It was great to find rare, original copies of Graham’s earlier books – ‘A1 The Great North Road’, ‘Beyond Caring’ and ‘Troubled Land’, along with ‘New Europe’, and the Phaidon ‘Contemporary Artists monograph’ offering a look at work between 1981 – 1996.
All books are now back on the library shelves for the students to discover before our visit.
Images online: http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/beyondcaring.html#a ‘Beyond Caring’ chronicles the state of employment in 80’s Britain through images made in the waiting rooms, corridors and cubicles of the department of social security and department of employment.
Images Online:http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/troubledland.html Troubled Land was Graham’s last book produced in the 80’s and followed the style of the two previous publications via ‘Grey Editions’. This time examining the subtle relationship between the landscape of Northern Ireland and the ‘troubles of its society’.
Images Online:http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/neweurope.html ‘New Europe seeks to dig beneath the utopian dream of a united continent arising to face the 21st century. Paul Graham’s photographs reflect on the inescapable shadow of history that falls over each nation’s conscience, from the dictatorships of Franco and Hitler, to the Holocaust and the Irish conflict.’ (From back cover of ‘New Europe’)
This book features a collection of Graham’s images, along with essays and an interview to provide a solid overview of his work up to 1996. The extensive interview with Gillian Wearing, is alone worth the read and to find a conversation with the great Lewis Baltz at the end of the book is a great treat.
The following was added by William Allen, highlighting the correspondence between Robert Frank and Hugh Edwards following ‘The Americans’ (Curator of Prints, Drawing, and Photographs at the Art Institute of Chicago)
“It seems I made these photographs. I’m happy that they mean so much to you.”
“N.Y.C. May 1969 For Hugh Edwards First with gratitude and respect to help + encourage when it mattered (1958) and now with regrets not to see in print your thoughts long before they became fashionable Your friend Robert.”
Frank had his first one-person show in a major venue at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961. That was Robert Frank: Photographer and Hugh Edwards arranged the show. Here is the 1960 letter from Edwards inviting Frank to exhibit.
May 23, 1960
Mr. Robert Frank,
34 Third Avenue,
New York City, New York.
Dear Mr. Frank: It seems so long since I was in New York and talked with you on the telephone that I am afraid you have forgotten the conversations we had in regard to an exhibition. Since I came back to Chicago, I have been very busy and knew you had little time to be bothered with correspondence. However, I have not forgotten that you said you might be interested in a show and my experience with The Americans have been so many since my return that I am writing you at last, still with the hope that we may have an exhibition here.
In the last week I have completed an exhibition schedule so that I am able to give you, if you are still interested, some idea of when the show would take place. How would the period of April 28 through June 11 of next year suit you? I remember you said you would like to have some delay and although these dates-almost a year in the future-may seem distant, the time will pass much faster than we think.
I have had the museum store stock the American edition of your book. They have sold a number of copies and there is steady demand for it. We have both the French and American editions in the print room and they have been enthusiastically received by many young photographers who come here to look at the prints in our collection. This pleases me a great deal because no other book, except Walker Evans’ American Photographs, has given me so much stimulation and reassurance as to what I feel the camera was created for. I hope this does not have too pompous a sound for I feel your work is the most sincere and truthful attention paid to the American people for a long time. Although so different and not stemming from them, it may be kept in the company of Frank Norris, Sherwood Anderson, Hart Crane, Jon Dos Passos and Walker Evans and these are the best in American expression in the time I can remember. It is a real privilege to have known your pictures in their first freshness and newness. Someday they will spread to everyone and even the most sterile and analytical of intellectuals will except them at last.
I should greatly appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible in regard to what you think about the exhibition so that I may put it definitely in the schedule of exhibitions.
I hope to be in New York again, at least in the early fall, and talk with you again. As typewriters and telephones are instruments of inhibition for me, I regret I could not arrange a meeting during those days I was there this spring.
Hugh Edwards, Curator of Photography.
I want to thank David Travis, retired Head and Curator of the Department
of Photography at The Art Institute of Chicago, for sharing with me his
first-hand knowledge of the inscriptions of Robert Frank to Hugh
– William Allen
The Photo Book Club’s Matt Johnston is currently residing in the Midlands, England, and so making use of the excellent photography section in the Coventry University library. Starting shortly, Matt will be posting some of the books found on the shelves of the library along with a brief synopsis under the headline and hashtag #fromthelibrary. As well as this online post, Matt will be meeting with students and holding informal discussions on these books, and the various books that students will bring to the sessions.
