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Bob's Big Book List
This Is A Short Reading List: It Will Be Expanded Monthly!

The following books are of interest if you’re into photography beyond the superficial “happy snaps” which are often the lifeblood of many of those who are adrift with the load of a camera around their neck! All the descriptions presented here will grow longer as we think we have something to add of value. I hope you know the worth of that investment in time!

Photography is in a state of crisis - which is being felt and acted on by many groups in the US in fashions somewhat like eating one’s own young: That is a sure way to move further into the backwaters of photography and then drowned. Before any group can pull itself out of a decline there’s a requirement for the management of that group to have a good and clear understanding of the photographic arts community beyond the shallow plain they live on: There is a need to know the general and specific fundamentals of what art is and the effects of those from the past, both the near and distant, on the art we call photography.

The shadows are extensive.

If one was to be limited to a dozen or so books and wanted to understand and improve their shooting then these volumes need to be taken to an easy to! 

You note there are no “how to” or “save it with a slider” books on this list.

The Moral Obligation To Be Intelligent: Selected Essays
                 By Lionel Trilling; Columbia University.

There is something far greater and more valuable than having a fine camera with a lot of mega pixels and some long thick glass in front of them – and this book will show you some of the endless possibilities one has if using the major computer behind the ‘film’ plain! This book is not easy for good reason.

Trace and Transformation: American Criticism of Photography in the Modernist Period
By Joel Eisinger: University of Minnesota, Morris. Univ. of New Mexico Press.

This book seems to be a basis for much of which is written by so many critics on photography as seen in the art world. This is a good read for everyone who wonders why there is so much mediocrity in the photographic community these days. One might need a backgrounding in the world of the arts and its language to put it together, but once you do that then it is worth the time, if not the use of the OED.  

The Eternal Moment: Essays on the photographic Image
By Estelle Jussim, Aperture Books

This book is one which deserves to be read over, and then kept handy on any shooters book shelve. This is time well spent if you’re a photographer. Don’t pass on this one!

The Art Instinct; Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution.
By Denis Dutton: Bloombury Press, Univ. of Canterbury, New Zealand.

  Denis Dutton is able to outline and explain the aesthetics of so much of the environments our minds use to evaluate what we see and feel! Not for the summer reading list of most photographers, but for those who want an understanding of that which drives the feelings those of us with a camera wish to prick into the forefront of viewers lives then this is for you, and a basic understanding of Kant will help.

Believing Is Seeing: Observations On The Mysteries 
Of Photography
Errol Morris: The Penguin Press.

Morris is a film maker of great talent who looks at imagery in a valuable and fascinating way which needs to be considered in today’s still photographic community – as the movements into ‘street photography’ grows more popular under the tinny authority of the handlers and profiteers of Vivian Meier effect (one of interesting curiosity but little insightful or significant quality) now carpeting much of the photographic sensibilities of many out on the streets shooting. One of the clear areas Morris brings forward is the split identity of images due to their ability to be both truthful and not so truthful at the same time. Mr. Morris touches on the propaganda we see every minute of our lives and presents questions which need consideration. Not at all easy or very fast – but after you take the time to see the images included with the insights you’ll always wonder what any photographer is trying to do when he shows his metaphors to you… This book is a keeper. 

After Photography
By Fred Ritchin; New York University, and the New York Times.

There will be much more to come here about this very interesting book!

Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha
By Brouws, Burton, and Zschiegner. The MIT Press.

Invest the money for this if you really are thinking about doing a book of your own, or want to smile now and then about other people small books – especially Ed’s many books!!!

​On Photography
By Susan Sontag

Anyone who’s on this site and has not yet taken the time to read this little gray book (although it’s now dated a bit) needs to be forced to drink cheap scotch and eat dry bread until they do! Sontag invites you to think about ethics, mores, reality and life. Not a fast or lite read but it is worth the time. Although it is from the film era of photography there are many gems among the words. (More to come on this book)  

Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against The American Grain
By Dwight Macdonald: New York Review of Book, NY.

