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Black & White Photography - 2006 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: 2006
November Donata: Islands of Silence by Donata Wenders
It always makes me nervous when the wife of somebody or other famous brings out a book of their photography but this one is an exception. Despite the fact that she spends a lot of time on film sets (or maybe because she does), Donata Wenders' images are beautifully perceived. They are almost all 'snatched' shots a fleeting turn of a head, a hand holding a cup, a child looking through a window and as such, they have both immediacy and intimacy. There are, inevitably, a few famous faces Jessica Lange, Michelangelo Antonioni, Wim Wenders himself but they are caught at a moment of un-self awareness, mid-gesture, from a distance or very close up, which seems to capture the real person behind the name. Equally, the 'unknown' portraits takes us beyond the exterior not an easy thing to define or to photograph. As with some other photographers, Donata's images reveal more about her than they do of the sitters she is clearly fascinated by people and has her own unique way of perceiving them. The pictures are dark, and often grainy, which increases the sense of intimacy. It's a world of fantasy where daylight rarely enters, where actors and dancers live out their roles and then lapse back into themselves. Her decision to use black & white is infallible, and makes these haunting images unforgettable. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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October Joe by Hiroshi Sugimoto (photos) and Jonathan Safran Foer (text)
When Hiroshi Sugimoto was invited to the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, it was the beginning of an intriguing collaboration that arrived finally as this very beautiful book. Instead of photographing, as he had intended, the Pulitzer building, Sugimoto found himself fascinated by a sculpture by Richard Serra that stood in the courtyard. It was entitled Joe and is a torqued spiral that is designed to be walked around and through, allowing a whole myriad of views which, naturally, Sugimoto picked up on. His images reflect, rather than copy, the sculpture. Having completed them he had the idea of commissioning text by a novelist to further parallel the work and this is where award-winning writer Foer comes in. Also entitled Joe, his story weaves around the images, playing with the idea of time and memory. The final stage was to bring in Takaaki Masumoto to design the book. The result is superb. I have long been a fan of Sugimoto's work and there is nothing like seeing his immaculate, large scale silver prints in a gallery the images in the book come from prints that are 58x47 inches, but this book is a sizable 15x12 inches large enough to do justice to them. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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September Photos by Wolf Suschitzky
Photos is a beautiful collection of pictures, revealing the varied career of Wolf Suschitzky. Every image is warm and natural, the photographer treating each subject, whether it be human, animal, object or building with equal respect. The book is arranged with images from different decades and countries, laid side by side, and frequently in contrast with each other, but at the same time promoting similar themes. For example, in a chapter entitled 'Loving Care' we see a dog with her puppies and on the next page, a father and son in Trafalgar Square. This book is an unusually tender piece of documentary of life of every kind. Personal comments from Suschitzky explain what compelled him to take the pictures. Often finding humour and love in the world around him, he captures it, but does not seem to be intruding on any of his subjects even in sensitive and intimate situations, the subjects appear undisturbed by Suszhitzky's presence. Photos is not a chronological retrospective, but rather an illustrated collection of themes, with each of the 170 photographs telling a separate story. With a short autobiography, written commentary and more extensive quotations from Suschitzky, we gain a more detailed understanding of the photographer's ideologies and methods. This book is beautifully presented and a perfect balance between insightful text and enthralling images has been struck. Reviewed by Anna Hall.
