WOMAN: A CELEBRATION
I am not really certain if this small gem of a publication should be considered a book or a photo dealer's catalogue. The images come from Santa Monica, CA photography dealer Peter Fetterman's personal collection and his inventory.
My friend Peter has been collecting images of women for about 25 years now, and the photographs that he has accumulated in this attractive slim volume (136 pages with 122 plates) are a treasure. The diversity alone is enough to make you run out and purchase this publication: from Mother Teresa to fashion models, from expressions of joy to sorrow and pain, from the girl next door to women from exotic, strange cultures. They all form the kaleidoscopic viewpoint that makes a true Gestalt, so that the book transcends both its title and limitations. Its schizophrenia is its very strength, giving us a brief whiplash of sensations and emotions that are somehow tied back to the strength of the women in the pictures themselves.
Whoopi Goldberg's short forward is cute and heartfelt, even if a bit gratuitous.
And, of course, the images are the centerpiece of the book, as they should be. I was pleased to have contributed four of those chosen, and I have owned another six images in the book at one time or other, so it was like old home week. But there were plenty that I was not familiar with, and all challenged my assumptions, showing not only Peter's fine eye but also his openness to the full spectrum of possibility here.
Peter's all-too-brief introduction mirrors the work as he tries to explain the inexplicable, about his reaction to the photographs and his reasons for collecting them. Leading off with womanizer Alfred Stieglitz's quote "My medium is Woman" might not be the best choice of an observer, but the quote is certainly an apt observation for the practitioners represented in the book.
Frankly, I was a bit concerned that the written word would not hold up to the collection of images. Many photo dealers are not the best writers around; they are focused on images after all. But Peter is elegant and passionate in his expression about his chosen subject, and, in the end, I found myself hoping for even a little more of his perceptions. I particularly liked his close-to-final comment: "Collectors are only temporary custodians of their objects of desire."
This well-printed hardbound book, published by Chronicle Books, will be available for $22.95 at most book stores beginning October 1st, or now from the Peter Fetterman Gallery, which can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 1-310-453-6463.
The complete group from the book, all 120+ images, opens September 13, 2003 and is on display through January 5, 2004 at the Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, CA, with future museum bookings to follow.
THE EYE CLUB: FRAENKEL GALLERY
The Fraenkel Gallery has always been known for its high quality catalogues and occasionally quirky image choices. It is somehow endearing for a high profile, upscale gallery to spotlight $200-300 prints within the context of other high-end images.
So when the gallery decided to celebrate its 25th anniversary, you had to know that the accompanying catalogue would be a real doozey. And it is. Hardbound and nearly an inch and a quarter thick, this beautifully printed work includes 236 pages of nearly 100 examples of fine photography attractively presented. It is probably the single finest photography dealer catalogue I have ever seen.
Apparently in the works for about three years, this catalogue (it is really more a book than a catalogue) is superbly designed and thought out. The collection of images captured here is an eclectic one, tied together by the remarkable eyes of Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, the gallery's principals and the "editors" for this book. Yes, they have somewhat themed the images into groups, but it is their strong eye for great photographs that really holds the catalogue/book together so well. The use of cutouts to show only a part of the photograph behind teases the viewer into trying to guess something about the work behind the "mask".
The title for the catalogue, The Eye Club, was taken from a nickname given by Eugenia Janis Parry to the group of early collectors, dealers and curators who celebrated photography, although Fraenkel notes, "the Eye Club can now be considered to include anyone still open to the sensual, intellectual, and less specifiable thrills of contemplating a good photograph."
As with many of the past Fraenkel catalogues, there are some "small" anonymous or nearly anonymous photographs along with the blockbusters by the powerhouse names. All are chosen to challenge the viewers' perceptions about iconic photography. Few are images that you would have seen before, but most are wonderful examples of the art, and a few are stunning and magical in their presence.
Just a modest selection of the images that I covet from the book include: Ralston Crawford's Ship Ventilator, Imogen Cunningham's False Hellebore, Eugène Atget's Magasin, Avenue of the Gobelins, Paul Strand's Rebecca and his Wheel Organization, Andreas Gursky's Prada III, Lee Friedlander's Baton Rouge, Helen Levitt's New York, Diane Arbus' New York Skyline in a Lobby, Louis-Pierre-Théophile Dubois de Nehaut's La Prato, Bruxelles, John Whipple's daguerreotype of Three Sisters, and, of course, the masterful Carleton Watkins' Cape Horn Near Celilo.
Jeff Fraenkel says it all in his introduction, "Photography persists as an unruly medium. Here follows an unruly group of photographs, brought together in the open-eyed spirit of the Eye Club to mark the gallery's twenty-fifth year."
The catalogue is available from many bookstores and the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA, for $65, plus shipping. You can contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-415-981-2661. Buy it soon. It will shortly become a collector's item itself.