Category Archives: Books

Holiday Gift Ideas for Photographers: A Few Good Books

Looking for a last minute gift for the photographer on your list? Last year I put together a little B&H list with a few gift ideas for photographers. This year I’ve put together a list of highly recommended books. Today is the last day for free shipping from Amazon with delivery by Christmas.

  1. Roger Ballen’s Boarding House – Shares the top honors for Book of the Year.
  2. The expanded edition of Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans. Huge. Thorough. Beautiful. Robert Frank’s proof sheets! Shares the top honors for Book of the Year.
  3. Taryn Simon’s American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar is one of my favorite books of the last few years. Absolutely essential.
  4. Troy Paiva turned me on to George Stewart’s classic post-apocalyptic novel from 1949, Earth Abides. Highly recommended.
  5. The Photobook is a permanent fixture in my living room, because it’s so enjoyable. Yes, it’s 50 bucks — if you need something special for the photographer on your list, this book is 50 bucks well spent. The only risk is you’ll also want volume 2.
  6. An interesting essay on Japanese aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows is recommended reading for night photographers.
  7. Is your New Year’s resolution to get your photographs more organized? There is no better place to start than Peter Krogh’s DAM Book.
  8. If you’re making money from photography, John Harrington’s business book is highly recommended.
  9. Thinking about doing panoramas or 360 VR photography but not sure where to start? Harald Woeste’s book offers an excellent overview of the concepts, equipment, and post-processing techniques.
  10. Who ever thought the pollution and destruction of the landscape could be so pretty?
  11. Supermarket is a superbly designed, understated story of a road trip from the Bay Area to the Southern California Desert.
  12. Brutal portraiture.

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, Expanded Edition

If you’re not the type of person who would normally spend $47 on a photography book, consider making an exception for the Expanded Edition of Looking In. Robert Frank traveled 10,000 miles through 30 states, shot 767 rolls of film, made 1000 work prints, and edited down to the 83 photos in what is one of the most important photography books ever made.

The essays, histories, and correspondence in the book are all superb. If you don’t own Frank’s original book, it’s worthwhile to note that Looking In contains all 83 images from The Americans. But here’s the real kicker:

  • All 83 proof sheets for the selected images are reproduced in the Expanded Edition.

Whether you’ve meditated on the power of The Americans for decades, or have never even seen it, you couldn’t buy more learning about photography for $47 anywhere.

Photography book aficionados take note: the Expanded Edition also includes Frank’s preliminary sequencing, a look at variant crops in different editions, and additional letters by Frank, Walker Evans, and Jack Kerouac.

The Expanded Edition of Looking in has been in and out of stock at Amazon, which lists a 1-3 week turnaround time. My copy arrived in about 2 weeks with free shipping.

The Looking In exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Americans opens next month at SF MOMA, and runs from May 16  – August 23rd.

Something important to carry, and the things that weren’t on your list

Something important to carry -- by Joe Reifer

Something important to carry — by Joe Reifer

  1. Two-Lane Blacktop – Criterion Collection — can you tell this movie is one of my favorites? I got this as a holiday gift, and the restored version looks and sounds fantastic. The box comes with a copy of the Rudy Wurlitzer script, two different commentary tracks, and a bunch of extra features. Lots of great stories on the second disc: the James Taylor interview reveals that he has never seen the film, blew the crankshaft through the center of the car after someone left it in reverse and he dropped the clutch at 6500rpm, and took a day off with Warren Oates to eat mescaline and do a snake dance in the Four Corners area.
  2. The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset — I put this on my wish list after the price went down to a reasonable $57.99 — every Monty Python episode ever made plus 2 live DVDs. Definitely a collection for the desert island list. Know what I mean?
  3. Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration — you already have Troy’s latest book, right? One of the top photography books of 2008.
  4. Up River: Man-Made Sites of Interest on the Hudson from the Battery to Troy — The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) strikes again. Subtle upon first glance, but extremely powerful. If you’ve spent any time in New York this book is a must see. If you’re into urban exploration, there are locations galore. At $13 in hardback this is an essential buy.
  5. Speaking of CLUI, I picked up a copy of Richard Misrach’s book Violent Legacies for $15 when visiting their Culver City location, as well as an interesting early urban exploration book called Dead Tech: A Guide to the Archaeology of Tomorrow, which was originally released in German in 1982. I also bought a copy of a Lucy Lippard book called On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, CLUI has a small but focused collection of books for sale at great prices, and the 30-minute Trans-Alaska Pipeline slideshow that’s currently on display is fascinating. CLUI is also right next door to the Museum of Jurassic Technology.
  6. While across town at the Getty Museum, I picked up a copy of the Robert Adams book Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. I’ve read his other book Why People Photograph multiple times, which is superb. The exhibit Dialogue among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in Californias has some amazing daguerreotypes and mining photos, and runs until March 1st. The Yosemite photos were less interesting, but I found the comparison between Yosemite photos by Carlton Watkins vs. Eadweard Muybridge very intriguing. The smaller photography exhibit In Focus: The Landscape has a few strong images, including an incredible Timothy O’Sullivan image from 1867 of his portable darkroom wagon on a sand dune. And speaking of Yosemite photos, Roger Minick’s Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point is an all-time classic.

Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey

Kick the Balls / Alan BlackIf you grew up playing soccer, Alan Black’s book Kick the Balls is a must read. A soccer fanatic from Scotland coaches a suburban Bay Area kids team with disastrous results. Laugh out loud funny. Here’s a short bit from the book about the author going to a yoga class that will give you a sample of the antics you’re in for when you read the book. The dublit.com site also has a great two-part interview with Alan Black.

In addition to writing one of the funniest sports book ever, Mr. Black is also a bartender at the Edinburgh Castle pub in San Francisco. Kick the Balls was my book club’s selection for the month, and we met at the Edinburgh to discuss the book and have a few pints. Alan Black showed up and I got to chat with him for a bit about soccer. His energy and sense of humor will really make you smile, whether in person, or on the page. Below is a photo to prove it. Thanks, Alan!

Joe Reifer and Alan Black

Deadman was stolen? Rudy Wurlitzer interview


The infamous fur trapper scene from Deadman, with Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton.

A friend alerted me to this fascinating interview with Rudy Wurlitzer in Arthur Magazine where Wurlitzer and director Alex Cox reveal that Jim Jarmusch took many of the ideas for his 1995 film Deadman from a Wurlitzer script. The rest of the interview is brilliant and includes a wide range of topics such as writing the script for Two-Lane Blacktop, working with Robert Frank and Monte Hellman, and Rudy Wurlizter’s new book The Drop Edge of Yonder, which is now on the top of my reading list.