Sunday, January 4, 2009

january: self portrait by lee friedlander

cover of self portrait by lee friedlander

ok. i don't generally make new year's resolutions because they always feel sort of arbitrary to me.

however, this year i thought of a particularly good one so i am making an exception. back in my school days, i would go to the library several times a week to sit in the quiet with the photo books. i also worked at a barnes and noble where i had books at my immediate disposal at all times (as well as a hefty discount). unfortunately i don't have convenient access to a great photo library anymore. i have settled instead for logging books in my amazon wish list. as a result, my list has grown exceptionally long while i have made no attempt whatsoever to add any of those books to my actual library.

so: every month this year i resolve to purchase at least one book from my list and post about it here.

for january, i have decided to start with a classic. i just ordered lee friedlander's self portrait book. i haven't looked at it in quite some time (and it will be a while before it comes in), but it's a charming yet smallish paperback full of quirky indirect self portraits.

i chose it as the first selection of the year for two reasons:

1/ i feel like this book is sort of a staple for me and i return to it frequently for inspiration.
2/ as it's a paperback it is relatively inexpensive, so i felt it would help me ease into this process with a little less trepidation.

i always think of friedlander as a photographer's photographer because of the complexity with which he balances elements that are uniquely, well, photographic. his compositions are so meticulously pieced together. i was studying the cover image of self portrait earlier and realized i had never noticed the row of crescent shaped lights (or what i think might be lights) at the very top of the image. they mimic the loops in the garland and the trophy. today i noticed it with the clearest understanding of how that detail affects the photo. what gets me is that every single picture of his is full of this kind of attention to detail.

recently i've been revisiting a lot of photographers who shoot very formally in black and white: friedlander, callahan, koudelka, morell, robert frank etc. i also discovered roger ballen a while back although i haven't seen a large amount of his work yet. i expect the first round of purchases to be in this vein. but i can't wait to see where the year takes me. i am however quite nervous that my bookcase will not support the additional weight of twelve coffee-table-sized books. i proceed with fingers crossed.

post script added january 28th, 2009:

i was entirely surprised to learn they republished this as a hardcover.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmmm,love me a good photo book... I try to resist buying... as I'm broke.