The PhotoBook Journal

February 16, 2018

Todd Webb – I See a City: Todd Webb’s New York

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 8:04 pm

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Photographer:  Todd Webb (1905-2000; born in Detroit, Michigan)

Editor:  Betsy Evans Hunt

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY; © 2017

Essays:  Sean Corcoran, Daniel Okrent, Betsy Evans Hunt

Language:  English

Sewn hardback with illustrated dust cover; 10 x 12 inches; 150 black-and-white images; 176 pages, paginated throughout; printed and bound in China

Photobook Designer:  BTD/NYC

 

Notes:

New York City has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of the world. The New York of the mid-1940s through the 1950s had its own unique atmosphere. One of the busiest metropolitan areas, it was characterized by neighborhoods with distinct characteristics and a somewhat more leisurely pace, somewhat apart from the hustle and bustle of the commercial areas, which also were more individually distinct than they are today. The troops had come home from World War II and were welcomed warmly by the citizenry; the charm of the past was still to be seen as the future was peeking over the horizon. For the photography world, this was the time of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe (whom Webb later photographed in New Mexico), the Callahans, the Newhalls, Minor White, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Gordon Parks, and others with whom Todd Webb was well connected.

Todd Webb had a knack for finding the unusual in ordinary subjects. The New York shown in his work is distinguished by the loving depiction of the vestiges of times gone by within the context of the moment; the emphasis is on neighborhoods such as Harlem and the lower East Side, all with their distinct buildings and signage. Often the humans depicted recede into the background, dwarfed by the enormity of the city, buildings of old and other structures such as the “El” (elevated city rail transportation), many of which have since been replaced. In fact, many times Webb would leave out people and merely photograph evidence of their activities or concerns, such as signs welcoming soldiers home or shop windows with their personally or culturally unique visual and verbal messages. There is an appealing timelessness and slower pace to the city as depicted here, mostly from a street-level perspective, a historic window into the many details making the mosaic that was the NYC of that time, a portrait that also gives a certain amount of dignity to subjects not members of the more upscale part of society, as Daniel Corcoran points out in his essay.

This sumptuously printed oversized volume presents the best of Todd Webb’s New York City work, collected in an appealing sequence edited by Betsy Evans Hunt, the Executive Director of the Todd Webb Archive, who also details her connections to Webb in the appendix. There are also two illuminating essays, by Sean Corcoran and Daniel Okrent, that supply details about the background of the photographer and his time. The images are accompanied by captions that provide the place and year for each; the sequencing is well paced to suit the variety of subjects and moods. This publication follows a Fall 2017 exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York; prints of this work of Todd Webb, as well as Africa 1958, will be at AIPAD 2018, The Photography Show, April 2018.

A historical volume of great documentary and artistic significance!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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February 1, 2018

Daidō Moriyama – Record

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 5:47 pm

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Photographer:  Daidō Moriyama (born in Okeda, Osaka, and lives in Tokyo, Japan)

Editor:  Mark Holborn

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY; © 2017

Essay:  “The Headlights in My Eyes” by Mark Holborn

Language:  English

Sewn hardback with illustrated slipcase; 230+ images, of which some 50 are in color; 424 pages, paginated sections; printed and bound in China by Artron

Photobook Designer:  Jesse Holborn, Design Holborn

Notes: Daidō Moriyama is certainly one of the most prolific photographers, having published well over 70 books. His photographic curiosity is given free rein on the street and other anonymous places, where he illuminates the mysteries of both day and night, be it in his native Japan or in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. The gritty images are daring and bold, and some of the darker aspects of life tend to predominate. There is a tough edge to the spontaneous glimpses he shares with us, and we are certainly in his grip as we are reminded about the toughness of life that he presents in his gutsy style. The photographs are rough-and-tumble tableaus in which we play the role of vicarious outsiders.

This handsomely printed volume is a digest of the magazine Record (Kiroku), which Moriyama started to publish in the early 1970s (Issues 1-5) and resumed again starting in 2006 (Issues 6-30). To keep such a momentum going over a period of more than 40 years is an amazing accomplishment. Only “an artist in constant motion” (promotional literature) can develop a style that transcends location and becomes a universal observation mode. The book contains various quotes at the beginning of each of the 30 segments to help set the tone and provide further understanding. An introduction by Mark Holborn provides an interesting discussion of Moriyama, the self-appointed photographic “hunter,” marked by restlessness and briefly drawn to the moment, somewhat analogous to haiku poetry. It is all about the photographer’s self-expression: “I wander around, glance at things, and bark from time to time.”

I have chosen the sample pages below to give you a brief overview regarding the range, breadth, and style. Regardless of the locale, Moriyama is true to himself in how he presents the world to us. Occasionally there is also self-observation: a self-portrait in the form of a reflection. Then also, interspersed, there are scenes with an erotic slant, at other times there is a distinct atmosphere that might imply loneliness or longing. Color is used very seldom, but effectively, either muted or over the top, depending on what is required.

An important publication, well done!

Gerhard Clausing

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