Photo Cascadia Blog
Posts Tagged ‘Book review’
“There’s just no such thing as a ‘drive-by shooting’ in landscape photography. In other words, you need to put in the time on the ground.” – Jack Dykinga
A few years ago, Jerry Seinfeld wrote a posthumous post about comedian George Carlin and his accomplishments with the line “Carlin already did it.” Seinfeld wrote: “And he didn’t just ‘do’ it. He worked over an idea like a diamond cutter with facets and angles and refractions of light. He made you sorry you ever thought you wanted to be a comedian.” You could take that line and replace comedian with photographer, and it would apply to Jack Dykinga. From his images “Saguaro in Bloom” in Saguaro National Park to “Stone Canyon” in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument– the very much alive Dykinga already did it.
In his new book, A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer (2017 Rocky Nook, Inc.) Dykinga reflects on his life after a near-death experience and a lung transplant, and shares with us stories of his successes, failures, faults, and thanks. He thanks those photographers who offered help along the way, including Chuck Scott (photo editor at the Chicago Daily News) to landscape photographers Philip Hyde and John Shaw. He also offers thanks to his comrades-in-arms at the various daily papers in his early career, his photography friends and influences such as Patricio Robles Gil, and the writers who were his friends: Chuck Bowden and Edward Abbey.
His photography is certainly an influence on mine, especially the intimate portraits of plants in the desert southwest. So in this book I enjoyed the stories of how he got the shot. Bringing us behind the scenes for images such as “Sisterhood” and “Saguaro in Bloom” is fascinating, and these photos show his dedication to his craft. I own a few books of Dykinga’s photography, but in this one I found his images from Mexico particularly inspiring. I also appreciated viewing the images which earned him the Pulitzer–their impact has not diminished over time.
A Photographer’s Life covers a lifetime of brilliant photographic work, and the images excel. (One note: the book needed a proofreader to catch a few missing words and typos.) For anyone interested in photography I recommend this book, for this is a life of a great photographer with boots on the ground and a life well-lived. Dykinga’s presentation of his life of photography is ultimately a story of his legacy—a difficult achievement in this field. From his Pulitzer Prize in 1971 to NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 his body of work is of the highest caliber, and it is here through the lens that Jack Dykinga did it all.
Over 20 years and 300 visits, photographer and author, QT Luong, explored each of America’s 59 national parks. His decades-long project culminated in his book, Treasured Lands, A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks. Both an art book and a guidebook in one, it is a masterpiece and a fitting tribute to our most treasured landscapes. Released in the summer of 2016 in honor of the National Park Service’s centennial, it now is even more important and timely in light of the recent political environment which could put our national parks and other public lands at risk.
Reviewing books is not part of my typical skill set, but this book has made such an impression on me that I am honored to share it. Unfortunately, there may not be much value I can add considering the New York Times already declared it to be the “most glorious” book to come out of the centennial of the National Park Service and the accolades of Ken Burns already grace its cover.
I first became familiar with Luong’s photography while researching photo locations in the Western United States and Mexico more than a decade ago. Time and again, the most comprehensive photographic coverage and the most inspiring photos I found were in his collection. It seemed he had been everywhere and always under the most favorable conditions for photography. Later I had the pleasure of meeting Luong and attending one of his presentations at a North American Nature Photography Association summit. Over time we have corresponded on a variety of photography topics. His eye for light and composition is inspiring, his determination for finding exciting vantage points is remarkable and his appreciation and knowledge of our planet is heartening. However, nothing could be a more fitting testament to his artistry and tenacity as an explorer, scientist and photographer than this book. At over 450 pages, 500+ images, 130,000 words and 60 maps, it is definitive in its scope, content, and beauty.
