E-Photo
Issue #139  1/3/2008
 
Photo Books and Catalogues: Howard Greenberg, Photoshop, Japan and Kasebier

By Matt Damsker

AN AMERICAN GALLERY: HOWARD GREENBERG.

2007, Lumiere Press, Toronto, Canada. Biographical essay by Lyle Rexer, with a portfolio of photographs selected by Howard Greenberg; edited with an introduction by Michael Torosian. 95 pages; approximately 25 black-and-white plates; hardbound. ISBN No. 978-0-921542-15-5. Handmade limited edition of 250 copies, facsimile of original limited edition printed in an edition of 1,500. Information: Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th St., New York, NY; phone: 1-212-334-0010.

This handsome and impeccably crafted volume pays tribute to Howard Greenberg's life in photography--an odyssey that took him from his Brooklyn beginnings to the artistic awakenings of Woodstock in the '60s and '70s, and finally to Manhattan, where his gallery has been one of the key showcases for modern images since its opening in 1982. A quarter of a century later, Greenberg's eminence is a given among the cognoscenti, and this compact 25th-anniversary book tells the story to the world in eloquent detail, as Lyle Rexer's essay opens our eyes to Greenberg's lifelong passion and ongoing commitment to the medium. Rexer notes that when the gallery became the representative of the estate of Edward Steichen in 2000, with its 600 vintage prints, the acquisition "marked a passage…Greenberg was increasingly occupied with finding outstanding examples of work by canonical artists even as competition for these pieces was fierce."

Thus, Greenberg's 25th-anniversary portfolio of such works begins powerfully, with Karl Struss's dreamy declaration of modernism, a 1910 image of New York's "St. Nicholas Avenue, South from 146th Street," its bare tree centering a perspective of tentative high-rise buildings, with a lone figure in the middle distance. From there, Greenberg annotates a selection of such towering works as W. Eugene Smith's coal-black image of Welsh miners, from 1950, or Lewis Hine's 1925 icon, "Powerhouse Mechanic," or Walker Evans's shot of a couple at Coney Island in 1928.

The selections range even more widely, though, from an 1865 shot of a sleeping grandchild by Julia Margaret Cameron to the gritty urban realism of Weegee, Winogrand, and Bruce Davidson, while Greenberg's commentary on each photo brings a touching and well-earned intimacy to the presentation of these classics. Best of all, the book closes with a chronology that lists the gallery's month-by-month exhibition schedule since its opening in 1982, when Greenberg began with his first great collector's coup, The Photofind Collection and Cameraworks. Even at less than 100 pages, there is a universe of great photography in this book--and a potent narrative that makes clear that a love of art for art's sake is the first and abiding ingredient in the saga of a great collector and dealer.

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP & THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY:

A COMPREHENSIVE INTRODUCTION.

By Steve Weinrebe. 2008, Thomson/Delmar Learning; 434 pages, trade paperback, includes CD with reference samples. ISBN-13 No. 978-1-4283-1209-8. Information: Thomson Delmar Learning, Executive Woods, 5 Maxwell Dr., PO Box 8007, Clifton Park, NY, 12065; Website: http://www.delmarlearning.com ; or Steve Weinrebe at Steve@mrphotoshop.com .

As Lyle Rexer writes in the previously cited book from the Howard Greenberg Gallery, "One can imagine that to the current generation, reared not on Dektol and Dupont paper but on digital programs and Photoshop, [the history of experimental darkroom photography] must seem nearly incomprehensible." Indeed, no less a photographic pioneer than Jerry Uelsmann chuckled recently when he mentioned to me in an interview that young photographic acolytes have praised him as the man who "invented Photoshop"--meaning that his surreal, seamlessly combined darkroom images presaged today's digital era of image manipulation.

But while the ubiquitous digital imaging software that is Adobe Photoshop may be fair game for such ironic asides from photography's old school, it is very much the currency in which most of today's commercial imagery trades. Thus, Steve Weinrebe's new book is a welcome exploration of everything the software (specifically, Photoshop CS3) can do, and how to do it. This is in fact the first Photoshop textbook written for photography students and instructors. As for Weinrebe, he's well qualified, and much more than a techno-wonk; not only is he an Adobe Certified Photoshop Instructor, but he's also a veteran, award-winning photographer with evident sensitivity and feel for the medium.

