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Prewar Surfing Photographs Hardcover – 1 Oct 2004

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x91c21624) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91f6d11c) out of 5 stars Research Material Unrealized to Sustain a Book 19 Jan. 2007
By Pablo 5-0 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Don James: Prewar Surfing Photographs" is a collection of black and white photos taken by someone who would go on to become one of the first great photographers of surfing.

Matt Warshaw assembled this heretofore unpublished collection of what can be described as among the very first attempts in California at taking surfing photos from the water from the perspective of another board ( water level). Water shots of surfing had been pretty common in the waters of Waikiki for a number of years, but were almost always taken from an outrigger canoes, thus the perspective was not actually from water level.

The book seems to have been thrown together quickly from photos that were "found" in Dr. James' desk, after he died. Given that some of them are out of focus and others seem almost comically composed, ( plenty of self-conscious posing and mugging for the camera) one can assume that the late Doctor was on to something when he decided to leave these in his desk. Perhaps some of these photos could have been used in the context of another book about the history of surfing, but to stand alone as the backbone of a specific book devoted to just these photos, was in my opinion a miscalculation or an after thought.

Warshaw is one of the preeminent chroniclers of the surfing phenomenon and history. His other works, "Photo/Stoner.....", "Surf Movie Tonight", and his "Encyclopedia Of Surfing" demonstrate his thorough grasp of the cultural, historical and socio-economic history of surfing. Warshaw's prose ( especially in his excellent "Photo/Stoner...") is among the best if not the best in the genre. Coupled with his keen eye for photos that capture an era and the reader's imagination, Warshaw has a commendable body of work. The Don James book cannot be listed among them.

The book contains a short preface from Warshaw but as previously stated many of the photos that follow are sub-par. Some of them would probably work well in framed large formats, at say a Restaurant in So. Cal.

The photos are left in a vacuum. No notations or specific identification of what we are looking at or an effort to put them into any surf history context.

Warshaw could have, should have fleshed this effort out more. Perhaps a bit more on Doctor James. Maybe some drawings or photos of what the camera rig looked like that took the photos. A map that shows geographically where the spots are.. A bit more insight into the people in the photos, a description of the nuances of the reefs and breaks portrayed, anything something, but alas nothing.

Another reviewer of the book mentioned that it captures a lost era and life style. Surfing back then was not considered a "life style", that did not happen until well after WWII. These were young men, who had the good fortune to discover and take part in a sport/art that was a welcome respite from the pressures of the economic conditions prevalent in the nation at the time. What was on their minds was more probably, "Am I going to make it socially-economically". James did by becoming a successful Dentist.

This book can only be recommended to the most hard core surfing history enthusiast, and even they ( I among them) will find this book, a less than valiant effort.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91f6d170) out of 5 stars The surfing dentist from Culver City as documentarian for an entire culture 26 April 2008
By David Ohman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was first drawn to Dr. Don James' photography and his passion for surfing when he became my first dentist. I was only three years old or so but, as the years passed, I began to fall in love with his sport of surfing thanks to his photographs that adorned his office walls. Around 1960 or so, he talked me into taking up surfing. After I took up the sport, he urged me to continue my interest in photography as well. Whenever I had an appointment at his dental office, he would show me more photos and regale me with stories of the old days, just as they are chronicled in this book.

He always looked tan and younger than his years owing to his amazing fitness. No doubt, surfing played a big role in his physical well-bring. He was also one of the kindest gentlemen on the planet, a true diplomat for the sport of surfing and for mankind.

So, Don, we miss you and your stories. Keep smiling down upon the rest of us.
HASH(0x91c51a08) out of 5 stars nice collection of photos 19 Jun. 2011
By Surfing - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book is really well put together with a nice dust jacket. Mostly pictures with a few pages of text. The pictures make me wish I was around and surfing at that time. There were no fat surfers back then. I wish the pictures were bigger, the margins are huge.
By RICHARD C. ANDERSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
HASH(0x91f6dc98) out of 5 stars Don James:Prewar Surfing Photographs 9 Jan. 2007
By Roger Mann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent collection of photos. Don did his best to capture a lifestyle that is long behind us.
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