Three Notable New Photobooks: Don McCullin, Michael Kenna, and Todd Hido

I got three interesting new photobooks this week, and rather than review each of them separately, here are some notes about each of them.

The Landscape, by Don McCullin

LandscapeKnown for his work as a war photographer, Don McCullin has also long shot landscapes, notably near his home in Somerset, in the UK. This book contains five sections. The first contains photos taken in a number of locations, the second photos from Somerset and elsewhere in the UK; the third consists of photos taken in India and the Middle East; the fourth returns to Somerset; and the final section contains photos of Somerset, Northern England, Scotland, and France. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

These photos are all dark; not just black and white, but they contain brooding tones, often with stark clouds, tangled trees, and lots of water (photos of flooding in Somerset). There is a unity among the style of the photos, which cover several decades of work, though not all are really landscapes. Many of the photos from India are of people in a landscape; there are photos of ruins in Palmyra; and there are a few photos of grimy cityscapes in the UK.

Nevertheless, there is something majestic about the darkness of these photos, especially the ones from Somerset, or the astounding photo of Stonehenge (below). This is a composition of vastness, of the spaces in front of his eyes, of the contrast between land and sky, which isn’t always clear. A stunning book of black and white photos.

Stonehenge

Michael Kenna, rafu

RafuKnown for his beautiful black and white landscapes, Michael Kenna has published his first book of portraits. This slim book contains 41 photos of nude Japanese women. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

In a short text at the end of the book, Kenna explains that he had been shooting nudes in Japan for about ten years, and these 41 photos were selected for an exhibit in Japan, and for this book, out of some 9,000 photos that he had shot.

They have the Micheal Kenna touch; they are square, use a hint of toning, and are not particularly erotic. If anything, they recall Edward Weston’s nude photos of the 1920s and 1930s.

These are subtle photographs where there is much more than the female body being shown, and this slim yet attractive book is a very interesting new aspect of Michael Kenna’s work.

Kenna

Todd Hido, Bright Black World

HidoEven for someone familiar with Todd Hido’s work, this book is a bit of a shock. In 48 large format photos – some of which fold out to double- or quadruple-size – Hido explores locations outside the United States, with a stunning level of darkness that pervades the works. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

An epigram from Hido sets the tone: “It’s been said that Inuits have many words to describe white. As the polar snow caps melt faster than we ever imagined, I wonder how long it will be before we have as many words to describe darkness.”

There is light in some of these photos, but most of them give off a level of angst that can be overpowering. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful book that is full of moving, atmospheric photos.

Bright black

Book Review – The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

Four companies are at the top of the pyramid for technology and digital media: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Each one is very different, but there are many similarities that have helped these companies become so dominant.

Amazon’s reach is extraordinary, with 64 percent of people in the United States being subscribers to Amazon Prime. Apple, while far from being the leader in smartphones, commands one of the highest profit margins in the tech sector, currently around 38 percent. Facebook has two billion users, and four of the five most popular mobile apps are owned by the company. And Google owns 92 percent of the search market.

Much has been written about the successes of these companies, and of the unique qualities of their founders: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. And much has also been written about how these companies strategically created or took advantage of sectors where they could disrupt existing companies.

Scott Galloway, professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, and longtime entrepreneur, looks at these “four horsemen,” as he calls them, in his book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. In his book, he highlights many of the negative aspects of their business models, and their effects on society.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Book Review – When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink

We are all familiar with the expression “timing is everything.“ From ice hockey to investing, success often depends on doing things at the right time. But how do we know when it is the right time? Sometimes we can play where the puck is going, or figure out the right moment to act by a careful read of the market, but in other cases the right time depends on us; it depends on us knowing when to do things.

Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, looks at when we should do things to be the most efficient, the most productive, and the most inspired. The “when” he discusses is the time of day, the time of the year, or even the point in a project where we should or shouldn’t do certain things.

He poses a certain number of questions early in the book:

Why do beginnings—whether we get off to a fast start or a false start—matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint—of a project, a game, even a life—sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning?

We’ve all experienced flagging interest in projects, or difficulty trying to make it through the day, the week, or the month, but we generally don’t think that we might have started — or continued our projects — at the wrong time.

