Photographica World contains many book reviews for new titles, which range from books on single camera marques such as Leica, to sub miniature cameras, photographic history, biographies of pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Niepce, and specialist subjects such as early processes (wet plate and Cyanotypes) and even cameras on the moon (Hasselblad).

Book and publisher details are included for each review, and were correct at the time of publication.

Color Mania
Edited By Barbara Flückiger,
Eva Hielscher and Nadine Wietlisbach
Paperback, 240 pages, 122 illustrations
ISBN 978-3-03778-607-9
Zürich: Lars Müller, 2020

This book was written to accompany the exhibition of the same name held in 2020 at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. The theme for the project is the interactions between the aesthetics of colour in film and photography, and the underlying technologies for producing it.
The book consists of an introduction, three essays which set the scene, thirteen shorter pieces discussing the connections between the ‘ materiality’ of colour in photography and the work of particular artists, and concludes with a short conversation on the difficulties of faithfully digitising analogue colours, plus appendices. All of these are the work of different authors, many of them academics in the early stages of their careers, so inevitably the style is uneven across the book.
The word ‘ materiality’ reappears constantly; in this context it means the physical, chemical and mechanical processes and constituents which create colour in a photographic work. The contention of the authors is that the link between the materiality of the colour process and the work which has been created with it has been insufficiently researched – and that is probably true.
So for example, the mechanism and history of the Technicolor process has often been described in books and articles, and separately the ‘ Technicolor Look’ is well known to film historians and film buffs; but much less has been written about the connection between the two. On the other hand, the collaboration between Polaroid and some highly respected photographers produced interesting work that depended intimately on materiality, and has been documented.

Over the whole period of analogue photographic imaging, with a broad brush we can see that colour was desired from the start, and achieved first by hand- and stencil-colouring, then multi-negative cameras, additive screen processes, and eventually subtractive chromogenic means such as Kodachrome. The use of these overlapped greatly in time, and all were used for both still and moving images. One of the introductory essays summarises this history well.
Topics that caught my eye included
The widespread use of tinting and toning, not just in early movies where the technique was used to set the mood of a B/W scene but continuing into the era of natural (‘ mimetic’ – imitating nature) colours. Similarly in still photography, using the examples of Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole.

It’s well known that the success of the chemical industry in producing artificial dyes had great effects on the technology of photography –
ortho and pan sensitisation of B/W films, and then dyes to produce the colours in prints and transparencies. Of course these dyes were also used in textiles, and the short article on the interaction of photography and the fashion industry brought out the interaction of these two uses of dyes, supporting each other aesthetically and commercially.

The ‘ iron fist’ of the Technicolor company’s control of the filming process in the Hollywood studios using on-site colour directors, and of course controlling the complex cameras and the whole processing cycle.
The ideological control of Agfacolor by the Nazi government in Germany. This being followed post-war by aesthetic as well as business competition between Agfa and Eastman film types.

The physical appearance of the book is worth a few remarks. There is of course full use of colour, which is well reproduced. The typography of the text is plain ugly, and the arrangement of images takes some getting used to.
For most of the chapters there are illustrations with Roman numbers, which are found opposite the reference in the text, and illustrations with Arabic numbers which are full-pages split between the start and the end of the chapter. Where movies are illustrated they are always shown complete to the edges including perforations, which is necessary for the points being made by the authors. Usually two or more frames are shown – some are successive frames of the film, but quite often they are either points at which the film editor made a cut, or the book’s
producers made it seem like that by merging separate frames; it is seldom clear which, and I found that disturbing.

This book attempts an overview of the whole field, using examples from cinema a bit more than from still photography.
No surprise then that it is not comprehensive; nevertheless, there is plenty here that was new to me, justifying the underlying premise that the field is worth exploring.

John Marriage

Guide to the 1980s Disc camera
By Therese M Donnelly
Paperback, 126 pages, illustrations
ISBN 9798685025128
Precinct Press, 2020

Against the trend the Guide to the 1980s disc camera has changed format from digital to hard copy. The original edition by Therese M Donnelly is no longer available, and this new edition was published by Precinct Press in September 2020.

After a brief survey of earlier disc formats, the enormous variety of cameras is introduced.
Donnelly lists 213 distinct models and knows of collectors who have over 300 variants. Kodak introduced four models in 1982: the 2000, 4000, 6000 and 8000. These have a sealed-for-life 9v lithium battery which could be replaced only by Kodak and which was expectedto last around five years.
There is life in the battery of my 4000, for which I paid £4: more than enough you might think.

Perhaps the most surprising technical aspect of the Kodak cameras is that they contained the first mass-produced aspherical lens on any camera.
The discs took 15 pictures of a nominal 8×11 mm (8.2 x 10.6), approximately the same as Minox cameras.
The original Kodaks had a lens with four glass elements of 12.5mm focal length at f2.8 giving an angle of view of 58 degrees (approximately 35mm full frame equivalent).
For some folk the appeal of having a really pocketable camera must have outweighed the disadvantage of the small maximum size of enlargements. Even postcard size was probably too much.

Reviewers never rated the quality of images as any better than acceptable. The first imitator was Haking whose Hong Kong made Halina cameras used an inferior three-element lens and by the mid 1980s Kodak also produced models with cheaper lenses.
Though never as popular as Kodak had hoped, they did sell 25 million cameras between 1982 and 1988 when they were discontinued. The Halina uses removable AA batteries. The most basic cameras were purely mechanical.
A common feature is a lever which
unlocks the film compartment and opens and closes the cassette to light.

The launch film was a specially formulated Kodacolor VR negative film of ISO 200. This was followed in 1983 by a HR (High resolution) version for C41. A similar film was made by Fujifilm and Boots had their own-brand film.  Kodak’s sales peaked at 169 million in 1984 but film was discontinued in 1998.

There is a chapter listing the variety of features which affected the usability and now perhaps the collecting interest of cameras. The following chapter discusses values which range from an estimated £1 to over £100. Some of the rarest cameras carried advertising material. Advanced cameras included the Boots 715 which had a telephoto option. Built in electronic flash is considered to be a desirable feature.

A chapter lists the rarest and most collectible items, and a further chapter discusses accessories including underwater and tele-conversion kits.
There is a section on Miscellaneous Collectibles, including the very rare
Kodak Transparent Disc Cameras as seen at the launch at Photokina in 1982.

It is still usually possible to buy outdated film. Not discussed in the book, but for the brave there is an online template for cutting out film and reloading used cassettes.

Julian Tubbs

My Life as a Camera Collector
By George Schoenmann
A4, 257pp, fully illustrated in colour.
Published 2021 by the author, from whom copies can be obtained.

The author described this to your reviewer as a labour of love, built up over 20 years but completed in the lockdown year of 2020.
The book is in two parts;
Part 1 is ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and has 69 pages of stories of the adventures of a determined camera collector, full of wins and losses, of cameras from the wonderful to the dreadful.
Part 2 is a catalogue of the author’s whole collection, fully illustrated with brief notes on the camera itself and how it got into the display cabinet.

Collectors are often a bit shy about admitting what they paid for their treasures, and one of the great pleasures of this book – both parts – is the author’s willingness to lay out the successes and failures quite impartially.
Some of the ‘Good’ are probably there because they were really ‘good buys’ – bargains – rather than being remarkably good cameras themselves, though there is a healthy slice of that too. Same with the bad, the author is quite open to admitting where he paid too much, or sold the wrong thing on eBay and had to pacify his customer.
It’s quite bold, too, to have named some of his suppliers of bargains, who may, when they read this, regret the odd ‘business decision’. Who knows?

The parts on Good and Bad refer mostly to the collecting experience rather than the desirability of the camera itself. This of course makes for a whole series of anecdotes, each of which could be a mini-talk in its own right. And actually some have been, in Zoom meetings of the Club during the recent pandemic. We have all had equivalent experiences, and stories to tell; reading this part is like sitting in the bar at one of our annual gatherings and chewing over the highlights and lowlights of the year. We can envy the author his unlikely successes, and commiserate (never laugh, I hope) over the kind of pitfalls encountered and survived, sometimes with a loss of some cash or amour-propre.

When it comes to what’s ‘Ugly’, though, I don’t think all readers would agree with some of the judgments. This section is more about the cameras themselves. For instance, the author thinks that the Univex Mercury is a design monstrosity – I call it charming, attractive and as well as being very well-made (much better than most Univex products) it is a classic example of form following function, with the arched top accommodating the rotary shutter.

Interestingly, you will find that despite his dislike of its appearance he had to work quite hard to get a working example for the collection! If that’s one I don’t agree with, I should say that there are others that I do – Kodak 35, Argus Brick, as two solid examples.

Moving on to the catalogue, in a way this is a modern take on parts of McKeown’s magnum opus, though of course aligned to the collecting tastes of one individual. Know, therefore, that you will be particularly interested in this part of the book if your interests include post-war 35mm cameras,
especially Retina/Retinette, Zeiss Ikon, AKA, Olympus and Canon. All these are well represented, especially in the period 1940-1990.
There are others too – Braun, Carena, some Russians, and a variety of things such as we all have and sometimes wonder why.

The catalogue section has a standard format of illustration plus brief description for each item, where it fits in the maker’s range, what it cost and what it might now be worth. This is all potentially useful information, being real-life data most of which is local to the UK and much more up-to-date than McKeown.
The illustrations are clear, and all in colour. Although this collection is not particularly my own period of interest, I think many readers will do what I’ve done and quietly note one or two items to look out for in future.

The book has been self-published; the print is reasonably large, clear and easy to read. There are minor oddities of layout, but they don’t impact the reading experience. It’s well printed and bound, and is a substantial volume. Heartily recommended.

George, you have started a new genre of publishing here which I hope may be copied by many other collectors!

John Marriage

Women War Photographers: From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus
By Anne-Marie Beckmann & Felicity Korn
Hardback, 224 pages, illustrations
ISBN: 9783791358680
Prestel, 2019

From a German Jewish expatriate bolstering her partner’s career, to a surrealist fashion model and a Harvard graduate, Women War Photographers tracks the myriad ways that members of the ‘gentler sex’ have found themselves documenting war from the front lines. In fact, the image of war that often exists in our mind’s eye—influenced by history’s most well-known pictures of male soldiers—is not at all reflexive of the sum total of photographs taken during more than 180 years of conflict. Since the advent of photography in 1839, the gaze of women—and the inclusion of female subjects—has been conspicuously absent from our retrospective view.

Women War Photographers seeks to redress this issue by turning the lens on eight of the most important female photographers of the 20th century.
The book—a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition of 140 photographs first mounted at the Kunstpalast
Dusseldorf—opens with a short introductory essay on the history of war photography written by the show’s curators, Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn. The core text of the book is divided into profiles on each of the photographers, followed by a selection of the photographers’ works.
It convincingly argues that although accreditation has been difficult for women war photographers, ‘our image of war…has essentially been influenced by women, too.’

Each chapter is written by different authors, offering an impressive range of knowledge on this topic. The team of authors maintains a pleasantly consistent narrative voice throughout. Sadly, the narratives are bookended by two photographers—Gerda Taro and Anja Niedringhaus—who each died in combat. Indeed, it is clear that Niedringhaus’ oeuvre—recently donated to the Kunstpalast—was the initial inspiration for the show. The final profile and image selection serve as a tribute to the German photographer (and Pulitzer Prize winner) who was shot and killed in Afghanistan in 2014.

The image selection and reproduction quality found in Women War Photographers is outstanding.
There are a number of recognizably iconic images—including Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub—as well as new works to discover.
This exhibition catalogue also includes images of the publications in which some of the pictures were first shown (in their original tones), and reproduces the headlines in their original languages—all of this to remind the reader of the normally ephemeral nature of news imagery.
The reproduction of original objects brings the reader back to the moment they may have viewed those photographs in the news.

The authors ask, then, why show war photographs in an art museum? Indeed, many of these photographers did not identify as artists or intend for their work to make it to the gallery wall. Still, we read: ‘their subtle visual vocabularies allow the photographs to reveal an even more lasting effect, to the point that have become part of our collective memory.’
Are war photographs art? No. They’re something even more interesting.
The subject matter reminds us that the gaze of these photographers is not female—it’s human. That decisive moment captured on film shows that regardless of the side you fight from, it is the war that always wins.
In fact, though some of the women highlighted in this book—notably Gerda Taro and Lee Miller—used photography to show their support for a particular combatant’s cause, each of the women demonstrates a masterful ability to use the medium to draw awareness to the plight of those affected by war.

It is not the photographers’ gender that grants them such a perspective on the human condition, but it has had its advantages. It is the women photographers who—viewed as unthreatening noncombatants—are able to gain entry into the most intimate spaces ravaged by battle. And in doing so, the authors remind us that women war photographers are able to show their female subjects, in particular, as something other than victims of war.
The photographers have agency, and they portray their subjects in the same light.

Overall, the book—offering both biographies of photographers and a perspective on the validity of 20th century conflict—promises: ‘intimate insights into everyday life during war, evidence of shockingly cruel deeds and references to the absurdity of war and its dire consequences.’ Through the above-mentioned mix of insightful text and powerful imagery, the book most certainly delivers.

Women War Photographers is a welcome addition to the historiography of war photography—a discipline that has seen excellent scholarship in the past decade.
Although in notable books and exhibitions—such as the National Gallery of Canada’s The Great War: The Persuasive Power of Photography, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s First World War, 1914 – 1918 and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath –include photographs of and by women, they don’t focus specifically on women photographers.

However, Women War Photographers is incorrect in its assertion that it is the first book and exhibition of its kind.
In fact, No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War—an exhibition mounted at Bradford UK’s Impressions Gallery and accompanied by a book with the same name—predates Women War Photographers by two years. The show featured female photographers of the First World War next to the works of three contemporary women photographers.
Having said that, Women War Photographers undoubtedly expands our knowledge of the field, while elucidating the fact that there is still ample room to grow.

Carla-Jean Stoke

Naughty Victorians and Edwardians: Early Images of Bathing Beauties
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd (US)
Hardcover, 96 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0764321153
15.88 x 1.27 x 15.88 cm £8.95

Although published back in 2005 this book is still available online, and is one of a series of books from Schiffer that are illustrated from the vast collection of Mary L Martin, of early American postcards.
Don’t be mislead by either the title or the cover image that hints at possible sexual perversities inside – the contents couldn’t be more innocent!

The book has a only a few paragraphs of introduction, and I think it’s a shame that there is no information about the history of the postcard trade, what may or may not have been involved in the creation of the images, or which studios produced the work.
This is a pity as the key difference between these images and seaside ‘walkies’ photography is that the latter were take purely to sell as a souvenir for that individual person (or group) – these images were taken with the intention of producing a postcard, that could then be printed up in quantity and sold to any member of the public, regardless of location.
I find it slightly annoying that instead of showing the genuine postcard, each image has been given a ‘pinked’ edge design – while this (and the sandy background image of each page) gives a uniform look, it removes the originality of the thing itself. I’m sure that any photographic business creating these cards would have put some info on the reverse – even a short list of the most notable businesses would be useful for anyone finding these types of cards at a fair or auction.

The images are fascinating as they are all taken in the studio, and it’s fun to play ‘spot the prop’ throughout the book – with such things as whicker work sun bathing chairs, wheeled modesty carts, fishing nets and so on.
The garish over painting/tinting of the image adds to the overall unreality of the visual – many of them use a seascape background, with waves painted on board as the foreground – with the posed models (mostly female) larking about in between. The sense of fun is undeniable – though whether anyone thought they were taken on location is doubtful!

The selection here runs the gamut from tinted photographic studio poses, to heavily retouched images and also non photographic paintings of seaside situations. I wonder if ‘saucy’ material was ever used in American postcards, or was that strictly a british thing?

In recent years there has been great interest regarding seaside ‘walkies’ photography, and the social aspect of the subject matter based on the clothes worn, the locations used, and to a lesser degree the photographic equipment used over the years.
For anyone with even a vague interest in seaside photographic material this book (and the out of print but readily available ‘Bathing Beauties of the roaring 20s’) will be a worthwhile addition – and for the price of a small handful of period postcards, it’s something of a no brainer.
Get it/them on your Christmas list!

Timothy Campbell

Double Take: Reconstructing the History of Photography
By Jojakim Cortis and
Adrian Sonderegger
Hardback, 128 pages, 88 illustrations.
27.69 x 1.78 x 24.89 cm
Thames & Hudson, 2018. £24.95
ISBN 9780500021224

In 1999 German photographer and academic Andreas Gursky – known for his large, panoramic prints – took a series of photographs of the river Rhine near Düsseldorf. Twelve years later one of these, Rhein II, sold at auction for $4.3m, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. Although this record price was broken three years later (with the $6.5m sale of Phantom by Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik) it generated a huge amount of interest at the time, partly due to the simple composition and abstract nature of Gursky’s image: measuring 190 cm × 360 cm, it is basically three bands of pale grey (sky, water and path) alternating with three bands of green grass – flat and almost two-dimensional in its vision. The image had also been digitally manipulated to remove details that Gursky felt distracted from the austere aesthetic.

The sale provoked the usual discussions about the artifice of the art market, the relative values of conceptual art and draughtsmanship, as well as the relationship between a photographic image and the reality that it claims to represent.
While critics and collectors debated these points in the art journals and press, two Swiss photographers – Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger – took another approach, and set about trying to recreate Gursky’s two dimensional image by constructing a three dimensional model in their studio in Zürich. Intrigued by the results, they began attempting to do the same for other famous photographs, being drawn especially to those that captured moments of historic significance.

The dioramas are all hand-made and use a range of materials, glue, wires, pieces of cloth, papier-mache, painted card and so on, painstakingly assembled over two or three weeks. Hundreds of digital photographs are taken, allowing for constant visual checks on progress. Usually by around 500 photos, the image is just about there, but the duo will typically take about a thousand photos before they are satisfied that the reconstruction is as close as can be. Some of the sets were constructed on tabletops, while others were constructed on their studio floor and were over twenty feet in length. Twenty such models were created for their first project, with an additional nineteen made for this book.

The illustrations in the book are of the reconstructed images, shown in situ within the studio, and are arranged in chronological order, beginning with Nicéphore Niépce’s 1827 heliograph, ‘View from the Window in Le Gras’, and ending with an anonymous tourist’s photo of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. The selection includes Fr. Francis Browne’s photo of the Titanic leaving Cork harbour (1912), Ernest Brooks’ ‘Five Soldiers Silhouetted at the Battle of Broodseinde’ (1917), Harold Edgerton’s strobe-lit ‘Milk Drop Coronet’ (1957), Mao Zedong swimming in the Yangtze River in 1966, Buzz Aldrin’s photograph of his bootprint on the moon (1969), and Natalie Fobes’ aerial shot of the grounded oil tanker, the Exxon Valdez (1989). Of the 39 historic photographs that have been reconstructed, almost half are images of war, assassination, terrorist activities and deadly disasters.
While the cultural impact and significance of many of these images cannot be doubted, their representation here seems somewhat disproportionate – one might have expected a selection of forty-odd ‘iconic’ images from the history of photography to avoid leaning too heavily in one direction. There is a great deal of playfulness and visual humour in the way that the photographers have reconstructed some elements of the past, but this sits somewhat uneasily with – for example – images of torture in Abu Ghraib or the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Each image is accompanied by a paragraph on the facing page, providing some contextual details about the original image (rather than the reconstruction that is shown.)
Additional photographs elsewhere in the book show some of the stages in constructing the models, with views of the studio set-up that show some of the complex challenges faced by Cortis and Sonderegger.
Surprisingly perhaps, there is not a great deal of attention paid to the practical details of how the dioramas were assembled, and it would have been interesting to have at least one in-depth illustrated account of this process.
There is, however, an introduction by Florian Ebner, an essay by Christian Caujolle and a seven-page interview with the photographers by William A. Ewing.
Double Take provides an intriguing series of revisits to familiar and icon images from the history of photography, as well as challenging the reader to think more deeply about the complex and uneasy relationship between the photographic image and the reality that it claims to represent.
James Downs

Photopoetry 1845–2015, a Critical History

By Michael Nott

New York/London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts 2018

Hardback, xii + 292 pages. 56 illustrations

ISBN: 9781501332234

Michael Nott’s fascinating study of ‘photopoetry’ explores a range of different textual collaborations between photography and poetry, whether these are amateur experiments with Victorian scrapbooks, a single person combining their own words and images (less common, and only touched on lightly here), a joint project between an individual poet and a photographer that they know, or a more retrospective publication in which photographs and poems are brought together from different time periods, be they amateurs or distinguished practitioners. Although much has been written about the relationship of photography and literature in recent years, and the history of the ‘photobook’ has been documented in detail by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, this is the first work of this kind to focus exclusively on poetry. It is above all a book about relationships – between photographs and poems, between writers and artists, and more generally between the written word and the visual image.

