Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ICP Booksale Acquisitions

The New Year’s resolution I made to myself was to reign in my obsession and be much more selective as to what books I bring into the house. Well…that lasted less than a month and I place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the ICP library sale this past weekend. Even though a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, wound up buying four full boxes worth at a grand total of $1,200 - I escaped with 16 good/great finds that set me back a mere $350. As I mentioned in my announcement of the sale, the books were mostly priced to sell so the temptation was too strong for the desperately weak willed to put up much of a fight. Here is what comprises my foot tall stack of spoils.

The most exciting find was a copy of August Sander Men Without Masks: Faces of Germany 1910-1938 published by the New York Graphic Society in 1973. I have several other Sander titles but none in my collection have the lush tonality of this edition’s gravure printing. This is a thick book of 275 images divided into chapters of “types” of Germans as was Sander’s modus operandi. This is the American edition of a book published in Frankfurt in 1971 by Verlag C.J. Bucher. The design is much more playful than most of the Sander titles that I have seen. It reminds me a bit of the layout in The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson with some images appearing on full black pages.

I found a copy of Lars Tunbjork’s first book Landet Utom Sig: Country Beside Itself published in 1993 by Journal. This is Lars’ first take on looking at consumer culture and leisure activity in his native Sweden. Brightly lit, saturated colors form the blindfold convenient to living firmly within the grasp of unseen yet powerful marketing forces. Smile and enjoy a soft drink.

Dare I say that Andre Kertesz has always seemed dull and more or less ignorable for me and risking sacrilege, I do not own a single book of his work. From what I have seen, most of his later books that I could afford seem cheaply produced, poorly edited or fall into that tired category of The Monograph which for Kertesz means too many images. He is an artist whose work I think dilutes itself from poor editing, especially with the later work. I finally relented and picked up Andre Kertesz: Sixty Years of Photography 1912-1972 published by Grossman in 1972. I still think it is too thick with photographs but the gravure printing makes all of the difference for me in enjoying these photographs. The book starts off with a bit of a jumbled design mess but once the images start flowing, I can now see what all of you have been talking about.

The next very interesting find, a world away from Kertesz, was a copy of Sol Lewitt’s PhotoGrids published by Paul David Press/Rizzoli in 1977. This is 46 pages of nine-photo grids of architectural details from fencing, doors, windows, hopscotch grids, street grating, man-hole covers, floor titles, and other found material. Part archive, part minimalist and conceptual, this is the only book in my stack that stands out as an “artist book” in the truest sense of the term.

The next book was a curious find for me as I haven’t been bitten by the Japanese photobook bug like most other collectors but I did find Seiji Kurata’s 80’s Family: Street Photo Random Japan published by JICC in 1991. He is the same photographer who is now famously known for his book Flash Up which was featured in Parr/Badger Vol 2. This is 54 photographs shot on the street with his signature flash. Most are in black and white but there is an odd little selection of 24 color pages in the middle of the book that for me, spoils the mood. Maybe this is just because I want to see more of the black and white by owning Flash Up and cannot afford a copy. If anyone wants to send me one out of the goodness of their heart or to score karma points with the higher powers I’d even be willing to take a copy that is lacking the acetate jacket and the bellyband. I will now thank you in advance and be waiting for the UPS guy in-between bouts of smoking crack.

The next book is a fascinating example of what can be found and ignore at sales like this, Carleton Beals and Walker Evans The Crime of Cuba published by J.B. Lippincott in 1933. This gem was marked for one dollar and the surprising thing is that it was within the boxes of unsold items from last year’s sale. For photographers, this book is interesting because it may mark the first example of a photographer insisting on design, editing, sequencing and placement of their portfolio of photographs within a book of mostly text. Evans insisted on this editorial control and the result is 31 ‘aquatone’ photos appearing as a group in the back of the book instead of interspersed within the body of the text.

I have wanted to own a copy of Paul Strand’s Ghana: An African Portrait for a while but it is one of those titles that fell into my low priority bottomless well. Ten dollars was all that it took to finally raise the priority to ownership. This is the 1976 hardcover edition published by Aperture that was nicely printed by Sid Rapoport. Not quite as good as Strand’s work from France but several wonderful portraits and still-lifes will keep this from one getting too dusty.

Buying the next book cost me dearly with the respect of a friend; a hardcover copy Mary Ellen Mark’s Ward 81 in excellent condition. Inspired by an assignment to shoot on the set of Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and published in 1979 by Simon and Schuster, this book represents Mark’s best work before her decision to gloss over her documentary work with commercial appeal. I may risk comparing apples to oranges but for all of the discussion of this book’s frank portrayal of confinement and mental illness it pales in comparison to Forman’s film or Wiseman’s Titicut Follies.

A signed copy of Jane Evelyn Atwood’s Nachtlicher Alltag (Daily Nightlife) published by Materialien Zur Fotografie in 1980 ripped three dollars out of my pocket. This small paperback contains a series of photos of prostitutes and dominatrix in Paris as they service or wait for clients. Most are fairly straight forward portraits where the subject acknowledges the camera but the best images are caught on the fly and contain small fleeting gestures and body language within the heavy shadowed and stark lighting of the hallways these sex workers occupy. This book is not the best example of printing as much of the shadow areas fall into murky voids of no detail. This copy also came with a six page stapled translation of the book’s German text that looks to have been typed by Atwood herself.