Read the rest of the review on The Startup Finance Blog.

What Happens When Your Crime Library Goes Up In Smoke? – CrimeReads

The lightning bolt blasted down from the fast-moving summer storm, exploding into our roof, through our attic, and into the guest bedroom. Fire erupted on the bed. My sons put out that fire in the bedroom, but the roof and attic were ablaze. Within two minutes, my family were out of the house, with our pets, pulling our cars out of the garage, as the flames spread. Despite the heavy rain, smoke already wreathed our home. We got out with the clothes we had on our backs. We were safe. We watched our home burn as multiple fire departments responded, as news crews and the Red Cross arrived, as dozens of our neighbors gathered around us to offer comfort, as our family tried to grapple with what seemed an unimaginable new reality.

Hours later, after the fire was out, the fire chief helped my wife and I wade through a foot of water in the remaining shell of our home.  We surveyed, in disbelief and shock, the catastrophic damage—missing walls and floors, splintered beams, debris everywhere. The air reeked of smoke and the raw, wet innards of our house. Then I saw, by the glow of my flashlight, sodden and burned books on the shelves and in the water and I thought, for the first time: Oh. All my books.

Jeff Abbott is a best-selling crime fiction author who I have known for more than twenty years. Last year, a lightning bolt struck his house, burning the entire house down. Fortunately no one was hurt, but his huge library was decimated.

You don’t think something like this will ever happen to you, but Jeff gives some tips about recording information about what you own just in case.

Source: What Happens When Your Crime Library Goes Up In Smoke? | CrimeReads

The Unamericans

My motives for writing this story are conventionally American. I value my freedom to be what others may not wish me to be. I am proud to read whichever book I want, from The Satanic Verses to S&M pictorials to the speeches of Saddam Hussein. Although I sometimes write about politics, I do not consider myself political — or is it in fact political to hold some degree of disrespect for whichever fellow citizens have been set in power over me? In this, if Steinbeck is to be believed, I am very American: “Americans almost without exception have a fear and a hatred of any perpetuation of power — political, religious, or bureaucratic.” Yes, like my father, I am proud to be an American, at least sometimes. (Shortly before he died, in 2009, he told me: “I used to be proud to be an American. Now I’m ashamed.”) I’m proud that when I’m ashamed I can say so without being hauled off to a secret prison. I must love any government that allows me to excoriate it.

I am an aging man, more or less satisfied with life, self-employed, able to turn down jobs that don’t suit me, free to say no to almost anybody and accept the consequences. I have gotten out of the habit of being a “team player,” if I ever was one. I am proud of this American Way of Life in which I am, at least in my own view, anyone’s equal. These ideas that I have are predicated on the notion, common to my fading generation, that my private life is no one’s business.

William T. Vollmann, the polymath author of fiction and non fiction – most recently of the fascinating, yet frustrating, two volumes Carbon Ideologies (Amazon.com) – wrote this essay for Harpers in 2013 after he learned that he had been suspected of being the Unabomber.

At first, I do not mind admitting, I was thrilled to have something new to report to my friends. No other member of our circle had ever been mistaken for the Unabomber! Their expressions of astonishment flattered my vanity; I nearly mistook myself for someone important. But presently I began to feel offended, and when I learned that the Unamericans had watched me for years, indeed surveilled my house, I felt, as people say after burglaries, violated.

Read Life as a Terrorist: Uncovering my FBI file.

Photo Book Review: In My Room, by Saul Leiter

Saul leiter in my room 59 gifThe nude female body as a subject has a long history in art, and in photography. In fine art, it has always been more or less sedate – though see Courbet’s L’Origine du monde – but in photography, it has often been more osé. Nude photography follows the unwritten rules of the patriarchy; in most such photos, the woman is an object, often in ludicrous positions, or in situations that serve as nothing more than backdrops to their bodies. Photo magazines are full of nude or semi-nude photos – so-called “boudoir” photography – that serve to codify the tropes of this genre: for example, a naked women in high heels in front of a waterfall. There are certainly many exceptions, and nude art photography – to distinguish it from “I know it when I see it” pornography – can be very attractive, without demeaning its subjects.

Read the rest of the article on my photo website.