Thus, Weinrebe moves from an overview of contemporary photography (and Photoshop's place in it) to a wealth of technical know-how about the software. Tonal ranges, contrast adjustments, undoing changes, converting color to black-and-white, color correction, making and compositing, files and workflows--these and countless other topics and tips are described clearly, with copious illustrations and a lot of hard-won insight. Best of all, Weinrebe deepens his discussion with extensive interviews with prominent photographers, including the aforementioned Uelsmann and his wife, Maggie Taylor, who is a true master of Photoshop, plus Graham Nash, John Paul Caponigro, Lisa Holden, Olivia Parker, Pedro Meyer and others. The included CD brings Weinrebe's vast expertise to its logical end point--your own computer.

CATALOGUES OF NOTE:

OLD JAPAN CATALOGUE 34 commemorates 150 years of Japanese photography,

as dealer and scholar Terry Bennett notes in his introduction that the daguerreotype portrait taken a century and one half ago of Satsuma Lord Shimazu Nariakira, by Ichiki Shiro and Ujuku Hikoeman, is the earliest surviving photograph produced by Japanese photographers. The rarities in this superb catalogue are impressive: an album of 25 hand-colored Felice Beato views of Japan, in unusually good condition, as well as important studio albums by Uchida Kuichi, whom, Bennett notes, was widely considered to be Japan's most gifted photographer, destined to rival the great Beato, but who died at age 32, leaving precious little work. Indeed, his hand-colored scenes and portraits—Mt. Fuji, Samurai warriors, and formally attired women--are richly evocative and fabulously composed, and Bennett insists here that these albums may go a long way in facilitating further identification of Uchida's work. There are also several studio albums by Kusakabe Kimbei and other Japanese masters, and various views (including a portfolio of photos illustrating the 1891 Aiki earthquake), stereoviews and cartes de visite. For information: http://www.old-japan.co.uk , or email to terry.bennett@ukonline.co.uk , or phone, +44 (0)797 0891003.

Then there's JAPANESE AMBROTYPES (1867-1890), IMAGES FROM THE

CHARLES SCHWARTZ COLLECTION, which catalogues some two dozen excellent

examples of the ambrotype method--a collodion wet-plate negative mounted in front of a dark background to create a positive image, each resulting, like a daguerreotype, in a one-of-a-kind artifact. These palm-sized images are all in kiri-wood presentation cases, and exceedingly well-preserved. More importantly, perhaps, the images are powerful--of women and men in a variety of poses and dress--and one, of a man in Samurai armor, may be a Uchida Kuichi, though it is attributed to Tsukamoto. For information: Charles Schwartz Ltd., 21 East 90th St., New York, NY 10128; phone: 1-212-534-4496; or http://www.cs-photo.com or http://www.iphotocentral.com .

Also of note: No. 140 of the five-times-per-year CONTACT SHEET series published by the Robert B. Menschel Media Center, in Syracuse, N.Y. This one features images by William Earle Williams, whose 2007 exhibition at the Center, "Unsung Heroes: African American Soldiers in the Civil War," documented some of the 50,000 miles he has logged in seeking out and photographing a comprehensive pictorial of the many important, yet historically invisible, sites where black troops contributed to the Union victory in the War Between the States. These richly toned silver gelatin prints are of pastoral spots that contain, at most, the merest traces of Civil War fortifications, but taken together, they remind us how the land remembers what we are so apt to forget. Information: http://www.lightwork.org .

And finally, there is an evocative catalogue of the photography of GERTRUDE KASEBIER, whose images of mothers and children in all their devotion and innocence convey a strong sense of the early 1900s in rural America. The catalogue, "Family," is co-published by the Lee Gallery of Winchester, MA, and Paul M. Hertzmann Inc., of San Francisco. Information: http://www.leegallery.com , or by email at pnhi@hertzmann.net .

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.)