As with everything on the Photo Book Club we would love to get your thoughts and discussion on the books. You can use the hashtag #photobc on Twitter, or use the comments section below this post.
And if you want to see one of the #fromthelibrary books given a thorough look by the Photo Book Club and community, let us know!
As the end of the month draws near, I think it is also worth reflecting further on the creative and personal connections between Avedon and Robert Frank. As Wayne mentions, and as best narrated in Jane Livingstone’s book on the New York School, Avedon and Frank both worked for and studied with Brodovitch in the 1940s and 50s, although Avedon certainly had a closer relationship with the mentor.
As I was working on my dissertation, I spent a lot of time paging through old bound issues of Harper’s Bazaar in my university library, and I found a lot of product still lifes and other commercially motivated images bylined to Frank.
But I think it is most interesting to consider the relationship between The Americans and Avedon’s In The American West. Although the approach to photography of the two books could hardly be more visually distinct, I believe that Avedon set out to put his own mark on the kind of photographic grand tour that Frank originally perfected.
Both explored the west and sought to tell its story. And both told a controversial story of the failure of American ideals. Both were criticized for the perceived ugliness of their vision. Avedon photographed Frank and his wife (June Leaf, in what I think is a hidden gem among Avedon’s white background portraits) in the late 70s, and I suspect that their encounter was fresh on Avedon’s mind when he set out on his Western project.
At the age of 17, Richard Avedon (1923-2004) joined the merchant marineʼs photographic section in 1940, where he would spend much of his time producing personnel identiﬁcation photographs, and occasionally document shipwrecks. Following his discharge from service in 1944, Avedon found a job as a photographer in a New York department store, before Alexey Brodovitch — who Avedon had studied under in his Design Laboratory at the New School of Social Research — hired the 22 year-old as a staff photographer at Harperʼs Bazaar in 1945, where he would be the youngest member of the Russian emigres team.
This appointment would mark the beginning of the creative collaboration between the
inspirational art director, who did much to introduce modern graphic design aesthetics, and modernist European photography to the United States, and the photographer, that
culminated in the publication of ʻObservationsʼ in 1959.
One of the characteristicʼs of Brodovitchʼs design style, was his use of white space on the
editorial pages of Harperʼs Bazaar and his other projects, including ʻPortfolio,ʼ and this
inﬂuence is seen in Avedonʼs photography when he adopted the seamless white background in his fashion photography, for which he ﬁrst became known, and latterly his
portrait work to.
Throughout his career, Avedon was a restless chronicler of our time, that led John Lahr to
write in ʻThe Times,ʼ ʻNo one has given a nation a more wide-ranging, disciplined
photographic document of itself,ʼ which is well reﬂected in the 150 pages that make up
ʻObservationsʼ which includes portraits of Charlie Chaplin, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Arthur Miller, Picasso, Jacques Cousteau, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Judy Garland, Igor Stravinsky, Katherine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Gloria Swanson, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Buster Keaton, Georgia OʼKeefe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Truman Capote, amongst many other key people of the 20th century.
A remark made by Avedon in the 1970s reﬂects this restless nature, ʻIf a day goes by
without my doing something related to photography, itʼs as though Iʼve neglected
something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.ʼ
Since then we have received hundreds of suggestions creating a map that currently comprises over 110 of the best stores, galleries and museum bookshops to browse and by photobooks and zines.
A huge thank you to all who have emailed, tweeted and posted their suggestions to this crowd-sourced resource as well as the PDN, Conscientious, Hey Mammoth and FlakPhotowho mentioned the project to their own followers. It was also great being able to utilise Andy Adams’Flak Photo Network for the first time to get feedback from a 1700+ strong group of engaging photographers, educators and writers. To be able to tap into such a valuable community resulted in a much more complete picture of photobook stores around the world.
As mentioned above, the map currently stands at over 110 stores, but i’m sure there are many more: so please keep sending suggestions via email, twitter or in the comments section and they shall be added with a credit.
