This month two of the most influential American photo books of all time are being reissued. Robert Frank’s The Americans, first published in France in 1958, is one of the great turning points in the history of the medium.
Robert Adams’ The New West, which first appeared in 1974, was a new kind of landscape photography, a very dry-eyed appraisal of what urban sprawl was doing to the dwindling American West. (And by extension, to just about everywhere else.) Though almost all of the pictures are taken in very sunny places, it’s just as dark in its way as Frank’s book.
I wrote about both of them this week in the new issue of Time.
And since we’re on the subject of photography, later this week I’ll be adding two favorite photo blogs to the roll.
“Plain Sight: A Jersey Photo Blog” is a funny, idiosyncratic blog by Eric Levin, a magazine editor at New Jersey Monthly, where his blog is located (scroll down to find it). Levin is a photographer in the tradition of Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore or William Eggleston, with sometimes a hint of that otherworldly quality you sense in Frederick Sommer, the tradition that’s constantly alert to the strange magic of the most unassuming little corners of the world.
Eric Etheridge is a photographer whose blog is a running commentary on topics in photography (or whatever else is going on in his life). He has an excellent new book, Breach of Peace, which consists in part of mug shots of Mississippi Freedom Riders, young civil rights activists who were arrested all around the state in the summer of 1961. Etheridge tracked down the same people today to interview and photograph them again. (They look great. But hey, these people even took good mug shots.) Beautiful and inspiring.
As a further public service, Etheridge has tracked down the full texts of a couple of indispensable Todd Papageorge essays on photography — one of them about Frank’s The Americans — and posted download links on his site.