Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lisette Model Aperture Monograph Reissue

There have been many books over the years that I thought I would never own. Some I did not buy because, at the time, the work did not appeal to me then as it does now and others I thought were just too expensive. Of those later variety, I could kick myself for as the prices in today’s market are exorbitant and unconscionable; comparatively those old prices were down right cheap. The Strand Rare Book Room was (and still is) a great resource for those titles at reasonable prices. I remember seeing a copy of Friedlander and Dine’s Work From the Same House there in the pre-internet days for around $65.00 but my first thought was…there are only 16 photos and 16 pages of etchings in the book so it isn't worth it.

The Aperture Lisette Model monograph was one of those lost treasures that I did not take advantage of and it haunts me to this day. Aperture, in the late eighties, was still offering copies of the limited edition of that book with a 16 by 20 print of the sailor and woman (see my composite above) for around $300.00. I didn’t buy one. A friend of mine did and now every time I see the print framed on his wall I feel an internal punch to my stomach.

I have come across the regular edition of that book many times in many places at good market prices but I could never bring myself to buy one because if I had been in the right frame of mind long ago…I’D HAVE THE ONE WITH THE PRINT AND THE SLIPCASE AND HER SIGNATURE!

Well, there is no need to beat myself up about this matter any longer as Aperture has reissued Lisette Model as a facsimile of the original 1979 edition. There are slight changes but they are all for the better.

First, the printing is better. The paper and ink combination of the original left the reproductions often looking a bit thin and anemic. In this new edition, the black tones are richer so the photos have a healthier presence. I am not sure how what I am about to mention was achieved as technology has changed drastically since this book was first printed, but the prints, plates or separations (or something) is the same as used for the original because where there is a slight halo from dodging in the original edition, it shows up in this one too. Where there is a slight white dust line that shows up in an image in the original, it is also present in this edition. The original layout and design by Marvin Israel is the left untouched.

The other changes were necessary additions to the chronology and bibliography included at the end of the book. One very curious change is to the date of her birth. In the original edition (and everywhere on the web) it is recorded as being November 10, 1906. In this new edition, it is recorded as November 10, 1901. Lisette died in 1983 at the age of eighty-two.

This is an important book from a very influential photographer who has been treated to only a small handful of published books. All of which are out of print and difficult or expensive to find. So when a publisher decides to bring a book back to life with another printing I think it is an important act that benefits everyone. Reissues don’t hurt the market for the originals as collectors will always want to seek out first editions in preference over later editions. Libraries and institutions can once again have copies of the books available for study. And, people like me who aren’t as hung up on owning the first edition (as long as the content is the same) can get a copy without breaking the bank.

I wish more publishers would release facsimile editions of older out-of-print titles. I like that approach to reissuing more than the reworking a title like what William Klein did with his edition of New York 1954-55. Even if the book is flawed, to reissue it as the artist intended back when it was originally conceived offers something to learn for the reader. There have been a number of great books that have been reissued in beautiful editions; Gilles Peress’s Telex Iran (SCALO), Susan Meiselas’s Carnival Strippers(Steidl), Walker Evans Many Are Called (Yale). A few years back MoMA published Garry Winogrand’s The Animals and Public Relations. There is an edition of Christer Stromholm’s book Poste Restante on the way from Steidl. Bill Burke’s travel diary I Want To Take Picture is being reissued by Twin Palms. Publishers please, keep them coming.

Here are just 10 suggestions from my wish list that would no doubt be wildly successful.

Atget: Photographe de Paris

Bill Brandt: A Night in London

Alexey Brodovitch: Ballet

Alexander Rodchenko/ Vladamir Mayakovsky: About This: To Her and Me

Joan Van Der Keuken: Paris Mortel

Shomei Tomatsu: 11.02. Nagasaki (a facsimile of the original)

Michael Schmidt: Waffenruhe

Sergio Larrain: Valpariso (this is too good a book to keep a secret)

Hans Peter Feldmann: Bilder (the entire set of the small booklets)

And lastly, I would love to see all of those great Russian propaganda books that were designed by Lissitsky, Rodchenko and Stepanova. (It is my wish list after all).

Are there any publishers out there listening? Please, start doing the battle for the rights to reproduce this stuff. It is needed. We are hungry.

Special thanks to Matt Bialer for permanently loaning me his limited edition of the Lisette Model monograph. I will be over to pick up the print soon so if you’d be so kind to take it off the wall and dust it off for me I’d appreciate it.

Book Available Here (Lisette Model)

Book Available at Aperture


One Way Street said...

In the realm of fantasy reprints here are some of my suggestions:

Ed Van der Elsken, Love on the Left Bank

Bill Brandt, The English at Home

Weegee, Naked City (a great reprint as opposed to the xerox-y Da Capo reprints)

Anonymous said...

