Author: David Clark
Publisher: Focal Press
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
Here’s what I would classify as a high-concept photo book.
In “Photography in 100 Words: Exploring the Art of Photography with Fifty of its Greatest Masters” the author has collected one photograph from each of 50 photographers and then interviewed each, asking the source of their inspiration. Then in each of the interviews the author has highlighted two words used by the photographers in bold type. Typical of the words were some of those beginning with the letter “A”: Abstract; Accident; Addictive; Ambiguity; Anger; and so forth. Once these words were selected, they were not highlighted in other interviews even if repeated by subsequent photographers. This resulted in a list of 100 words which appears in large type opposite the table of contents. Other then a few brief paragraphs in the introduction, the author makes no further attempt to analyze the selection of words.
The photographers selected seemed mostly from the British Isles. While I don’t claim to know every one of the world’s great photographers, I was not familiar with about half of the photographers. Similarly, if I were to make up a list of the 50 most famous photographers in the world, only about five would be included in the book. That doesn’t mean the photographs were not good, but just that the photographers were not the most famous.
Whenever a series of pictures, whether by a single photographer or multiple photographers, is presented in a book, one should expect some synergistic effect. In this case, the images are a mixed bag of styles, from gritty realistic reporting to almost abstract close-ups of flowers. Even though most were quite good no constant theme emerged from the pictures. Apparently the author thought that some overarching idea would emerge from the selection of words. It would be possible for a person to put some of the words together to derive an idea, but there is nothing to say that that this would be the idea intended by the author.
In other words, this is a high concept book whose concept remains hidden.
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