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Black & White Photography - 2005 Book of the Month List

Every month in addition to a traditional focus on black and white photography techniques and current trends in fine art photography, Black And White Photography Magazine writes reviews of several recently published books — and they select a Book of the Month from the 2-3 reviews each month. In order to showcase a few recommended photography books, we've taken the liberty to collect the last year or so of these book reviews.

Book of the Month: 2005
Christmas The Little Book of Contemplative Photography: Seeing with Wonder, Respect, and Humility by Howard Zehr
If you happen to be suffering the photographic equivalent of 'writer's block' then this little offering might well provide a welcome release. Penned by Howard Zehr, a 'restorative justice pioneer', the paperback is part of the Little Book of Justice and Peacebuilding series, and deals with one of two heavy ideas. Through a series of short, easy exercises, Zehr encourages the reader to think about his/her photographic practice, and develop a higher level of mindfulness in his/her approach. One exercise involves shooting an object in black & white in as many ways as possible, just varying the light characteristics, and noting the effects. There are few images to support this — though this may be an intentional omission to prevent the reader from becoming preoccupied with someone else's work. An unusual and useful little book. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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December Willy Ronis by Jean-Claude Gautrand
I love Willy Ronis' work. As a member of the re-launched photo agency Rapho, he, along with colleagues such as Doisneau and Brassai, produce some of the most memorable and engaging images of post-war Europe. This book gives those images the space that they deserve, printed in generous proportions and accompanied by nothing other than their individual titles, a short biography and a few choice quotes from Ronis and others. Many of his images are suffused with a bittersweet, melancholic humour, and their depiction of human life is captivating. The selection of photographs, coupled with the extent of the book, means that there is so much to enjoy, from the entertaining streets of Paris to shots of his contemporaries, from studies of nudes to exercises in abstract form, Ronis' camera captures a vast kaleidoscope of life. All of the old favourites are here: Lovers at the Bastille, Vincent, model plan maker, Provenηal nude, and The Little Parisian, but there are also a lot of images that I hadn't seen before, which provided me with as much, if not more, viewing pleasure. This combination of discovery and rediscovery makes the book a real treat, and at £14.99 it's a bargain. Whether you are new to Willy Ronis or already a fan of his work, you will find plenty to entertain you here and I can't recommend this collection of his work highly enough. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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November Gianni Berengo Gardin: Photographer by Gianni Berengo Gardin
From every corner to every class, photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin spent an amazing 50 years capturing his home country of Italy on film.
Gianni Berengo Gardin: Photographer is the most complete retrospective of his career to date and is a truly impressive body of work. Such is the abundance of splendid photographs displayed in this book that it's justifiably broken up into 11 different themes — mostly geographic — and preceded by a body of text offering an insight into the inspiration for the pictures and Gardin himself. Unequivocally a black & white photographer, Gardin used his photography as a form of visual narrative and developed into an important social commentator of his time. Evident in his work is an eye that knew no boundaries and ignored no one. He celebrated the working class in particular and photographed people from every section of society — the mentally ill, provincial peasants, nomads, the rich and the poor. Gardin's photographs display a seemingly effortless ability to capture vignettes that seem intrinsic to that particular time and place, not only on native turf, but everywhere he travelled. Whether in Tuscany during the early 60s or modern-day Paris or Britain in the late 70s, Gardin's portfolio of work bursts with a number of images so zeitgeist-like in quality that they have an instant impact, such is the utilitarian sense of beauty, vitality, reality, joy and strife instilled within them. Reviewed by Aline Tanner.
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October 28 Photographs by Rolfe Horn
Readers who picked up the January 2005 edition of
Black And White Photography will understand why this book of photographs by Rolfe Horn sold out in America before any supplied managed to reach the shores of the UK. Now in its second printing, I finally have a copy in my hands, and can confirm that it was well worth the wait. Rolfe Horn was assistant to Michael Kenna for several years, and the influence Kenna had on Horn's style is clear. Photographing in the square format, often in very low light or at night, Horn's photographs are suffused with an eerie stillness that is so compelling you almost feel as if you are there with him as he makes the image. His compositions are simplicity themselves, from a single puff of white cloud over the horizon, to an arc of a concrete flyover. Several of the images in the book were taken in Japan, and his pared down style suits the subjects immaculately. Not only does Horn excel at making the sort of image that makes you wish you could see the way he does, but his darkroom printing skills are consummate. The exquisite tonal quality of his prints has been rendered admirably by the producers of this book, and the luminous tones and rich blacks just lap off the page. How he can make a tree trunk appear to be lit from within, I only wish I knew. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
Only available from the publisher and fine art book stores.
September Harry Benson's America by Harry Benson