Christopher Killip, In Flagrante

HCB, The Decisive Moment

Koudelka, The Gypsies

Yes, they would be popular reprints.

Anonymous said...

One way Street... there is a Dewi Lewis reprint of Love on the Left Bank that I think follows the original in design. I don't own either but I have seen the reprint.

And in response to Anonymous's great suggestion of In Flagrante (I have the french edition called Vague A l'Ame), I want The Isle of Man to be redone. I had originally written that one in my wishlist but took it off because I happen to know that it will not be done as a reissue. I suggested that to Mr. Killip when I met him and he didn't seem to be interested in the idea of revisiting those older books.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jeff. Your bookreviews are one of the best things on the internet.

I do own the orginal Lisette Model and as you said the printing isn't very good so I'm curous about the reprint. The Dewi Lewis reprint of Love on the Left Bank is better then the orginal. I used to own a German edition of the first printing (albeit without a jacket) but I sold it when the Dutch reprint came out. I'd rather own 5 very good reprints (from different books of course) then one not very good original.

Also coming up from Steidl is a reprint of van der Elsken's 'Jazz'. That's one of my all time favourites. I do have the original but...
There is also a reprint avalable of van der Keuken's 'Wij zijn 17' (We are 17) from the Dutch publishing house De Verbeelding. They also sell the Dutch language reprint of Love on the Left Bank: 'Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint-Germain de Prés'.

Om my reprint wish list are:
- William Klein's Rome
- Joan Vander Keuken's Paris Mortel indeed (with the original Japanese binding please)
- and I'd like to see a good book by Sergio Larrain
- some of the great Japanese books would be welcome
- HCB 'Les Européens' and 'Images à La Sauvette' (Being from where I am I'd prefer the French editions. There must be a large audience for both a French and English-language edtion). But didn't HCB state once his books were never to be reprinted? It may also have to do something with the rights for the Miro and Matisse-prints used for the cover.

I am very happy to own the Bill Brandt book on your list and some Lissitsky-items.

Please keep on reviewing!


Anonymous said...

I did have soms second toughts on the HCB-books: I think without the Miro and Matisse-covers they would be less popular. And those covers are probably the reasom why I like to have those 2 books.

Anonymous said...

Jan V,

Thanks for the high praise.

The printing of the Model is I think just a bit darker (or there was more ink on the press) but the darker tonalities that show an unevenness in the original are richer and more even in this new one. The original always struck me as being kind of funky in its printing.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, if you plug my website ( everyday for a week, I might let you come over to my house once a month to stare at the print on my wall for as long as you want.

Anonymous said...

Jeef, & Janv,

One of the big troubles with doing reprints of many things ( in my opinion)is the impossibility of printing in photogravure any longer. Many of the Japanese books of the 60's and 70's are just not going to be even close to the same in offset, even by Gerd Steidl. There is no way that Les Européens' and 'Images à La Sauvette'or "Ballet" would more than a pale echo of themselves.
The time of gravure is one of the lost, great moments of photobook publishing.

Anonymous said...

Very good point John...even the house that was doing gravure for Twin Palms Nissha in Kyoto (the last that was doing gravure)I heard is no longer printing.

Even so...I would think that with the right paper and ink combination that they could achieve a respectable quality. Pale in comparison...yes...but what do we expect for our $50.00 versus our $1500.00??

Matt Weber said...

Not much to add to this...I think ALL of William Klein's city books should be reprinted so that young photographers, without trust funds could become acquainted with his work. I'd like a copy of In Flagrante too, but the last copy I saw was $2,000 signed, and that's trust fund territory...

Anonymous said...

Can anyone comment on Jeff's assertion that there is no one printing gravure anymore? Could that possibly be true?

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note on the Brodovitch book, Ballet:
It would be impossible to do a reprint of that in the way we'd all like it to be. All of the material needed to reprint it were lost in a fire in Brodovitch's upstate farmhouse shortly after the book was first published. Negatives, prints, everything...

So, the only editions left are the 500 or so that were first published, and many of those are in various states of disrepair... Not to mention that the initial printing was on a rough textured paper and not the best quality - which may be what Brodovitch intended in the first place.

Anonymous said...


Great bit of info...thank you.

Merritt Hewitt said...

I'm just at the beginning of orienting myself to the world of Photography, with a capital P. Alec Soth pointed me to your blog. The boy is a good source.

Candidate for republishing: Klein's New York. The flaws are minor compared to the magnificance of the images.

Thank you very much for your great offering.

Merritt Hewit

Adam said...

there is also a segment of Brodovitch's BALLET (approx 10 spreads?) reproduced in the book THE NEW YORK SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY. i think that is the title - but it covers l. model to ted croner to l. faurer. i'm still upset i didn't buy one when the met had them on sale for $30 back in 2000.

Anonymous said...

That's a good book Adam. i didn't get mine from the Met but I do think it was around $30.00. It was probably from The Strand...where else.