A short week this week. Monday was MLK Day, so no crit or digital imaging.
Tuesday: History of the Book this week focused on the early history of the photo book from Talbot’s book The Pencil of Nature and Anna Atkins’ beautiful publication Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (which I guess isn’t really considered a book but more of a portfolio) to Edward Curtis’ epic The North American Indian. If you are interested in the history of photo books, you really should buy these two books:
Each chapter has a well written essay that focuses on a certain topic and then includes photographs of the books mentioned along with additional descriptive text.
A lot of controversy surrounds Curtis’ book which JP Morgan financed for $75,000 in 1906 (roughly 1.75 million dollars today). Supposed to be a document of fading Native American culture, Curtis staged many of the photographs and manipulated images to depict a romanticized depiction of a way of life that had already been heavily affected for the worse by industrial development in the US West.
Here are two versions of a Curtis image. The first is the toned final image and the second is the original unretouched. Note the clock between the two men in the original.
Wednesday starts with Visible, Invisible. We are starting to explore the notion of truth and point of view in images. We looked at work by:
George Rousse, who paints the color fields onto the real surfaces so that the only place they appear as a regular geometric shape is from the point of view of the camera. Were you to move the camera slightly to the right or left, the edges of the colors on the various surfaces would not line up.
Here is a great trailer to a movie about Rousse:
Barbara Probst, who sets up multiple cameras to take simultaneous photographs of the same subjects from multiple positions. Each image offers a different truth from a different point of view and tells a different story:
Duane Michals. I added the numbers to order the frames in the images below. Click on it to view larger. With each frame, we are presented new information that changes the reality presented in the series.
In Right Here, Right Now, we talked about John Szarkowski’s book Looking at Photographs. While a great book, the general discussion was how a great deal of photography today can’t really be understood through the sort of analysis that J.S. employs in the book. We still have more to discuss and no matter where the conversation ends up, the book is still an important book well worth reading.
That’s it. Week two of the semester is done. Next week is a full week again.