There is of course no space in a book of this size for a comprehensive survey of every such collaboration since 1839, and Nott’s selection is limited to the English-speaking world, based on works in which the collaboration is of historical or cultural significance – rather than the quality of the photographs or poetry. There are five chapters, which follow a roughly chronological structure as they cross to and fro the Atlantic.

Chapter 1 examines the origins of British photopoetry between 1845 and 1875, beginning with an anonymous scrapbook in St Andrews University Library that contains six pasted-in calotypes of a young woman, each accompanied by hand-written, original verses. It has been given the title A Little Study for Grown Young Ladies, Illustrated Photographically – the first known use of the phrase ‘illustrated photographically’, which would be used increasingly over the next few years in printed editions of the works of poets such as Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth. Nott discusses the St Andrews album in detail, suggesting possible identities for the photographer and the young woman who appears in the staged images, before moving on to consider later ‘photographically illustrated’ editions of poetry, the composite photographs of Henry Peach Robinson that were combined with verses by the likes of Arnold and Shelley, as well as the famous collaboration between Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron on Idylls of the King and various lesser-known works by T.R. Williams, William Morris Grundy, Thomas Ogle and others, including the pictorialist photographs produced by Philip Henry Delamotte for The Sunbeam: A Book of Photographs from Nature (1859), and those of Mabel Eardley-Wilmot that illustrated Songs from the Garden of Karma (1908) by the Anglo-Indian poet Adela Nicolson[‘Laurence Hope’.]

Chapters Two (1875-1915) and Three (1913-56) are devoted to American photopoetry, showing how Americans at first copied the conventions that were popular in Britain – typically nostalgic and rural or pastoral – before rapidly developing a more modern, cosmopolitan form. Key works include the collaboration between Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley and photographer William B. Dyer, six photographically illustrated books by black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the classical tableaux of Lejaren à Hiller and Kendall Banning, as well as Adelaide Hanscom Leeson’s illustrations for Edward FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Nott then moves on to discuss the ‘imagist’ poetry of Ezra Pound, showing how his modernist techniques of writing were influential in shaping the relationship between text and image in 20th century American literature, and using this as a basis to explore collaborations such as that between Hart Crane and Walker Evans in The Bridge (1930), and Rudy Burckhardt and Edwin Denby in Mediterranean Cities (1956).

Chapter Four returns to postwar Britain, examining the period from 1957 to 1994 with prominent attention given to Ted Hughes and his work with photographer Fay Godwin e.g. Remains of Elmet (1979), as well as an intriguing collaboration between poet Thom Gunn and his photographer brother Ander Gunn in their book Positives (1966) which explores the urban landscape of London, and the Orcadian work of George Mackay Brown and Gunnie Moberg. On theme that emerges in this chapter is the relationships between people and place, and how the earlier British preoccupation with picturesque and pastoral themes was gradually transformed by growing concerns about the meaning of home, exile, and belonging.

A related movement is also evident in the fifth and final chapter, which covers the period from 1992 to 2015, a period in which – Nott suggests – there was a move towards focusing on objects rather than places. In support of this, he looks atwork such as Sweeney’s Flight (1992) – Seamus Heaney’s collaboration with photographer Rachel Giese –  poet Paul Muldoon’s work with photographers Bill Doyle (Kerry Slides in 1996) and Norman McBeath (Plan B,  2009), along with the latter’s book Chines Makars which was produced with Robert Crawford (2016) and Hiding in Full View (2011), a photobook collaboration between poet Don Paterson and painter Alison Watt, in which each image was inspired by the photography of Francesca Woodman.

Even this sweeping survey of a selection of the ‘photopoetic’ works under consideration here will give some idea of the wide range of Nott’s reading and the richness and diversity of his choices. Even those familiar with some of the names of photographers and poets may not have realised that they have worked together, and Photopoetry 1845-2015 will inspire many readers to seek out these publications or at least think afresh about the relationship between photography and poetry. Although some of the book employs the technical language of academia, this is a very readable history that rarely strays far from the lives and works of those under discussion, prioritising detailed analysis of the words and images on the printed page. With over 50 B&W illustrations and numerous quotations from over 170 years of poetry, there is much here to enjoy for anyone interested in photography, literature and – of course – the way in which the two continue to engage and interact.

James Downs

A photographic journey through the london underground
by Elke & Nico Rollman
A4 landscape, Hardback
150 pages, fully illustrated
ISBN 978-1526781086
Pen & Sword Transport, 2021

This photographic book contains images taken on the iconic London underground between 2007 and 2021 and really is a very keenly observed series of images.

The co-authors are German born but are London based, and clearly have a fascination with the many visual facets of the subject.
The book contains 18 chapters including Architecture, Ornaments, Stairs, staircases and escalators, Safety, People, Trains (naturally) and possibly my favourite – Ghost Stations.

Sadly there is no information on the equipment used for the photography, but as there are no serious colour casts from the multitude of light sources in many shots, I assume it to be digital. Whatever kit was used the quality is uniformly excellent and the majority are very nicely observed and captured. With such a vast subject matter there is always the danger of content being there for completeness, and for me this is the case for certain images. The shots of buskers are little more than snaps, and could have been taken by just about anyone with a smartphone, and the same can be said also of various workmen – although the latter do at least show the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes.

However that criticism aside, there are some beautiful photographs on show, and do inspire this reader at least to pay more attention next time I visit ‘the smoke’.

My personal photography style has always been in abstract shapes, patterns and textures and there are many examples contained that tick that box for me. Although I’m not a regular visitor, I’m amazed that I’ve never noticed the wonderfully ornate tiled surround of the ticket office at Edgware Road, or the green opulence on display at Regents park. Maybe next time I should start thinking like a tourist and take some snaps, rather than rushing along, head down, trying to act like a local!

Each chapter has a couple of pages of information and history, so while never intending to be the definitive book on the subject, these do add a nice , easy read to go along with the photographs that follow.

One of the things that struck me while reading this book was that the London Underground is one of those entities which is in a constant state of change, while at the same time retaining it’s very earliest parts.
The chapter on ‘Shut Down’ links images of stations that are closed for repairs, closed for the one day that the underground doesn’t run (Christmas day), or closed for good! The shot of the closed doors at Barons Court are framed by an art deco looking awning/sign, and above and behind that carved onto the building itself the huge lettering ‘District Railway’ which is most definitely several decades earlier!
So often buildings and facilities have their period details removed, or at best, plaster boarded over – it’s quite jolly to see this kind of mis match in fonts, colours and styles – but it somehow remains iconic. Having said that there are also photos of signage from all corners, and personally I’d replace them all with circa 1900 examples, but sadly that modern, high reflectance figure and text for ‘Fire Exit’ must be used to keep within current guidelines!

The Underground has often been used as a way of sharing the arts – using the inside space to display short poems is one way, and the other is the installation of ‘artworks’ at the stations themselves. The series of mosaics shown from Leytonstone Station and others are superb, and what works so well is that there is no scale of reference, which makes them both abstract and intriguing. The one of the shower scene from ‘Psycho’ with a profiled Hitchcock lurking is sublime. Ditto the aircraft tailplane detail from Heathrow and people on escalators at Oxford Circus.
So much to see, so many tube stations!

The installation image from Gloucester Road shows just what a well thought out, expertly taken photograph can do.
A landscape shot from (probably) the opposite platform, this image shows three people on a bench, each equally distanced from the other (how very British), another person standing to the side and yet another figure walking along, a blur in the background. There is a huge display of curious figures that is arranged within the archways of the station to the back. This one photograph creates so many questions in my head – does anyone know each other, are they happy/sad/fed up, are they going or are they arriving? Have they even noticed the display behind them?

I mentioned the Ghost Stations chapter – the photos for these disused buildings are ok, but personally for such a sequence I’d have chosen more atmospheric lighting. Some of them just look sad and neglected, whereas they could have been made to look truly weird with either supplementary lighting, or just choosing sunrise r sunset for a bit of atmosphere – but that of course is just my personal taste.

The book wraps up with a decent list for further reading, although I noticed these are nearly all titles from 2000 or later, and there is also a nice selection of films listed that use the Underground as part of their plots. For sci-fi oddness I’d go for the 1967 classic ‘Quatermass and the Pit’; to guarantee you’ll never go into a seemingly empty tube station I recommend ‘An American werewolf in London’.

This book is subheaded ‘LOOK AGAIN’ and I am sure that having read this book, any reader will do just that the next time they get the chance to ‘Mind the Gap’!

Timothy Campbell

Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story of the Photographer Nanny

By Ann Marks

Atria Books, 2021

Hardback, 368 pages, 15.56 x 3.05 x 23.5 cm, ca. 400 illustrations

ISBN 978-1982166724

Price: $40.00

The discovery of Vivian Maier’s photographs is a remarkable story. In 2007 the contents of some storage containers were put up for sale due to non-payment of the rental fees. Three amateur collectors purchased an unseen selection of negatives and prints, some of which were then shared online. There was little interest, and nothing known of the photographer, until one of the collectors linked the name on a box with a death notice published in the Chicago Tribune in April 2009. Gradually, pieces of the puzzle began to fit together, more of Maier’s work was identified and published, and her skill as a photographer received widespread critical acclaim that has continued to grow ever since.

Her body of work is impressive – around 150,000 negatives, many of which she never developed, mostly B&W images taken on the streets of Chicago or New York with a series of Rolleiflex cameras (she bought her first one in 1952), or occasionally later in life, a Leica IIIc, Zeiss Contarex or Exakta. Her photographs juxtapose the finely-dressed and the destitute, capture children at play in the streets, crime scenes, intimate moments in doorways, parks and beaches, human interactions in street cars and outside shop windows, priests and nuns taking part in religious activities, as well as more conventional portraits, glamour shots and records of worldwide travel.

In many of the photographs she appears in reflection, or as a shadow cast across the foreground, and this ambiguous sense of presence – coupled with the story of how her photographs had been hidden away for years, undeveloped and unseen – created a sense of enigma about Maier, who was then presented as some sort of sad and lonely eccentric. A film, Finding Vivian Maier (2014), did much to boost her posthumous reputation as a skilled street photographer with a unique artistic vision, but the documentary raised as many questions about her life as it answered.  Although the buyers who had acquired Maier’s negatives did their best to promote her photographic work (the financial, legal and ethical issues surrounding this continue to be debated intensely), they were unable to discover much about her life – a gap that this biography has definitively filled.

Ann Marks, a retired executive and marketing officer for the Wall Street Journal, might seem an unlikely biographer, but her curiosity was stirred after watching the documentary  and she began using her research and analytic skills to find out more about Vivian’s history. With painstaking effort, she tracked down people who had known her in Chicago and New York, surviving relatives in France, as well as genealogical, medical, prison and state records in the archives. This has resulted in a minutely detailed, candid but sensitively-written account of the photographer’s often difficult life.

She was born in 1926 in New York City to French Catholic Marie Jaussaud Justin and Austrian Lutheran engineer, Charles Maier. A mismatched and unstable couple, their marriage was not helped by the birth of Vivian’s older brother Carl in 1920. With their father often absent for long periods, Marie took the children back to France to live in the Alpine village of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur near her mother’s relatives. Through family friend and photographer Jeanne Bertrand, Marie acquired a Lumière Lumibox in the early 1930s with which she took the first known photographs of Vivian.

Her childhood and teenage years were spent alternating between rural France and inner-city Bronx and Manhattan, while both her mother and brother suffered from mental illness. Carl was later imprisoned.  Following the death of her grandmother, Vivian returned to France in April 1950 to sell the family house, then travelled around France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy with a box camera similar to her mother’s, taking and developing thousands of photographs. Aged 25, she returned to New York and began work as a nanny, a job she would continue for over 40 years.

This early life is worth recounting here because it dispels much of the sentimental mythology that portrayed Maier as some sort of eccentric and reclusive amateur. In contrast, Marks argues that – while these childhood traumas clearly damaged her social and relationship skills, they also taught her to be self-reliant and entrepreneurial, determined to learn the practical skills that would provide her with independence. Chapter Six also reveals that she had not intended to remain an amateur, but used her acquaintance with two neighbouring female professional photographers to gain experience and introductions to the network of commercial photographers in the area. At the School of Modern Photography on 57th Street she developed her first colour film in 1953, met professional photographers (taking many of their portraits too) and began exploring the possibilities of commercial work: she pursued advertising, fashion and paparazzi-style opportunities, sold some of her prints, developed a business plan for a photographic postcard business and was also paid by parents to take portraits of children in her charge.

She left New York for Los Angeles in July 1955, but when the opportunities presented by Hollywood failed to materialise as she’d hoped, Maier took a job in Chicago in 1956, where she would remain for the rest of her life. She returned to New York on only a handful of occasions, but in 1959 she travelled across Europe, North Africa and Asia, with her camera. Her street photography in Chicago in the 1960s overflows with visual humour, creative ingenuity and her ever-present sympathetic interest in issues of race and class. She began using a Leica, and also experimented with home movies and tape-recorded conversations. Her life became less stable in the 1970s and 80s, with frequent moves and increasing disorganization in her personal and financial affairs, before she finally retired in 1996 at the age of seventy. She took no photographs after 1999, and died in 2009 following a fall and head injury the year before.

With eighteen chapters, four appendices and  information boxes providing  – for example – lists of celebrities photographed by Maier and titles of the books on her shelf,  Vivian Maier Developed should provide readers with all they need to know about this fascinating individual: and with some 400 illustrations in colour and B&W, generously reproduced at large size, the book also allows readers to savour Maier’s unique photographic skills.

James Downs

RAF in Camera: 100 Years on Display
By Keith Wilson
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Hardcover : 472 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1526752185
21.59 x 3 x 27.79 cm £38.00

As a kid I was seriously into aircraft – or more accurately I was into looking at images of aircraft, and in particular the design of them (oddly enough commercial aircraft left me cold!).
This truly superb book has given me that same sense of wonder, excitement and thrill that I enjoyed as a 9 year old.
The book is broken down into chapters such as Pageants and Parades, Faster, higher, further, Royal connections etc, each one showing a photographic timeline of airaft of the RAF across the 100 year span. Needless to say the image quality of the very earliest pale in comparison to the more recent stuff, but for atmosphere, nostalgia and a feeling of ‘seat of their pants’ flying those early ‘teens photographs are pure gold.
What I especially enjoyed is the various birds eye views of airfields of those vintage days, with a huge mixture of known, and not so well known aircarft all cheek by jowl.
The scale of some of the planes is almost staggering. The tiny power of even the biggest engines back then meant a proportionately huge pair of wings were required to generate lift – in some photos a single wheel totally dwarfes the ground crew who are stood next to it. How any of these giants ever flew is beyond me.
Those early days are equalled (in my view) by the golden period of the 1950s. I was lucky enough to visit airshows in the early/mid 70s when you could witness a lightning, a Vulcan, a meteor and a Vampire, all flying by at seemingly head height, on full power – never to be forgotten, that experience is recaptured in the stunning air to air photography in this book.

I do need to point out that there is no information at all about equipment used, the photographic technology that would have been used across the 100 year span, or any details of how you arrange to be in the right position, camera ready, when you are pulling 9 G at 35,000 feet while keeping an eye on your neighrbours wing tips that are often within yards of your own.

The recent photographs include stealth planes, fuel tankers, Hercules etc – nothing has been left out.
The text is very well written, with an intro page or two for each chapter, but a lot more information and detail is in the blurbs for every photograph.

Author Keith Wilson has written a perfect tribute to the RAF, and the image quality and excellent print and binding make this a must have book for anyone with an interest in the history of aircraft in the RAF.
Timothy Campbell

The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures
by Paul Fischer
Hardback 392 pages with illustrations
ISBN 978-0-571-34864-0
Faber & Faber, 2022

Subtitled ‘A true tale of obsession, murder and the movies’ – this utterly absorbing, and at times heart breaking biography of Louis Le Prince has all the elements of a blockbuster movie – exotic and not so exotic locations, a genius/visionary heroic inventor, an assortment of side characters all trying to achive a similar goal, and an immoral egotistical villain the equal of anything in the James Bond franchise.

The book is laid out in a similarly cinematic fashion, the opening sequence being the monumental day in 1888 that Le Prince arranged his family in the garden of their house in the Roundhay area of Leeds to create the first ever single camera moving film sequence, a jump cut to the train station at Dijon 2 years later where Le Prince waved goodbye to his brother and niece on his way to Paris, a dissolve to the image of his wife and family waiting and hoping that he might be on the next steamer due in at New York, and slow zoom in on the evil at the centre of the murderous plot.

The birth of moving pictures is yet another of those occassions that happen in history, where several people, continents apart, are all working on a common goal at more or less the same time. What is so very sad about Le Prince was that he was truly the originator, the genuine genius with an incredible future vision of what would become everyday, and set out on a road to that, all the while knowing that the stuff that he needed to make it work (celluloid) did not yet exist.

Author Paul Fischer does a great job in explaining the technical limitations of the time, without getting bogged down in too much technical detail. He covers the work and importance of Marey and Muybridge, and also explains their approach to capturing and demonstrating movement as that is vital in understanding just how different was Le Prince and his goals for producing moving pictures.

The way he sketches out the villain of the piece (Thomas Edison) is a masterclass in characterization, and his hateful spirit is ever present throughout the book. Edison used his knowledge of patent laws to not only protect his own half baked ideas, but also to issue ‘caveats’ in case someone else came up with an idea that had potential. Any time he got wind of a new invention, he’d issue a caveat that implied that he had thought of it first. Sadly by the time of Le Princes sucess (in getting a fully working movie camera and projector designed and built), Edison was such a powerful (and rich) figure that no-one dared to take him to court. Lizzie Le Prince did so in an attempt to show (quite rightly) that her husbands work, his equipment and patents all predated Edison by well over a year, and also that Edisons pathetic peephole ‘what the butler saw’ was in no way the same technical advance as Le Princes… she lost.

Covering the back story of the Le Prince family, and explaining how Louis met his future wife, and their eventual settling in Leeds, the future inventor of movies is painted as a cultured, patient and loving man, quotes made at the turn of the 20th century by former employees show him to be considerate, hard working and clearly a man with a mission.

