Steidl are perhaps one of the best known, and most respected publishers of photo books. Gerhard Steidl started working as a designer and printer in 1967. He soon built up a reputable clientele and the first Steidl book was published in 1972. Watching a film about how the company produces these books was fascinating. I didn’t realise just how involved in the process the photographer is, and how much Steidl is able to express his opinion to the photographer; if he doesn’t like an idea or where the photographer wants the book to go, he will say so and sometimes in very crude terms. He is constantly adjusting the colours of the photographs, and flying all over the world to show photographers prototypes of what their books can look like. The most important thing to Gerhard Steidl and the photographer is the quality of the book and this was very evident in the film that we watched today. In the film we saw a lot of Joel Sternfeld making a book – from showing Steidl how many photos he wanted in the book, to saying how he wanted the images to look like they did on his iPhone screen when he was taking them, to adjusting the colours on the test prints. I recognised this photographer’s name but I had never seen any of his work before so I was interested to see what his photographs would look like once he had decided on how his book would look. To be honest, I found the style of the documentary quite boring but the subject matter was very interesting to me. The production of books is something that we don’t really know much about, unless you work in that industry so it was an insight into something that I didn’t know that I was ignorant about.
The images are the main components of any photo book but words are just as important. In Image Text-Text Image it says “Text and image can complement one another, the text precisely specifying an event depicted in the image by naming it, for example. The text may just as easily work against the message of the image.” I think that this is something important to remember and something that was emphasised a lot in the documentary. The words and images have suit each other, otherwise they work against each other.
After seeing Rwanda in Photographs: Death Then, Life Now I decided to research into current and perhaps older photographers who have photographed war zones, or the aftermath of wars.
The first photographer who came to my mind was and Simon Norfolk who is well known for his photographs of Afghanistan.
After seeing his photographs and comparing them to those that I saw of Rwanda, I realised that his photographs still show that a war was happening but they don’t show the hopelessness or despair or convey as much emotion as those in the Rwanda exhibition.
Another photographer who I thought of is Don McCullin who has been photographing wars for many decades.
Don McCullin’s photographs convey a lot of emotion, I think. The way that he captures his subjects and portrays them doesn’t seem overly sympathetic or as though he felt sorry for them. I think that he was just photographing what he saw, without worrying about if the images would be too graphic or emotional to show people.
In a book about his photography, the author has written about war photography, “There are questions to be asked. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we’ve accepted up to now that ought to be challenged?”(Delpire, R, Don McCullin, Thames & Hudson, 2007, 5-6). I think that McCullin’s photographs ask us all of these questions and make us think about what is happening in the world around us, in other countries.
We had to curate our own exhibition in groups. We started off looking at portraits in general and then moved onto look at a more specific area – drug and alcohol abuse.
Personally, I find photographs about these issues hit quite close to home so it’s not always easy for me to look at them. However, I think that we chose images that varied their way of portraying being drunk or drugged up so I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the exhibition we put together.
In issue 75 of Source magazine there is a an article which is a review of a show that exhibited the work of Garry Winogrand. I must confess, before I read this review I had never heard of Garry Winogrand. Or if I had, I didn’t recognise either his name, or his work!
Garry Winogrand was an American photographer who lived from 1928-1984. He was one of the first photographers to produce street photography. Robert Franks’ ‘The Americans’ influenced his work, as did Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, even though they were a different style than Garry Winogrand’s.
This review was talking about a show of his work that was travelling through America. Apart from the biographical aspects of the writing, the author Mark Durden wrote about John Szarkowski’s opinion on, and love for, Garry Winogrand’s photography. Overall, I found it quite enjoyable to read. However, my expectations of the review beforehand weren’t met, as I felt as though a review should contain pros and cons so that the readers know if they want to visit an exhibition or read the book that goes along with it. I found the review more educational than persuasive, but after doing some more research, I saw that the book was published by Yale University Press and that Mark Durden was a professor there. This could have influenced the amount of opinion that he could put in his writing. On the other hand, the review did make me want to look through the book that went with this exhibition so could you argue that it did it’s job? It’s an interesting question.