The Photographic Bookshelf

For most lovers of photography, it is the book with which we primarily observe photographs. The original photograph is, in the cases of nearly all famous and seemingly most not-so-famous photographers, simply out of the financial reach of most collectors. Those of us lucky enough to be within close reach of museums or galleries with a photographic focus must make the time to go, often several times over the course of an exhibition to gain the full experience.

And so we are left with books. Luckily, books today offer exceptional reproductions. It is not outside the ordinary for a modern photographic fan to be disappointed when seeing original prints by the old masters in a museum, having had his expectation raised by the reproductions he has seen in books and catalogs.

In the spirit of all this, I am going to offer an occassional glimpse into my own photographic library. I have very few particularly special books – most of them have been purchased online, or in the local bookstore. Nonetheless, for a starting collector of photographic books, it may be helpful to have an idea of what is out there. I’ll cover only a few books at a time; at the rate I acquire new ones, that will guarantee I will always have more to share.

Intimacy: The Sensual Essense of Flowers, Joynce Tenneson (2007, 63 color plates, list $24.95) Specimen flower photography probably isn’t common enough yet to be called a cliche, but it is true that there are many photographers working in the technique. Joyce Tenneson has to be among the best. If the role of a photographer is to make you see things the way the artist does, and I believe it is, then Tenneson has fulfilled this role with aplomb. Of course, from a biological point of view, flowers are all about sex. And while some may see Tenneson’s flowers as erotic to the point of pornographic, I think she is correct in using the word “sensual” in her title. Botanically, too, this book will be appreciated by gardeners and lovers of the natural world. Those more expert than me may not find any new varieties of flowers in its pages, but they may see some flowers in a completely different light – Joyce Tenneson’s light.

American Ruins, Arthur Drooker (2007, 95 monochrome plates, list $45.00; contrib. Douglas Brinkley, Christopher Woodward) This is another genre that is at risk of becoming overpopulated by ambitious photographers. The “vanishing America” idea will only stay fresh as long as each individual photographer comes at it from a fresh angle. Arthur Drooker has done so, photographing ruins that are reminiscent of those of Europe. The crumbling neoclassical buildings he captures in infrared seem older than they could possibly be, while some of the southwestern native American ruins seem the more modern. While I find the infrared technique and the ponderous attempt at historical description to be distracting, the images themselves are fascinating. Drooker has limited edition prints of some of the images in the book available at his website,

Photographic Bookshelf Archive


~ by David Cupp on August 20, 2008.

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