It is almost agonising reading his letters to wife Lizzie during the whole process of his efforts to get firstly a ‘movie’ camera made (the ‘easy’ bit!) and then a projector for the filmed sequential shots. It is hard to imagine that the only solution until the invention of celluloid was for Le Prince to build a 16 lens camera, that used solenoids to act as shutters to expose a single glass plate. The resulting frames were then individually transferred to a hand made
ribbon that had perforations along both edges to allow the images to be moved in sequence, held briefly in position behind the projecting lens, all at (a hoped for) 16 frames per second.
That the early machines were noisy, clanking brutes and resulted in frequent jams and shattered images is hardly a surprise. Le Prince also tried paper roll film, but this was prone to tearing and had a much softer image, so again was not the right medium. Once celluloid was produced it was the answer to Le Prince’s prayers, and within a short time he had a single lens camera ready, a reliable projector made, half decent patents in place and was ready to pay a short visit to his brother in Dijon, tootle along to Paris to sign the patents, then quickly whizz back to Leeds to see Lizzie, then over to Liverpool and on to USA for fame and fortune… he got on the train at Dijon, but never arrived in Paris.

The story of Le Prince has been written about before, most notably in 1990, ‘The Missing Reel’ by Christopher Rawlence, but until now this most curious case has remained unsolved, with various possibilities being considered.
Did Edison send an agent to get rid of Le Prince before he could get the all important patents fully registered?
Was it Edison himself who threw Le Prince off the train, his body never to be found?
Was Le Prince so mentally frazzled with his years of effort that he did himself in, leaping from his carriage at some remote spot part way between Dijon and Paris?
Paul Fischer considers every possibility in almost forensic detail, and you can’t help but get swept along with each of them, before they are dismissed. The final solution revealed makes absolute sense, and it seems odd that it’s taken this long for someone to propose it.

The level of detail in this book is outstanding, with the legal machinations expertly explained, without ever getting tedious or dull.
For me the long lasting impact is the cementing of my disgust for one of the Worlds most successful ‘businessmen’ –
who clearly did not know a good idea even when he was accidentally sitting on it.

It’s fascinating to map the various places where Le Prince set up home and workshops over a period of years – and although the buildings are no longer in existence, the locations are easy to pinpoint, including the family home in Roundhay and the workshop on Woodhouse lane (opposite the main entrance to Leeds university), and the house off Park Square in central Leeds.
There are commemorative plaques near to Woodhouse Lane (now a BBC studio) and most significantly by the bridge in Leeds where the footage of traffic was filmed in 1888.

A totally engrossing book, as good as the very best Agatha Christie novels, and as enthralling as a Hitchcock movie.
Timothy Campbell

Picturing the Western Front: Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France
By Beatriz Pichel
Hardback, 272 pp. 43 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-5261-5190-2
Manchester University Press, 2021


Photographic images from the First World War are far from unfamiliar. Recent issues of PW have included articles on Frank Hurley and Charles Lesage, as well as a review of a book on wartime use of the Vest Pocket Kodak, while the 1918-2018 centenary prompted an avalanche of commemorative articles and picture galleries that were prominent in the media for many months. Sometimes readers become so familiar with these photographs as illustrations or symbols that we lose sight of the fact that such ‘visual content’ comes from a physical material – such as a paper print in an album, or a glass slide – and, furthermore, don’t stop to think about how, why or where these photographs were taken.

In her new book Picturing the Western Front: Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France (Manchester University Press, 2021)  Dr Beatriz Pichel examines some of the many thousand pictures taken by military, press and amateur photographers between 1914 and 1918, and considers how war experiences were shaped by photographic practices.
Doing photography (taking pictures, posing for them, exhibiting, cataloguing and looking at them) allowed combatants and civilians to make sense of what they were living through.

In the introduction, the author tells the story of WWI veteran Gérald Debaecker who gave his wife a photograph album in September 1920 to mark their first wedding anniversary.
The album included photos from both their wedding and their honeymoon, during which they had travelled through France visiting places in which he had fought during the war; the album also had portraits of him taken during the war in the same spots, as well as photos of the couple revisiting the place where had been wounded, and almost re-enacting events for the camera.

In microcosm, this album encapsulates many of the themes of this book – the complex, nuanced and sometimes surprising ways in which individuals use photography to make sense of their experience of war.
The photographic practices in question are not merely the act of taking pictures, but also posing for the camera, collecting, exhibiting, arranging, cataloguing, captioning and looking at photographs. There are countless books on war photography that consist almost entirely of representation – using images as visual records of events – but this is the first study to focus attention upon the role played by photography itself in the experience of armed conflict.

The book comprises five chapters, the first of which, ‘Recording’, looks at the way official organisations such as the French ‘Section photographique de l’armeé’ (SPA) tried – and failed – to control photography, seeking to regulate the photographic practices of amateurs and create an official narrative record of the war. Attention is given to the way photographers were commissioned or licensed to operate at the front, and how photographic archives were categorised, preserved and arranged. This chapter, like much of the book, is based on extensive research in French archives, and also includes some interesting discussion (pp.46-8) of the various cameras used in the field and the factors influencing these choices.
Chapter Two, ‘Feeling,’ considers the emotional aspects of wartime photography, such as the ways by which the practise of photography domesticated life on the front line. Combining sensitivity with thoughtful analysis, the author looks at the reasons why soldiers might have taken photographs of routine tasks such as cooking meals, reading or posing in the trenches with photographs of loved ones, or why medical staff preserved photos of injured officers receiving treatment in field hospitals. There are many amusing images, when soldiers entertained themselves by dressing up in costume and clowning for the camera, and it is interesting to consider how the communication of such images – those sent home to families, and those received in the trenches – managed to link the horrors of war with the domestic sphere of family life back home. One topic that is often overlooked is how wartime photographs were displayed at the time, and how viewers of these images were expected to engage with different sorts of photograph. One of the many fascinating illustrations in the book is a photograph from an SPA exhibition in Biarritz in 1917, which shows a woman looking through a stereoscopic viewer and presumably experiencing a form of immersive 3-D experience in doing so.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that many of the illustrations are too small to make out much detail, which is a shame when there some fascinating images from photographic archives that have never before been published.

Inevitably, war involves injuries and suffering, and Chapter Three, ‘Embodying’, focuses upon how photographers handled the traumas inflicted on the human body. These include representations of facial surgery, portraits of soldiers who had lost limbs and the possibility of them finding work as invalids, and the taboos and censorship issues surrounding the depiction of the dead – and how these principles differed in the case of enemy corpses.

This chapter is linked closely with the following one, ‘Placing,’ which discusses issues of location and geography, revealing how both combatants and civilians identified with the damaged landscape. Images of ruined churches and devastated woodlands could be used for propaganda purposes, while stereoscopic photography could provide an enhanced visual sense of the physical environment for those who were not present. Efforts by the SPA to systematically record the devastation wrought by war on French villages and countryside suggests some parallels with the work of the 1850s ‘Mission héliographique’, organised by the Service des monuments historiques (SMH) to document France’s architectural heritage.

The fifth and final chapter, ‘Making visible and invisible’, looks at how the names and photographs of missing soldiers and civilians were circulated in the hope of their being found, while those of soldiers who committed suicide were systematically suppressed from the public record. As the author concludes, photography created frames of experience, determining what could and could not be acknowledged as part of the collective memory of wartime.

This short summary belies the immense amount of work and thought that has gone into this book, which is likely to mark a significant turning point in how photographs are used and viewed as historical sources. Building on the work of Elizabeth Edwards and others who have emphasised the materiality of photographs, and the need to understand them as physical objects rather than simply receptacles of visual content to be quarried for illustrative purposes, Dr Pichel has opened up a new dynamic way of thinking about photography in terms of emotion, relationships and the rituals of photographic practices. It will make perfect sense, I think, to those of us who collect or use old cameras and historic processes. Many PCCGB talks and articles make constant reference to the personal connections and memories attached to photographs and cameras, reflecting on the circumstances in which they were taken, the reasons why, frustrations, accidents and triumphs, feelings of regret or absence for events or people were not captured on film or that since been lost or forgotten. This sense of photography as a series of experiences and actions, something that photographers do, has been almost entirely sidelined in writings on the history of photography. Hopefully that will no longer be the case.
James Downs

The Who: Concert Memories from the Classic Years, 1964-1976
by Edoardo Genzolini
Publisher: Schiffer
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0764364020


I don’t think there has ever been a book review in PW where the subject matter is a rock band, rather than a photographer, a marque, or a history of a photographic process…
Still, better late than never!

‘Music’ photography has a very special place in my heart, as I grew up in a period when there were several weekly musical papers available, from NME to Sounds to Melody Maker, along with many long running monthly magazines that catered for every musical taste and craze that came along.
Being ‘into’ a band or musician in the 70s through to the early 90s meant that your only source of visual info was those magazines – and of course the images (if any) that were featured on their latest LP release. I wasn’t the only person who would sit with headphones on, playing a vinyl record, over and over while sitting staring at the photos on the sleeve – or on the rare occasions when there was an inside sleeve!
That endless fascination with such a minute amount of imagery to ponder on is something which I don’t think happens these days – when at a click of a mouse you can see many thousands of images online of bands and musicians who may not even be ‘famous’.
Along with the music, there were of course concerts – and again those magazines were the source of info about them. Record labels would be happy to pay the top magazines to cover a band while touring (though that was more the case in USA than anywhere else), but the resulting pages were a guarantee of further LP sales – and that’s where the real money was to be made. The public had a taste of the high life of the band, and the very best of the concert photos would be used – with band approval in many cases. There’s nothing wrong with that ‘sanitised’ view of live music and touring, but for the concert going music fan the story has rarely been heard – or seen.

The Who were a hugely important band in the rock sphere – a vast legacy of powerful music, powerful performances, unprecedented amounts of excitement and destruction, both on and off stage, and a fan base that has stayed with them for decades – and this utterly fantastic book is all about, and by, those fans.
In a way this collection touches the same common experience as seaside ‘walkies’ photographs – almost every one of us has had a similar experience, and although the photo may be a bit rubbish, the memories that it can
conjure up are strong and profound.
The basic concept of this book is a timeline of important (and not so important) concerts, with eye witness accounts of them, along with (where possible) the photos that were taken by the same fans.
There is no one true story in any shared event, and one persons ultimate gig may have been anothers nightmare, but both are true. It is fascinating to read the individual accounts of skipping school, thumbing a lift, ‘scalping’ a ticket, or climbing in through the open toilet window to hide until showtime, or bumping into guitarist Pete Townshend at a nearby cafe and being given a backstage pass.
The photo quality (and technique!) varies from the worst snapshot- blurred-washed out colour print to professional level, and is a mix of colour and black and white. The professional ones were generally meant for press use, so of course are often head and shoulder/close ups, and as such are good, but much as you woud expect.
The real shock and thrill is seeing the snaps, which, although technically poor, give such a flavour of being at the concert, often at relatively small venues. knowing how loud The Who played, you almost getting ringing in your ears just looking at them!
It’s great to see unposed photos, taken in dressing rooms, hotel rooms and so on – and a lot of the non professional concert images give a more accurate eye witness feel as they show more of the stage, the lights, the equipment – from back up guitars to extra drum heads, in case Keith Moon decided to hurl his kit into the audience…again!
I’m not a fanatic of The Who, but I am a huge fan of the approach of this book, I just wish there was a similar one for the bands I am in to.
It’s astonishing that author Edoardo Genzolini, as a very young man, had the idea of asking for the memories and photos from people who were there back in the 60s and 70s, and as a result has created a collection that
captures the power of music, and recaptures the excitement and buzz of the true fan, going to any lengths to get to see their idols.
Highly recommended.
Timothy Campbell

Lost Places: Images of Bygone America
by Heribert Niehues
Publisher: Schiffer
Hardcover, 182 pages, fully illustrated
ISBN: 978-0764363948 £29.00

Schiffer Publishing have produced many photographic books that show just about feature and every square inch of the USA, from backroads to covered bridges, to single counties and the cultures and customs to be found there.
‘Lost Places’ continues an ‘abandoned’ theme that has been the photographic subject of other books from them.
Starting with a map of the country, with a handy numbered key to the 80+ locations, this beautifully produced book takes you on a journey that is vast, to put it mildly.
Author /Photographer Heribert Niehues provides a good introduction, detailing the rise and fall of the transport systems, from railroad to freeway, and the accompanying requirement for hotels, motels, gas stations and diners.

The book is split into four main subjects: Gas Stations, Diners and Motels, Buildings, and finally Automobiles – although many photographs feature all of them!

In the UK we sometimes hear of ‘barn find’ vehicles, and of the occasional untouched shed of collectables, and we wonder how on earth they stayed hidden for so long. In the USA it would appear that there are innumerable cars, signs, and even buildings that are not hidden at all – they are in plain sight, but merely abandoned – along with the people who once lived and worked in those rural areas.
It is creepy to see mature trees growing through the bonnet of a classic Cadillac car, a VW camper van that has become part of the vegetation, and wooden outbuildings that look like a single breath would topple them, and yet somehow remain standing albeit at a very slanting angle!
The photography is of the highest order, with some truly wonderful natural light chosen for maximum impact.
The shots range from wide angle vistas, to details of painted enamel signs, to interiors, and everything in between.
It’s all personal taste, of course, but I prefer archictectural photography to be ‘old school’ with correct verticals and no distortion, so it does jar for me seeing a mix of excellent landscape images and severe wide angle distorted shots together.
Another criticism (according to taste) is that a lot of shots have been given that (relatively) modern obscenity treatment of ‘high dynamic range’.
Although I can understand that you might apply it on occassion, or as per a client request, but to randomly use it spoils the individual image, and taints the others as your eye and brain juggle one style against the other – and neither wins.
But those criticisms aside, this is a stunning collection of images, and the paragraph or so of text with each photo is a charming mix of information and slightly nostalgic prose

Highly recommended.
Timothy Campbell

Réveiller l’archive d’une guerre coloniale.
Gaston Chérau, correspondant de guerre, 1911-1912:
Photographies et écrits de Gaston Cherau, correspondant de guerre lors du conflit italo-turc (1911-1912)
By Pierre Schill
Creaphis, 2018
Hardback, 478 pages, illustrated
ISBN 9782354281410
€ 35.00

In 2008, while Pierre Schill – a Professor of Historical Geography in Montpellier – was carrying out research into coal miners’ industrial action, he came across a box of anonymous, undated photographs in the archives of Herault in Southern France. These were among the papers of French writer and politician Paul-Étienne Vigné – known more widely as Paul Vigné d’Octon, from the pseudonym he used that incorporated his father’s hometown of Octon – and seemed to show locations in North Africa rather than southern France. As a journalist and pamphleteer, Paul Vigné d’Octon had been an outspoken critic of French colonialism, and some of these photos had been used to illustrate articles he had published in the French press. As Schill eventually discovered, they were taken by journalist Gaston Chérau (1872-1937), author of some forty novels and a contributor to the French newspaper Le Matin, who had sent him to Libya as a war correspondent.

As remarked in the last issue of PW, there are a huge number of studies of war photography in the First World War, but the various conflicts that preceded this have received much less attention. Within the English-speaking world, the ‘Italo-Turkish War’ (1911-12) is not widely known or written about, although it had a significant role in precipitating the outbreak of war in 1914. Building on agreements made at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Italy was pressing its claim to territories in Libya, roughly aligned with French occupation of Algeria and Morocco to its west and British involvement in its eastern neighbour, Egypt.
In early October, Italian troops landed on the Libyan coast and quickly seized control of the major port cities of Tripoli, Tobruk, Khoms and Derna. Capturing Benghazi proved much harder, however, and the Italians never succeeded in penetrating deep into Libya. Although they were able to hold much of the coastal strip with superior naval
support, over the next few months the war settled down into a series of skirmishes, massacres, guerrilla warfare and inconclusive battles.
Chérau arrived in Tripoli in late November 1911 and stayed for less than two months before returning to France in January 1912, with much of the war during this time remaining in stalemate. His photographs document the activities of the Italian soldiers and airmen during this time, including dramatic scenes of fighting at Henni on 26 November 1911 and the Italian capture of the oasis of Aïn-Zara in December 1911, as well as images of Libyans living in Tripoli and the surrounding areas: Bedouin families, silk weavers, goldsmiths, children of Tagioura and others.

The most striking photographs, however – and they make for harrowing viewing – are those of the public hangings carried out by the Italians in reprisal for the massacre of Italian soldiers at Shar al-Shatt on 23 October.
Both sides were guilty of atrocities, but the punitive executions undertaken by the Italians were intended to shock the Tripolitan people and deter them from opposing the Italian colonisers, and this became an established terror tactic over the months and years ahead.

Over 200 of Chérau’s photographs are reproduced in the first section of the book (pp.31-224), which is then followed by an exploration of his written archive – letters, documents and written accounts, both published and unpublished. Through careful examination and comparison, Schill has been able to piece together evidence about Chérau’s activities in Libya, dating the photographs and linking these to editorial correspondence with the offices of Le Matin as well as personal letters sent back home to his wife. These letters are particularly interesting, for they reveal a contrast between Chérau’s public support for the war in his published journalism, and his private unease with the brutality of colonial rule.

In the printed press, however, Chérau’s sympathies appear to have lain with the Italian colonialists. His description of the horrors of Shar al-Shatt seems to have been intended to justify the reprisals carried out by the Italians, while his articles for Le Matin consciously contrast the technological modernity of the Italian airforce (this was the first conflict in which aircraft were used for reconnaissance and the dropping of bombs in combat) with the ‘savagery’ of the indigenous population.
Although Schill has brought together a fascinating collection of images, documents, presscuttings, letters and ephemera to put Chérau’s photographs into context, one weakness of the book is its reliance almost exclusively on western and colonial sources.

There is no reference in the bibliography, for example, to Ali Abdullatif Ahmida’s Genocide in Libya: Shar, a Hidden Colonial History (Routledge, 2020), which painstakingly gathers oral testimonies from Libyans who suffered under the Italian occupation between 1929 and 1934, building on his previous book Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya (Routledge, 2005), which both provide detailed insights into Libyan civil and tribal society at the time of the Italian invasion.
In discussing Chérau’s photographs of Libyans, some Libyan perspectives would have been welcome.

Other perspectives are present however. As the book’s title – Réveiller l’archive – suggests, the author sought to ‘awaken’ Chérau’s photographic and written archive from its decades-long slumber, to breathe new life into the material through new forms of artistic engagement as well as more straightforward historical assessment.
The second half of the book consists of five illustrated essays: Caroline Recher on the art exhibition À fendre le coeur le plus dur [To break the hardest hard – a phrase used by Chérau’] held in different locations in 2015 and 2016, Smaranda Olcèse on a performance by dancer and choreographer Emmanuel Eggermont, Mathieu Larnaudie on the book À fendre le coeur le plus dur by Jérôme Ferrari and Olivier Rohe, another essay by Caroline Recher – discussing the work of visual artist Agnès Geoffray – and a final essay on archives and historical enquiry by Quentin Deluermoz. Even if the absence of Libyan voices in the book remains a nagging flaw, these varied and innovative essays provide some stimulating ideas about the multiple approaches one can take to a photographic archive, and how
different creative ideas can develop from such a collection of material.

Even for readers with less interest in these artistic responses, this book is of exceptional value given the quality of the printing and binding, along with over 200 pages of photographic plates.
James Downs

The Violence of Colonial Photography

By Daniel Foliard

Translated by Saskia Brown, Daniel Foliard and others. Foreword by Kim Wagner.

Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022

Paperback, 368 pages, 88 illustrations

ISBN 978-1-5261-6331-8


This is an English translation and substantial revision of the author’s Combattre, punir, photographier: Empires coloniaux, 1890-1914 (Paris: La Découverte, 2020.) There are nine chapters, beginning with a solid introduction to the development of photography, its relationship to power, and progressing through chapters on topics such as ‘Darkrooms and conflicts prior to the 1890s’, ‘Subversion, denunciation, and manipulation’ and ‘Paper Cemeteries.’

As the original title indicates, the focus of this book is on the two or three decades preceding the First World War, during which both the French and British empires were engaged in numerous conflicts across Africa and Asia – in places such as Matabeleland, Benin, Indochina, Madagascar, Burma, Sudan and Morocco. Drawing on photographs and documents from a range of sources – state archives, periodicals, personal albums compiled by soldiers, postcards and other ephemera – the author explores the ways in which photography was used by both observers and participants in these conflicts.

Some of Foliard’s discussions are reminiscent of Beatriz Pichel’s book Picturing the Western Front (reviewed in PW 170) in their examination of how combatants actually engaged with the images that they took during wartime, such as inserting prints into personal albums as a form of storytelling, memorialisation of dead friends, or arranging images of enemy corpses juxtaposed with British war cemeteries. Unlike Pichel’s book, however, which looked at how British, French and Germans all engaged with photography during and after the First World War, Foliard is studying violent encounters in which photography was almost exclusively a tool used by European colonisers rather than the inhabitants of the lands in Africa and Asia that were being colonised. Among all the conflicts discussed here, the Boer War (1899-1902) was the only one in which both sides had mastered photography, and the British did not have a monopoly on its use.

So how was photography used? The first two chapters of the book provide an overview of the relationship between photography and colonial violence, examining how images were circulated and how this connects to the personal experiences of soldiers, journalists and the inhabitants of the colonised regions in which they were deployed. There are some valuable discussions of how the development of technology shaped these practices, such as how photography became more standardised and regulated within imperial administration in the 1860s as it was adopted by surveyors and engineers, the divergence of photography and engraving as a realistic mode of depicting war in the press in the early 1900s, and how the introduction of affordable cameras led to the rapid expansion of personal war photography and resulted in the censorship of World War One. It should be noted that the incidences of organised violence recorded by their cameras were rarely standard military battles, but rather a range of settings such as punitive expeditions, the capture and humiliation of enemy leaders, or spectacular punishments designed to intimidate the local populace.

These activities, whether officially authorised or not, often took place outside the juridical framework of the rule of law, not just at a great distance from the imperial capitals but usually far from the centres of power. A key theme of this book is how the uses and perceptions of photographic images differed according to location. Photographers felt enabled to take more extreme, explicit photos and break taboos or professional etiquette when working at a distance from home. The transfer of images from one sphere to another could cause offence by breaching these boundaries, so that what was acceptable among military circles in South Africa would cause outrage in an urban metropolis

Although the subject matter of these images is often disturbing, the emphasis of the discussion here is primarily on how the photographer operated – their role within the military operation, motivations for taking photographs, how their images were circulated and received, and so on – rather than the content of these photos. Nonetheless, many readers, including the present one, will feel a deep unease – not just at these depictions of actual pain, suffering and death (often undergone by innocent civilians and vulnerable communities) – but also at their reproduction in a scholarly work of this nature: an English translation of a French study of French and British imperial violence, analysing and reproducing such images for what is clearly going to be an audience of English- and French-speaking academic readers. Does this not just perpetuate the same imbalance of power, and by reproducing the images, reiterate the same acts of violence and exclusion once again?

Far from skirting these issues, the author addresses them at length, particularly in the introduction and the opening and concluding chapters. He does so conscientiously and with a degree of nuance and sensitivity indicative of much thought and soul-searching. It should be noted that the photographs are reproduced at a fairly small size, rendering the macabre details less visible on the page. Every image is accompanied by lengthy and detailed captions that provide historical context and analysis, which is also continued in the main body of the text. There is certainly no sense of sensationalism or illustrations being used in any lurid or voyeuristic sense (unlike many books on wartime atrocities published in the past.) Although I still feel that the cover image was unnecessary, this book is a valuable study of photographic practices, and the author’s use of archival sources raises many illuminating details.

We learn of Indian army officer William Willoughby Hooper trying to profit out of the commercial sale of execution photographs (revealing the lack of boundaries between amateurs and professionals), Scout founder Robert Baden Powell using a Bulldog Eastman camera during the Second Matabele War (1896), Birmingham-based camera maker William Tylar introducing a ‘Spion Kop Camera’ that named after a disastrous defeat of British troops in the Boer war.

While branding a camera product with the name of a disastrous defeat might seem illogical, the book provides many examples of how photographs were used in ways that ran counter to the intentions of their creators. Photographs exposing atrocities often circulated as part of intra-imperial rivalry as western imperial powers sought to discredit and embarrass their rivals, with the British printing evidence of French atrocities in the Daily Mail, while French and German newspapers did the same. Likewise, the subjects of colonial photography were sometimes able to use these images to garner wider support by publicising evidence of mistreatment. The author also points to instances of local leaders using photographs as a means of reinforcing their status within the community. Mention could have been made here of the fascinating case of Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1853-1927) of Senegal, whose shadowy photograph – taken in captivity by a French soldier – has assumed the status of a religious icon and is reproduced on street murals, textiles and souvenirs. See Allen & Mary Roberts, A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003.)

Much of the material presented here is unsettling, and it needs to be remembered that these images were only the more visible manifestations of a much deeper systematic imbalance of power, both technical and cultural. Theorizing about these in broad generalisations or abstract terms can dehumanise our views of the past, numbing readers to what these policies meant in terms of individual suffering. Much of this book’s value stems from its careful analysis of actual photographic practices and personal narratives, but it will be helpful not only for readers seeking to understand the historical relationship between photography and western imperialism, but more widely, to challenge how we look at  – and respond to – images of violence in the contemporary world.

James Downs

Qayrawān: The Amuletic City

By William Gallois

Hardback, 208 pages, illustrations

Pennsylvania State University Press, 2024

ISBN 9780271095271


Kairouan in Tunisia is one of the oldest and most important cities in North Africa. Founded around 670 on the site of an older settlement, it flourished during the ninth and tenth centuries, remaining the principal holy city in the region even after administrative power passed to Tunis. Home to some three dozen heritage sites of international importance, such as the Great Mosque of Uqba, the Mosque of the Three Doors (built in 866 AD), the ninth-century open air reservoir known as the Basin of the Aghlabids, and a series of monumental walls and babs (gates), it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

William Gallois’ beautifully-illustrated, thoughtful and carefully-argued book is not a general history of the city, however, but an exploration of the visual evidence relating to a specific period of Qayrawān’s past.

Some fifty years after occupying Algeria, the French invaded neighbouring Tunisia in late April 1881. Qayrawān finally fell to French soldiers under General Etienne at the end of October of that year, and a narrow-gauge railway was quickly constructed, connecting the city to the port of Susa on the Mediterranean coast. After a long period in which non-Muslims had been forbidden entry, Qayrawān was now occupied by colonial administrators and commercial traders, and thrown open to tourists who could obtain a permit allowing them access to the mosques. A Franco-Arab school was established in the city, while missionaries settled here in the late 1890s. By this time, the narrow-gauge railway was expanded and became part of a larger passenger network, while a paved road was built to connect Tunis to Qayrawān, which was now part of the fashionable tourist itinerary for European travellers. A new town sprung up around the outside of the old city, with tree-lined boulevards, hotels, libraries and churches.

How did the citizens of Qayrawān respond to these vast changes, following in the wake of the violent seizure and occupation of their city? As is the way with the history of colonialism, historical records tend to document only one side of the story, with the voices and sentiments of the occupied recorded only second-hand (and often disparagingly) in the administrative, legal and military papers of the occupier.

However, visual materials can often contain information that is not found in textual records, and the French occupation did result in a wealth of photographic activity in and around the historic city. Amateur snapshots were taken by tourists, commercial postcards were sent home, and professional photographers took views of the city to illustrated printed books and brochures. Qayrawān was documented, surveyed, mapped and recorded according to western standards.

What is particularly fascinating about these images is that they provide evidence for a wave of mural-painting across the city that seems to have taken place between 1881 and the 1930s. This activity was centred on the area around the Great Mosque, but covered the walls of buildings both religious and secular in a variety of geometric patterns and shapes.

Who created these? And what was their significance? At the time, they do not appear to have attracted any attention; nobody seems to have studied them, far less recorded any explanation for their existence. After about fifty years, many of them faded away and were not restored, leaving only photographs and other visual material as evidence that they were ever there. Even at the time, photographers paid them little notice, and a large proportion of these images seem to have captured the murals almost by accident. While the photographer was focusing on the usual picturesque views and ‘ethnic types’ in the foreground – often posed and using artifice and misleading captions to provide European customers with what they expected to see – his camera caught a glimpse of painted wall in the background.

In most cases, viewers of these postcards or commercial photographs would not have noticed these shapes, but a trained eye soon starts to spot them. Professor Gallois has spent several years painstakingly studying photographs of Qayrawān during this period, and his extensive archival research resembles a form of visual archaeology, scraping back layer after layer.

This is a deeply personal work, partly rooted in the fact that the source material for the study – hundreds and hundreds of postcards, photographic prints, glass plates and other ephemera – have been collected by the author over many years. A selection of them were used as the core of an exhibition held at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Exeter in 2019, entitled The Painters of the City: North Africa 1880-1920, which was curated by Professor Gallois. It is also a study that is based on his own careful reflections about the topic, which show deep sensitivity towards the differences between western art historians and the Maghrebi Muslims by whom and for whom these murals were created. Much of the book pushes back against the prejudicial language, ignorance and condescending views of Orientalist art criticism that has typically dismissed painting such as this as ‘primitive folk-art’, ‘crude’ or ‘vulgar’, instead seeking to explore the possible meanings of these murals through comparison with other traditional aesthetic forms. These include similar geometric and botanical patters found in facial tattoos, house decoration and textile embroidery, all of which were undertaken by women: the domain of public art was a female space, while the production of commercial art for sale was reserved for men. While some of the frescoes resemble the human form – and there are suggestive parallels with the figure of Tanit – others seem to incorporate elements of the Tifinagh script, used for writing the Berber language of Tamazight. As much of women’s domestic art was believed to have a protective quality, acting as an amulet to avert harm from the family household, the author suggests that these murals had an ‘amuletic’ role, and that they were painted around the walls of the conquered city as protection for the community during a time of crisis.

This is a remarkable piece of writing, one that breaks new ground in methods of approaching and interpreting the vast corpus of photographic imagery that has been produced by colonial occupiers of the Arab world. The study of colonial photography has advanced from naively quarrying the content of such images for illustrative purposes, to a much more critical awareness of the structural injustices and violence that was inherent within the creation of these images, but Qayrawān: the Amuletic City shows how photo-historians can move beyond these issues to enrich our understanding of the creative, religious and cultural practices of the past.

James Downs

Photographing Central Asia. From the Periphery of the Russian Empire to Global Presence

Edited by: Svetlana Gorshenina , Sergei Abashin , Bruno De Cordier and Tatiana Saburova

Hardback – 440 pages, 150 illustrations; index

ISBN 9783110754469

Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2022

£94.00 and also available online for free under Open Access

The thirteen chapters in this incredibly interesting volume originated in an international conference held in St Petersburg in May 2019, on ‘Another Turkestan: unknown photographs of the Asiatic edge of the Russian empire.’ The area under question here, Russian Turkestan, covers what is now the countries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (as distinct from Eastern Turkestan, which is now the Xinjiang Province of China) and the period being examined is that of the Tsarist (1867-1917) and early Soviet eras, up to the 1930s.

Studies of the photography of Turkestan are not unknown, but have tended to focus on individual photographers or specific collections. This volume is the first to draw together a range of interdisciplinary studies that explore the history of photography in the region from different viewpoints, looking at the relationship between Russian colonial administration, visual culture, the social networks in which images were circulated, commercial practices – such as the publication and sale of postcards – the practice of ethnographic photography and how this shaped Russian attitudes to Central Asian communities, how the evolution of new photographic technologies enabled scientific expeditions to capture images in remote locations, and the role played by archives and museums in preserving and disseminating these photographs.

After an introductory chapter by Svetlana Gorshenina that reviews recent scholarship on the topic, examining the reasons for the comparative neglect of Central Asian photography by historians as well as the challenges involved in such research, the book is divided into two parts: ‘Photography and Orientalisms’ and ‘Using and reusing photographs.’

The first part contains six chapters that explore the work of Russian and Austro-Hungarian photographers who took their cameras into Turkestan, including Charles-Eugène de Ujfalvy (1842-1904), Samuil M. Dudin (1863-1929), Alexander N. Samoilovich (1880–1938), György Almásy (1867-1933) and Vasilii V. Sapozhnikov (1861-1924). Several of these photographers had a background in anthropology and viewed their subjects through the lens of ethnographic or racial ‘types’, and the authors show how these images were perceived, organised and preserved in museums according to different systems of racial classification that were then in vogue. This was not purely a scientific exercise, of course, but part of a wider agenda that aligned with Russian policy towards these territories, or orientalist theories about the possible Central Asian routes of the Hungarian people (‘Turanism’). Some of these photographs were accompanied by anthropometric measurements but were also combined with the gathering of linguistic data to examine the ‘family trees’ of language development and multi-volume series of photographic albums aimed at compiling an encyclopaedic inventory of world cultures from across the globe. In contrast to these explorations of traditional ethnicities, this part of the book ends with a chapter that examines two hitherto unknown photographic collections in Russian archives, compiled by an official inspector Count Konstantin Konstantinovich von der Pahlen (1861–1923) and hydrological engineer Nikolai Mikhailovich Shchapov (1881–1960), both of which emphasises processes of modern industrialisation in the region, but nonetheless reveal much about how the relationship between old and new Turkestan were perceived. Although the analysis of the images is illuminating, information about the cameras and processes used is thinner. The chapter on the lost photos of engineer and botanist Vasilii Vasil’evich Sapozhnikov, however, includes details about his use of a hand-held camera for 9 x 12 cm glass plates, along with a larger one for 13 x 18 cm plates that he used with a tripod.

The second part of the book, on ‘Using and reusing photographs’, begins with two interesting – and beautifully-illustrated – chapters on the commercial use of postcards, including a diverse range of images (black & white and handcoloured) from Turkestan that were produced by both local postcard firms as well as metropolitan publishers, such as the Community of Eugenia in St Petersburg or the Imperial Moscow and Rumiantsev Museum. While many of these reproduced the work of local or travelling photographers, others were copies of paintings of the region by Russian artists such as the famous Vasily Vereshchagin, who went down with the battleship Petropavlovsk in 1904 when it struck a mine during the Russo-Japanese war. Marketing of these postcards was often linked with the railway networks and aimed at visitors, creating some tension between the exotic emphasis of ethnographic types and traditional representations of Central Asian culture, and the urban scenes showing neat Russian buildings that were intended to encourage more tourists by suggesting that the region was safe to visit. It should be noted that these postcards were all commercially made, by a range of different individuals and businesses, rather than the imperial government, and they remain a valuable source for researching how the region was being presented within the Russian Empire at this time. Another chapter examines two series of picture postcards (1913-16) published by the Moscow-based agency of Aleksei Suvorin that focused on Aralsk and Kazalinsk, and which were closely connected to the rail and ship networks that navigated the area around the Aral Sea. Although the passengers here were mainly limited to a small group of corporate travellers, soldiers and civil servants, the postcards themselves reveal much about the interaction between the different social groups in the region.

We learn more about such relationships in the chapter on Max Penson (1893-1959), a local photographer who rose to become a highly-respected photojournalist during the Soviet era, although he remained in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent while his work was published over many years in the newspaper Pravda Vostoka [Truth of the East]. Despite living on the periphery, Penson’s photographs circulated within a wider media network of Soviet propaganda, documenting the industrialization of the Uzbekistan cotton trade and other achievements in engineering and infrastructure building.  The two remaining chapters explore the museum collections of the Academy for the History of Material Culture in St Petersburg – an important centre for the development of Russian oriental studies – in particular its expeditions into Central Asia in the 1920s and 1930s, which include some wonderful images of the mausoleums of Samarkand, and finally an unusual and innovative discussion of how ‘memory wars’ play out on Facebook groups dedicated to sharing old photographs and postcards of Turkestan.

Readers who would like to see more of the images featured in the book can consult the website of the Open Central Asian Photo Archives:


James Down

Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography

Edited by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, Leigh Raiford and Laura Wexler

Hardback, 288 pages, 750 illustrations

ISBN 9780500545331

London: Thames & Hudson, 2023


This is an extraordinary book, with the potential for reshaping contemporary approaches to the history and practice of photography. By looking afresh at the subject through the ‘lens of collaboration’, this work should inspire and provoke new discussions and lines of inquiry – indeed new ways of thinking – about the act of image-making and how we should understand the role of the photographer and the social dynamic within which they work.

Collaboration begins with a manifesto, laying out in detail the background, aims, parameters and limitations of the project, as well as the hopes of its editorial team for where future discussions and investigations might lead. Of these five editors, three are academics: Ariella Azoulay is well-known for her important work on photographic history and the curation of archives, including seminal books such as The Civil Contract of Photography (2008) and Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (2019), Leigh Raiford has written extensively on visual culture and African American studies, while Laura Wexler is known for her work on photography, feminism and globalization. They are joined by award-winning Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas, renowned for her documentary work in South America in the 1970s, and whose book Kurdistan: in the Shadow of History (1997) remains the definitive work on the photographic history of the region (see the A.F. Kersting article in this issue of PW). The editorial team is completed by another photographer, Wendy Ewald, who has written about a dozen books and works extensively on collaborative projects with school and family groups – in her work with children, she encourages them to write on her negatives that have been taken in collaboration with them, challenging conventional definitions of authorship and opening up new ways of thinking about co-creation.

Together, these editors bring together a wealth of theoretical innovation and practical experience that underpins the project. Collaboration has developed out of a decade of exhibitions, workshops, conversations and regional projects, which have helped to shape the physical structure and layout of the book: while co-teaching a series of university seminars, the writers developed a system of 12” x 12” boxed ‘squares’ on which they organised their visual materials, and these 115 squares became the 115 double spreads of the present book. For each of these projects, an individual writer was invited to contribute a short text, which sits alongside a selection of photographs and short quotes or comments from those involved in their creation, whether this is the photographer(s), those who appear in the images (referred to as ‘photographed persons’ rather than ‘subjects’), editors, archivists, lab workers, assistants, museum curators, translators and spectators.

With over 250 individuals – both photographers and writers – contributing to the book, the formulaic structure of each page provides some necessary discipline and order, without either stifling creativity or encouraging repetition. Each spread represents a specific project, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century almost to the present day, illustrated with a selection of images, usually between six and ten. These in turn are arranged within eight thematic ‘clusters.’

The first of these, ‘The photographed person was always there’, explores the relationship between photographer and subject, including the work of famous photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron (whose family and friends dressed up in costume for her historical tableaux), Edward Curtis’s early 20th-century photographs of Native Americans, and portraits of Georgia O’Keefe taken by the likes of Stieglitz and Irving Penn, as well as more recent series depicting portraits from police archives, civil rights demonstrations and marginal communities. This introduces one of the key themes of the book – negotiating the boundaries between coercion and co-operation, and confronting the facts about how the power dynamics in which photographers work has often allowed such lines to be crossed.

