No flash in the pan

Amanda Lake focuses on the latest photography book on the market which passes over the technical intricacies in favour of an emotional approach

The Photography Book hits the shelves this week. But don’t fret if the title conjures up images of how to adjust shutter speeds, set up tripods or get rid of red eye. It’s not that kind of photography book. Edited by Ian Jeffrey, it is a follow on from Phaidon’s successful The Art Book.

What you should expect is to be confronted with a range of emotions from pure fascination through amazement to joy and sadness. The Photography Book brings together 500 images of historic moments, people, landscapes, wildlife and events.

The images are from a selection of photographers unknown and famous. Each artist is given a whole page, on which an example of their work and a description of it is provided. The format is taken from the books’ predecessor, The Art Book, making this basically an A-Z of photographers.

The layout gets the thumbs up, although the point size is a tad too small. It could do with being larger, but then the images would have to be downsized and that would be a shame. The book jacket was designed by Alan Fletcher.

The cross referencing system gets a thumb up as well. Under the description of each image is a list of photographers who work either with a similar approach or use different means to capture the same subject. It is an easy system to use and provides interesting direction for further study.

The Photography Book doesn’t skim over the glossaries either. There are two, the first an easy-read list of terms, which also encompasses the history of the technique and how it developed; and the second focusing on photographic movements, groups and genres. A nice finishing touch to the publication is a directory of museums and galleries which hold photographic exhibitions. The list covers the UK, Europe, America and Australia.

But, of course, what actually makes the book are the images. Most are poignant and others are a pure pleasure to see. The range extends from Tears by Man Ray, to the only colour photo of the first atomic bomb and landscapes by Josef Sudek.

But how were they chosen? “Ian Jeffrey wrote the text for the book and had a hand in selecting the images, but it was a very collaborative piece… between the in-house team and several experts,” says a spokeswoman for Phaidon Press.

“The image chosen for each photographer is a representative piece of work. In some cases it is their most famous shot and in others it is the style which they work in. It should give a good idea of what the photographers are about,” she adds.

By the time you have read the book, you may want to know more about those f-stops after all.

The Photography Book, by Phaidon Press is published on 2 October and priced 25

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