From the moment you spy the book jacket showing a domiciled Donny and Marie Osmond tucking into a meal of burgers and fries in their 1970s kitchen, there is a clear indication that the photographs in this book are going to provide some unexpected encounters. The subjects may be presidents and pop stars, sporting heroes and actors, soldiers, villains and other celebrities, but Benson has assembled a cast of the famous caught in off-guard moments as well as the clearly contrived. From the haunted reflection of Tammy Wynette seemingly asking her mirror who is the fairest of all, to the skipping pied piper figure of Michael Jackson leading a group of small children on a merry dance, Benson has captured instants that are profound, profane and provoking in equal measure. That doesn't mean there aren't moments of affection — his quiet glimpses of anonagenarian Bob Hope in his bedroom at Palm Springs and Paul McCartney playing the piano with toddler daughter Stella on his knee show a camera that can run warm as well as cold. If there is a general theme to this book, other than being a collection of Benson's best images from 40 years in America, it is simply about the tangled nature of personal relationships. Something that Americans in particular simply excel at. Reviewed by Keith Wilson.
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August Trafalgar Square by Roger Hargreaves
Childhood memories of feeding over-friendly plump pigeons in Trafalgar Square flood back at the first glance at this book. Containing more than 100 stunning black & white photographs — spanning 160 years of social and cultural history — all shot in and around the famous landmark, this is an impressive collection. From political demonstrations to national celebrations, Trafalgar Square has attracted much publicity over the years, and has been photographed by thousands, including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin — the latter providing the foreword to the book. Aside from the varied images and styles evident in the photography, the pictures are accompanied by insightful text from writer and curator Roger Hargreaves who offers a thorough social and cultural history of the area. This book is bound to bring back personal memories from Trafalgar Square, while maintaining interest with the additional fascinating historical background. Reviewed by Jade Chittenden.
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July No Man's Land by Larry Towell
The very first issue of
Black & White Magazine included a six-page spread of Larry Towell's photographs documenting the Mennonite communities of North America and Mexico. Being a man of the land himself, this seemed a logical subject and the empathy he felt for these conservative and peaceful communities produced a sensitive, exquisitely composed body of images. In No Man's Land, Towell takes us as far from a world of peace and serenity as it's possible to be — Gaza and the West Bank. The book makes harrowing viewing and reinforces all the colour TV images we have seen from this fevered corner of the Middle East with 130 black & white prints of a world divided by racial, religious, ethnic and historic differences. Towell's images cover the five years since the beginning of the September 2000 intifada, but the broken landscape he photographs could be far older, it seems so permanent. The picture are as gritty as the West Bank's rubble strewn streets; the faces of of Palestinians betray so few signs of hope that I would challenge anyone to close this book with anything but a heavy heart. It's hardly surprising then that the greatest expression of energy and confidence can be found on the opening pages where youths prepare to throw Molotov cocktails and pose with their stones and catapults. A hard hitting and graphic example of politicised photo documentary. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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June Inde by Jean-Baptiste Huynh
As the third volume in Jean-Baptiste Huynh's series of country-based collections, Inde has a lot to live up to. His previous books, Mali and Japon both displayed an unerring eye for an interesting subject and the photographic poise to let the subjects speak for themselves. Inde retains this simple yet effective style and the quality of the reproduction is just as outstanding as that of Huynh's previous works. India is perhaps the most culturally and racially diverse of the three countries that Huynh has recorded in this way. This is reflected in the fact that this book has about a third more pages than both Japon and Mali, although the increase in price is marginal. This wider scope make the book even more fascinating than its predecessors and the juxtaposition of portraiture and still lives evokes a powerful sense of place. Huynh delves briefly into the world of colour, but for me it is his black & white work that retains the greatest impact. The simplicity of the style draws the viewer into the photograph and the excellence of the printing has created exquisite, almost tangible textures. Inde is a wonderful book, equally valuable as a cultural record of India and a collection of fine art images in their own right. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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May Mother Teresa: A Life Of Dedication by Raghu Rai
Over a period of almost 50 years, Magnum photographer Raghu Rai photographed Mother Teresa. They first met in 1970 when Rai began his project — and his personal involvement with the extraordinary woman. What he conveys in the text about his feelings towards her borders on awe and, at times, is a little difficult to take. But I defy anyone to look at the pictures in this book and not be touched by them. I'm not, of course, just speaking about their content — although that in itself is strong enough — but about the tangible beauty of the images. The compositional qualities of a master photographer combine with the capturing of the exact moment that tells the story -- the resulting images are sobering and beautiful. Whatever your religious beliefs, or non-beliefs, it would be difficult not to admire the life of Mother Teresa. From the age of 12 she saw her destiny in a religious order, and at 18 signed up and left for India where she taught for the next 17 years. In September 1946, she experienced another 'calling' to leave her comfortable life and live among the poor, caring for and nursing them. This she did until her death in 1997. Rai's project was not an easy one but, believing that he had a divine calling to do it, felt compelled to persuade his subject to comply. This she did, accepting his 'calling' with remarkable ease — although he did, on occasions, experience a firm hand from here. The images in the book convey much of what he — and she — felt about her life and give us an insight into an extraordinary selflessness that most of us could never experience. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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April Freedom Text by Manning Marable and Leith Mullings, Pictures edited by Sophie Spencer-Wood