This is investigated further in the second cluster, ‘Reshaping the authorial position’, which includes the work of Ewald and Meiselas, looking at how their collaborative projects – whether these are with neighbours, carnival strippers, Kurdish communities or children – have encouraged their ‘subjects’ to become active participants in the photographic process. Other examples show how marginalized communities such as psychiatric patients and refugees can be given agency through being invited to take their own portraits or have a say in how they appear before the camera, opening up a two-way discussion that de-centres the creative authorship of the photographer.

Cluster Three, ‘Iconization is preceded by collaboration’ applies these thoughts to a series of famous images, such as Dorothea Lange’s 1936 ‘Migrant Mother’ portrait of Florence Thompson, Alberto Korda’s oft-reproduced 1960 photo of Che Guevara and Steve McCurry’s 1985 National Geographic cover picture of Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, while the following cluster, ‘Potentializing violence’, takes the reader into darker territory, from Marc Garanger’s 1960s photographs of forcibly unveiled Algerian Muslim women and the activities of the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement in apartheid South Africa. The writers here look not only at the context in which these images were made, but also the consequences for the persons photographed. As with other clusters (the remaining four are ‘When a community is at stake’, ‘Photography preserves sovereign history as incomplete’, ‘Co-archiving’ and ‘Sovereign and civil power of the apparatus’) there is a degree of overlap between the eight categories, which are distinguished by different colours of paper on the fore-edge.

The editors acknowledge that their book is a dynamic, thought-based record of a series of projects, but this is not a volume to be treated as an encyclopedia or a definitive account of the nature of collaboration. This is a book so dense in humanity (in all its aspects) that it really needs to be repeatedly re-read and reflected upon.

Its coverage is global – sweeping from Kentucky to Kenya, South America to South Africa, Paris to Palestine, China to Cuba – and often provides illuminating and poignant insights into communities that rarely receive much attention in more conventional works on photography. There are numerous moving stories, such as the group of over 1000 volunteers who worked tirelessly to rescue and repair hundreds of thousands of photographs found in the ruins following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, and then return the images to their owners. Collaboration highlights the multiple ways in which photographs hold deep personal significance for people and communities, be it for commemoration of the dead, for self-expression, the publicizing of state violence, the preservation of endangered traditions or landscapes – as well as the importance of resisting the act of photography, such as the suffragettes who were forced to have their portraits taken in Holloway Prison, and showed their lack of consent through averting their faces or closing their eyes. In many cases, the photographed persons’ willingness to co-operate or ability to resist is harder to substantiate, and it is within these spaces – the silences that lie between the various testimonies, facsimile documents, quotes and photographs – that readers can draw their own conclusions about the nature of collaboration. As the title affirms, this book offers a potential history, and as such provides the openings for a conversation that demands to be continued.

James Downs

How to Take Amazing Photos

Nicholas Goodden

Hardback, 94 pages, illustrations

ISBN 9781912785759

London: LOM ART, 2023


Like many collectors of cameras and other photographica, I sometimes feel that I’m getting too bogged down with the historical and technical aspects of the equipment, and not spending enough time out and about using my cameras for the purpose for which they were designed and constructed. Practical guides to photography might seem rather selling coals to Newcastle for many PW readers, but publications of this nature can be a useful barometer for current trends, and new tips or advice are always welcome.

This new book is by Nico Goodden, a London-based commercial photographer who writes a regular blog series on his website offering photography tips: https://www.nicholasgooddenphotography.co.uk/london-photography-blog

The hardback book is nicely produced and almost small enough to fit in a pocket. It is divided up into fourteen short chapters, each one focussing on a particular technique, including Composition – Macro Photography – Nature – Low Angle – B&W – Use of Negative Space – Silhouettes – Movement – Reflections & Symmetry and so on.

Each topic is introduced with a clear explanatory page, followed by sections on ‘Get the Shot’ (practical suggestions), ‘Expert Tip’ and ‘Assignments’.

While this is primarily aimed at a digital audience, including those with phone cameras, it could be recommended for anyone new to photography, for camera users wishing to develop their photographic skills beyond selfies and snapshots, but also for experienced users or collectors of old cameras who might have got into a rut with their usual activities and need some inspiration or practical assignments to inject some life back into their work.

James Downs

Creative Cyanotype  – techniques and inspiration

by Angela Chalmers

Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd ( 14 Sept. 2023)

Paperback, 128 pages

ISBN-13  : 978-0719842672

Dimensions : 21.5 x 0.9 x 21.5 cm  £14.99

In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of photographers and creative artists taking up older photographic processes and techniques.

This new book by ‘photographer, painter, writer and educator’ Angela Chalmers offers pretty much all you need to know about one of the earliest – the Cyanotype.

Achieving exactly what the title suggests, this is a beautifully illustrated book, which will indeed be an inspiration for anyone who is either new to the techniques, or, quite possibly, an old hand at them.

The seven chapters cover everything on the subject in detail, written in a totally engaging and encouraging way.

Opening with a fairly short chapter on the history of the Cyanotype process, including (of course) images by the photographic pioneer Anna Atkins, the book then takes the reader on a journey, from ‘Getting Started’, via ‘Process and Development’, ‘Paper Choice’ and ‘Creative Techniques’ before arriving at ‘Advanced Ideas and Finishing Techniques’.

As with any subject you need a teacher who is not only knowledgeable on the topic, but needs to be encouraging and inspiring in equal measure. Many books on specialised subjects fail due to a dry writing style and dull examples, or, at the other end of the scale, too much uneccessary detail and unachievable examples (eg images taken at venues that are closed to the public, or require extensive specialist kit to produce them).

Creative Cyanotype is a masterclass in balancing text with superb images, from the shots of equipment required, through to the stunning end results that the author has produced.

Most PW readers will be familiar with, and indeed may well have done their own, Cyanotypes of lace fabric, leaves, feathers etc but here that simple approach is taken to higher levels with examples showing not just dried/pressed flowers, but also the effects that can be attained by using them in their natural state. This creates an intriguing, soft edged, slightly undefined appearance.

More examples develop this idea, with transparent articles such as faceted glass, bottles etc – throwing a mixture of sharp and soft edges to the end result and are quite captivating.

There’s plenty of guidance as far as composition goes, with simple but effective sections on compositional lines and symmetry, which put across the importance of them without feeling like they need to be feared!

Although the basic ingredients for anyone wanting to try Cyanotypes for the first time are both cheap and easily obtained, the chapter on ‘getting started’ gives you all the info and suggestions, covering materials and equipment for those wanting to take it a step further.

Each section of the book uses examples that are more involved, more complex and ultimately more amazing.

From multiple printing, through mixed media as subjects, using finished works as the starting point for other creations – inspirational is the only way to describe it.

I particularly like the ‘origami’ approach that is shown later in the book, but possibly the ultimate has to be the full size muslin Cyanotype dress  – remarkable (illustrated below).

Thankfully for such an old process, the author gives some excellent advice on ways to use modern technology to the user’s advantage – namely in making digital negatives to produce contact prints. Using a digital image of a young girl, each step required to create a useable black and white ‘negative’ is explained in a reassuringly simple manner, so that the end result can be printed off onto clear sheet (OHP film), with different finished examples shown, that are all based on that one source image.

The book concludes with a useful list of material suppliers. Even if you don’t fancy producing your own Cyanotypes I still recommend this book as a visually stunning reference work.

Readers who fancy a simple way of trying the Cyanotype process can get in  touch with PCCGB member Geoff Watson – he provides an ‘in a bag’ Cyanotype kit – £15.98 inc P&P:


Timothy Campbell

The Art of the Bizarre Vinyl Sleeve

The collection of Stephen Goldman, with text by Simon Robinson

Paperback : 20x20cm, 180 pages

ISBN-13 : 978-0995523647 £20.99


I consider myself very fortunate in that I grew up in a time when being ‘into’ music meant buying/borrowing vinyl LPs, and either blasting them out through my dad’s stereo, or (if anyone else was at home) listening back through his headphones – a vital part of that listening experience was to sit and pore over artwork on the the 12 inch square LP sleeve. It’s funny to imagine now, where in a few clicks or swipes you can view 1000s of images or read the latest info about groups and musicians, but back then all you had was the front and back cover, and, if the band had splashed out, maybe an inner sleeve to gaze at, and yet there was something almost magical in doing it. This of course assumes that the cover artwork was of an acceptable design standard and competency.

‘The art of the bizarre vinyl sleeve’ is based on the LP collection of Stephen Goldman, with text by PCCGB member Simon Robinson, and never has the word ‘Bizarre’ been more appropriate. It’s true that there have been previous books focused on LP covers, including ones which contain selections of ‘the worst ever’, but this takes it to a whole different level.

It would have been a fascinating book without any text, but Simon’s entries for each cover shown are a mixture of meticulously researched information (with photographer details where known), amazing ‘eye for detail’ comments, and the occasional hysterical/cynical rocket for the nightmarish visuals on display – all of which make this a must-have book.

The contents are roughly grouped into types of cover, eg dreadful Conan the Barbarian sketches, photo montages of ‘budgie smuggler’ clad men, unnerving bible belt family group shots, via a type of recording that I never knew existed – the religious ventriloquist doll selection (I’m not making this up!).

What’s fascinating about all of this is the range of photographic techniques  used. Most readers with even a basic level of Photoshop skills would be able to knock these out very quickly, but back in the 50s through to the early 80s, that of course wasn’t possible.

Some of the sleeves were clearly done in a ‘proper’ studio, with at least some considered degree of lighting used – but that becomes beside the point when the subject is a balding, toothless, geriatric preacher trying to avoid a live, feather scattering dove! Or how about the ‘Faith Tones’; three bouffant ladies on the cover of their ‘Jesus Use Me’ album? If you read that those three were involved in mass slaughter you would not be surprised!

There are plenty of examples of just plain badly done cut and paste covers. Disembodied singers’ head placed onto pineapple slice? Tick. Earnest looking gospel guy glued onto cemetery background, with messily trimmed car smash photos beside him? Tick. Head and shoulders man mysteriously floating in seascape vista surrounded by yachts? Tick.

But, it’s the utterly weird use of quite skilled darkroom multi exposures that will continue to give me the willies. The Cats ’45 lives’ single is the stuff of nightmares. Why anyone would think that grafting the bands faces into a bunch of cat images and expecting it to be a best seller is beyond me.

That one however is totally knocked into a cocked hat by ‘Peter Rabbitt’.

I’m almost  incapable of describing this one – it is scary, strange and bonkers, and again leaves you wondering just what on earth were those involved thinking?!

There are a few bands featured in here who are well known, one being Queen. I can remember when their 1989 Lp ‘The Miracle’ came out I was equally freaked out and fascinated by the cover shot, as it combines all four members faces into one very off looking head shot – they seem to share each others eyes. This was in fact a very early use of digital technology, namely the Quantel Graphic Paintbox. So now you know!

Along with the dreadful, there are some professional covers. The classic Herb Alpert LP ‘Whipped Crean & Other Delights’ has often been imitated, but here it’s given a twist. Soul Asylum do a fair job of matching the look with their ‘Clam Dip & Other Delights’, Pat Cooper goes red for ’Spaghetti Sauce & Other Delights’, while the Frivolous Five just don’t try hard enough with ’Sour Cream & Other Delights’!

This is a hugely enjoyable book – regardless of whether or not you are ‘into’ music or indeed LP sleeves. I guarantee that you will no longer be able to ignore the vinyl section in your local charity shop – It could be worthwhile – many of these records are worth hundreds of pounds!

I can also recommend another related book from the same publisher – ‘Covered’ , which is a collection of classic album sleeves that were the inspiration for less well known offerings around the world.

Timothy Campbell

Lost Places: Images of Bygone America by Heribert Niehues Publisher: Schiffer Hardcover, 182 pages, fully illustrated ISBN: 978-0764363948 £29.00 Schiffer Publishing have produced many photographic books that show just about feature and every square inch of the USA, from backroads to covered bridges, to single counties and the cultures and customs to be found there. ‘Lost Places’ continues an ‘abandoned’ theme that has been the photographic subject of other books from them. Starting with a map of the country, with a handy numbered key to the 80+ locations, this beautifully produced book takes you on a journey that is vast, to put it mildly. Author /Photographer Heribert Niehues provides a good introduction, detailing the rise and fall of the transport systems, from railroad to freeway, and the accompanying requirement for hotels, motels, gas stations and diners. The book is split into four main subjects: Gas Stations, Diners and Motels, Buildings, and finally Automobiles – although many photographs feature all of them! In the UK we sometimes hear of ‘barn find’ vehicles, and of the occasional untouched shed of collectables, and we wonder how on earth they stayed hidden for so long. In the USA it would appear that there are innumerable cars, signs, and even buildings that are not hidden at all – they are in plain sight, but merely abandoned – along with the people who once lived and worked in those rural areas. It is creepy to see mature trees growing through the bonnet of a classic Cadillac car, a VW camper van that has become part of the vegetation, and wooden outbuildings that look like a single breath would topple them, and yet somehow remain standing albeit at a very slanting angle! The photography is of the highest order, with some truly wonderful natural light chosen for maximum impact. The shots range from wide angle vistas, to details of painted enamel signs, to interiors, and everything in between. It’s all personal taste, of course, but I prefer archictectural photography to be ‘old school’ with correct verticals and no distortion, so it does jar for me seeing a mix of excellent landscape images and severe wide angle distorted shots together. Another criticism (according to taste) is that a lot of shots have been given that (relatively) modern obscenity treatment of ‘high dynamic range’. Although I can understand that you might apply it on occassion, or as per a client request, but to randomly use it spoils the individual image, and taints the others as your eye and brain juggle one style against the other – and neither wins. But those criticisms aside, this is a stunning collection of images, and the paragraph or so of text with each photo is a charming mix of information and slightly nostalgic prose Highly recommended. Timothy Campbell

The Who: Concert Memories from the Classic Years, 1964-1976
by Edoardo Genzolini
Publisher: Schiffer
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0764364020 £50.00

I don’t think there has ever been a book review in PW where the subject matter is a rock band, rather than a photographer, a marque, or a history of a photographic process…
Still, better late than never!

‘Music’ photography has a very special place in my heart, as I grew up in a period when there were several weekly musical papers available, from NME to Sounds to Melody Maker, along with many long running monthly magazines that catered for every musical taste and craze that came along.
Being ‘into’ a band or musician in the 70s through to the early 90s meant that your only source of visual info was those magazines – and of course the images (if any) that were featured on their latest LP release. I wasn’t the only person who would sit with headphones on, playing a vinyl record, over and over while sitting staring at the photos on the sleeve – or on the rare occasions when there was an inside sleeve!
That endless fascination with such a minute amount of imagery to ponder on is something which I don’t think happens these days – when at a click of a mouse you can see many thousands of images online of bands and musicians who may not even be ‘famous’.
Along with the music, there were of course concerts – and again those magazines were the source of info about them. Record labels would be happy to pay the top magazines to cover a band while touring (though that was more the case in USA than anywhere else), but the resulting pages were a guarantee of further LP sales – and that’s where the real money was to be made. The public had a taste of the high life of the band, and the very best of the concert photos would be used – with band approval in many cases. There’s nothing wrong with that ‘sanitised’ view of live music and touring, but for the concert going music fan the story has rarely been heard – or seen.

The Who were a hugely important band in the rock sphere – a vast legacy of powerful music, powerful performances, unprecedented amounts of excitement and destruction, both on and off stage, and a fan base that has stayed with them for decades – and this utterly fantastic book is all about, and by, those fans.
In a way this collection touches the same common experience as seaside ‘walkies’ photographs – almost every one of us has had a similar experience, and although the photo may be a bit rubbish, the memories that it can
conjure up are strong and profound.
The basic concept of this book is a timeline of important (and not so important) concerts, with eye witness accounts of them, along with (where possible) the photos that were taken by the same fans.
There is no one true story in any shared event, and one persons ultimate gig may have been anothers nightmare, but both are true. It is fascinating to read the individual accounts of skipping school, thumbing a lift, ‘scalping’ a ticket, or climbing in through the open toilet window to hide until showtime, or bumping into guitarist Pete Townshend at a nearby cafe and being given a backstage pass.
The photo quality (and technique!) varies from the worst snapshot- blurred-washed out colour print to professional level, and is a mix of colour and black and white. The professional ones were generally meant for press use, so of course are often head and shoulder/close ups, and as such are good, but much as you woud expect.
The real shock and thrill is seeing the snaps, which, although technically poor, give such a flavour of being at the concert, often at relatively small venues. knowing how loud The Who played, you almost getting ringing in your ears just looking at them!
It’s great to see unposed photos, taken in dressing rooms, hotel rooms and so on – and a lot of the non professional concert images give a more accurate eye witness feel as they show more of the stage, the lights, the equipment – from back up guitars to extra drum heads, in case Keith Moon decided to hurl his kit into the audience…again!
I’m not a fanatic of The Who, but I am a huge fan of the approach of this book, I just wish there was a similar one for the bands I am in to.
It’s astonishing that author Edoardo Genzolini, as a very young man, had the idea of asking for the memories and photos from people who were there back in the 60s and 70s, and as a result has created a collection that
captures the power of music, and recaptures the excitement and buzz of the true fan, going to any lengths to get to see their idols.
Highly recommended.
Timothy Campbell

Stanhopes. A Collectors’ Guide
By Jean Scott
Paperback 152 pages, illustrated
ISBN 97818382441

PW readers may well remember a review of Jean Scott’s Stanhopes: A Closer View – A History & Handbook For Collectors Of Microphotographic Novelties back in 2002 (PW 103), which gives some indication of the length of time the author has been studying these fascinating objects. She actually began collecting them some forty years ago, and – along with her late husband Ken – devoted an immense amount of effort and labour to research, document and photograph thousands of Stanhopes from across the world.

Stanhopes, for those who need reminding, are small optical devices for viewing microphotographs, using a cylindrical lens (invented by René Dagron in 1857) that could be mounted inside miniature objects such as an ivory carving or an item of jewellery.

Since the publication of her 2002 book, the Scotts made several advances in their research, including the discovery of original correspondence between René Dagron and the King of Siam (published in PW 119), the production of a Stanhopes Magazine between 2006 and 2017, and a series of discoveries revealing the extent to which Stanhopes were disseminated across Europe, America, Australia and the Far East during the 19th century. Meanwhile, Ken Scott developed a much more efficient method of photographing Stanhope images than that used in the first book, using a digital camera coupled with a microscope, and computer software that could enlarge and optimise the image on-screen and flip it from its reversed state. Sadly, Ken died in 2017, but this new book presents his legacy – an extensive compendium of photographic images that showcases the diversity and richness of Stanhope microphotographic collectables – along with the findings of over forty years of international research.

The book is divided into two main parts. The first, ‘Stanhope Novelties’ (pp.14-74) covers the collectable objects into which the lenses were fitted, including gold charms, items carved from ivory and bone, beads and brooches, clay pipes, wooden souvenirs, plastic novelty items, glassware, porcelain beer mugs , greetings cards, Bakelite crucifixes, printed books and dolls. The second part, ‘Stanhope Images’ (pp.75-147) begins with an explanation of how Ken perfected his method for photographing the microscopic images and proceeds through a series of categories – People, Places, Events and Themes – each of which is broken up into smaller sub-categories such as Religious Portraits, British Seaside Resorts, World War One and Cinématographes Bijoux. In both parts of the book, every illustration is captioned and dated (where known), with accompanying pages providing more detailed historical commentary. For the Stanhope images, there is a note for each illustration identifying the sort of object in which it was fitted, or if it was a loose lens.

