New Topographics: Lewis Baltz

Continuing the series on books from the 10 photographers associated with the New Topographics, I recently checked out Lewis Baltz’s Rule Without Exception from the library. This book is a survey of Baltz’s work from 1967-1990, and provides a stark contrast to the Robert Adams book I discussed last week:

Rule Without Exception gathers texts by distinguished European and American artists, critics and historians, each of whom offers a particular perspective on this important and influential body of work.

Therein lies the problem. The images are overwhelmed by a large quantity of somewhat pretentious short texts. Twelve essays in one book is about nine or ten too many. Putting the work in context is important. But this book beats you over the head with context until it’s hard to look at the photos.

The most interesting part of this book are a few images of Baltz’s work on display at galleries. The photos are arranged quite close together on the walls, in small clusters or long tightly spaced rows. It’s such a simple but brilliant idea to keep the work together by leaving out the negative space between images.

The Baltz book I really wanted to track down is Park City, but the library doesn’t have it and the cheapest copy I could find is $450. I’m trying to get a copy through interlibrary loan (ILL). The other book I noticed when searching was a book called Landscape: Theory which includes text or images by Baltz, Harry Callahan, Eliot Porter, and Robert Adams. This one is only $12 online, but I’m trying to get it through ILL first.

3 thoughts on “New Topographics: Lewis Baltz”

  1. While we’re on the subject of Robert Adams, don’t forget about Adams’ Beauty in Photography, which is on Mike Johnston’s recommended-reading list.

    I’ve read it once. I got a lot out of it, but I’ll need to read it again to really appreciate what he’s talking about.

    Andy Frazer

  2. Joe, in your study of typologies, you should have a look at the work of Jeff Brouws, if you haven’t already. A former Bay Area boy, and Nocturne at heart, I think. His Approaching Nowhere and Readymades: American Roadside Artifacts especially, fit right in with your discourse here – while I’m much more partial to Highway: America’s Endless Dream and Inside the Live Reptile Tent, for obvious reasons nocturnal.

    See this page on Brouws from the Robert Mann Gallery.

    “No Topologies” – there’s the musical connection (think Nirvana).

  3. Hi Tim -

    Brouws definitely fits with the lineage I’m going after here — he was just in the next wave after the folks I”ve been covering.

    I have all the Brouws books except Highway. Reptile Tent is on my short list of essential night photography books. I got Approaching Nowhere for a gift last year, and will eventually be talking about it in more detail.



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