PHOTOBOOK REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND WRITE-UPS
ALONG WITH THE LATEST PHOTO-EYE NEWS

Social Media

Book Review : New York in Photobooks


Book Review New York in Photobooks. By Horacio Fernández Reviewed by George Slade "There’s a ton of character in this book. 32 authors wrote the descriptive introductory paragraphs accompanying the 48 entries. None, as far as I know, are U.S.-based. Which means, happily, that the list has what might seem to us middle-Americans as an awful lot of obscurity."

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.
New York in Photobooks
Reviewed by George Slade

New York in Photobooks
Edited by Horacio Fernández. Text by Jeffrey Ladd, et al.
RM, Mexico City, Mexico, 2017. 240 pp., 350 color illustrations, 6½x9½".

Based on the proliferation of “best of” lists, particularly numerous in November and December, and books featuring top, great, important, landmark (choose your defining term) photography books, I’m guessing I’m not alone in this peculiar feeling I get when a list of books crosses my desk. My professional photo-bibliographic pride gets stimulated. The list is a gauntlet thrown at my feet. Can you match this? What would you have on a list with this set of parameters? Defend your choices, my esteemed adversary; I will brook no swaps without just cause, and some I will absolutely take to the mat.
(Sure, such jousting is an inane, intellectual pissing contest, but we effete, artsy types have to take our singular pleasures where we can these days.)

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.

I was thrilled, and my competitive spirit was piqued, when I learned of this collection. Jeffrey Ladd’s personal reflections that appear in this book recall a photo-bibliocentric city I knew well. I swear I wore out a Visa card on the (pre-chip, pre-magnetic strip) imprint slider in Soho’s A Photographer’s Place. I remember my astonishment at finding and buying two pristine copies of Danny Seymour’s A Loud Song from a rack in a camera store on East 14th, or maybe 23rd, Street. Many of my own go-to-the-mat-for titles are in this catalogue: Klein’s Life is Good & Good for You in New York; Weegee’s Naked City; Davidson’s East 100th Street and Subway; Abbott’s Changing New York; Lyon’s The Destruction of Lower Manhattan; Mulas’ New York: The New Art Scene. All of these are books contain photographs and themes that absolutely could not have been pursued elsewhere; in the best sense, they reek of New York.

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.

Also on the list are several titles so specific, so deeply descriptive of life that they become universal. The city is embedded in the photographs so deeply one might need to be reminded of the setting. Such bookish transcendence is found in Levitt’s A Way of Seeing, DeCarava’s Sweet Flypaper of Life, Schles’ Invisible City, and Evans’ Many Are Called. These are titles I would expect to find on any reputable list of NYC-inflected photobooks.

Some books on the list really pleased me to see, lesser masterpieces like Edinger’s Chelsea Hotel, Weideman’s In My Taxi, Rauschenberg’s Photos In+Out City Limits New York C., all of which fulfill fascinating, if slightly circumscribed, parameters. The Rauschenberg is an example of a different way to slice the pie, that of the artist's book as response to a city.

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.

Given the book’s title, I brainstormed some less familiar titles that I hoped would be mentioned; books I had egotistically considered “overlooked” by everyone else but me. Hofer’s luminously beautiful New York Proclaimed and Jan Yoors’ Only One New York/The Unknown Worlds of the Great City, both present. The incredible, game-changing Here is New York/A Democracy of Photographs, ditto.

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.

But some entries in my personal pantheon didn’t make the list. Inexplicably, Riis’ How the Other Half Lives and Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency are omitted, and I consider these to be quintessential. (I know that Ballad isn’t all shot in New York, but it is a book that wouldn’t have existed without New York; the iconic Arbus monograph and books by Peter Hujar follow suit.) Martha Rosler’s 3 Works, of which one is her remarkable picture essay “The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems”—also missing. Ryan’s Office Romance, Papageorge’s Passing Through Eden, Biddle’s Alphabet City, Cianni’s We Skate Hardcore, Permuth’s Yonkeros, Rose’s Meatpacking District, Powell’s midtown “lunch pictures” in The Company of Strangers, Mermelstein’s SideWalk and Twirl/Run, all absent. Patrick McMullan’s mammoth compendium of lower Manhattan’s demimonde, so80s: A Photographic Diary of the Decade (the 1980s were my years in the city, so I have a soft spot for this one). Meyerowitz’s similarly weighty Aftermath. New York/New York; Masterworks of a Street Peddler by George Forss, presented by David Douglas Duncan; Issue 19 of Picture magazine, dedicated to images of New York, and Dissent magazine’s fall 1987 issue, In Search of New York.

New York in PhotobooksEdited by Horacio FernándezRM, 2017.

I could go on. I won’t go on.

Remember that every list has an author, or two or three, and that every author or collection of authors has a unique character.

Of the 48 books on this list, almost half of them were unknown or unfamiliar to me.

There’s a ton of character in this book. 32 authors wrote the descriptive introductory paragraphs accompanying the 48 entries. None, as far as I know, are U.S.-based. Which means, happily, that the list has what might seem to us middle-Americans as an awful lot of obscurity. Which means that some “musts” might well be excluded. But you can learn to appreciate others that are included, a goal assisted by some excellent verbal and photographic description.

New perspectives. That’s the mixing, churning, bubbling Big Apple in a nutshell—or, in images between covers—isn’t it? — George Slade

Purchase Book

GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant. He can be found online at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/

Read More Book Reviews



No comments:

Post a Comment