The value of both the text and the images in this book cannot be rated too highly. The sheer range of novelty objects in which Stanhopes were inserted is quite staggering, and with page after page of beautifully photographed images of these, carefully annotated and arranged, the book provides what will be the definitive guide for collectors and photo-historians. The accompanying text reflects the decades of knowledge and experience acquired by the author, with fascinating insights into the social history of these objects, their relationship with contemporary developments such as Victorian tourism, metal production in Birmingham, Cornish mineral crafts and Turkish export laws, details and statistics on the manufacture and distribution of the lenses by Dagron and other companies, as well as advice on how to distinguish original Stanhopes from modern ‘fakes’, how best to view the images and identify different aspects of the materials and techniques used in their production. This book will therefore appeal to anyone with an interest in antique collecting and social history, as well as those who study the history of photography and visual culture.

This book is privately produced and costs £19.00 plus postage and packing. It can be purchased from the following website:

James Downs

Open Aperture:  The Evolution of  Photography in an Abstract World By Paul Matte

There are a great number of books on the history of photography, and just as many on techniques, specific photographers and on the importance of any period from the early 19th century up to the present day, but what makes this book so very interesting is that author Paul Matte has chosen a genre approach, and has based the contents on how successful each element was during his thirty one years as a teacher.
Thus the general topic of portraiture gets broken down into sub genres, such as self portraiture, celebrity portraiture, social portraiture and so on, and others (snapshots, street photography, abstraction and multiple imagery) are given their own chapters but are fully detailed by the excellent choice of examples for each.

This tutor to student arrangement works very well indeed as each entry has a paragraph or two about the photographer, along with one or more photographs to show why their work is an exemplar of that style.
Matte expresses no preference for any photographer or image, but gives enough information about each that it in effect is a bite sized bit of info that can be readily understood and absorbed without bias. This really is an achievement – it’s so easy to put off students by telling them ‘this is great’, rather than just showing what’s out there and leaving them to decide for themselves what is of value.
Another key thing is that there is such an amazing range of work on show here – as you would expect there are many of ‘the greats’, along with memorable, well known images (Cartier Bresson with the figure leaping over a puddle, Arnold Newman’s brilliant portrait of Stravinsky at his piano, for example) and many more whose work I was unfamiliar with but are equally eye catching (Maggie Taylor, ‘What Remains?’, Raoul Hausmann, ‘Elasticum’).

The book was published in 2018 but includes work from as recently as 2016 and it’s refreshing to see that the recent work isn’t just there as a desperate move to seem ‘with it’.
Although the majority of photographs are black and white, this doesn’t feel like an unbalanced selection, and the fact that the book is on decent quality gloss stock just adds to the impact of all the images, regardless of medium.
The images are relatively small (half page maximum), but I far prefer that to the cardinal sin of printing a photograph across a double page spread.

So, an excellent photographic primer in 9 chapters, with an extensive bibliography at the end – and a website list that is longer than the bibliography – now that’s thorough!
Highly recommended, get it before it goes out of print.

(review by Timothy Campbell)
Hardback, 160 pages, illustrated throughout
ISBN 978-0764355400
£25, Published by Schiffer

Olive Cotton A life in Photography by Helen Ennis

Olive Cotton was born in 1911 into a well-to-do family living in the upper North shore of Sydney. At age eleven, Olive was given a box Brownie by her aunt and this, together with darkroom skills encouraged by her Father, a professor of Geology, appear to have instilled in the young Olive a recognition that photography was ‘her medium’. Olive was encouraged in her education by her parents and gained a degree in mathematics.

In the history of Australian photography, Olive Cotton has been something of an enigma, emerging onto the Australian and British photographic scenes during the 1930s and 40s only to disappear almost entirely from public view until the 1980s. Cotton’s biographer, Helen Ennis is intimately familiar with Olive’s work through her former role as Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia and currently as Emeritus Professor, Centre for Art History & Art Theory at the
Australian National University.

Cotton’s private nature posed considerable challenges to her biographer who has relied on her personal friendship and conversations with Cotton, on reminiscences and source material provided chiefly by Olive’s daughter Sally McInerny, and on scraps of
personal information left in a single trunk of possessions.
Based on this information, Ennis has structured a sensitive portrayal of this talented photographer in six sections. The first three sections are devoted to the emergence of Cotton as a photographic artist, the next two deal with the years of relative seclusion and the last with her re-emergence and recognition as one of Australia’s foremost modernist photographers.

Throughout the book, Ennis uses examples of Cotton’s photographic work to introduce a chapter or illustrate a style or period in Cotton’s work. While numerous, these are printed on ordinary paper perhaps as an encouragement for the reader to seek out better quality reproductions readily found on the websites of the Australian National Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The centre glossy photo pages of the book are reserved for biographical photographs.

Any examination of Cotton’s emergence as a photographer is inevitably coloured by her long friendship with, and short marriage to, the well-known photographer Max Dupain.
Ennis describes how Olive and Max met as teenagers at regular holidays at the seaside village of Newport north of Sydney. A shared interest in photography led eventually to membership by both of the Photographic Society of New South Wales where their prints were subject to critical peer review. But in contrast to Max’s art studies and photographic apprenticeship, Olive – focused on her university courses – had no photographic training. Instead of taking up teaching, the expected career for young women with a university education, Olive chose to work with Max as his assistant as his reputation and workload grew.

Olive was attracted to pictorialism and her first public foray in 1932 to the photographic art world was her landscape photograph Dusk in the Interstate Exhibition of Pictorial Photography. Exhibitions continued and in 1935, her important work Teacup ballet was selected for exhibition at the London Salon of Photography.

In 1938, Olive was the only woman represented in the Australian Commemorative Salon and Contemporary Camera Groupe’s show. Her works Shasta Dasies and Winter Willows were also exhibited at the London Salon of Photography, her second showing there. Winter Willows was also published in the Penrose Annual: Review of the Graphic Arts alongside a work by F. J. Mortimer the noted landscape photographer and long-time editor of the prestigious Photograms of the Year.

Olive’s work in the Max Dupain studio gave her access to professional cameras and lighting equipment where she was able to explore and develop her feeling for light and her darkroom capabilities. Her sensual 1937 portrait Max after surfing was taken in the 7×5 inch studio camera format. After her marriage to Max in April 1939, Olive stopped working at the studio with work commitments and art photography replaced by a (possibly reluctant) focus on domestic responsibilities. Max hired photographer Damien Parer to help with studio work but with war on the way, this came to an end when Parer enlisted.

Ennis hints at Olive’s possible motives for divorce including her concern over Max’s relations with his fashion
photography models. Whatever the reason, with divorce in mind, Olive left to take up a teaching position in Bowral, 120 km from Sydney. The divorce was concluded in mid-1941.

Max, a pacifist, was involved in the war effort working in Northern Australia as a camouflage officer for the Department of Home Security. His studio shrank to a shared arrangement with another studio and Olive moved back to Sydney as manager and chief photographer of the Dupain studio side, tackling projects from commercial, private and government clients with opportunities to develop her technique and style. Ennis leads us through the range of Olive’s work: landscapes, flower studies, surrealism, modernism, interiors, groups, and figures.
In 1942, Olive was introduced to her future husband, Ross McInerny and following his army discharge, they were married in 1945. This began a long period of obscurity for Olive Cotton. Ennis tells us that the first home for Olive and Ross was an ex-army canvas tent on a friend’s farm, followed some years later by a two-room cottage on a newly purchased property in 1949 and later by a prefabricated, slightly larger dwelling. The spartan living conditions were alleviated by Olive’s regular stays at her family homes for the birth of her two children and for holidays with the children. Financial strains were addressed in 1959 when Olive resumed teaching and in 1966, with the establishment of her own photographic studio in Cowra, New South Wales where there was steady, if unexciting work.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, Olive was ‘rediscovered’ through increased interest in Australian photography and increased awareness of female photographers. Olive’s works were included in publications by the National Gallery of Australia and featured prominently in the exhibition Australian Women photographers 1890–1950.
In the early 1980s an Australia Council grant freed Olive from her day-to-day studio work and encouraged her to reprint negatives that she had taken over a period of forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 drew critical acclaim, and her reputation has since been assured.

‘Photography is drawing with light and that is my greatest interest’. –
Olive Cotton
Michael Parker

(Review by Michael Parker)

Hardback 544 pages with illustrations
ISBN 9781460758342
Fourth Estate, 2019
Not available in hard copy in the UK
$AU49.99 or as an e-book through Booktopia or Amazon

Herbert Ponting By Anne Strathie

As the subtitle of the book says, Ponting was ‘Scott’s Antarctic Photographer and Pioneer Filmmaker’.
That’s how we primarily remember him, and we’ve all seen some or many of his stunning images from Captain Scott’s final expedition. Of course he also had a life before and after those months, which is explored here in greater detail than ever before.

Son of a successful banker, Herbert was born in Salisbury in 1870. After a comfortable childhood he, like his brothers, was initially pointed towards banking too. He did try his hand at it in a junior role, but it wasn’t long before wanderlust took over and in 1892 he was off to make his fortune in California – not by gold mining but fruit farming.
Some family money got him set up, but a combination of oversupply (so low prices) and a general financial downturn meant that the business did not thrive. He married a local woman with good social connections, but although he became well enough known locally he was sufficiently a footloose loner not to integrate so well.

Even before leaving England his interest in photography had begun, and it continued in America, with ever-increasing sales of images, especially stereos, to publishers there and back in England. His photographic work clearly interested him more than orange farming, and took more and more of his attention.
By 1901 he was off, seldom to see his wife and children again for the rest of his life. His destination was Japan, and his goal was to photograph and publish, using some of the connections he’d already established. This resulted in the next few years in several books, and many individual photographs. Although he covered all the typical subjects, his best work was in the wilds – mountains including Mount Fuji in particular.
In his wanderings he encountered Cecil Meares with whom he was to have a long and important relationship. They took themselves off via India and Burma to what soon became the location of the Russo-Japanese War, with Ponting photographing all the way.
The Meares connection and his published work got him the job which defined his life, as the Scott expedition photographer – and increasingly cinematographer. For Ponting the expedition occupied 1910-12, and he was back in Europe before he heard that Scott and the rest of the Polar party had died. His job then was to print photographs, write a book, complete films and lecture widely – more or less inventing the idea of a live lecture that combined not only projected stills, but movie clips too. At first there was huge interest, but as that initial impact faded, Ponting continued to push the subject almost obsessively – as he did for the rest of his life.

These post-expedition years became a sad story of struggle and business failure – he involved himself, and his savings, in a series of ill-considered projects none of which made much (or any) money.

So what of the book? Anne Strathie has done a huge amount of detailed research, doubtless helped by the fact that she has also written biographies of two other members of Scott’s expedition. However, the amount of information she has dug up on Ponting is prodigious, and it provides the most comprehensive view of Ponting’s life that we have had. Although the story of his role in Antarctica was already well known, that of his life before and after his ‘big moment’ had been outlined rather than explored in depth.
Here we have both the strength and the weakness of the book. Strathie is not a particularly fluent or engaging writer, but is a diligent researcher. Everything is here, organised chronologically – his private life, his business endeavours, his struggles (at least partly successful) to keep the memory of Scott and his expedition alive in everyone’s memory, his contributions to the development of photography and the emerging world of the cinema.

After reading Strathie’s book I decided to re-read H J P Arnold’s Photographer of the World – the first biography of the same subject, from 1969. Arnold covers the same ground as Strathie but in a good deal less detail. However, he is the better writer, and is much more knowledgeable about photography, which helps us appreciate what was actually good about Ponting’s work – something which rather escapes Strathie.

Like Arnold’s book, Strathie’s is illustrated with some of Ponting’s Antarctic images, and she also includes a rather broader selection from the rest of his life. They are well-reproduced but unfortunately rather small, and are tucked away in a couple of separate sections in the traditional way. Readers seeking good reproductions of Ponting’s Antarctic work should look instead for With Scott to the Pole. Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913; The Photographs of Herbert Ponting (2004).

In summary, then, this is not a great read, but by comprehensively digging into the life of her subject, Strathie has managed to build a believable picture of his life and personality, and provide probably most of the information we are ever likely to get on this key figure of early 20th century photography.

(Review by John Marriage)

Paperback, 16 x 23cm, 271 pp.
ISBN 978 0 7509 7901 6.
The History Press, 2021

Through a Native Lens: American Indian Photography By Nicole Dawn Strathman

Many years ago, I paid what I then thought was a fortune (£32 ) for Native Nations – Journeys in American Photography, the catalogue of a Barbican Art Gallery exhibition that had opened in September 1998. The principal advisor for this was Paula Richardson Fleming – to my mind the prime authority on photographs of American Indians – who worked for the Smithsonian Institution. That book included a section showcasing the work of ten native American Indian photographers.

Some twenty years later, three of those ten, and perhaps the most traditional three: Horace Poolaw (Kiowa) – about whom at least two books have been written recently (in 2014 and 2016), Jennie Ross Cobb (Cherokee) and Richard Throssel (Cree) re-emerge in this volume for further analysis. Apparently the author of this book had been awarded a fellowship from the Smithsonian, during which she started her research. The reputation of these three photographers is now pretty well established. In this new volume they are joined by at least four new names: a studio photographer – Benjamin Haldane (Tsimshian), George Johnston (Teslin Tlingit), Parker McKenzie (Kiowa) and Harry Sampson (Northern Paiute.) These seven photographers worked across the continental U.S.A. and into coastal, Western Canada.
The book splits into two unequal parts; the shorter part looking at ‘Native Participants’ and the much longer part looking at ‘Native Practitioners.’ The last three chapters of Through a Native Lens examine the commercial origins of the photographs reproduced in the latter category, by degree of professionalism of the photographer as either professional, semi-professional or amateur.

These distinctions should perhaps be important, but as the book restricts its coverage to broadly the first 100 years of photography (until around the end of World War II ) pictorially, they just aren’t, because that period covers the enforced transition from ‘Red Indian’ to ‘White Indian’ for all the native contributors. What the photographs do illustrate is that transition – and how the photographs were used, close to the date of production, for personal, tribal or ‘State’- related purposes. The author says she wants ‘to show that the photographs taken by early native photographers and created for indigenous sitters stand as counter images to the more prominent visual narrative of a disappearing race.’

It is, I think, well known that high-profile Indian warrior leaders such as Geronimo (Apache) and Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa Sioux) actively managed how they presented themselves to the American public in photographs, after being captured and demanded a fee for being photographed. The sales of these ‘souvenir’ CDVs made them into the superstars of the 1880s. The more peaceful leaders that followed, such as Red Cloud (Oglala), mirrored the traditions of portraiture established by the white American statesmen who were then in charge of their people’s destiny, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to project their equivalence of stature during land rights negotiations etc.

The book mixes a minority of previously published photographs, with many fresh images, drawn from a number of disparate sources. It also uses some photographs from acknowledged master photographers, such as; Edward Sheriff Curtis, Joseph Kossuth Dixon, Mary Schaffer, two stunning 1898 studio portraits (of the same subject) by Gertrude Käsebier, and images from various anthropological, ethnographic and national archives. These two factors – vastly differing levels of photographic competence and different end purposes for the finished photographs – makes the book appear more than a little ‘schizophrenic’. What the author is trying to do, she states is to ‘refocus the lens on previously excluded and undervalued images.’ This is a laudable aim, but I am not sure there is room in this relatively small format to successfully achieve such a task. This title is volume 37 in a series of works on ‘The Art and Photography of the American West’ and it may be that the book had to harmonise with the previously produced volumes. If so, that is a shame, as the contents appear to be much too tightly constrained within the dust jacket.

The photographs, apart from the two excellent cover images, are all in black & white and some are a little ‘blocky’ – which may be the result of initially poor photographic technique and / or less than ideal storage conditions in the family or tribal archives from which some were sourced. Research has shown that one of the photographers featured left her original glass plate negatives with a number of trusted friends, because she moved around so much, and it is certain that many irreplaceable images have become lost in this manner, or in similar circumstances. Any such loss may be catastrophic, representing the complete visual archive of a discrete tribe, which has now ceased to exist, or at the very least, has changed substantially upon assimilation into the Western world. The author indicates that the archive of some of the native photographers she was researching amount to less than 20 photographs, the subjects of which were possibly only known by name to the surviving older members of that very specific tribal group. Unfortunately, the period the book covers includes occasions when railroads, or highways, were driven across former native lands and the resulting intermixing of Anglo-Americans, with native populations, resulted in highly increased death rates, the native populations having little immunity to Western diseases such as T.B., measles, whooping cough, meningitis etc. So even if a photograph has been preserved, the identity of the subject(s) within that photograph may not now be known.

This book is not an ideal starter book for people wanting to learn about historical American Indian culture, but it does attempt to investigate the initial, raw, steps in the emergence of differing native narratives, using photography. I feel the book is more about introducing the photographers to us and attempting to decode the relevance the image had for them, rather than to promote the photographic qualities of the images chosen. The genesis of this book was an UCLA dissertation, as evidenced by the useful twelve pages of notes to the text and a wide-ranging 23 page bibliography.

There are some photographs I would have liked to have seen reproduced larger, and maps to show the areas in which the photographers were active would have helped non-American readers. My main criticism is that the paper stock used feels barely adequate for purpose, which should not be a concern in a book of this price.

I am all too aware that I am looking in on this book from a position where I have seen countless set-piece photographs of American Indians, depicted as ‘noble savages’. It is hard to wipe those visuals from my mind, and look at these, more mundane images, as equally valid documents. Given the liberties taken by some of the ‘big name’ photographers in the past, these photographs clearly deserve wider consideration as the more accurate source materials.

So, do I like the book? Yes. Will everybody? Possibly not. As a taster for the seven native photographers covered in depth, this is a good 228 pages worth. The author in her conclusion makes reference to another six, named, native photographers she would have liked to have included and I think a wider spread of contributors would have ‘selected out’ some of the less interesting images. What I did consider to be a real strength of the book was that the text interacts very well with the chosen images and explains things I was either unaware of, or simply would not have considered as being relevant. There is, I feel, a better book to come from Ms. Strathman, when she assembles the work from those other photographers, and a publisher allows her a lot more space, and higher quality print reproduction with which to present the extensive study she has obviously undertaken.

(Review by Chris Williams)

Hardback, xi + 228 pages, illustrations
ISBN 978-0-806164847

Women in the Dark: Female Photographers in the US, 1850-1900 By Katherine Manthorne

This is a richly-illustrated and beautifully produced history of female commercial photographers working in America during the second half of the 19th century. Despite the fact that a photograph commemorating the founding of the National Photographic Association in 1869 shows an entirely-male assemblage, women worked in huge numbers throughout the photographic industry at this time. A detailed and carefully-researched historical study of this activity is long overdue.

