This is the best photography book of 2011 by a long-shot—not because the others were poor but because this one is just so good, so comprehensive, so big, so full of iconic photos and contact sheets. Part of the skill in being a real photographer comes from possessing the ability to effectively edit photos, and I’ve yet to see a better, more beautiful expression of the editing process than the one you’ll find here.
We love this cover of the New York Times’ T Magazine with Daria Werbowy. The tones, the water, the light—everything is perfect.
At the least, Terrence Malick’s new film is the most visually beautiful two-hour sequence of images you are likely to see this or any other year. At best, it’s the most ambitious film we’ve ever seen—one that dares to take on the biggest questions of life, death, family, identity, and existence. It is messy and big and precious and overreaching and long. You may say that it fails, but you can’t say that it doesn’t try. And some of the scenes in this film are so well realized—their framing and tones and emotions so pitch perfect—that you forgive the film whatever failures it has. The way Malick renders moments from childhood conveys both the wonderment of first encounters with the world and also the fragmentation of memory. It’s a brilliant trick that clearly worked on us because when we came out of the theater, the world seemed new and newly alive.
This is such a fun, delightful film. I challenge you, even if you don’t care about photography or fashion, to walk out of the theater afterwards without a smile.
I love instances when two great artists from different disciplines come together, and this photo shoot of Tom Waits conducted by Robert Frank is a perfect example. Frank was shooting Waits for his upcoming album, Rain Dogs,which contains one of my favorite songs of all time, “Downtown Train.” It’s so evocative of everything romantic I’ve associated with New York City since I was 20 or 21, and, in a way, this photo only adds to that feeling. In the text that appeared alongside it in the Sunday Times Magazine, Waits recounts the experience of posing for Frank:
I was trying to imagine myself as a real New Yorker, and I was having a hard time. My wife was pregnant with our second child; we were living down on 14th Street over a Cuban-Chinese restaurant. But at that moment, I was busting at the seams that Robert Frank was photographing me. I just thought, Shoot me now. The record was called Rain Dogs, so we were expecting to find a rainy day, which we did not find. But we found the one rain puddle in the whole park, and I’m kind of down there like a dog. Maybe that was the idea: I’m gonna get down on the dog’s level, and then Robert would get there at a dog’s level with me. Anyway, I don’t know why people in music seem to want to squat down. Maybe we just want to feel close to the earth. I’m still down there, actually. I’m squatting right now.
From Me to You is a photo blog my Jamie Beck, and it is wonderful. She often shoots with the classic Leica and Kodak Tri-X. Because that was the combo that first got me excited about street and candid photography, I had to check out her blog. Jamie’s photos are lovely and warm and evocative. I especially enjoyed her retrospective from New York Fashion Week last year, which she shot entirely with Tri-X.
I also identify with Beck’s response in this interview to the question, “What emotions do you try to create or convey?” She said:
“I love creating the feeling of nostalgia. Maybe it’s because I wish to live in the past so I project my own desires into my work but there is something to the notion of days gone by that I love creatively living in — I guess it’s safe there. I don’t set out thinking nostalgically in my head but I am drawn to classic or timeless subjects.”
A couple friends of mine were on the lookout for a cheap, good rangefinder and settled upon the Yashica Electro 35. It’s available in a few different versions, the GT, GTN, GS, and GSN. For practical purposes, these four are all the same. They all come with an excellent 45mm f/1.7 lens and a nice, large 0.85x rangefinder.
Yes, the camera has some downsides. Its only shooting mode is aperture priority. In other words, you cannot manually set its shutter speed (limited to 1/500s at the high end). The battery that it was designed for is no longer made, but it’s possible to buy an adapter to use most six volt batteries. As a result, most copies of the Electro that are available for sale have not been tested and ones that have will command a premium. Untested cameras can be had on eBay for as little as $20, while ones whose meters and shutters have been confirmed to work can go for $100 or more. Given the Electro’s excellent f/1.7 lens, large viewfinder, accurate meter, and extremely quiet shutter, either price is a steal.
I first saw Tina Barney’s work in McSweeney’s, when Wren Weschler wrote a convergence that included Barney’s work. I recently encountered more of Barney’s work in So the Story Goes, which was assembled by the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorite of her photographs is Sunday New York Times, which appears above. I’ve been wanting to plug the Sunday Times for a while, and Barney’s photo seemed like a good prompt with which to do so.
Waking up early on Sunday to read the Times in print at home or at a cafe is one of my favorite things in the world. I can’t say that Barney’s image mirrors my own experience, but I love the sort of chaos and community that her scene of a family reading the Sunday Times depicts.
The New Yorker ran some excerpts from Cheryl Dunn’s documentary on street photography last month, but now you can watch the entire thing on the film’s website. My favorite sections are those with Ricky Powell, who explains how getting dumped by a girl made him a photographer, and Joel Meyerowitz, who describes how the streets suddenly became alive to him when he began street photography.
This is a slim little book of essays by photographer Robert Adams. I’ve often thought that the best writing about art comes not from professional critics and academics but from true fans or people who actually practice the art form about which they’re writing. Adams’s book only supports that opinion. My favorite line: “[Photographers] may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it.”
Days with My Father is photographer Phillip Toldeano’s loving remembrance of his father. It’s beautifully shot and incredibly moving. To say anything more would intrude on the experience of encountering it for the first time.