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August The British Landscape by John Davies
It's surprising how often a large-scale hardback photographic book can be a triumph of size over substance. Thankfully, as soon as I learned this panoramic 40x28cm publication was a collection of John Davies' photographs, I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed. To say that John Davies is concerned with the landscape would be too vague a description, and vague is not a term you could associate with his work. Although
The British Landscape begins with Davies' images of Scotland and the Lake District, by plate five it moves into the subject that has become the hub of his work since 1980 the industrial and post-industrial landscape of the UK, and how it fits in with the history of this nation. The high viewpoints from where Davies composes his photographs give a sense of the enormous scale of the scenes he is photographing, but this is never at the expense of more intimate detail. This is thanks both to the fine resolution of the images, where grain simply isn't apparent, and also to the fact that there is often human activity taking place in the foreground. This might take the form of a group of pigeon fanciers watching their birds take flight, or several children playing in a graveyard, where the 'residents' overlook a flyover. Another huge plus point comes in the form of the detailed and revealing captions to each picture. Collectively, this chronology of photographs affords the viewer the opportunity to see how the relationship of transport, industry and habitation to each other and to the landscape around them are inextricably interwoven. They give us a sense of waiting, and watching, while the elements that make up our surroundings once more evolve slowly around us. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
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July Lump: The Dog Who Ate A Picasso by David Douglas Duncan
As book titles go, this one is right up there with The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox and How to Avoid Huge Ships, but if you're after an entertaining and diverting publication forgive me if I'm so bold as to suggest that
Lump: The Dog Who Ate A Picasso might have the edge over the other two. The Lump in question was, at the time these photographs were taken in the spring of 1958, a three-month-old rambunctious dachshund. He arrived at Picasso's Villa La Californie, Cannes, in the company of his owner, the photographer and friend of Picasso, David Douglas Duncan. Lump immediately made himself at home, exploring with equal measure of curiosity and terror the garden's iron sculptures, encountering Yan the boxer dog and Esmeralda the goat, and letting himself into the hallowed turf of Picasso's studio. On the way, he met the likes of Yves Montand and Simone Signoret as well as falling in love with Picasso's wife, Jacqueline, and becoming firm friends with Paloma and Claude when they visited during the summer holidays. In a succinct style that peppers the book, Duncan describes Picasso as a 'one-man solar system powered by a single energy source work work work.' And yet here was a man who, despite his widely documented brutality towards those who loved him, welcomed this puppy into his home not to mention his paintings with an entirely unexpected warmth and genuine affection. Lump is the motif in this book, which is about far more than just a dachshund. It offers an extraordinary intimate insight into Picasso's life and even goes as far as reproducing the paintings in which Lump makes an appearance. And what of the Picasso that Lump ate? Well, you'll just have to buy the book to find out. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
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June Reflections by Norman Foster
Reflections is a stunning book, and one in which the architecture and the photography are equally enjoyable. Obviously the likes of London's Swiss Re building -- better known to millions as the 'erotic gherkin' and the new City Hall on the south bank of the Thames are not to everybody's taste, but they are spectacular nonetheless. This book is a tour de force of Foster and Partners' structures, from the Millau Viaduct arching across the Gorges du Tarn in the southwest of France to the Century Tower in Tokyo. Reflections spans the globe, unveiling a huge range of forms with myriad functions. The images employ a similarly thrilling mixture of styles to complement the built environment, and the book is peppered with intricate studies of detail and pattern, vistas of buildings within their environments and atmospheric night shots. Reflections is architecture and architectural photography at its best, and the medium of black & white is a perfect foil to the structure and tone, the play of light and shade that give these buildings their undoubted character. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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May A Handful Of Dust: Photographs Of Disappearing America by David Plowden
