Sunday, September 18, 2011

An eye for photo books, by Judy Rolfe


The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916, and in their elegantly produced, nearly five-pound Catalogue of Photography 28 photographers are accorded full-page reproductions of signature works, accompanied by the artist's profile and a discussion of the image. The first of the book's three sections is a summary of the history of photography and the other two are biographies and a glossary of nondigital photographic terms. The book is both a catalogue of the museum's holdings and a tooting of its own horn, as it reflects on what the museum has accomplished since making a curatorial and financial commitment to photography almost 20 years ago. Represented are some of the finest artists of the last 150 years: Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Margaret Bourke-White, Mathew Brady, Julia Margaret Cameron, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Francis Frith, Lewis Hine, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Richard Long, Duane Michals, Irving Penn, Aaron Siskind, Edward Steichen, Joel Meyerowitz, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, William Henry Fox Talbot, Jerry Uelsmann, William Christenberry, Edward Weston, Minor White, and Imogen Cunningham. (I was lucky enough to have purchased a wonderful image of Miss Cunningham at work on her very last project, a book of portraits of people over 90 years of age. She was 93 at the time.) Above right: Dorothea Lange, "Funeral Cortege, End of an Era in a Small Valley Town, California." Gelatin silver print, 1938.

Detail of cover from The Contact Sheet; images by Elliott Erwiit.
Being a photo editor for USA Today back in the day, I thoroughly enjoyed The Contact Sheet. When a photographer submitted images from a shoot, it would fall to me to choose the "one" image that would tell the story. Hundreds of photos wound up on the cutting-room floor (now the "trash can" of our computers). The images are not discarded for technical flaws or poor composition but because one frame manages to edge them out. Contact Sheet lets us view 40 iconic images by world-famous photographers through the eyes of a photography editor, revealing the rarely seen contact sheets from the original photo sessions and the story behind the shot. Among the 40 photographers are two favorites of mine: Joel Meyerwitz and Elliott Erwiit. At 83, Mr Erwitt is still making memorable photographs and was just honored by the International Center for Photography (ICP) with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

—A freelance photographer, Judy Rolfe received her first camera from her parents at age 14 and has been shooting pictures ever since in locales ranging from all over the US to Central and South America, China, Indonesia, the Balkans, and West Africa. Her images not only reflect her peripatetic lifestyle but also the early influences of growing up on a farm and the Delaware Coast, where she developed a love for the ocean and its environs.  

4 comments:

  1. Love, love the Marylin photos!

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  2. Me too! Be sure to click through to our website and check out "Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters" before it sells out (previously unpublished photographs of MM plus letters and diaries).

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  3. I luv that you have a photography correspondent! what a great idea esp with all the interest in photography these days.

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  4. With all the interest in photography I am glad to be able to help people navigate to some great and eye-opening photography books.

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