I have color coded stores in different parts of the world as well as using pins to represent highly concentrated areas, if you have any ideas on how we can improve usability – just let me know.
Now all that is left is for someone generous to send me on a world tour – stopping off at each store and buying a different photobook! I’ll even buy the books myself.
Were still looking Richard Avedon’s ‘Observations’ throughout April but a heads up:
Next month for the first user suggested month, we will be looking at Eugene Richards ‘Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue’ put forward by Jags Parbha.
Do you have a copy?
More to follow at the beginning of May
Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue
Text from publisher Aperture books
This is a compelling portrait of three communities blighted by drugs and isolation: East New York, North Philadelphia, and the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn, New York. With a chilling and informative afterword by Dr. Stephen W. Nicholas, a pediatric AIDS physician in Harlem, Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue reveals how first steps toward solutions to overcome the drug trade have actually contributed to public denial and further isolation of the trapped communities. Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue is a history of our times, a terrifying document that will educate us and promote dialogue.
“Eugene Richards’s wrenching photographic study of the culture of cocaine in three inner-city neighborhoods gives faces to some of the victims of addiction. It provides a shocking and heartrending picture of the damage inflicted by the drug.”
–Charles Hagen, The New York Times
“Eugene Richards’s seventh book, Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, reaffirms his position as the premier chronicler of the dark side of American life ˜ he is the true heir to the mantle of the legendary W. Eugene Smith.”
When we started looking at Avedon’s ‘Observations’ we mentioned that we would produce a video for those who could not get hold of a copy themselves. A video to show Avedon’s images, their layout, sequencing and so on. You can see the video embedded below, and as always we look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions.
Note: Due to a family emergency our video producer has been unable to create this video, and so for now a rather dogeared copy that is my own (including absence of p84-5) has been photographed this morning. Our apologies. Matt
This month’s book ‘Observations’ is not easily accessible in your local library, nor is it affordable to most. But we consider it to be more than worthy of a Photo Book Club discussion, and so next week we will post a video looking through the book, making sure this incredible book is available to view by as many fans as possible!
Author Richard Avedon, with comments by Truman Capote
Publisher Simon & Schuster, 1959
Like Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans,’ which we discussed last month in the Photo Book Club, American photographer Richard Avedon’s first book, ‘Observations,’ was published in 1959. And, like ‘The Americans’ it was included in Andrew Roth’s ‘The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the 20th Century (PPP Editions, 2001), now itself a seminal work on the history of the photographic book.
Having begun to take photographs during the Second World War, where he served in the Merchant Marine, Avedon became chief photographer of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ in the late 1940s, where he helped redefine and elevate fashion photography to an art form, frequently taking his models out of the studio.
But Avedon’s first book did not focus on his fashion work, but on his iconic and penetrating portraits. In the 150 pages that form ‘Observations,’ with comments by the great American writer Truman Capote, we encounter the likes of Charlie Chaplin, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Arthur Miller, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Judy Garland, Igor Stravinsky, Katherine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Buster Keaton, and many others.
Reflecting upon Avedon’s oeuvre, Maria Morris Hambourg recently wrote ‘By dint of progressive challenges to himself, Richard Avedon has not only distilled photographic portraiture to its irreducible core, but has also produced an extended meditation on life, death, art, and identity. Laureate of the invisible reflected in physiognomy, Avedon has become our poet of portraiture.’
Let us know your thoughts by using the hashtag #photobc in Twitter or share links and blog posts in to comment section below.
Next week we will post a video, showing the book in all it’s glory to those who do not own, or have access to a copy (which is most of us!)
At The Photo Book Club we are really keen to hear your stories about Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’. After hearing Rich Beaubien’s personal reminiscence last week (link) it got us thinking about how others first came across the book, what it has meant to them, how it has inspired people and even whether people have traveled to some of the sites in the book to recreate images?
As always you can get involved by using the hashtag #photobc in Twitter, or use the comments section below.
I first read The Americans in my first year at University, as my fascination with American photography began. It sat in between Lange’s ‘An American Exodus’ and Clark’s ‘Tulsa’ on my reading list and was exactly what i had, unknowingly, been looking for. Through 83 images Frank showed a nation in birth, death, rest and work, captured a time in history, and for me, captured a picture that stretched far beyond its own decade.