The America that appears in these pages has been framed and captured by a man with bittersweet emotions about his subject. Having first documented the grocery stores and barns of small settlements back in the 1950s, photographer David Plowden returned to his roots to try and record the human structures again before nature reclaimed them forever. The result is both beautiful and saddening. 'I have always said that I have been one step ahead of the wrecking ball,' suggests Plowden and, looking at this book, you know just what he means. There is a feeling that industrial cranes and diggers are hovering just outside of each frame, read to 'modernise' by reducing history to a pile of rubble. The communities disbanded due to the economical impossibility of their situation seem just out of earshot. Though Plowden is clearly disillusioned by what he finds, he photographs each barn, barbershop and bank as though it were the most important building in the world. As a result, each structure is bestowed a sense of pride and importance. 'Hundreds of years from now people looking at my pictures will see an America that no longer exists, a foreign country as different as we today perceive the country before the Civil War,' he explains. It's a fascinating and moving account of an America slipping into the past. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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April An Inner Silence: The Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson by Agnes Sire and Jean-Luc Nancy
The expectations one has about a book by Cartier-Bresson are inevitably high ones, but I really wasn't prepared for such a selection of relentlessly brilliant images such as these. Taken over a 50-year period they are, to a large extent, what his reputation is built on -- and deservedly so. There is, of course, always a fascination for seeing pictures of famous people and here we have many a familiar name from the 20th century Miro, Mauriac, Robbe-Grillet, Barthes but what's more interesting is that the images of unknown people Joe the trumpeter and his wife May, for instance are equally compelling. This reveals Cartier-Bresson's unique ability to draw out the person behind the public face. Not something that is generally easy to pull off. It's not just the subject matter, of course, that makes these images so captivating it's the quality of the photograph, from exposure to print that produces the intensity. I should also mention the quality of the paper the book is printed on, which is superb. As I turn the pages of this book, I experience a sort of quiet awe, because every page reveals yet another exceptional image. This man was good. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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March The Making of Great Photographs: Approaches and Techniques of the Masters by Eamonn McCabe
Perhaps best known for his portrait and sports photography, Eamonn McCabe spent 12 years as picture editor of The Guardian and is a regular contributor to B&W. Armed with his extensive knowledge of all things photographic, Eamonn has trawled the archives at the NMPFT in Bradford in search of masters of the medium, and the stories behind their work. The result is a wonderful collection of images, brought to life by personal and lively text. Eamonn begins the book bravely by discussing what makes a good photograph, and goes on to look at some of the technological breakthroughs throughout the decades. The book is divided into four chapters: documentary, portrait, landscape & architectural photography, and art, avoiding the usual chronological slog. Each photographer is afforded a spread with one image, a look at the approach and technique behind the shot, and two boxes covering biographical information, and, my favourite touch, suggestions on how to recreate the photographers effects using modern techniques and methods. An inventive and inspiring book. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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February Jean Loup Sieff
The introductory essay to this collection is refreshingly unpretentious. Jean Loup Sieff's guilty admission to taking photographs simply for the pleasure of it is a welcome relief from the metaphysical claptrap which can mire a lot of photographic writing, and sets the book off on its light and enjoyable voyage through 40 years of photography. Sieff was a prolific photographer whose work spanned the second half of the 20th century. His images graced the pages of countless magazines including Elle, Harpers' Bazaar, and Paris Match, and the technically accomplished compositions that characterize the fashion pages of such titles are very much in evidence here. While the nature of his work means that it lacks the poignancy of many of his contemporaries who shot reportage, such as Doisneau and Ronis, it perhaps has a greater graphical impact because of it. With his images arranged into decades you can see a clear progression in both the fashions of the time and in Sieff's own style. While this book won't quite capture your heart in the same way that a collection of reportage might, it does provide a thoroughly enjoyable amble through the fashions of post-war Europe as well as many strikingly beautiful images in their own right. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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January Abelardo Morell by Richard B. Woodward
The publicity blurb sent with the review copy of this book uses the words 'spellbinding' to describe Morell's work and, for once, this reviewer has to say that it's accurate. Particularly captivating are his images of simple objects a sun dappled table, a pile of books, or a single pencil with its shadow. Somehow he seems to give them a presence, it's as though we've never seen such objects before. One reason for this although I think it's by no means the only reason is his knack of skewing perspective by photographing from an unexpected viewpoint (when his young son was born in 1986 he began photographing his house from a child's point of view). But, ultimately, I think it's his 'vision' that's so delightful. The book takes us from his early work, through his camera obscura pictures and right up to the present day. If I can get away with it (and I'm willing to to put up a fight), this will be one that goes home tucked under my arm. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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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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