Verso Limited Editions has recently published their latest title, Bruce Davidson: Central Park in Platinum, which I had an opportunity to review at photo la last week. This book is really an object de arte, considering the exquisit use materials for its construction.
But first, I want to discuss the photographs of Bruce Davidson in this book, which are from his Central Park series. For background, this was a initially a commissioned project by National Geographics in 1991, which was subsequently cancelled four months into the assignment. Over the following four years, Davidson continued to work on this now self-assigned series.
The selection of the fourteen photographs that are encased in this book are an interesting selection, from those that perhaps could be easily associated with Davidson to many which are not.
Perhaps in an attempt to try to interpret Central Park in a unique manner, many of his photographs are made with an extremewide angle lens. To photograph an iconic location is daunting. He is most successful in what Davidson seems to do best, to capture the essence of the people who use the Park, especially with the photograph of the women feeding the pigeons (Women at the Pond). A few give you pause to wonder why they are even included in this series, as you would expect some of his best work to be included in this small selection.
I am not sure that I have any better feeling or understanding of Central Park for looking at and studying these photographs. Perhaps that was not the intent. A couple of the landscape images are a delight to look at, with the Poets Walk of the snow falling in the park on the walk way, the most intriguing use of the atmospheric conditions, but these are not the photographs that I would usually associate with Davidson from his earlier work.
And perhaps that may be the point, that this is a small body of work that Davidson has allowed himself to stray from his normal style to follow different and perhaps more personal muse. To try to visual explore a thematic subject and to take some chances.
As to the book itself, the list of fine materials of construction seems to go on and on, such that the book is as much about the book itself as it is about an artist work. I was not prepared with a set of white archival gloves to handle the book and its pages directly. Something about feeling the need to handle a book wearing gloves may not bring out the best in me. Perhaps the need is more apt if you were looking at fine photographic prints, which is what this book aspires to. Considering the price of $12,500 for the book, it is relatively expensive as new books go.
The book is printed in platinum, as are the two free-standing photographs, the text has been handset by the Press & Letterfundry of Michael & Winifred Bixley, letter pressed on 100% cotton Cranes Rag Paper at KatRan Press by Michael Russem. The master bookbinder for the twelve bound images was Mark Tomlinson, working with a design by Skolkin+Chickey and the entire collection is encased in a custom crafted mahongany box, in a limited edition of 50 books. It is very impressive to behold and does leave a big impact in of itself.
The introduction was written by Charlotte Cotton, curator and departement head of photography at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Best regards, Douglas Stockdale