Issue #106  6/16/2006
Photography Books and Catalogues

By Matt Damsker


Exhibition catalogue, published by Galerie 54, 54 Rue Mazarine, 75006 Paris. ISBN No. 2-909726-02-9. 63 pages; approximately 40 plates. Phone: +33 1 43 26 89 96; fax: +33 1 43 29 36 39; email: galerie54@club-internet.fr ; http://www.galerie54.com .

Chronicling an exhibition earlier this year at Paris's Galerie 54, this handsome and well-documented catalogue offers a first-rate armchair excursion with three important and complementary photographers from three periods. In each case, the subject is architecture--or, more accurately, man-made form explored in all its detail, geometric complexity, and atmospheric richness. These three artists take different approaches, but share a commitment to the stark representation of architecture's elemental power.

Auguste Salzmann was one of photography's pioneers, of course, and his views of Jerusalem circa 1854 confront the ancient world by way of temple ruins and the dense, weathered detailing of the stone surfaces in which we can read the textural evidence of the past. Salzmann's full-frontal details of the temple walls herald photographic modernism and abstraction, while his shadowed studies of archways and gates are careful available-light portraits. A hundred years later, Lucien Herve brought a similar rigor to his studies of Le Corbusier's iconic architectural modernism, with its emphasis on supporting columns, rough concrete, glass walls, and shading screens. At the same time, he observed the chimneys, fireplaces, and graffiti of Paris in all their charm.

Finally, the 21st-century is represented by James Casebere's theatrical experiments and digital chromogenic prints. Casebere builds tabletop models of anonymous architectural spaces--arched tunnels, monastic cells, corridors--and photographs them with evocative yet subtly staged lighting, sometimes flooding the passages with water. The result is dreamlike and timeless in its depiction of spaces and places that are at once austere and beautifully crafted, always on their own minimal terms. His work is the postmodern destination, it seems, of Salzmann's trailblazing and Herve's disciplined wanderings.


"EIGHTY YEARS--EIGHTY VOLUMES 1854-1934" is the second collaborative effort by Paul M. Hertzmann Inc. (email: pmhi@hertzmann.net ) and Margolis & Moss (email: mmbooks@comcast.net ), showcasing published books illustrated with original photographs and photographic albums created around a specific theme or locale. They illustrate the development of the major 19th-century processes: salt print, albumen, cyanotype, platinum, and silver. The books represent 35 countries and range widely, from albums of Armenian Catholic Monks in Venice to photos of Rembrandt etchings, rural Russian views from Mordovia, Peru's Southern railroad, private tour albums of Cuba and Mexico, the California canning industry, and much more arcana.

Paul M Hertzmann Inc. also collaborates with the Michael Dawson Gallery of Los Angeles (on the web at http://www.michaeldawsongallery.com ) for "THE BEAR VALLEY IRRIGATION COMPANY ALBUM" of Southern California landscape photographs by Herve Friend from 1891. Friend's images of the Bear Valley reservoir in Redlands are the only know mammoth plate photos to be made in Southern California in the last decade of the 19th century, detailing how the transfer of water from its distant sources to the arid San Bernardino Valley caused the desert not only to bloom but brought about the vastly habitable modern landscape of Southern California.

"CATALOGUE 33" from Old Japan, the Surrey, U.K.-based purveyor of old and rare photography, offers beautifully reproduced samplings of more than 70 sets and albums of vintage Japanese images from many of the key studios of late 1800s—including Uchida Kuichi, Kusakabe Kimbei, Ogawa Kazumasa, and Felix Beato. These images, many hand-colored, along with numerous cartes-de-visite, portray Japanese iconography that ranges from Sumurai warriors to domestic portraiture, landscape, and city views. Contact by email: terry.bennett@ukonline.co.uk, or at the website, http://www.old-japan.co.uk .

Two recent catalogues from the Vintage Galeria Budapest (email: galeria@vintage.hu, or on the web at http://www.vintage.hu ) chronicle the black-and-white dynamism and gravitas of Hungarian photography of the first half of the 20th century. "MODERN HUNGARIAN PHOTOGRAPHY" features 49 plates, including urban and rural images that span eastern European modernism, from Tibor Csorgeo's elegant explorations of human and architectural form, to Geza Gellert's and Istvan Hanga's experiments with shadow, Kata Sugar's affectionate peasant portraits, and the noble nudes of Angelo, Alajos Martsa, and Denes Ronai.

"HISTORY IN PHOTOGRAPHS--FROM THE PESTI NAPLO ARCHIVES" captures the heyday of Hungary's illustrated journalism, with 65 photos from the Sunday supplement of the Pesti Naplo, a broadsheet launched in 1925. Many of the photos are by Karoly Escher--famed shots such as a priest playing tennis, from 1930, and the contrasting images of the elite at dress balls and charity concerts while the poor masses scavenge for sustenance in the bleak hills. Other photos, mostly from unknown photographers, depict the "wonders" of the modern age, from giant hair dryers to gas masks, and--always--the people who brought hope and dynamism to this briefly innocent period between the great wars.

Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005. He currently reviews books for U.S.A. Today.

(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive. Books must be aimed at photography collecting, not how-to books for photographers.)