The mind has a hard time grasping the enormity of such a project. To merely visit all 59 national parks in one’s lifetime would be an accomplishment to take note of. To spend the time, over multiple visits, to find and photograph so many locations in so many nuances of light, weather and season is remarkable. To do it with such quality, attention to detail and obvious admiration and love for the land is exceptional. The layout of this large format book is gorgeous. It is printed on heavy art paper with great attention to color and image quality. Each chapter begins with an overview of the particular park, followed by several stunning page-filling images, completely unfettered by text. At the end of each park’s chapter is additional information about the park as well as details for each image, a map, seasonal tips, locations, and suggestions for photography.
Tuan’s photography showcased in this format combined with the historical and ecological information, maps, visitor suggestions and photography tips truly make this an art book and a guidebook in one. But who is going to lug a seven-pound book along with them on their explorations of the parks? In order to make Treasured Lands “more useful than a coffee-table book, and more inspiring than a guidebook”, he has also created a companion e-book that is formatted specifically for mobile devices. This makes it possible to bring the guide aspect of the book along with you in your pocket. For a nominal price, book owners can access the e-book from a link found on page 13. If you only want the e-book version you can purchase it separately on the Treasured Lands website.
A sign of the times, purchasing large art books isn’t as common these days as it once was. But if there ever was an art book to have as your own or give to someone else, this would be the one. It is an important book on many levels; as a tribute to our national parks, as a tribute to a 20-year project of passion, as a monumental body of artwork, as inspiration to enjoy, admire and take care of our public lands, as a photography resource and a travel guide and perhaps most importantly as a reminder of what a treasure our National Parks are and how important it is that we fight to keep them safe.
You can find the book Treasured Lands at treasuredlandsbook.com.
QT Luong is a full-time photographer from California, known for being the first to photograph all 59 US National Parks – in large format. Ken Burns featured him in “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009). His photographs, published in dozens of countries around the world, have been the subject several magazine profiles, solo gallery and museum exhibits. You can see more of his work at www.terragalleria.com.
Sean Bagshaw is a full-time photographer and photography educator. You can see more of his images and find out about his video tutorial courses and upcoming workshops, tours and classes on his website at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com.
“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” –Soren Kierkegaard
Guy Tal is not most men; his photography is deliberate and so is his writing. In his new book More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life (2015 Rocky Nook Inc.), Tal conveys his thoughts of being an artist through a series of essays. If you’re familiar with his blog you’ll find Tal’s signature style of writing here; if you’re not familiar then get ready for your creative mind to expand. Tal is a deep thinker, intellectual, artist, and critic with the logic of a lawyer. Citing influences such as Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White, (perhaps he is photography’s new Minor White or art’s new John Ruskin) with some of his “artist as critic” themes. More Than a Rock isn’t a “how-to” book on photography with a list of tips and tricks – far from it. This is a book on photography learned through reading, thinking, creating, or osmosis.
His essays are broken into four parts: Art, Craft, Experiences, and Meditations–with the section on Art being the most interesting and well thought out. In his essay “Contemporary Oligarchy,” Tal sometimes takes on the Sisyphean task of dragging one-by-one (not pushing) those in the “landscape photography is not art” camp into the “landscape photography is art camp.” He writes that art’s elite is “placing too much power in the hands of the few, and so I believe the time is nigh for another (peaceful, intellectual, and creative) revolution.” I’m not sure what that revolution might entail, but it did inspire me to pick up Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word and give that scathing satire of art a read.
Along the way, Tal refers to familiar master writers of the desert southwest such as Wallace Stegner, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Wesley Powell, Edward Abbey, and Charles Bowden. Tal lives in Utah’s Colorado Plateau, and like writers Wendell Berry or Rick Bass, his writing provides the reader with a lay of the land, a sense of place-home. He alludes to and quotes from some of the deep thinkers of the last two-centuries too, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Thomas Merton. Not something you encounter in most books about photography out there today. He’s also not a fan of the derivative, the trophy hunters, or those out to “get the shot.” In his essay “Finding the Needle,” Tal believes that next level of self-expression is much more complex than that. And whether you agree with him or not, you’ll admire his conviction.
