“Whoa, what’s THAT book?” by Kent Sargent

“Whoa, what’s THAT book?” by Kent Sargent

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I was a bit taken aback…it looked like a 3rd grade “reader”, straight out of the 1950’s! The cover of the small  6×9 book was illustrated, not with a photograph, but with a color drawing.

Looking more closely, it was in fact a ‘reader’, for children ages 3-4, titled Margaret Bourke-White.  It’s written by Catherine A. Welch, illustrated by Jennifer Hagerman and published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing, an educational children’s book publisher.

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What was odd was that it’s a book about a photographer, and it’s illustrated throughout with color drawings, and not photographs!  Why, and why do we have it?

The latter first… many times authors will use the ICP library while researching their subject and in turn send us a copy of their publication.  If it fits within our collection development policy, then we’ll keep it.  In addition, the library is interested in the history of the pedagogy of photography, retaining ‘how-to’ books, manuals and biographies for a wide range of readers.

To ‘ why is a biography of a photographer illustrated with 4-color drawings and not photographs’  is more curious. You’d think that a photograph would be more engaging to a child’s imagination; say, Bourke-White teetering on the edge  of a gargoyle, 800 feet up on the Chrysler building and wielding a view camera.

Yes, but it all depends on age.

At ages 3-4 children are beginning to learn to read, but most likely they are being read to as opposed to reading on their own. They’re hearing words pronounced, they’re seeing them in written text; they’re associating the aural with the written word.  They’re learning the meaning of those words and creating their own interpretations of them.

More specifically to the strength of drawn over photographic illustration, they relate more strongly to the drawn because it’s exactly those kinds of images that they are learning to create and give meaning to.  They’re learning to draw, to make lines, shapes and add colors to create images and stories that help them understand and interpret the world around them.  [1]

Pictures, any illustration, are included in a text to reinforce the ideas being expressed.  They bring additional detail that supports, defines and develops text, characters and plot.  Illustrations provide alternative as well as additional points of view. They reinforce each other enhancing the meaning of each. [2]

In those early years, Illustrations serve as aids to education, aids for “reading to learn”, which includes perception, understanding, memory, creativity and interpretation.  They help stretch the child’s, indeed anyone’s,

Imagination for that matter. [3]

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There’s no written word to accompany the images, one literal, one figurative, but none are needed to let the imagination enjoy the interplay  between them.

The use of illustration over, or in addition to, photographs has always been with us; to wit:  Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Duane Michals, Gerhart Richter.

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Closer to home, take a look at the Teen Academy book project (Monsters and Madonnas,  January 11, 1916).  Livvy Ferrari’s  book project shown below has incorporated drawings of nature to work in tandem with her hypnotic photographs of light streaming through the leaves and branches of the trees she’s photographed.

[1]   Russel N. Carney and Joel R. Levin, “Pictorial Illustrations Still Improve

Students’ Learning from Text”, Educational Psycholodgy Review, Vol. 14,

No. 1, March 2002 (©2002)

[2]   “Learning to Write and Draw”,  Zero to Three: National Center for Infants,

Toddlers and Families, © 2014, http://www.zerotothree.org/reprints

[3]   “Helping Your Child Learn to Read” (© 1999 American Adademy of

Pediatrics), http://www.healthychildren.org

 

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Response to Zanele Muholi’s Only Half the Picture

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This blog post is written in honor of Zanele Muholi who won the ICP Infinity award for documentary photography and photojournalism earlier this month. Her book, Only Half the Picture is a photo series about Black lesbians. The book contains intimate photos of different women who are all gay. The images are stylistically very diverse. There’s a mix of color and black and white photographs, and each image is very unique. Muholi explores concepts through her photography that are commonly considered extremely taboo in our society. In almost all of the photos, the subjects are nude and are shown in a very intimate and personal setting. The human form is presented in a very natural and realistic way. The bodies have hair in natural places and Muholi photographed the female body in a way that isn’t commonly shown. Menstruation is a big theme in this book, and many of the images of period blood would be deemed very graphic by our society’s standards. Even though periods are one of the most natural occurrences, people treat the topic as highly inappropriate. Muholi not only explores issues of sexuality and women but she also explores issues of race. Nude lesbian women in media are usually white, highly sexualized, and fit society’s standard of beauty. Muholi’s subjects are Black, natural, and not over sexualized. She shows the hardships of being queer and Black in today’s society through her images.

