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March 15, 2006

Book of the Month - Singular Images, Essays on Remarkable Photographs

It's Mid Month!! Which of course means.. we have our newest favorite Art book of the month! I can tell you're all so excited!! So, do you think this is how Oprah Winfrey's Book Club got it's start?? Hmmmm....
Aperture_bookThis time.. I chose Singular Images, Essays on Remarkable Photographs, published by the wonderful people at Aperture.

Other than the amazing Nan Goldin photo "The Hug" on the cover (also in the MAO Art Collection..and my all time favorite photograph)..with an insightful essay by Darsie Alexander curator from the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I was impressed with the depth of these essays, one on each photo. While it's common to see full narratives written about a single painting or sculpture, over the many years of collecting art books, I've found few lengthy scholarly essays on single photographs. The only other 2 good ones I'd recommend are

Photo Icons I (1827-1926) and

Photo Icons II (1928-1991) both by Taschen

which also focus on single images, but they stopped just as the photographic arts were coming into it's prime! I even remember early debates with art experts over whether a single photographic image was really capable of holding the viewers attention long enough to warrant a lengthy essay.  Well, luckily times have changed, and now we have another entire book dedicated to just 12 single images.

My only complaint with the book, is there's no explanation provided as to the process of selecting the specific photographers and the single images for the book.  Since in fact many photographs are really just building blocks of much larger artistic project/story, I imagine it was difficult for editor Sophie Howarth (curator from the Tate Modern) to single out just "12 Perfect" images. While, these are not exactly my top choices (like they should have asked me!!), these photos do easily stand on their own.

I did enjoy the entire book, but besides Nan Goldin's "The Hug" and essay which clearly deserved to be on the cover, the other clear standouts were :

  1. Bill Brandt's "A Snicket, Halifax" (photo #2) essay by Nigel Warburton
  2. Diane Arbus's "A Young Brooklyn Family going for a Sunday Outing" (photo #3)essay by Liz Jobey
  3. Hiroshi Sugimoto's "Aegean Sea,Pilion" (photo #3) essay by Dominic Willsdon.
  4. Thomas Struth "San Zaccaria,Venice" (Photo #4)essay by Sophia Howarth.

Brandt_snicket Arbus_brooklyn_family Sugimoto_ageanStruth_zaccaria I think it's an outstanding effort, very entertaining, and a new must read for a photography collector. And no.. I don't get a commission from Aperture for recommending their books!!


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And the Getty's book on Camille Silvy's "River Scene," http://www.getty.edu/bookstore/titles/silvy.html

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