Who needs a tablet under the tree anyways — I want photo books! Here are 7 works that I read in the second half of 2012 that were an artistic inspiration. And here are more art books from the first half of the year.
Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse
I saw Richard Mosse’s book Infra when browsing the photo section of The Strand book store in New York last month. My only real association with color infrared is the classic Beefheart and Zappa album covers. Mosse has pulled off an amazing accomplishment. This book contains amazingly beautiful large format war photos from the Congo shot on expired color infrared surveillance film. Lying somewhere between photojournalism and art, Infra is hypnotizing. Hands down the must see book of the year.
William Eggleston: Chromes
While in New York, I thought I was saving money by crashing with photographer Gabriel Biderman for a couple of nights. On top of his excellent collection of photo books was a fresh copy of William Eggleston’s Chromes. The lost scrolls of contemporary color photography? Beautifully produced by Steidl, Chromes is 3 hardcover books in a case. It’s like having 3 more Eggleston’s Guides. The current $345 price tag is steep, and will only get steeper. After spending an evening with this amazing series of photos, there was no doubt that I needed a copy. Hey, $345 is about what 2 nights in a New York hotel would have cost me — so thanks, Gabe!
Bruce Davidson: Outside Inside
Did I mention that Gabe also had a copy of Steidl’s 3 volume set of Bruce Davidson photos? Over 800 images chosen by Davidson. And at $195, this set is reasonably priced compared to Chromes.
John Bartlestone: The Brooklyn Navy Yard
Also on the shelf at Mr. Biderman’s was John Bartelstone’s black and white documentary look at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York’s oldest industrial facility. If you’re interested in the history and transformation of World War II military facilities, this book is a must see. Bartelstone is an architectural photographer, and the compositions are very clean. The book shows a great feeling for the location. Highly recommended, especially if you’re interested in this type of subject matter.
In Camera: Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting
In Camera takes a deep dive into how one of the greatest painters of the 20th century used photography as an inspiration. In addition to the interesting biographical details that emerge from this look at Bacon’s process, we are treated to some insights into how images can trigger feelings and memories. I picked this book up from the returns cart at the library, and it’s a sleeper. Highly recommended, whether you’re new to Bacon’s paintings or already a fan of his work.
Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Camera
Less plot, more character. Hinting at something. Making you think a little bit. Very subtle comedy — this description of Toussaint’s book could very well substitute for what I’d like my photographs to do.
Chris Ware: Building Stories
Let’s just get this out of the way first — Chris Ware’s 14-piece graphic-novel-in-a-box is a wonderful but melancholy work of art. Building Stories is also a riveting story, and amazingly designed.
Viktor Pelevin: Omon Ra
What if you dreamed of entering the Soviet Space program and going to the moon. And what if you got your wish. And what if it turned out to be something very different than you expected. Life’s funny that way. If you like black humor and space travel, this is your book.