During the reading of this well-written and beautifully photographed book, I thought more deliberately about what my photography, art, life, and purpose in this world means. I also thought more about my sense of place living in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, in that transitional land between the Pacific’s wetter clime and that of the high desert of the Great Basin. My photography takes me to a lot of different places, but I’m looking anew at that region I call “home.”
Book Review of Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher
by David Cobb
In early American photographic history there were a handful of giants, including Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, William Henry Jackson, and Edward Curtis. To improve and learn more about one’s own photography, I believe it’s important to learn about photographers who came before. So when I picked up a new book about Edward Curtis (1869-1962) I was eager to learn what it had to say.
Curtis’ life was a Horatio Alger story in a way, with more of a rags-to-riches-to- rags twist. He hobnobbed with the Seattle elite as a photographer of the rich and famous, he photographed the family of President Teddy Roosevelt, bargained with America’s richest man J.P. Morgan, and met and photographed the famous Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. But for his life-long work (a 20-volume set depicting the North American Indian) he was never paid a dime.
In Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, author Timothy Egan delivers an insightful biography of this great American photographer. The book covers Curtis’ early childhood on the plains of Minnesota, his years of back-breaking work along Seattle’s harbors, his time as Seattle’s famous society photographer, and his interest and obsession with photographing the vanishing American Indian. It was this latter project that brought him his fame, and also his financial woes.
The direction of his photographic career took shape on a climb up Washington’s Mount Rainier. While photographing glacial ice, Curtis befriended a group of men descending the mountain who were some of the leading scientists of the time. They were so impressed with Curtis’ knowledge and confidence they invited him to be expedition photographer on a trip to Alaska. Not only did Curtis earn the respect of his peers on this expedition he also made important contacts that would further his quest to photograph the endangered Native American. From there his career took shape and his legacy changed.
Curtis himself had little formal education, so support was hard to come by and his projects were met with skepticism, especially from institutions such as the Smithsonian. But Curtis’ knowledge of the lives and plight of the American Indian was vast. The real so-called experts of the time seldom strayed from their ivory towers; comparatively Curtis lived constantly in the field gathering hands-on knowledge. In one odd meeting in the book, a leading “expert” on Native Americans asked Curtis what it was like to meet a real Indian.
Today his 20-volume set is valued by collectors, with a collection recently selling for 1.4 million dollars. Curtis’ images continue to fetch high prices in galleries as well. Native Americans also value his photographs as a way to reconnect with their heritage, and his sound recordings are sometimes used as an aid in relearning their languages.
In this beautifully written and well-researched biography, Egan covers not only Curtis the photographer but also Curtis the human being—faults and all. He delves into the photographer’s friendships, financial woes, marital difficulties, and blame of the U.S. Government and Christian missionaries for the treatment of Native Americans. Using letters and diaries, Egan explores Curtis’ friendships with longtime friend Ed Meany (who always supported Curtis through thick and thin) and Alexander Upshaw (his Native American interpreter and right-hand man). Egan tracks Curtis’ upheavals in life through letters exchanged by Curtis and Meany, and details his frustrations with racism through his recorded observations of Upshaw’s difficulties as an educated Indian in a white man’s world.
Author Timothy Egan (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award) portrays the life and work of Edward Curtis with insight and compassion. As a photographer, I found Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher not only fascinating, but also a page-turner. This book on Edward Curtis is for anyone with an interest in photography, and also with an interest in great people of American history. If you’re a photographer it’s important to study what’s come before, and Egan’s Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher comes highly recommended.
David Cobb Interview on the “Back Page”
By David Cobb
Last March I sat down with Jody Seay for an interview on “The Back Page,” to talk about my images in the book “Quiet Beauty: Japanese Gardens of North America.” Her show is distributed to various PBS affiliates around the nation, and the following video is the result.