Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Book-photography photography books

The earliest photograph in André Kertész's On Reading features barefoot Hungarian children poring over a book in 1915. The collection, first published in 1971, features readers in the important locations of the Hungarian-born photographer's life: Paris, New York, Argentina, where his younger brother emigrated. There are groups of students, presumably, sitting with books in NYC's Washington Square, otherwise many of those captured by Kertész are reading newspapers. The best images are of isolated book-lovers caught surreptitiously on rooftops. Reading is a solitary pleasure and here people have found their own undisturbed space, until Kertész's lens comes snooping.

A friend takes beautiful pictures of people reading. As with Kertész, the book cover is generally obscured but the books lend their titles to the photographs; while these are portraits of people, you can be in no doubt what the subject is. I would have liked to have been photographed on the blue bench outside my old flat, where I could sit on summer evenings. Now it would have to be on my daily commute, when I do the majority of my reading. I'm not sure what I'd be holding, something by Simenon, no doubt. (The pictures accompanying this post are my own, of Shakespeare and Company in Paris.)

In 2002, Cuban-born Abelardo Morrell (famous for his camera obscura images) published a book of photographs of books, A Book of Books. It's not an obvious project but apparently some of the first pictures taken by photographic pioneer Henry Fox Talbot were of his library. Morrell's photos feature some tomes that have been altered, for instance by having a hole drilled in one, though I'm especially drawn to his image of an edition of A Tale of Two Cities, where the print of the reverse side of the page is coming through. Giant storage spaces work well, too, reminiscent of Alain Resnais' 1956 short film about Paris's Bibliotheque Nationale, Toute la mémoire du monde. And then there are heartbreaking images of books damaged by dirt or irreversibly warped by water. Tragic.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)