Brassaï: Paris by Jean-Claude Gautrand

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Brassaï (or Gyula Halász) was a Hungarian photographer and artist in the early to mid-twentieth century, working mostly in Paris. He was part of the art scene there, and worked closely with the surrealists (even if he never considered himself to be one). I became acquainted with his work as a Photography student, but this was the first book I read that was entirely dedicated to him.

His photographic work is simply amazing. It is visually stunning, layered with possible interpretations. The historical interest is also considerable. Brassaï photographed everything, from people to landscapes, and  the images provide a fascinating glimpse into Parisian life a century ago.

The essay at the start of the book wasn’t as great as the images, unfortunately. Maybe there was something lost in translation (my copy is at the same time in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese) but the writing style was rather weak, with confusing sentences and disparate verb conjugations.

Still, well worth looking into, and a good introduction to the work of this wonderful photographer.

Karl Blossfeldt by Hans Christian Adams

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German teacher who devoted himself to the study of nature and the architectural / design elements hidden in plants, and revealed by him in his photographs. Using a magnifying lens, he would photograph flowers, buds, and seed capsules to reveal the extraordinary detail and internal logic of the growths.

What makes this book wonderful is not just its scientific value (which was what prompted Blossfledt); the images are aesthetically beautiful, the simple yet lovely forms intertwining and showing a side of nature we don’t usually pay attention to.

A few photographs:

I didn’t like the essays as much as the rest of the book, even though they do go into depth into the work and the author. Still, the design is lovely, the photographs are expertly printed, and this is a gorgeous book, as is usually the case with those published by Taschen. Recommended.

In Real Life: Six Women Photographers by Leslie Sills

Rating: ** (2 out of 5)

Review: I bought this book while researching for an essay on women photographers, but after reading the parts about Dorothea Lange and Cindy Sherman (those included on my essay) I found this book to be too superficial for use in my work and didn’t read it until now. Well, after giving it a go, I found that my opinion hasn’t changed.

The photo reproductions aren’t great, the tone of the book is rather patronizing (I mean, who was it written for if the author has to explain what she means every time she mentions 35 mm?), and the biographies are so superficial that a quick internet search about each of the photographers would be more useful than reading this book.

I guess I just don’t understand the purpose of this book. If it was meant to educate people about women photographers, why choose only six? And why these six? The criteria for this choice is never explained. And why such a superficial look into their work?

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this.