17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Through the lens with print,
This review is from: The Photobook: A History Volume I: v. 1 (Hardcover)
This book (and the next volume) will surely become the standard reference for anyone wanting to know about 'photobooks' and in creating a new word for photographs in a book perhaps this will create a new publishing genre too. The author's rightly point out that photography is a printed-page medium and the four hundred and fifty titles examined, with just over two hundred in this first book, probably represent the best (or most interesting) titles ever published.
The nine chapters give a lucid in depth review of photobooks to the 1970s with Anna Atkins 1843 'Photographs of British Algae' taking the first photobook prize. I particularly enjoyed chapter six, Medium and Message: the photobook as propaganda, basically dealing with Soviet books in the Thirties and the examples shown are quite extraordinary in their use of images and design. Reproducing the pages from these books would easily make a separate title. The other fascinating chapter was nine, dealing with postwar Japanese books, again the reproduced jackets and spreads show amazing creativity and vision, not only in the choice of photos but also in the use of printing and binding techniques.
Stunning though this book is I thought there was one particular weakness, in so many of the books there are not enough pages shown. Many of them have two pages, for instance 'An American Exodus' by Lange and Taylor, there are fifteen spreads so it is possible to follow the flow of images or Avery Brodovitch's 'Ballet' with eighteen spreads to capture the feel of the subject. Most of the titles though are two or three to a spread allowing mostly a cover plus four or six pages from inside the book but annoyingly there is easily room for more pages had there been a slight adjustment to the book detail text that accompanies each photobook. The excess white space really should have been put to better use. Despite this the paper and printing of the book is first class, the images are reproduced in a fine screen as cut-outs with a drop shadow and run of varnish to really make them sparkle.
Parr and Badger have almost created a unique book but Andrew Roth's 'The book of 101 books: Seminal photographic books of the twentieth century' (ISBN 0967077443) published in 2001 must be regarded as the first attempt to capture the essence of photobooks and in both titles the editorial concept is the same, reproduce the covers and pages rather than show individual photographs. As a designer this makes both books come alive for me but I prefer 'The Photobook' for its exhilarating coverage in both words and images.