Many pages in this volume might have been written with the photographers of PSA in mind! Macdonald points out repeatedly that much of what we’re told about whether an image is good or great for us in today’s world is just not only not good information, but not good for us as photographers, or for photography overall. Nonetheless - this book is a fun read when taken beyond the arena of photography “alone” and well worth thinking about if you’re interested in life around you, wherever that is.

Conversations with Wright Morris: Critical Views and Responses
Edited by Robert Knoll: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

Of Wright Morris’s 25+ books done over 3 decades this may be the most valuable for the photographers who admire his books of photographs taken/made on the plains of America. I first met Wright in Hastings, Nebraska in the early 70’s and quickly came to the realization that when he was talking about writing he was also inflecting on his personal photographic adventures and values. If nothing else is taken from these discussions it’s the value of humility and understanding which he gained on the plains of the mid-west. A worthy read about a fine shooter of the 30’s thru the 60’s: Wright was a gracious man with an honest and a no bullshit outlook. This book is to photography what oranges are to marmalade! One should consider his other books also:  

Some of my favorite quotes through the years...
I Wish You Good Reading
Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images
Terry Barrett, Mayfield Publishing.

This is a fine text book for those who have, or want to, move beyond what you would normally hear and see at most camera clubs and meet-ups these days!

The Criticism Of Photography As Art: The Photographs of Jerry Uelsmann
John L. Ward: University of Florida Humanities, FL

(Much more to come on this book)  

The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Aperture Books.

(More to come on this book)  

Dialogue with Photography
Paul Hill & Thomas Cooper

(Much more to come on this book)

Check back now and then… There are over 25 more books which will be commented on, including the works of Danto, Brand, Beloff, Hughes, Malcolm, Adams, Weston, Moeller, McKnight, Ellison, Ruskin, Llosa, Winogrand, Maier, Brand and Borges! And a dozen more thinkers…
Some thoughts on the current PSA medals!

Some years ago the Board of Directors made a change to the medal PSA offered to the approved exhibitions and the resulting 3 inch award is lacking in a number of ways. The overall design is reasonable for a number of uses, as is needed, within the Society – but the problems are, in using it for the exhibitions is that it’s missing the statement “Best of Show” on the face, it’s heavy and not very ‘striking’ (to put it kindly) in its appearance when considering it is coming from an arts group and in comparison to some other organizations – especially FIAP!

Size and weight has nothing to do with esthetic values or quality!

As I use a great number of medals from manufacturers via my connections to the Circuits of Georgia I understand that adding the wording “Best of Show” at the bottom of the current medal would cost nothing. Zero! This lack of increase in cost to PSA is due to the high volume of use of the medals – perhaps close to or over 1000 medals used per year throughout the divisions of PSA

A good number of those active exhibitors who got the new “Best” medals have commented on this lack of definition as to the level of the award (Best of Show) being on the front of the medal. Going hand in hand with this are comments that the current medal is nowhere as valued by some who were awarded them as the older medal which had the eagle and camera on the front side. That complaint will fade away as so many of the long time exhibitors who received the “nicer” old medals are leaving the competition world of PSA – due to a number of reasons.

This is the time for PSA to offer the older style medal, along with the new larger “beast” to the exhibitions as PSA puts in place the new $100.00 increase to all shows for their application for approval from PSA.  

The increased size and weight of the current medal created an unanticipated event I think: The larger medal is heaver and larger than the past medals and so it appears to be more valuable to postal thieves! Of the number of packages which “never arrived” at the winners there is a trend for the lost packages to contain PSA best of show gold medals – or the similar sized PSA silver and bronze medals. The loss ratio for packages which contain a large heavy and thick medal is almost 2:1 over smaller and lighter packages which have ‘normal’ sized medals in them. Interesting but true.

The large size and weight of the PSA medal creates an increase in postage costs now that the US Postal Service has eliminated the “Small Packet” designations. Oh Well!

September 1, 2015