Each image speaks so much for itself. The various moments captured by Muholi are quiet yet highly intimate. It is obvious that in most of the photographs she has asked her model(s) to pose in a certain way to evoke an even more powerful message. For example, she has a model suck on a used tampon, or she has three women spoon each other on the floor.  The intent of each image can be inferred, but Muholi does a good job of not being overly explicit with what she’s trying to say. Aesthetically, the images are astonishingly beautiful. The lighting in each photo causes the subject matter to appear even more natural. The deep shadows in many of the black and white film photos adds to the seriousness of the concepts Muholi is exploring. Muholi is positioned in very close proximity to most of the women photographed, which gives the whole collection a feeling of deep intimacy. Overall, Muholi has done an immensely good job of exploring issues and concepts that have been largely ignored and untouched through her incredible photography.

Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

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Response to Hokkaido 1971–1976 by Eiji Sakurai

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By: Akari Stimler

 

Hokkaido is an island in Japan, and it is also the island where my mother grew up. Hokkaido is located at the north tip of Japan and is close to Russia. I always thought of Hokkaido as different from the rest of Japan because of its open spaces, farming culture and nature compared to the compact cities and small spaces on the main island (Honshu). Eiji Sakurai captures the mining culture of Hokkaido during the 1970’s with highly contrasted black and white photographs. Sakurai’s work explores each corner of daily life in Hokkaido. The various scenes seem to be moments that would be deemed as mundane or ordinary to the subjects. The children playing in their backyard on swings makes me wonder if my mother, who grew up during the 1970’s in Hokkaido, had a similar experience to the children in the image.

The most powerful images to me are the portraits of the miners. They are printed with many blacks, accentuating the “roughness” of each photograph. The composition of each portrait is fairly traditional; the subject is aware of the camera and is the focal point of the picture. The overall series seems to be a collection of candid images from the lives of the native Hokkaido people. It is as though they live on farms but work in mines, balancing the two. Every photograph looks composed and printed well. Sakurai’s use of contrast and blacks is clearly intentional and fits well with the work.

Japan is not known for its mining, so Sakurai’s work has taught me something about a place that I have called my second home.

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Response to High School by Jona Frank

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By Zoë Gleitsman

Jona Frank’s book High School is a very thorough collection of beautiful color film photographs which encompasses all different sides of the classic suburban teenager. The typical American high school is usually thought of in terms of social group and standing: the geeks, the athletes, the freaks, the cheerleaders etc. Frank effectively shows members of every group one could possibly think of that is typically used to divide and classify kids of that age. The interesting thing about the way Frank shot these portraits, however, was how she managed to show the innate similarities among every kid in this age group, no matter their group or social standing. Each subject is shot in the same exact way. Frank uses a traditional portraiture approach, capturing each subject within a vertical frame, centering the subject, and making sure to include their whole body down to their knees. This is how almost every student is photographed, although some images include the subject’s feet. Because all the kids photographed are viewed from the same angle and from approximately the same distance, it is easier for the viewer to identify the very specific similarities among all the teenagers photographed.

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Each subject has an obvious individual idea of how they want to be viewed by the world. In my experience of being a teenager, almost all kids my age like wearing their personalities. One clear example of this is shown by the photograph of the young girl wearing a shirt saying “BOYS ARE GREAT: EVERY GIRL SHOULD OWN ONE.” Because this is a very unique slogan for a t-shirt, it would make sense that every other aspect of the girl’s appearance is in someway unique and different, down to the pentagram necklace and the moon on her cheek. Even though every aspect of this look is very individual and different, the girl still seems to be seeking to fit into a certain mold. This want, or almost need, to fit in and be a part of a certain group is shown by every student Frank photographed. It’s very powerful that she managed to show this similarity through photographing kids whose appearances vary drastically.

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This type of teenager and high school environment is familiar to almost all American teenagers. I was never exposed to the typical suburban high school experience, as I attended high school at a small, alternative, public high school in lower Manhattan. I think this is why this book was so intriguing to me. The kids shown in this book fit into their molds and social groups a lot more than the kids I’m surrounded by. I think this is because suburban high schools tend to contain more of a strict hierarchy with more definite differences between social group. Even so, there’s still that need and want to at the same time fit in and be an individual that’s within every high school age kid.

