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