The book is divided into six thematic chapters which follow a rough chronological order while also incorporating a series of ‘mini-chapters’ that profile individual photographers. Thus, in the chapters that cover The Pioneers, the Civil War Era, Family Matters (including wedding photography and post-mortem baby portraits and wedding photography), A Visit to a Woman’s Portrait Studio, Outdoors: Landscape & Architecture, and The New Woman and Women’s Rights, we are introduced to photographers such as Mary Ann Jube (1820-81), who took ambrotypes in the Bowery, daguerreotypist Candace Reed (1818-1900), spirit photographer Helen F. Stuart (1832-1912), PR and marketing wizard Rosa Vreeland-Whitlock (1852-1925), Emily Stokes of Boston, landscape photographers Eliza Withington of California and Marian Hooper Adams (1843-85) of New England, Sarah Short Addis, who photographed indigenous men and women on the borders of Mexico and California ca. 1875-90, and ending with Anny Lindquist, Frances Benjamin Johnston and ‘the Kodak Girl.’

These (and many other) women photographers are studied in detail, although biographical information about some remains sketchy, with their existence known only through the survival of a few cartes-de-visites. Manthorne’s sympathetic account of the lives of these photographers is bolstered by perceptive analysis of their work that looks at topics such as the use of costumes, symbols and other artistic conventions, as well as fascinating descriptions of business practices and street life in the various parts of America during this period. The author is an art history professor at the City University of New York and brings to the book an impressive knowledge of both social and art history, enriched by material drawn from archives, printed newspapers and other sources.

There are over eighty illustrations – reproduced in excellent quality – with the images including numerous cartes-des-visites (both fronts and backs), cabinet cards and other examples of commercial photography, as well as some stereoviews and one or two contemporary engravings or presscuttings. Apart from a cdv portrait of the escaped slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), there are no black or African American faces featured in the illustrations, and it seems slightly curious that almost all the women photographers in the book appear to be white; nor is there any mention of Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s ground-breaking book Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers (1986) in the bibliography. Although the number of black women working in the photographic industry during the 19th century was almost certainly very small, it seems regrettable that their contribution is nonetheless omitted from a book that does so much otherwise to push back against the absence of women from previous histories of photography. This was also a criticism that could be levelled against the late Naomi Rosenblum’s A History of Women Photographers (1994).

A book like this is obviously not intended to be comprehensive, and it is to be hoped that Women in the Dark will stimulate further research into the history of 19th century American women photographers. In Britain, this subject has been receiving critical attention for some years, as shown by the recent research by Rose Teanby and others, or the 2020 National Trust for Scotland Symposium ‘Ways of Seeing: Women and Photography in Scotland.’ While admittedly Britain is a much smaller territory to cover, the numbers are similar: 3,587 women photographers are recorded in the 1900 US census, with 3851 in the UK census for 1901. Professor Manthorne’s research marks a substantial advance in our understanding of these women’s photographic work, placing their activities within the wider context of the development of photographic technology, social demographics, migration, business practices, visual culture, tourism, women’s rights and printed media.

The books ends with two appendices – Eliza Withington’s article ‘How a Woman Makes Landscape Photographs’ (1876) and Frances Benjamin Johnston’s ‘What a Woman can do with a Camera’ (1897) – along with a bibliography and notes; the absence of an index is no great loss given the detailed contents page at beginning. Highly recommended.

(Review by James Downs)

Hardback, 144 pages, illustrations
ISBN 978-0764360169
Schiffer, 2020

Photography at Length – The Authentic History of Panoramic Cameras – Brian Polden

To say this book has been a long time coming would be something of an understatement – this is made obvious by the foreword which is/was by none other than the right honorable Earl of Lichfield – sadly Patrick Lichfield died in 2005.
The introduction sets the scene for the book, explaining how throughout history man has attempted to render views of 3 dimensions on 2 dimensional surfaces, using whatever technology was available at any given period. The basic concepts thus become the main sections of this substantial book.

The sections are:
1: adjoining images, 2: rotational lenses, 3: rotational cameras, 4: other rotational systems, 5: non rotational systems, 6: non conformists and 7: special applications.

To say this book is a work of considerable depth and breadth (no pun intended) would be putting it mildly.
I don’t recall seeing any book covering a single topic in such detail and clarity.
Most readers will no doubt be able to name a handful of panoramic cameras, and some may even recall having their class photo taken with one, but many of the items detailed here are museum exhibits and/or from patent drawings so are quite likely to be ‘new’ to most of us.
What is to be admired is the way that Brian Polden introduces each section with background information, and explains the problems that were trying to be overcome, then continues with the practical solutions that were used in the relevant cameras, along with examples from the cameras where possible.
Particular favourites for me are the sections on Sutton’s water lenses, where different focal lengths could be obtained by using thicker glass with less water, thinner glass with bigger volume of water, a history of panoramic cameras in the USSR with the FT-2 ‘brick’ and its offshoots (the Horizon and Horizont), and a chapter on the Al-Vista and Kodak Panoram models. One of the first chapters covers the incredible ROTUNDA building of 1800 whereby punters would enter the wooden building, head up the stairs and be rewarded with a full wrap around painted vista of amazing detail.

It can be very hard to decide where to draw the line with any kind of research project. One might imagine that panoramic cameras is a very niche subject, and of finite possibilities, but I’m personally aware of Brian’s obsession with getting it all included after I wrote a piece on underwater cameras for PW back in issue 128. I finished my piece with a casual mention of an item I’d seen illustrated in an auction catalogue. As soon as the PW article was printed Brian contacted me, desperate to know if I had the camera, or a photo or any information about it as he was about to go to print with this book…that was 11 years ago! It makes my point, though that this is a more than just a reference book on the subject – it was the authors intention for it to become THE reference book.

The book isn’t cheap, but it is a really excellent buy, as it has so much information from both a photographic(a) viewpoint and from an historical one. There are literally hundreds of illustrations of the cameras, exploded diagrams, patent information and examples taken with many of the cameras under discussion.
The book is very well printed and the colour illustrations well presented – my only criticism is that the cover is truly dire. Looking more like a 1980’s county council annual expenditure report than a photographic book, I don’t understand why a book that has the word ‘cameras’ in the title doesn’t feature one on the cover!

(Review by Timothy Campbell)

The Bardwell Press , 2019
Hardback, A4, 544 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-905622-55-9

The Birth of the Idea of Photography By François Brunet

For anyone working in the field of the history of photography, the death of François Brunet on Christmas Day in 2018 came as a great shock. He was only 58, and for many years had been a dynamic and influential force in reshaping how we think about the history of photography. Although he began his career studying linguistics and ancient history, he became interested in visual culture through the work of American photo-historian Peter E. Palmquist, leading to Brunet doing his doctoral dissertation on the pioneering
photographers who worked for the US Federal Survey during the second half of the nineteenth century – such as Carleton Watkins, Timothy O’Sullivan and W.H. Jackson.
Although he continued to live in France and teach at the Université Paris-Diderot, Brunet established an international reputation as a specialist on the history of American photography – indeed he was the first non-American to be appointed to the editorial board of the journal American Art, in addition to posts he held as editor of History of Photography and as advisor to the European Journal of American Studies. He therefore brought to his scholarly work a truly international perspective as a cultural historian as well as his expertise in literature and semiotics.
In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, Brunet’s major works included La Naissance de l’idée de photographie [The Birth of the notion of photography] (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2000), La Photographie: histoire et contre-histoire (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 2017) and – as editor and contributor – L’Amérique des images (Paris: Éditions Hazan and Université Paris-Diderot, 2013).
Although the brilliance of La Naissance de l’idée de photographie was recognised at the time, it has taken almost twenty years for it to be translated into English, and it should be noted first of all that Dr Shane Ellis has done an excellent job of translating Brunet’s subtle and nuanced prose into lucid and engaging English. Brunet’s argument, although ambitious and far-ranging, is thankfully free from the heavy conceptual theorising and linguistic abstractions that make reading some French intellectual so laborious. Lest anyone be misled by the cover…
It is also a beautifully produced book, printed on fine glossy paper with some fifty illustrations reproduced in high quality, many of them in colour. These were absent from the original French edition and are a most welcome addition. While many of the images will be familiar to anyone interested in the history of photography, others less so, such as the 1904 studio portrait of Rev John White, and the American daguerreotypes by Charles Fontayne and William Porter.
As one would expect from Brunet, the book is structured around a comparison between French and American cultural developments, divided into two parts: ‘Inventions: The Daguerre Moment’ (pp.15-224) and ‘Refoundings: The Kodak Moment’ (pp.229-349, although the British contribution of Talbot, Herschel and others is discussed at length throughout, with a particularly detailed chapter on Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature.
Brunet’s thesis is that, following Daguerre’s announcement of his discovery in 1839 the French saw photography as an invention, an idea, rather than a specific technology or practice: when the French state gave a pension to Daguerre, purchasing his process and placing it in the public domain to make it legally accessible to all, the official pronouncements of the time emphasised its status as ‘an artless art’, claiming that ‘sun painting’ was too simple to patent (pp.86-7).
In England however, as most PW readers will know, the daguerreotype process was patented and this restriction was closely defended in law, ensuring that photography developed along the lines of a business practice – this was especially true in America.
Brunet explores how this democratic idea of ‘photography for all’ developed during the fifty years that passed between the ‘Daguerre Law’ (1839) and the launch of Kodak (1889), arguing that Eastman’s motto ‘You press the button, we do the rest’ was effectively a rebranding of the French government’s claim that ‘anyone can do it’. His examination of this theme ranges across the different photographic processes and practices of the period, discussing such topics as the commercial economy and exchange of images, the playful ways in which British amateur photography engaged with literature, mythology and painting, the relationship between social class, family photography and political democracy, the scientific, educational and documentary applications of photographic technology, and the influence of writers such as Sigmund Freud, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henri-Louis Bergson and Charles Sanders Peirce in shaping how we think and talk about photography. In the final section Brunet looks at Alfred Stieglitz, who moved away from Pictorialism to espouse ‘straight photography’, and wrote scathingly about the ubiquitous Kodak snap-shooters while himself using Kodak cameras and publishing adverts from George Eastman’s empire in the journal Camera Work, of which he was editor from 1902 until its demise in 1917.
Brunet’s skill in drawing together so many disparate strands makes for illuminating reading, and there is no doubt that this book is destined to become a key text for anyone studying the history of photography. Hopefully this English translation will bring Brunet’s work before a wider audience and lead to other writings of his being read and translated. In addition to a preface written by Brunet shortly before his death, there is an index and a bibliography, as well as a short note from editor Thierry Gervais.

(Review by James Downs)


Hardback, 385 pages, illustrated
Published by RIC Books (Ryerson Image Centre) and the MIT Press, 2019
ISBN 9780262043267

Hasselblad & the Moon Landing By Deborah Ireland

Although some may say ‘why bother’ with space travel, the ISS, the Hubble telescope, Mars trips etc when the money could be better spent on Earth, there is no denying that putting a man on the moon (and returning him) was one of the most incredible achievements in human history.
Given that July 20th 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of that event, it’s no surprise that there are many books documenting it – this book, while quite brief, and barely scratching the (lunar) surface, is nonetheless a most welcome celebration of the history of the moon landings, Hasselblad cameras and of NASA itself.

Beginning with an introduction by our very own Dr Michael Pritchard, the book in essence is a series of very short spotlights on assorted aspects of the missions, with many behind the scenes photographs and details of the Hasselblad cameras that would eventually be used on the moon’s surface.

Readers may recall an article on the Lunar Surface ‘Blad (PW143) based on my hands on review of the Hasselblad SWC that is held in the archive at the Science + museum in Bradford. At that time there was a surprising shortage of hard facts on just what had been used during ALL missions by NASA, and particularly the Apollo ones.
Thankfully this charming volume now puts those uncertanties to rest with handy tables and charts detailing all of the cameras used, from the Mercury 3 of May 1961, to Apollo 11 of July 1969.

The book is square in format, and is very nicely printed, and as mentioned it reads almost as a series of blogs rather than a detailed analysis – and is all the more enjoyable for it. The information and facts are easy to absorb, and I’m sure the intention was to pique interest, rather than to be the last word on this incredible period.

The facts and figures are one thing, but it’s the images that are the crux for me. As mentioned in the PW143 article, anyone can access the entire series of films via the NASA website https://bit.ly/1r2OSOX , and it’s interesting to compare those scans with those reproduced here.
The book is square which of course suits the 6×6 format of the ‘Blad, BUT some images have been slightly cropped, which I find rather odd. The images were for reference, not for artistic merit (although of course many of the shots are as inspiring as any ‘art’ photograph you can name), so this approach had me wondering why it was done.
The images do look wonderful, until you compare with the NASA online ones (and even those used in the excellent biography of Victor Hasselblad, published in 1981). Many are darker than they should be, and this means the reseau plate marks are virtually invisible in some. It’s not catastrophic, but I point it out for the purists!

Again it might be nitpicking, but all of the focus is on the EL500, while the SWC lunar surface camera which was used for the majority of images EXCEPT for on the Moon itself is barely a footnote, which seems a pity.

Ammonite press have produced several excellent photographic related books all at very affordable prices, and this is no exception – a tenner for a fascinating document of this extraordinary series of missions and cameras – it’s a no brainer.
(Review by Timothy Campbell)

Hardback, 96 pages, 200 x 200 x 12.7mm. 40 illustrations
ISBN 9781781453346
Published by Ammonite Press

Alternate Processes in Photography. Technique, History and Creative Potential By Brian Arnold

Brian Arnold’s first job was at the Colorado Historical Museum where he helped to make prints from 24 x 20 inch glass plates photographed by William Henry Jackson, a key 19th century American photographer and painter.

Whilst checking on this book’s publication details we came across a most interesting site, https://brianarnold.wordpress which gives many clues to his beliefs and practices in photography, and the surprising fact that his strong interest in Balinese music and Indonesian culture, including music, dance and theatre, preceded his professional involvement with photography. Presently he works as a research fellow at Cornell University on the South East Asia programme.

The book currently sells for wildly different amounts, £32.99 – £58.86 in the UK and its delivery time varies considerably. Oxford University Press market it as a textbook. We feel that the binding and cover are not robust enough for frequent handling. A wire binding and better-quality paper would improve its practicability. In its present form it seems expensive considering its production standards.

Once you have read Arnold’s introduction you know where you stand. This is not a dry textbook but a passionate and personal account of the processes covered, with observations and recommendations on safe practices, particularly chemical safety. There is an extensive glossary and four highly useful pages of relevant web sites. There are many illustrations – two colour sections plus frequent black & white examples within the text.

The central part of this book deals with negative making using digital and darkroom techniques, followed by an introduction to papers and their production methods plus other image support materials. At the heart of the book the alternate processes are described and guidance is given for the reader to safely experiment with: Calotype, Cyanotype, Van Dyke Brown, Platinum & Palladium with sub types, Kallitype & Ziatype, Gum Bichromate, Lifts & Transfers, Wet Plate Collodion, Liquid Emulsion and Combination Printing. This list could keep you occupied for many years.

Although the book has been written and produced in America and includes a few North American products, we feel that it would not affect its usefulness in Britain, and it has certainly been a very pleasant surprise for us.

(Review by Roger & Danièle Bradley)

Paperback, 224 pages, illustrations
ISBN 978-0199390397
Published in the USA by Oxford University Press, 2017
Price £32.99

The Secret History of KGB Spy Cameras: 1945-1995 by H. Keith Melton & Lt. Col. Vladimir Alekseenko

There are several books on subminiature cameras that use the term ‘SPY CAMERA’ as an almost generic term, as if any camera that is smaller than 35mm is or was by default used in espionage (not true at all). As a keen collector of subminiature cameras I have most of the books that are on the subject, so was fairly blasé about this latest title from Schiffer – I soon changed my tune.

The cover has an image of a hand holding the tiny, relatively well known AJAX 11 (F 21), a camera that is rather like a miniature version of the clockwork ROBOT camera. The miniscule size and complexity of the AJAX is really quite amazing, but the cameras featured within these pages are truly astounding, making the AJAX a virtual also ran.

Written in association with two senior KGB officials, the book details the history not just of the cameras used by the KGB, but also the KGB itself. Thankfully the authors do this in a very breezy manner, so even though there are hundreds of acronyms used, it’s very light reading – helped by a thorough glossary on pages 175 to 183 (I said there were a lot!)

Most readers will be familiar with the stereotypical spy use of sub min cameras from film and TV, so the bigger budget films (Bond, Harry Palmer) used a minox, the low budget TV shows (Man in a suitcase, Danger man) used the Mamiya 16, and coupled with later period surveillance cameras that’s about as ‘secret’ as things get. Post USSR there has been a steady stream of ingenious fake spy camera sets come onto the market, mostly based on the Russian 16 mm cameras – John Player Special cigarette packet being a perfect example.

However this book reveals just how spectacularly clever the Russians were at pushing available technology to limits that even the best of the spy writers would never dream of.

When I saw the first digital ‘roll over’ scanners in the early noughties I thought I’d seen the future. To read about and see images in this book that showed that the KGB had working cameras that fitted inside a cigarette packet, that used mirrors and in built lighting to expose a roll of 8x11mm Minox film as you dragged said fag packet across the top secret document in 1951, I could not believe my eyes.

But the miracles go on – working ballpoint pen with lens built into push button end? They did that in 1965. Ladies leather hand bag with concealed clockwork FED and remote release? That was 1947. Pinhole lens camera with 1/50th shutter speed built into working ladies lipstick? That took a while longer – 1975. All these examples are given along with dates, details of manufacture and the difficulties with use in the field (primarily due to film jamming, even with ultra thin emulsions).

The reasons for needing certain types of camera are fully explained, from the obvious one of document copying, to remote surveillance and perhaps the ‘dirtiest’ of all – the use of entrapment. We’ve all seen films where the private eye waits in his car to take a snap of the silhouetted romeo behind the backlit curtains of a sleazy hotel room. In reality it took more involved work than that. Choosing a room next to the hotel room where the liaison was to take place, the agent would carefully drill through the wall days in advance, to make the tiniest hole in the adjoining wall, they then used a Zinnia 35mm camera with a multitude of extension tubes to take 1mm pinhole images of the most compromising content!

The book has 11 chapters, broken down into main subjects such as Agent Document Copy Cameras, (mobile and rollover), surveillance cameras (mobile, portable), etc and extra chapters on history, glossary and bibliography. Apart from many photographs of each item, and sample images in some cases, there are also the original watercolour illustrations that were used to train operatives for each of the secret photography techniques needed.

The ONLY criticism I make of the book is that there’s often no scale of reference in the images – so although you can fully appreciate the build and complexity of the cameras, it would have induced even more wonder to see that ballpoint pen at size, rather than over sized as shown, but this is indeed a minor point.

For anyone remotely interested in subminiature cameras – this book is an absolute must have.

For anyone who wants to get a taste of the ‘real’ world of espionage, it’s a must have.

For everyone else – this book is a must have!

(Review by Timothy Campbell)

Schiffer Publishing Ltd
ISBN-13: 978-0764356162
23.5 x 2.5 x 31.8 cm , hardback

Photography: The Unfettered Image By Michelle Henning

When I studied at Ealing Technical College sixty years ago, little did I think it would convert into the University of West London one day. Under its roof sits the London School of Film, Media and Design with author Michelle Henning as Professor of Photography and Cultural History. Her book aims to show that digital imaging has accelerated the mobility of photographs and she argues that, following the creation of photography, images were liberated. That is, modern pictures can travel, be transferred, projected, translated, fragmented, reconstructed, and reversed. She demands a revised version of photographic history, which acknowledges her hypothesis that the initial capture of an image presents the opportunity to use it in many ways. That is to say, it is mobile and lends itself to different outlets.