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All at Once: Artist Books and Zines by the ICP-Bard MFA Class of 2016

ICP Library Window Exhibition

April 1 – May 22, 2016

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A selection of artist books and zines by the ICP-Bard MFA Class of 2016 is on display in conjunction with the group show, All at Once. As diverse as the student body, the resulting books encompass formats from a scroll to a Rolodex to a fine art collage. These books are not simply vehicles to showcase preexisting bodies of work; they are object in their own right. For these artists, bookmaking has become another form of expression that deepens their practice.

 

Cohen, Matthew. Grove Street. 2015

Cohen, Matthew.  Marker. 2015
Cohen, Matthew. Summer Nights, Scanning. 2015
Larrosa, Ivana. Once More 39 Artists. 2015
Lee, Minny. Million Years. 2015
Lee, Minny. Souvenir. 2015
Lee, Minny.  Resonance. 2015
Melendez, Groana. Pasaporte. 2015
Melendez, Groana. All the Places I’ve Lived In. 2015
Monteiro, Bia. Mermaids. 2015
Papa, Matthew. Twentysix Likes on Tumblr. 2015
Papa, Matthew. Only Part of the Picture. 2015
Puche, Verónica. My Backyard. 2015
Puche, Verónica. 21 Friends and Some Strangers. 2015
Puche, Verónica. She Only Kisses Underwater. 2015
Martha Naranjo Sandoval. Untitled, 2015
Martha Naranjo Sandoval. Petén 411. 2015
Martha Naranjo Sandoval. Ecuador. 2016
Sorrentino, Katrina. I Am Thinking of You Always, Even Now. 2015
MFA2016a

 

 

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Response to Observations in an Occupied Wilderness by Terry Falke

by Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

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This book contains a large collection of color film photographs taken in the late 90s-early 2000s of the American South-West. The images portray the stunning colors and unique landscapes that are common in this region of the United States. Terry Falke has had a deep interest in this area for quite some time, and through these photographs, he seeked to portray a relationship between humans and their environment. Specifically, he focused on the desolate desert landscapes of the American South-West. Although none of the images have human subjects, the various structures and composition give each image a human presence.

The collection of photographs in this book are an interesting mix of pure nature scenes and man-made structures intertwined with nature. Many of the photographs are stunning shots of the orange, yellow, and red mountains and desert-scapes that are unique to this region of the U.S. Falke also included many images of scenes that include humans and artificial structures. It’s interesting to see how these structures are placed in this very natural environment. One of the photos that we found to be a good example of Falke’s clever composition is on page 10. This is an image of a plain in New Mexico with a religious advertisement placed next to an adult video store. This photograph seems to directly represent Falke’s intention for this book. The name of the book and the photos in the book are juxtapositions of man and nature, just like the Jesus ad and adult video store are. This truly sheds light on the interesting and very contrasting habits and characteristics of the people who live in this region.

Because we’re both New Yorkers born and raised, the type of setting that is shown in this book is very unfamiliar and fascinating to us both. Even though a large portion of the U.S. looks fairly similar to the environments shown in these images, we are stuck in a nearly 100% man-made bubble. We find these scenes to be beautiful yet lonely and stuck in time. Our city is constantly being updated and modernized, so looking at places that appear very untouched and may seem mundane and normal to a lot of people, is actually very visually interesting to us.

Falke did in an incredible job of photographing this stunning and unique region of the world. He also was able to very comprehensively tell a story and convey his message through these beautiful color photographs.

Akari Stimler and Zoë Gleitsman are Spring 2016 interns at the ICP Library as well as ICP Teen Academy students.

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Black Power/Flower Power

by Zoë Gleitsman & Akari Stimler

Black Power/Flower Power by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch  contains photographs of both people involved and associated with the Black Panther Party and people connected to the Flower Power movement. Both groups’ ideologies contained similar ideas, skewing from the norm and talking about radical notions at the time such as equal rights and more personal freedom. The photographs document the movements on a larger scale, while also giving the viewer a look into what life was like for the individual involved in these movements.

