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Photography Speaks

150 Photographers On Their Art

written by Brooks Johnson

Aperture | ISBN 9781931788502

Paperback – 320 pages

$45.00

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Photographers, if they're good enough, can garner fame without ever writing a word-but some take it even further, and publish essays explaining their art. This collection highlights the latter-photographers discussing their inspirations, work and thought-and it pairs their prose with images of their work. Each photographer gets one page for words, followed by an image on the corresponding right page. It's hard to evaluate the book based on the literary merit of the photographers' words, although the quality (and succinctness) thereof certainly varies. The writing goes from the simply brilliant (Garry Winogrand: "I photograph to see what things look like photographed") to, well, not as great (James Abbe: "Here I was inside the Kremlin, Communism's Holy of Holies, first foreign photographer ever to have an appointment with its forbidding recluse"). While the uneven quality of the writing does detract from the book, this volume is still successful as a whole because of its restrained, intelligent use of white space-the book's editor didn't feel compelled to use a full page of text, or a full-page image, for every photographer. In the case of photographer Helen Levitt the text is extremely, poignantly concise-nothing but this sentence: "All I can say about the work I try to do, is that the aesthetic is in reality itself." On the opposite page is an image, which she photographed in 1942, of young children, dressed up, emerging from a building smiling and wearing Mardi-Gras-like masks. When a scene is as vividly rendered as that one, more words are beside the point. 150 four-color and duotone images.

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