One of my major weaknesses is photography books, to the point where my mother won’t let me store any more at her house. Mostly they’re not rare, and plenty were off bargain racks from used stores. Sometimes I seek them out, more on this in a second, other times I just stumble upon gems. My first real photography book was Black Star: Sixty Years of Photojournalism… and it eventually led to an internship at the agency Black Star.
So it was with conflicting emotion earlier this week when I was at the half-price book store in Seattle, thumbing through the mix-and-match photo section, when I came across a little christmas miracle. Certainly, its rare to find photojournalism books on shelves like these, much less really good ones. Of course.. if a books is really good or rare it surely isn’t going to be on a marked-down shelf. But here was a less-than-pristine copy of a book I hadn’t ever seen in person, and I had to have it. Jean Gaumy’s masterpiece Men at Sea was $8.
Especially since I’m about to leave Seattle for an extended time, indefinitely really, it really makes no sense for me to buy any more big books for myself. I still haven’t figured out how to bring my library with me, or if that is even a smart idea. So I was wandering the store trying to figure out an excuse to take the book home. Then it hit me: I should give the book to my brother, a young fisherman, for Christmas.
Both he, and a dear family friend who has worked on boats his entire life, adore the book. Beyond terrific pictures the story, the design, the accompanying documents and illustrations create an amazing piece. The friend, Bob, was especially impressed with the photographer’s understanding of life on the boats. A good compliment.
It has got me (and Scott, when we discussed this) about the ‘cross-over’ quality of certain photographers and projects .. that get non-photographers and photography fans excited. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but it seems that most of the photography that is popular with a wider public is incredibly cliche, cutesy or photoshopped. It makes me so happy to see something like this work making people excited.
As Scott told me: ‘I was just going to mention that Heidi’s cousin (not a photographer) has that book. I don’t often see really good photo books in non-photographers’ collections, but I’ve seen that one in a few places.’
And it has me obsessed anew with Gaumy, especially with this work. Incredible dedication and vision. And what a visual signature.
Oh, how about some of those books that I haven’t found yet. These would be in the category of searching out in every store I go to (looking for that deal) or on site like bookfinder.com. Beaufort West by Mikhael Subotzky, Belgrade Belongs To Me by Boogie, Off Broadway soon to be released by some Magnum fellows, No Man’s Land by Larry Towell, Americans We by Eugene Richards (oh this is a dream) and of course some Telex Iran and Farewell to Bosnia by Gilles Peress. Someday. (I swear I enjoy books from photographers outside of Magnum! these are just the dream ones off the top of my head..). The holy grail though might be Insomnia from Antoine D’Agata.
If you’re into books too, there are a couple of great places to read reviews and see what’s coming out … firstly 5b4 and then Buffet by Andrew Phelps (who himself is a photographer, I’ve got to look more at his work). And don’t forget Dashwood Books in New York. Mecca. When I finally self publish I See A Darkness, I’m headed there first.
Have you found any good photo books for gifts? Or any suggestions on things I should be lusting over?