Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography - Errol Morris

What do you see when you look at a photograph? In his fascinating study of the act of looking, the filmmaker and writer Errol Morris considers a half-dozen images and questions the prevailing view “that photographs provide a magic path to the truth.” Rather, Morris treats each picture as a “mystery,” and shows that a large part of what we get out of one depends on the assumptions—about subject, context, photographer’s intention—we bring to it, that in fact Believing is Seeing (Penguin Press, $40). Morris is an intrepid detective, even traveling to the Crimea to see the site of an 1855 war photo by James Fenton. He similarly investigates the identity of the hooded man in an Abu Ghraib image, talks to a photographer who covered the 2006 Israeli attacks on Lebanon, tracks down the descendents of a dead Civil War soldier identified only by the ambertype of three children he had in his pocket. The book becomes a collection of evidence, including maps, diagrams, doctored images, along with letters and interviews. Ultimately, Morris’s questions overshadow any answers. Oh, and the truth? In photos that’s “an elusive notion. There may not be any such thing.”

Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography By Errol Morris Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143124252
Availability: Backordered
Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2014

The New York Times Magazine Photographs - Kathy Ryan

One of the pictures in The New York Times Magazine Photographs (Aperture, $75) is a shot by Reza that shows two women in a refugee camp studying pictures on makeshift stands as they try to identify the children they are looking for. This is only one example of the powerful, poignant images included in this vast collection. Compiled by Kathy Ryan, the Magazine’s photography director, this album represents work by all the great photographers, including Friedlander, Close, Leibovitz, LaChappelle, Sidbe and many others. What makes this volume unique, however, are the commentaries adjoining the images, offering the photographers’ thoughts on their work. One of my favorite pictures is a portrait of Orson Welles, about which Michael O’Neill writes that Welles “loved my camera—I was using a gigantic Deardorff—and he decided that he had to direct me and tell me where to put the light.”  Photographs is an amazing collection.

The New York Times Magazine Photographs By Kathy Ryan (Editor), Gerald Marzorati (Preface by) Cover Image
By Kathy Ryan (Editor), Gerald Marzorati (Preface by)
ISBN: 9781597111461
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Aperture - September 30th, 2011

Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images - Graydon Carter, David Friend

Spanning the worlds of art, music, sports, cinema, business, and politics, Vanity Fair: The Portraits (Abrams, $65), is an elegant new volume from Grayson Carter and the editors of Vanity Fair.  The photographers here are the finest: Annie Leibovitz, Edward Steichen, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cecil Beaton, and together the 300 images reproduced showcase the best from the last 95 years of Vanity Fair. This gallery of portraits represents a rich cultural history, one in which it is hard to say whether Vanity Fair was creating the famous, or whether the culture of fame was creating Vanity Fair.  For bibliophiles there are stunning images of such literary lions as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, and Toni Morrison.