There are very few books that keep me as interested and intrigued as The Americans, which I must have read The Americans in part or in full, at least 8 times that same week. I loved noticing different images each time, spotting the humorous touches i had missed previously and analysing the expressions on Frank’s characters and extras, which is how i saw it at the time – as a film of a time passed. I had no reference to America or the 70’s.
As my understanding of the context in which The Americans was produced grew, I lingered longer on images previously ignored. I read more into the sequencing of the images, took note of the locations and developed a better understanding of what Frank had captured. I stopped seeing the America i wanted to see and started to see the America that Frank saw, as a photographer and outsider.
Yet, like Niall commented, I like my first view of the book best. Where I skipped through the cocktail parties, commencement speeches and political rallies (falling in love with the elevator girl on the way) to spend my time looking at the cowboy hats, cigarettes, jukebox’s and endless roads.
My first copy of this, was a free give away with a subscription to the glossy Condé Nast magazine, Vanity Fair. I still have the battered paperback copy and although I have bought the hardback and the expanded version since, I prefer my first view of the book. Not surprisingly those Vanity Fair’s have long since hit the recycling bin.
The book, to me, transcends the idea of it being a photobook, mostly because it’s so important, it’s not about photography any more. It’s called The Americans and that’s what it is – a book about America and the American people in the 1950s. To me there is no complicated story behind the images, there’s no nuanced discussions on photography techniques or colour reproduction, yet it seems to sum up a whole decade in 83 pictures.
I love the idea that is was considered controversial and derogatory at the time yet today it’s considered a great documentary of America’s most important time. Nice work Robert, your can take your place up there with Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in my book!
I grew up in the US during the 1950’s and came of age during the tumultuous 60’s. Frank’s book documents the middle of the 1950’s and was released just prior to the explosive 1960’s decade. I found my first copy of The Americans in a second-hand bookstore sometime in the early 1970. It was Kerouac’s name on the cover that first enticed me (I was born and raised in Kerouac’s home town), in the end it was the photographs that captured me. I wasn’t sure what I had, but the evocative images struck me from the beginning. The careful sequencing (where I learned how story telling takes shape) and the format, with the blank facing pages, lends itself well to close inspection of each photo. There has always been, at least for me, both a subtleness and strong articulation in the images. Plus they all have some sort of interesting angle and often carry some humor. When looking at these images I often get transported as an observer back in time to the moment, becoming part of what is happening. These photographs captured the breadth this country as it entered a pivotal decade of the 20th century – the hope, difficulties, feelings, tension, and insecurities.
I guess this became more of a rambling personal reminiscence, than a review. Still, it was inspirational in my own development in that I realized for the first time of the possibilities capturing someone in public. I never saw a photograph the same way again.
I ﬁrst encountered Robert Frankʼs ʻThe Americansʼ as a young graphic design student in
the early 1980s. It wasnʼt a book I had been encouraged to seek out by my photography
lecturer — although he did point me in the direction of many wonderful photographers,
such as Bill Brandt, who continue to inspire me to this day — but a book I discovered by
chance as I browsed the small photography section in the art school library.
As a 16 year-old student my knowledge of America was based upon what I had seen and
read in the newspaper colour supplements, documentaries, and through stereo-typical
television series, but here in this small format book, was a series of gritty black-and-white
photographs that offered me a very different, and unique perspective of America that I had
nor seen encountered before.
Having spent the day looking at the book in the library, and seeking more information on
this unknown (to me at least) Swiss photographer called Robert Frank, I checked the book
out of the library for the maximum period allowed, two brief weeks, which just ﬂew by.
I was rarely without the book, picking it up and browsing the pages as often as I could, and
after two weeks I returned the book to library, only to check it straight out again, a pattern
that I repeated over the next year, each time I returned to the library hoping, no one else
had asked to look at the book.
A year after I ﬁrst encountered the work of Robert Frank and ʻThe Americansʼ I found a
secondhand copy in a local bookstore, and parted with a not insubstantial amount of my
small student grant, it wasnʼt the ﬁrst photobook I purchased, but it was the ﬁrst book of
photography that I purchased whose energy continues to excite me to this day.