On this page, I would like to talk about some favorites off my photo bookshelf. Instead of recommending the same “classic” photo books that everybody else recommends, I will try to introduce some lesser-known publications and photographers.
Fred Herzog: Photographs
German-born and Vancouver-based Fred Herzog (b. 1930) is a pioneer of color photography. For more than five decades, beginning in the 1950s (when his bold use of color was “unusual”, to say the least), he chronicled life around Vancouver. This photo book is filled with gems from his oeuvre – vacant lots, neon signs, second-hand shops, and candid moments from working-class peoples’ lives. At age 81, the master himself signed off on the color rendition of every single shot when this book was published in 2011 – the photos are beautifully printed at a fairly large size (30×25 cm / 12×10″). I discover new details in Herzog’s photos each time I browse this book.
Watabe Yukichi: A Criminal Investigation
This utterly fascinating book consists of a collection of images that were shot by photo journalist Yukichi Watabe (1924-1993) during a murder investigation in late-1950s Japan. The dramatic composition and lighting of the photos, showing the detective (who looks like a Japanese Humphrey Bogart) hit one dead end after another, evoke the sensation of watching a film noir. The design and production of the book complement the source material beautifully: the rough linen cover and black elastic ribbon that holds the cover in place give the object the feel of a case file. The lightweight, warm-tinted newsprint-style paper and typewriter font help to emulate the feel of looking at a vintage publication. A perfect book in my opinion.
İzzet Keribar: Terra Magica
‘Terra Magica’ by prolific Turkish photographer İzzet Keribar (b. 1936) is one of my most treasured possessions – I received this book as a personal gift from İzzet, and he even wrote a small dedication inside. The book itself is a gorgeous 33×33 cm / 13×13″ collection of his finest work, including riveting travel photography from all around the world. Lots of beautifully composed color pictures with a unique characteristic touch of humanity.
Kojima Ichiro (小島一郎): Photographs(写真集成)
In his short lifespan, Ichiro Kojima (1924-1964) left a legacy to the photographic world with his b&w photographs of rural scenes in his homeland of Aomori, on the northern tip of Japan’s main island Honshu. Present in his work are farmers working the autumn fields of the Tsugaru plain from dawn to dusk, and a fisherman raising his boat with all his might while cold winds rage the Shimokita coast – as well as “ordinary” subjects such as a road traversing a snowy field, or garden fronts of farm houses. A deep empathy with the people who live in these cold provincial villages is strongly captured, exposed, and etched onto his photographs using techniques such as dodge, burn, and reduplication. Some of his last works are printed in extremely high contrast, making them look almost like abstract paintings.
Andrea G. Stillman: Looking at Ansel Adams – The Photographs and the Man
While the iconic Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is hardly a “lesser-known” photographer, this is a different kind of book on him – written by his executive assistant of seven years, Andrea Stillman. The book takes 20 photos that are representative of Adams’ work, and for each of them explores the artistic and technical details that went into the making of the final image, as well as providing alternative versions, and letters and postcards that relate to these works. The print quality in its rich tonality is second to none, coming from the only publisher that Adams authorized to ever publish renditions of his works.
Motohashi Seiichi (本橋成一): Intermission at Ueno Station (上野駅の幕間)
Seiichi Motohashi (b. 1940) is a Japanese photographer and film director. This collection of his photographs taken at Tokyo’s Ueno Station first appeared in 1983 – I have the 2012 re-edition, which was published at the 130th anniversary of the opening of that busy transportation hub in the northeast of Tokyo. The book features a lot of interesting shots chronicling the vibrant life happening inside the station: travelers embarking on trips, businessmen commuting to work, station staff and workers going about their daily duties – delightful time capsules from the Showa era, printed in high quality.