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The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which was started by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, was an organization that has been largely deemed criminal and violent by the majority of American society. This is not to say that the Party didn’t perform criminal acts, because they did, and a lot of their strategies were focused on violence, but these two aspects of the group should not solely define them. What is not often shown to the public is how much people involved with the group cared about what they were fighting for. What is also not usually shown is how much the Panthers and supporters of the Panthers cared about each other. The striking and beautiful black and white photographs taken by both Jones and Baruch do an incredible job of showing the softer side of a group with a very hard and tough exterior.

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We think the main reason why the photographs are so successful in displaying a very clear message is because both artists were very clear while outlining their original intent before starting the project. To us, the first photograph shown in the book of the Panthers is an interesting and very intentional choice. The photo gives a very typical view of the Panthers. There are four members pictured, and their signature black berets, sunglasses, and leather jackets are shown. Their posture is stiff, and their faces show barely any emotion. When that first page is flipped, an image is shown that gives a completely contrasting view on members of the Party. It is a close-cropped, horizontal image of a young man and woman turned towards each other smiling. The man is wearing a “Free Huey” pin, which was a popular slogan among the Party members when one of their founders, Huey Newton, was imprisoned. The photograph is candid; the subjects appear completely natural and relaxed. The successive photographs delve into what being in the Party meant, both in a larger sense and in relation to the individual. One photograph that I think perfectly encapsulates what the photographers achieved through this body of work is shown on page 50. It appears to be taken at a Panther rally and the subject of the image is a male Panther member with a baby in his lap. The man is looking down at the baby with a concerned look on his face and a plate of food in his hand. What is interesting about this series is that the photographs illustrate a well-rounded view of the Panthers. All sides of the Panthers are shown; the kids, the women, the men and the surroundings are presenting in this series. The photographers are clearly trying to present the Black Panther Party in many ways, and the series ends with the 10-point Program written out. The 10-point Program was written by the main members of the Party and were the basic desires the Party wanted to fight for and accomplish. We thought this was a clever ending that would help verbally illustrate what the Party meant.

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This book as a whole is very contrasting because the next section of the book is a series on “Flower Power”, or the “Hippie Movement”, which was occurring around the same time period as the Black Panther Party. The Hippie Movement lasted throughout the 1960s’ and 1970s’. It was centered around protesting the Vietnam War and Civil Rights. It received the name “Flower Power” because individuals in the movement used flowers to respond to violence instead of violence itself. In our opinion the Flower Power series is laid out similarly to the Panther series because both series’ have overview shots, detail shots and portraits. The main difference with the structure is that the Flower Power series has almost no children in it and instead has many animals in it. The majority of the subjects in this series seem to be young white adults and are portrayed as carefree. There are many photos that cover topics like love, recklessness and freedom. The people involved in the Hippie movement were mainly fighting against the Vietnam War through resisting the draft and protesting. There are photographs that illustrate these moments, for example on page 81, there is a candid shot of a truck driving by with people on it who have signs that show their resistance to the war. Most of the photographs though, unlike the Panther series, have to do with the daily life of the people involved in this movement. The Panther series had a lot more photos on protests and fighting, while the Flower Power series is mainly portraits and daily life moments of different individuals. One of my favorite photographs is on page 69. This photograph is of a young man and a young woman kissing on a motorcycle. This image is blown up to cover two pages, so it is larger than the rest. The composition is perfect because it focuses solely on the two individuals, creating an “in the moment” feeling. Another beautiful image is on page 58. It is the first image of the series, and shows a young woman in a white dress, barefoot, looking away from the camera and eating ice cream. This photograph is an interesting way to begin this series. This starting image allows the viewer to understand that the book is about to enter a completely different world. The beginning of the Panther series very intense while this image speaks relaxed and free.

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The Hippie movement did encounter violence and was involved in many protests, but this book mainly focuses on the individuals in moments of quietness. I wonder if this was intentional. The contrast between the Panther photos and the Flower Power photos is very apparent. The Panther photo series seems to show more sides to the Party while with the Flower Power series, not many sides are shown. I wonder if the photographers understood the under representation of the Black Panthers and intentionally chose to include more images about them instead of focusing on different aspect of the Hippie Movement. Also, the Black Panther movement was a movement for African Americans, while the Flower Power movement was predominantly White. Both movements occured during the same time period, yet the stories that the photographs tell are so different.

by Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler (ICP Teen Academy students and ICP Library Interns)

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