published, almost exclusively in black and white and on newsprint or Xeroxed. It was packed with record reviews, features on bands, editorials, “letters to the editor” and photographs. There were ones that were circulated nationally, mostly via record stores, and there were smaller, regional ones. Zines were a foundation of the scene.

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Cover of Joseph Koudelka's Exiles

Introduction

I’ve had Josef Koudelka’s Exiles in my possession for almost a month. And even after that time, after dozens of viewings, I’m struggling to find what would be the adequate words, much less the organization of them, to “review” it. In my short time collecting photobooks, I found this to be, simply put, perfection. Exiles commands respect.

As much as I dislike putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, I’m well aware I just did with that introduction. But I did it with good reason. Exiles (Aperture, 2014), now in its third and final edition, is one of the most highly praised photo books that I’ve shopped for. Previous editions, with the first being published in 1988, fetch hundreds of dollars for decent copies. This edition, with ten more images than previous ones goes for close to $50 USD on Amazon, and that is my budget ceiling for books. So I bought Exiles with confidence. I had seen just a small sample of images and I brutishly expected to be impressed, considering the book’s pedigree and price. I didn’t expect to be absolutely awed. Needless to say, I was. And still am.

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Andrew Sweigart holding the book

Introduction

To say I’m a fan of Garry Winogrand is putting it mildly. In my opinion, I believe his name is the one most synonymous with street photography. Not to diminish the exemplary work of all the other great street photographers, but damn it,  Garry Winogrand was street.

That being said, “Garry Winogrand”(Yale University/ San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, 2013) is a long look at one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. And by long, I mean long. This beast of a book arrived at my doorstep weighing over six pounds and containing 448 pages. For a Winogrand fan it’s a must. For someone unfamiliar with him or street photography, it’s an excellent introduction to the genre and one if it’s pillars.

About Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand(1928-1984) was one of, if not the most prolific street photographers ever. He left behind over 35,000 prints, 22,000 contact sheets and over 40,000 color transparencies. He also left over 6,000 rolls of unprocessed film. Consider that for a few seconds. That’s an incredible amount of images. Now imagine going through that archive and the unprocessed rolls and putting on an exhibition. “Garry Winogrand”, in all it’s majesty, is the retrospective catalog accompanying the expansive exhibition that debuted at the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art in 2013. It also made stops in Washington, DC, New York City, and just wrapped up at Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.

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Andrew Sweigart reading Walker Evans

Introduction

Walker Evans was one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. I’ve wrote about him in my Under The Influence series and, needless to say, his work had a huge impact on me. His legendary American Photographs, published by the Museum of Modern Art, is testament to his greatness and I’m thankful to now have it in my possession.

Originally published in 1938, this edition, published in 2012, is the seventy-fifth anniversary edition. It also coincided with the seventy-fifth anniversary of one of the first one-person photography exhibitions at the Museum. American Photographs is a high-water mark in not just American photography, but photography worldwide. This book, containing 87 photographs is beautifully constructed and deserving to be called an anniversary edition. And the bonus… it’s priced affordably at less than $25 usd on Amazon. A steal for a classic photo book.

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Streethunters Bookshelf: Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (Powerhouse Books, 2011)

Introduction

Vivian Maier, the street photographer and her incredible story, has had me under her spell since I first explored street photography. Spyros gave me the taste, the “push” into the genre, but it’s Maier who pulled me in and refused to let me go. It was a perfect storm. As I stumbled into street, Vivian Maier’s story was exploding and it’s draw was irresistible. The story was so compelling and the relatively few pictures released were wonderful. The inspiration was immediate. I searched fervently for all the images the internet could cough up. I watched the BBC documentary, “Who Took Nanny’s Pictures”. Soon after, John Maloof’s documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier” came out and I watched it as soon as it was available. And then I thought my cup was full, because I began researching other street photography greats. The big names. I had shelved Maier, in my mind, as I explored well-known and respected pioneers of street. The more I consumed, the further back the images were pushed in my mind.