The more you look at the pages of Freedom, the more you wonder why a book like this had not been published before. Chronicling the African-American struggle for civil rights from the earliest days of photography, this is a book that had to be written, a powerful and vital record of the civil rights marches, segregation, slavery and struggle that has shaped the history of modern America. Over more than 500 pages, the reader is taken on a chronological photographic tour of the events and personalities from the days of slavery to the appointment of Colin Powell as the first African-American Secretary of State. Picture editor Sophie Spencer-Wood has succeeded admirably in choosing photographs that are both historically and aesthetically valid, although in some cases, notable the images of lynchings, it is horror and not beauty that holds our attention. The case for including such images (as well as the grainy videotape stills of Rodney King's beating) gives Freedom the added gravitas of an historic reference tome as well as an outstanding compilation of documentary photography. A riveting anthology that informs and inspires in equal amounts. Reviewed by Keith Wilson.
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March Magnum Stories by Chris Boot
Rare is the book that deserves not just a second, but a third read. Having spent the last few days returning to this weighty tome every time the kettle boiled, this book is truly exceptional. Featuring the work of 61 Magnum photographers, the largely black & white images jostle against the confines of the printed page, exploding forth with an unparalleled passion and hard-hitting honesty. From Henri Cartier-Bresson to Martin Parr, each photographer is represented by a photo story of his/her choice, laid out to their specification and accompanied by text in their own voice. Presented in this way, we begin to gain an insight into the thought processes behind each 'story' and to see how communicating an event does not have to mean compromising on style and individuality. Edited by Chris Boot, who spend eight years working in the Magnum office, the text offers an insider account of just what it means to be a member of the most prestigious photo agency in the world. Definitely, one to come back to — again and again. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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February Self Portrait With Cows Going Home by Silvia Plachy
In 1956, in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution, Silvia Plachy fled her home country with her parents and a modest sum of money smuggled across the borders in the belly of a toy monkey named Maci. Nearly half a century later, this collection of prose, photography and personal recollection makes for moving viewing. Pictures from the family album nestle besides Silvia's own wonderful photographic observations; the indent of a head on a pillow, the blur of a couple throwing their heads back in laughter, and the flickering of a television in a seemingly empty room. Laying herself emotionally bare, Silvia shows great courage for presenting the reader with what is, essentially, a very personal story. Despite the private nature of her tale, she does not dwell on the past — at time, she celebrates the events and memories that shape her character, at others she reflects with sadness those she has lost through death or the forgetfulness of time. The book appears to have a threefold purpose; that is, a feeling of ghosts being laid to rest, a physical and emotional voyage through Eastern Europe, and a fond farewell to a homeland that brought both sadness and joy in equal measure. A wonderful journey of the heart from a woman who Andre Kertesz used to call 'snot nose.' Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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January Edouard Boubat: A Gentle Eye by Bernard Boubat and Genevieve Anhoury
This is a beautiful and mesmerizing chronology of a photographer whose images are renowned for their sheer warmth and romanticism. More than 300 images make up this volume, accompanied by extracts from Boubat's own notebooks. You don't have to venture far into the book for the two loves of his life to become apparent — women (in particular his muse, Lella) and Paris. With the latter, we see vignettes of life in this iconic city — children playing on a roof, a woman framed by the mattresses airing in her window, a man in a cafe, using his monocle to read the newspaper, a poodle sitting on a chair alongside him. Boubat also traveled widely, to places such as Nepal, Brazil, Spain, India and the USA, where the same consistency in his approach shone through — humanity, warmth, and an undeniable affinity with women and children. The section devoted to his portraits is a real treat, featuring the likes of Franηoise Sagan, Robert Doisneau and Juliette Binoche, but I particularly enjoyed the final section of photograms, which he made almost every morning for the last five years of his life. I can't think of many more pleasant ways to end one's days. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
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For other book lists on photography, check out these pages on our website:

Outdoor Photography Magazine (UK) Outdoor Photographer Magazine (US) Other Book Guides
- 2006 Books of the Month
- 2005 Books of the Month
- 2004 Books of the Month
- 2003 Books of the Month

- B&W Magazine 2006 Books of the Month
- B&W Magazine 2005 Books of the Month

- 2004 Holiday Book Guide
- 2003 Holiday Book Guide
- 2001 Holiday Book Guide
- 2000 Holiday Book Guide
- Shutterbug 2005 Holiday Guide
- Shutterbug 2004 Holiday Guide

- Our book recommendations

- Our magazine recommendations
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