The Online Photographer - Photography Book of the Year
Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer is, in many ways, the photographic equivalent of LGF: a small self selected community dedicated to the art and practice of still photography. It’s a beautiful little place on the web.
Today Mike posted about a book that deserves wider notice. Let me step aside and let him speak for himself:
I’ve had trouble writing this post—I’m not primarily a critic but rather a teacher at heart—so I guess I’m going to square up to it and say what I want to right up front: I think this book is Judy Dater’s masterpiece, and I also think it solidifies her position among the major American photographers of the second half of the 20th century.
That’s not entirely why I love it. It moves me. It moves me in many ways: at the basic level, I get a thrill from the wonderful black-and-white reproductions. I love the fact that it’s about humans without being about humanity: it shows individuals, even when it’s just a back or a pair of hands, never descending to the generic or the symbolic…and especially not to the objectified. The pictures are as gorgeous as fashion photography but they are the opposite of fashion photography; Dater is a respecter of souls. I love it that almost every photograph is individual, too…how does she do that? Every picture is fresh, as if newly seen, unlike all the others (mostly; there are a few classic portrait-style portraits, but that comes off as artistically purposeful in context). I love it that there’s modulation to the arrangement of pictures on the pages, sometimes one to a spread, sometimes two, some large, some small, no rules. Even one (just one) that spans the gutter, a common no-no, but in context it’s like Judy’s saying I’ll do that too, it’ll be all right. I like the book’s design.
The rest of the article is at: theonlinephotographer.typepad.com
Judy’s most famous work - her “Free Bird” if you will - is the gently humorous but NSFW (alas) image Imogen and Twinka at Yosemite of Imogen Cunningham, Twinka Thiebaud and a Yosemite tree. Google it if you don’t know it. But her work is so much more than that image - 52 years of work starting as as 23 year old student taking a photography class while living on Haight Street in San Francisco. That class left her wondering if this art was for her or not when one photo lept out at her:
one which, for her, had the magic. In a brief sentence, Judy writes, “At that moment, my path in photography became clear to me.”
It’s called “Anna” and here it is:
In the end, this is the only photography book that I have learned of that I will say I feel I need to have. I look forward to when I can get a copy but in the meantime I have my other favorite community at The Online Photographer to keep me company in my favorite art.
The Online Photographer by Mike Johnston updates Monday through Friday, most of the time, at theonlinephotographer.typepad.com