I find it hard to resist books on Bill Brandt although rarely do the more modern editions satisfy. A first edition of Bill Brandt Portraits by the University of Texas Press in 1982 has found a new home (next to a set of folded and gathered sheets that served as an unbound review copy of NYGS’s Bill Brandt Nudes: 1945-1980). Even though a publisher’s note states that this book’s printing was supervised by Brandt himself, I think it is of spotty quality. This may be due to the consistent use of the cheap glossy paper common with these books.

In the cheap bins I found a small six inch square catalog of Maxime Penson whose name I can’t recall ever hearing before. The photographs are from the Soviet Union in the mid-twenties to the early forties and are fine examples of documentary work from Uzbekistan with the expected propagandistic tone. This is book number three in a small series from Carre Noir Editions in Paris featuring lesser known Russian photographers. The printing leaves a lot to be desired; the strength is entirely on the 41 images, which for such a discovery, was an absolute steal at one dollar.

I also found Russian Avant-Garde Books 1917-34 by Susan Compton published by The British Library in 1992. This is a book that you actually read. It has lots of - you know - words. It does have many illustrations but few are in color mostly they are sooty textbook quality black and white.

The other ‘read-em’ I found is the account of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s life written by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy called Experiment in Totality. Published as a second edition in 1969 by MIT Press (1st Ed 1950, Harper & Brothers) this will be on deck after I finish the other MIT Press book I bought last year, El Lissitzky’s An Architecture for World Revolution.

Those are the major finds from which I will draw much happiness but I also did bring in a few small but mentionable items.

The first is issue Aperture 16:1 which was purchased solely for the 20 great pages of John Cohen’s early Peru photographs from the 1950’s. While John was studying the weaving techniques of the Q’eros indians, he made photographs during his travels and these are among his finest work. I heard there may be a forthcoming book of this work so let’s keep our collective fingers crossed that it actually happens.

Lastly, I found two issues of Camera magazine. One dedicated to the subject of Coney Island with portfolios from Robert Frank, Lisette Model and Leon Levinstein, and the other issue contains an extended Diane Arbus portfolio. I rarely buy magazines like this anymore as I never go back to look through them but what was wonderful about Camera, is the gravure printing which was done by CJ Bucher in Lucerne Switzerland; the same printer that did the August Sander Men Without Masks book. A friend of mine told me that CJ Bucher used Camera as a kind of calling card to drum up business for their printing company.

With that connection I have come full circle so I will now figure out how to jockey another twelve inches of space out of my bookcases to accommodate these new arrivals.

Anyone else find anything good at the sale?


Anonymous said...

"80’s Family"! Lucky find... I have been looking for that book in Tokyo for a while to no avail.

How about that photo of the large cross-eyed kid with the pigeon? Or the girls in the back of the car with the wine?

...I'll let you know if I see a copy of Flash Up somewhere, sometime.

elkac said...

Bloody hell... I wish we had something similiar here, in Poland. Unfortunately - not much of a photo book market here :-( I envy you.

Anonymous said...

another Kurata book to look for is Trans Asia - a great color book he did on Asia.
There is a Penson book - Uzbekistan - that came out about 10+ years ago that is also good.
Crime of Cuba is a key book for Evans - a young photographer taking control of how his work is presented in published form - a precurser to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. On the (lacking) DJ Evans' bio has been invented by Evans - an example of an artist creatining his persona.

Anonymous said...

Bloody H is right! The Crime of Cuba for $1 even with out the dj is The Crime of ICP. Bravo Jeff!

Anonymous said...

another important note on Crime of Cuba is Evans' use of appropriaitaed photos to complete his sequence. It was not just Warhol and Rauschenberg who took other peope work and made it their own.

J. Karanka said...

Kurata! Damn, another Japanese photographer I had not heard about. It's a pity they're so hard to trace as well. At some point I'll make a list and ask my friend in Newport to empty the library...

Cary said...

Jeff, we want to see what your photo book collection looks like. You should take a picture and post a high rez jpeg on this blog. Like the logo photo you have up top, only bigger.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to organize tour groups at ten dollars a ticket but no photography allowed. Can you take pictures in the public library?

Rudy Perpich said...

Kurata fans: There is a copy of Flash Up available for post auction sale at Photo-Eye.


Anonymous said...

Something a little cheaper that Photo-Eye auctions.


Anonymous said...

I was able to find a copy of Ray Metzker's "Sand People" for Three bucks! The completist in me made me buy Amy Conger's Weston/CCP catalogue.

Anonymous said...

Every 2, 3 years or so the Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium sells its 'surplus' catalogues. They do it rather differently: the catalogues are stacked on pallets and they're 5 euro a kilo...

pony said...

So... any luck finding that Flash Up copy you wanted?
I wish there were more examples of work by Kurata avaliable online. I'm this close to spending a few hundred dollars for his Japan, but I fear it might not be dirty enough. Have you seen it? Is it worth it?

thyago1234 said...

dear jeff, i'm desperately looking for that coney island magazine. can you tell which issue that is?

many, many thanks.