Photogeeks the world ’round were riveted by the big story in this Sunday’s New York Times on Robert Capa’s recovered “Mexican Suitecase” archive. Might the lost negative of “The Falling Soldier” finally be found? Could it reveal this iconic image as staged? Or, perhaps we’ll learn that this most famous example of Capa’s photojournalism was taken not by Capa but by his partner Gerda Taro.
But that wasn’t the only shocking photo-related revelation in this weekend’s papers! This just in … someone out there still counts “The Family of Man” among their favorite photobooks!
Jennifer Beals (former “Flashdance” star and currently casted as an art department head on Showtime’s “The L Word”) listed five photobooks she admires for the Wall Street Journal’s fluffy “Weekend Journal” section. First on the list was the exhibition catalog for the 1955 Steichen curated MoMA show. I was surprised; I’ve seen so many abandoned copies of this book that I was beginning to think no one actually possessed one, that were they were all either in libraries or on Salvation Army shelves. Full of dated, “othering” photographs of the world’s many cultures, it’s an awkward historical document and kind of a surprise to see at the top of anyone’s favorite list.
The rest of the list is also … interesting. I’ll give her points for for choosing Szarkowski’s “Looking at Photographs,” but c’mon. Szarkowski’s effort is a key document and a great teaching text, but seems out of place in a “favorites” list. There are scads of beautifully printed and designed volumes out there filled with amazing photography; no need to lean on these popular syllabus fillers. Beals sites a few monographs in the rest of her list; check it out and weigh in with your own list. I realize the consequences of unsolicited critique; thus I’ll be working on mine.