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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars

Jane Livingston, in her excellent book `The New York School', suggests that many photographers regard the medium of the photo book as something to aim for and in the section dealing with Bruce Davidson she quotes him: `My work is about being bodies of work. You have to see the whole thing to see each part'. Steidl, with these remarkable three volumes of 944 pages and 834 photos, now make this possible.

A couple of Davidson's photo books are now very expensive so it could be that these three books are about as close as you'll get to see some of his great photos but it's worth saying that the original East 100 Street' book with 123 photos has ninety-one here and `Brooklyn Gang' with seventy in the original has fifty-one here. Other books with extensive coverage in these pages include: Circus 1958, sixty-three; England/Scotland 1960, sixty-five; New York Subway 1980, nineteen; Central Park 1992-1995 eighty-three.

Book one, 1954-1961 with fifteen sections gets off to a beautiful start with photos of John and Kate Wall who Davidson met by chance in 1955 while on military service in Arizona. John was ninety-four and Kate seventy-nine and in just thirteen superb photos Davidson reveals the depth of love between these two. One photo on page thirty has an extraordinary close-up of their holding hands. Another essay in this first book that grabbed me was England/Scotland 1960 which captured the tiredness of the country after years of austerity and before the Swinging England of the Sixties.

Book two, 1961-1966 with twenty-three sections has some powerful photos of the Freedom Riders 1961, South 1962, Freedom March 1963, Birmingham, Alabama 1963, March to Washington and the Selma to Montgomery March 1965. In all 109 reportage photos covering the politics of the era. The Chicago Loop 1963 with just seven photos reveals Davidson's ability to capture vibrant street imagery.

Book three, 1966-2009 with fourteen sections which vary enormously. Eight deal with various aspects of New York (including the extensive East 100 Street and Central Park essays). Others cover the Oklahoma City bombing victims and survivors from 1992, Senator Max Cleland 1999, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam which Davidson photographed for Esquire magazine and two short essays, with thirty-eight photos on trees and plants in Paris 2005-2006 and Los Angeles 2008-2009.

Steidl have turned out their usual impeccable product with the 834 photos printed as 175 screen tritones on matt art. The page design is simple and straightforward: one photo a page with generous margins and the books come in a sturdy slipcase. The only downside, in my view, is the placing, in each book, of Davidson's thoughtful notes and observations in the back pages instead of placing these short pieces on the virtually empty title pages that kick-off each photo essay.

The fifty-two essays in these books are as wide ranging as possible yet they all show Davidson's unique ability to capture the essence of the subject and reveal it in page after page of remarkable photos. Looking through these books at a photographic life is a rare treat.
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on 6 January 2014
I'm having trouble rating this because it's like my camera's light meter: Are a very positive and a very negative experience appropriately summarizedas as 18% grey?

The books are great, so 4 to 5 stars there.

The 3 volumes are placed in a fabric clad hardbox, which in turn is contained in a dedicated shoebox carton. The seller had wrapped around a single layer of the thinnest ondulated cardboard which gave no protection against the treatment the 8.5 KG package could be expected to receive in transport. As a result I now have one of the 3 books damaged and the box as well.
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on 15 May 2015
I had been wanting to get this for years and finally did when I found a copy for under £100. It is very expensive, but the quality and quantity justifies it: there are three large volumes inside a cloth case and the whole package must weigh more than 10kgs. The reproductions are very well done and cover a spectrum of subjects and periods, but overall I was not blown-away by the volumes. I much prefer the colour Subway volume I have by Davidson to anything in these volumes. As others have pointed out, the modern images are reproduced in black and white and I think they lose something as a result, particularly the NY subway shots.
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on 8 October 2011
I was very excited to get my hands on this set of 3 volumes, and as a compendium of Davidson's work I have no doubt they're unbeatable. The quality of the printing is lovely and the size of the prints is great in that they're large enough to see really clearly, but not quite too large to comfortably hold and view.

There is a down-side however, a number of images originally shot in colour are reproduced here in Black and White. The Subway images especially really lose something be being rendered in monochrome. This isn't necessarily an argument against purchasing this set of books - they really are something else, but you may find yourself dipping your hand in your pocket again, at least for the colour volumes...
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on 7 August 2012
I agree with all the superlatives heaped on this set, and also the observation of one reviewer that the omission of the colour work is somewhat invidious. I don't know if the subway pictures reproduced were originally in monochrome or colour, but Davidson's pictures from that period are seminal, and confirm his mastery of colour.

Buy, but you'll have to budget for 'Subway' as well!
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on 26 February 2015
A must have...
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