Questions without Answers: The World in Pictures from the Photographers of VII Hardcover – 25 Mar 2012
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"The agency VII [...are] unflinching in their coverage of world events... Images are interspersed with anecdotes, assembling a visual history as terrible as it is powerful."―Sunday Telegraph, Seven Magazine
"...A compelling look at how several major events have affected the lives of communities and individuals throughout the world."―Photo District News
"...All the cliches are true: These images have the powers to transport, inspire, and change."―Departures
"Shows photojournalism at its best."―The Independent on Sunday
"A large, handsome book."―The New York Times
"It's easy online to click through photographs from around the world, but it is something else to hold a book bigger than a laptop and linger over pictures composed by masters."―The Boston Globe
About the Author
VII derives its name from the number of founding photo-journalists who, in September 2001, formed this collectively-owned agency. Designed from the outset to be an efficient, technologically advanced distribution hub for some of the world's finest photojournalism, VII has been responsible for creating and relaying to the world many of the images that define the turbulent opening years of the 21st century.
Now made up of 11 eminent photographers - John Stanmeyer, Marcus Bleasdale, Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Ed Kashi, Antonin Kratochvil, Joachim Ladefoged, Christopher Morris, Stephanie Sinclair and Franco Pagetti - VII remains committed to recording, not just the battlefield, but social and cultural change worldwide.
What unites VII's work is a sense that, in the act of communication at the very least, all is not lost; reparation is always possible; despair is never absolute.
David Friend, former director of photography at Life magazine, is Vanity Fair's editor of creative development. A successful author and editor, he has also curated a number of important exhibitions and created the Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is divided into four subjects: After the Cold War, Lives in the Balance, Landscapes in Turmoil, and Changing of the Guard. Each of the sections includes several photo essays captured in a few brief paragraphs to ground you in place, time, and the thoughts of the photographer followed by 5-10 pages of photographs, most with 2 to 3 on a page. The timespan of the work is roughly 1990-2011, though there may be some exceptions.
Like other books from Phaidon, it is a hefty volume of page-after-page of photographs sumptuously printed in rich colors that speaks to one of the positive aspects of capitalism in general and publishing's contribution to art in particular - that such works can be assembled, bound, and delivered at such a price. The similarity to other art books, however, ends there.
This is an unflinching look at our world. For consumers of the book it may seem like postcards from the serrated edge, but it is really more of a testament to the reality of the condition of the people in our world in all of its breadth. For every image from a fashion show, there are probably 20 revealing life in a war-ravaged city or a mental hospital or a mining village. In other words, it provides equal representation to all of the people on the other side of the lens, not just the ones of a certain privilege or agreed beauty. Moreover, these are not constructed photographs, they are glimpses of people moving or wounded or laboring or, in few instances, resting. Even the relatively few images without human subjects reveal a presence of humanity through its conspicuous absence.
Fairly or not, few of these photographs would make it into any mainstream publication. They are not easily digestible. They are provocative in their truth, but if you can remain present without getting numb to so much suffering it will sink in: this is the condition of the world we have created. This is an unflinching portrait of both the 1% of the groomed, packaged, and consumable as well as the 99% of the messiness of life today.
These are not the photographs one gets by visiting someplace for a week and taking the well-trod path. These are images of places that even the most well-traveled among us will never see and intimate in a way that can only time can produce: from a child's relieved smile in Darfur to a sex worker's grimaced embrace in India.
Whether this book will end up on too many coffee tables is unlikely. Most of us want to escape into the fantastic beauty of inviting landscapes and gorgeous people, but some sobriety is well taken. While they may take issue with the comparison, their collective of photographers, self-identified as VII, harkens back to the early days of Magnum, when photographers gave their lives for their craft. The people at VII are giving their souls.
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Printing and binding: five stars; organization of content: three stars (because it of so much zig and zag between ideas and emotional push/pull between the subsections); personal subjective taste relating to the photos representing a subject: three stars; value of the work in the commitment of the artists and raising awareness: five stars. Average: four stars.
Though provocative and challenging, my hope is that others will support this work and more broadly the people who provided these insights through their photographs.. And I hope this review helps you.