Her chapters pursue this concept that photographers have a freedom to express their work in new directions and she gives the example of the mobile phone’s adaptability in conjuring up images that are themselves versatile. With some justification, the professor asserts that the past interpretation of history should be modified, but I think this is unfair. Photography evolved out of the trials, tests and experiments of amateurs and gentlemen of the middle classes. There were no companies or big organisations to do the job for them. That came later. For over 150 years, photography has been adapting to new technology, new chemistry and new thinking… and this adaptation has been possible because it is unfettered. That is, there are no restraints on how it should be used, where it can be used and why it is used. By chapter five, called Second Nature, I began to understand her proposition.

I was disappointed she used the word ‘solarization’ where the correct term is ‘the Sabattier Effect’ but more than disappointed when the term ‘microphotography’ described a photomicrograph, which is a picture secured via a microscope. Many of Michelle Henning’s words are ones that I do not use and caused my reading to stumble when I encountered, for example, superficiality, instantaneity, biocentricism, and fetishise. The use of ‘situates’ occurs far too often, especially as she managed ‘to situate’ her verb in places where others would be more explicit. In a book on photography, by a professor of photography and packed with photographs, some examples of the author’s own work would have strengthened many of her claims.

Time and again paragraphs deviate from the main thrust of the text and although two pages on the application of electricity (including Frankenstein) make interesting reading, these interrupt one’s concentration from the explanation about the evolution of the telegraph. In a similar criticism, a short treatise on the Memex machine, (which is an imaginary contraption for creating “new forms of encyclopaedia… with a mesh of associative trials running through them”) led, the professor claims, to becoming one inspiration for the development of hyper-text.

The book had to conform to the requirements of cultural history and with this understanding, I have no objections. It does it well with a mass of dependable references and an exhaustive bibliography… but I would have liked to have seen more discussion of practical photography.

(Review by Dr R M Callender, FRPS)

Paperback, 204 pages, illustrated
ISBN 9781138782556
Published by Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018
Price £23.99

FLASH! Photography, Writing & Surprising Illumination By Kate Flint

As I opened the book for review, I looked forward to reading the 390 pages of Flash by Kate Flint of the University of Southern California. ‘Gulp,’ I muttered on encountering the word ‘ekphrastic’ on the opening page. The book was not going to be a technical one but the author, the Provost Professor in art history and English, endeavoured to explain her motivation. The brevity of pictures taken in a flash, by flash, with flash and without flash fascinated her. When she started to wonder about the connection between flashes of lightning and flash photography, this prompted her to think about the history of flash photography and its relationship to the broader cultural histories of photography.

Soon I realised her text was on an academic level and that much of her vocabulary, explanations and reasoning differed from my own outlook on photography, (which had developed out of sixty years of professional practice). I had to remember the professor was not a photographer by my definition but her responsibility was to make use of, and apply a new way of thinking; that is, critical theory. This was in my mind as I set to.

With notebook and pen by my side, I skimmed the contents, cheerfully noting there were 23 introductory pages, 74 pages of references, and an index of 13 pages. Her research has been thorough and ranges around the world, from the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh to Paris, from Chicago Tribune to National Geographic Society. The book asks ‘what part might flash have played in popular responses to the activity of photography… to understand why flash photography was treated first with awe and amazement, then with amusement, and then with increasing resentment for its intrusive effects.’

Throughout her chapters, from Flash Memory to Stopping Time, and from Theatrical Light to Flash’s Aesthetics, Kate Flint endeavours to do justice to her own probing. She admits a revelation inasmuch as she was made very aware of the complex imbrication (her word, not mine!) of photography. That is, she says, it exists in many ways – in social and artistic practice, as individual prints and as portfolios, as a profession or a hobby, and noted that a photograph can be breath-taking or just very ordinary. Photography has created a vocabulary to describe effects, aesthetics and associations.

In places, reading is slow in order to grasp her hypotheses and theories which, in justification of her own rubric, deflect into laboured explanations which answer her own self-imposed questions. Of course, the reader will not agree with everything she proposes but the book is a brave attempt to establish a specialised account of photographic history and, simultaneously, secure a place for the subject in modern culture at a time when electronic imaging is forcing new ways to undertake photography where the ambient light is non-existent.

(Review by Dr R M Callender, FRPS)

Hardback, 493 pages, illustrated
ISBN 9780198808268
Published by Oxford University Press, 2017
Price £25.00

Photography and Sport (Exposures series) By Mike O’Mahony

Mike O’Mahony is Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Bristol. He is the author of Sports in the USSR (2006), Sergei Eisenstein (2008) and Olympic Visions (2012), all published by Reaktion Books.

The rise of modern sport in the mid-19th century coincides with the emergence of photography as a new image-making medium, and both
practices developed in parallel.
Although early technological limitations restricted the possibilities for capturing sporting action, many early photographers nonetheless embraced sport as a powerful subject for their work, a trend that has continued throughout history.
Photography and Sport traces the close relationship between photography and sport, from its beginnings to the present day. Taking a unique thematic approach, O’Mahony describes the early sporting images, the impact of technological developments on sporting photography and the establishment of new visual conventions for the representation of sport in the popular illustrated journals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He examines the use of images of sport for commercial and advertising purposes, the gender politics of sporting practices, and the photographic representation of the sports spectator and of non-professional sport, exploring their impact on wider socio-political issues along the way.
The first photographic representation of a sporting subject was, perhaps unsurprisingly, produce in the sport-loving United Kingdom. This, however, was not in the leafy surroundings of the English metropolitan centres where some of the earliest sports clubs had been established, but rather in the east lowlands of Scotland. As is widely acknowledged, two Edinburgh-based photographers, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, were among the most prolific and artistically significant, early practitioners to adopt the new medium. Widely esteemed in their day and then largely forgotten for a century, Hill and Adamson are now much celebrated for their early use of the Calotype (or Talbot-type), a process develops by the Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1830s. It is interesting to read that as this process had been patented in England, but not north of the border, Hill and Adamson freely exploited the new medium to produce, among other works, portraits of the elite in Edinburgh and St Andrews. Little attention, however, has been paid to their representations of figures explicitly identifiable as sportsmen, despite the fact that these images constitute the very earliest examples of photographic representations of sport. An excellent example, taken in 1843, is a no doubt carefully staged pose of a male tennis player – interestingly just visible is the stool behind the subject to help him maintain his pose during the long exposure time.
In 1878, sponsored by a wealthy racehorse owner, Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge took his famous set of photographs depicting the movements of a galloping horse. These had been taken using a battery of twelve cameras, each triggered by a trip wire as the horse passed in front of a white painted screen. Unfortunately, no details are given of the cameras used in these or any other images shown in this book. Muybridge’s projects included women in long dresses and straw hats playing tennis (1887) and naked cricketers and athletes performing. His focus on football and baseball certainly reflected the popularity of the sports in the United States at the time. However, his experiments were soon put on hold, largely as a consequence of Muybridge’s highly publicised trial, in which he was acquitted, for the murder of his wife’s lover.
Featuring some of the most significant sports photographs of the last 150 years, this in-depth history will appeal to cultural historians, sports fans and all those with an interest in the history of sport or photography.
(Review by Jonathan Hill)

Paperback, 200 pages, illustrated
ISBN 9781780239941
Published by Reaktion Books

Carleton Watkins: Making the West American By Tyler Green

Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916) was one of the pioneering greats of early American photography, having moved from New York to San Francisco in search of gold in 1851. He did not take up photography until 1856 but within two years he had moved on from ‘taking ambrotypes of babies’ to working independently as a landscape photographer and obtaining introductions to the region’s literary, artistic and intellectual elite.
PW readers will be pleased to learn that, unlike the Photography and sport book reviewed above, cameras are discussed in detail. In 1861 when Watkins headed up to Yosemite, the largest commercially-available cameras used 13” x 16” glass negatives. Using cabinet-making skills learned from his father, Watkins built bigger cameras that could carry a ‘mammoth plate’ that measured 18” x 22”, creating practical challenges for handling the plates and transporting the large quantity of chemicals required into the mountains. These mammoth plates created prints more suitable for framing than placing in albums, a further indication of Watkins’ vision of photography as a fine art.
Watkins returned from Yosemite with thirty mammoth plates and one hundred stereoview negatives, images that caused a sensation when displayed as few people outside California had seen this spectacular landscape. Partly on the strength of Watkins’s photographs, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 1864 bill that declared the valley inviolable, thus paving the way for the National Parks system that was created in the year of Watkins’ death.
The book traces Watkins’ life and career over the next two decades, including international acclaim, awards and travels through British Columbia, Mexico, Yellowstone, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Arizona. Quite apart from its photographic perspective, the book provides a fascinating introduction to this transformative period of American history. Watkins took up dry-plate photography in the 1880s, and the end of his career coincided with the explosion of ‘Kodakery’ that allowed unskilled amateurs to flock to areas like Yosemite and take their own photographs with a tiny fraction of the effort previously expended by Watkins. Despite his photographic skills Watkins was a poor businessman and declared bankruptcy in 1875, losing all his work to creditors before declining into ill-health and eventual committal to an asylum, by which time the 1906 San Francisco earthquake had destroyed his studio, negatives, prints and business records.
Given the consequent absence of almost any archival material with which to begin his research, the author has done an extraordinary job in reconstructing Watkins’ life. This is not only the first biography of Carleton Watkins, it is also the first book by art historian Tyler Green, who manages to fill in the gaps by painstakingly piecing together fragments from various historical records, letters, adverts, ephemera and directories. The effect is rather like a blindfolded man inching his way slowly through a room, feeling every surface with his hands and describing what he feels. The gradual accumulation of detail provides an almost immersive experience, as Green takes as through the Californian Gold Rush and Civil War, the intellectual world of Emersonian Transcendentalism, early large format photography, the marketing of landscape images, relations with (and exploitation of) the native indigenous people of America, Eadweard Muybridge, John Muir and landscape conservation… this is an expansive book that covers an enormous amount of ground.
Writing this biography has clearly been a labour of love. Reading it was certainly a real pleasure. The book has been beautifully produced, with over 70 illustrations – some full-page – in colour, sepia or black and white. As an extra treat, the dustjacket unfolds to reveal a poster of Watkins’ photograph of El Capitan, the striking vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park.
(Review by James Downs)

Hardback, xvii + 574 pages,
240 x 160 x 40 mm. 74 illustrations
ISBN 978-0-520-28798-3
Published by University of California Press

The Book of the Leica R-series Cameras By Brian Long

The R-series emerged at a difficult time in Leica’s history, following the generally poor reception given to the M5 and the lack of profits made by the Leicaflex series – which had been launched in 1964, some 28 years after Exakta presented the first SLR for 35mm film, the Kine-Exakta (as documented by Roland Zwiers in the last issue of PW.) In the intervening years, Nikon and Pentax had launched their own successful SLR lines. Clearly, Leica had some catching up to do. Realising the need to strike out in a new direction, the R3 was developed in cooperation with Minolta and closely resembled in appearance the Minolta XE. The R3 came out in 1976 and was the first Leica SLR camera to offer automatic exposure. Over the next three decades a succession of R-series cameras and lenses were released by Leica, and the story of this development forms the essence of Brian Long’s book.
There are six chapters, the first of which is devoted to a brief history of Leica, tracing the company’s history and setting the background from which the R-series emerged. Chapter Two looks at the R3 (1976), Chapter Three the R4 (1980), Chapter Four the R5 (1986) and R-E (1990) lines, Chapter Five the R6 (1988) and R7 (1992), with Chapter Six covering the R8 (1996) and the R9 (2002), and finally the announcement in March 2009 that the line had come to an end.
One of the interesting things about the R-series is that it was made possible through a collaborative effort between Leica and Minolta, and one of the strengths of this book is the way the Leica story is placed within the wider context of the international camera industry – particularly the manufacture of Japanese SLRs.
In each chapter the author explains how the different models developed, taking the reader through the specific improvements and changes, what Leica were trying to achieve and why, and – importantly – how their products compared with what was available elsewhere in terms of prices, features and function.
Although the book was made with the full support of Leica and therefore includes valuable insights into the decisions and activities of the company and its factories, there is a refreshingly international scope to the illustrations, which include contemporary adverts from British, American, German and Japanese publications, catalogue photographs and technical diagrams, portraits of Leica staff at work or in meetings, as well as numerous tables providing information on serial numbers and camera specifications that will be particularly useful for collectors. A number of R-series catalogues or instruction manuals are reproduced in full, spread over several pages, but while these are of some interest it could be asked if they are really the best use of the available space,
particularly as the minute text is rather hard to read. There are a few illustrations in which the quality of the reproduction is a little disappointing, although this may have been a consequence of the original material.
The author has done admirable work in clarifying many of the complex queries regarding serial numbers and precisely when certain features or design changes were introduced, navigating between conflicting details found in catalogues or advertising ephemera and the evidence of physical models that he has been able to examine.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Brian Long is a trained mechanical engineer and classic car enthusiast, with a background in the automotive rather than photographic industry – and he is not averse to borrowing language from this (e.g. pages 16 and 142).
Even for those without a strong interest in the Leica brand or technical aspects of the different camera models, The Book of the Leica R-series Cameras is an enjoyable read that covers many aspects of the post-war camera industry up to the introduction of digital technology. For those who love their Leicas and have used and/or collected the R-series, this book will be essential.
(Review by James Downs)

Hardback, 144 pages, 26 x 26 x 1.8 cm, fully illustrated
ISBN 978-1787112162
Published by Earthworld an imprint of Veloce Publishing Ltd, 2019


Museum Leica By Lars Netopil

The author of this book, Lars Netopil, is both a Leica dealer and a Leica historian, based in Wetzlar. He also acts as a consultant to various parties, including Leica AG, about the history of Leica and its various cameras, lenses and other products. He is a person who I consult with myself from to time if I come across something rare or out of the normal course and I find him to be unfailingly helpful and informative.

Fellow Leica Historian Jim Lager tells me that he has been pressing Leica to establish a full blown museum at Wetzlar, the birthplace and current home of the Leica, for many years.
Now It seems that Leica AG and its Chairman , Dr Andreas Kaufmann, are fully committed to opening such a
There have been some displays at Wetzlar and Solms, including the famous ‘Leica tree’, but nothing that could be called a substantial museum devoted to the fabulous history of Leica.

Already the Leica Archives have been established, of which more later. The company is very lucky to have someone with Lars’ knowledge living nearby. We are lucky too as Lars has produced a large book (in two volumes in a slip case, totalling 671 pages) to show what the Leica Museum will contain when it opens. This is not a chronological listing of Leica models, such as appears in the wonderful books by Lager, Laney and van Hasbroeck, but it is a series of images of important Leica models, prototypes and works in progress – in roughly chronological order – which spell out the entire history and development of Leica cameras, lenses and accessories.
The format is a brief text introduction to the subject or subjects of each chapter, followed by thumbnail photos of the items for identification purposes and then the photos of the items in double, full and half page photos.

In a short review like this it is very difficult to do justice to the treasures which this vast work contains and so I will just mention a few examples. The first example is the very first ‘Leica’ camera which was not called a Leica (the name came much later), but rather a ‘Liliput camera’, because of its small size, by its creator, Oskar Barnack. Today this is known as the ‘Ur-Leica’

There have been rumours about the existence of another Ur-Leica, but no real evidence has come forward and both Lars and Jim Lager have confirmed their belief that only one exists.

The exhibits in the book proceed through the first small series production with the 0 (Null) Series of 1923 and the first mass production with the I Model A in 1925. Leica cameras are, of course, inextricably linked to the concept of a rangefinder, even today. One of the first studies for a camera fitted with a rangefinder took me aback as it consisted of a Leica I with a rangefinder attached at the front as in this photo of Leica I No 23433.

The book goes on to show how a rangefinder and rangefinder housings were developed by Barnack along with his associate Wilhelm Albert with Barnack having a big input into the design and appearance of these items which will be familiar to those who are users of current digital M models today.

It is remarkable how such work on features in the early 1930s has lived on almost 90 years later in Leica’s model range today.

A lot of Leica enthusiasts will associate the concept of a film wind on lever with the introduction of the M3 in 1954, but Leica workshops were experimenting with this concept in the mid 1930s by the example (photo above, bottom left)’ of a planetary gear box winding mechanism with a wind on lever.

As well as the wind on lever example, the book also shows examples of early Leica experiments with bayonet mounts on lenses and cameras in the 1930s, something that was not finally introduced until the M3 appeared. Speaking of that camera, the book also shows design studies where Leica engineers compared both wind on knob and lever wind options for the M3.

In the second volume, Lars features a wide range of Leica items including special editions, digital prototypes, lenses, military Leicas and Leica copies. In the lens section one of the prime exhibits is this prototype piece for the Noctilux from 1966 with some original design drawings.

The entrance lobby to Leica AG in Wetzlar contains, among many items, some examples of Leica copies and fake Leicas. These also appear in the book by Lars and I presume that they will eventually appear in the Museum itself when it is completed.

These copies are looked down upon by some Leica enthusiasts , but Leica is rightly proud of the fact that its creations were copied in many different countries around the world.

The collection which will appear in the Museum is, apart from some examples in the lobby and around the factory area at Leica AG, largely housed in the Leica Archives.
The collections of some major collectors , such as Rolf Fricke who lives in the USA, have been acquired by the archives. The archives also include a great deal of other material including literature, records and original drawings. I was privileged to visit the archives while I was in Wetzlar at the Leica Historical Society of America AGM in October 2018.

Finally, to illustrate the wide range of items in the book and in the Museum which will follow here is an under-water housing for a Leica, which was built for the US Navy

Lars told the LHSA group in Wetzlar that this was one of his favourites in the Museum collection. Like other underwater gear this is in a bright colour instead of the usual Navy grey.

This book would be an essential addition to the library of any Leica historical enthusiast. I fall into that category and I am perhaps biased because I know Lars. I therefore showed the book to a fellow camera collector, who is also a professional photographer and who has produced hundreds of superb photos of historical cameras of another maker, and he said that he was hugely impressed by the book and the breadth and range of its contents. Lars has done us all a huge favour by producing such a book in advance of the opening of the museum. The introduction in the book by Dr Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of Leica AG, makes it clear that the company is fully committed to the museum project. The heritage of Leica is one of the most attractive features of the brand. This book is a massive contribution to our understanding of that heritage.

The book is available for purchase online from Lars Netopil Classic Cameras, Leica Stores and the LFI Shop.
(Review by William Fagan)

Hardback, two volumes in slip case. 672 pages, 21×30 cm, over 600 illustrations. Text in English and German.
ISBN 978-3000592614
Published in 2018 by Lars Netopil Classic Cameras


George Washington Wilson: Artist and Photographer by Roger Taylor

This book is the latest to come from the reborn ‘London Stereoscopic Company’ and is a sort of reprint of a book originally published in 1982. It’s a sort of reprint in that the 1982 edition was very poorly printed and most unforgivably for a book on stereo photography that edition rendered many of the images as single images, something which must have been unbearable for the author. Thankfully for Roger Taylor his knowledge of stereo images would bring him into contact with another very well known stereo enthusiast and collector – Brian May.
So, the end result is a meticulous printing of (essentially) the text of the 1982 book, but with all images printed to the very best that they can be.

The book is very rich pleasure for not only does it cover in detail the life and work of one of the greatest exponents of stereo photography at a fairly early stage in photographic history, it also provides a wealth of information on the development of photography, photographic processes and photography as an art form from the realm of wealthy enthusiasts, to the viability of every person to hold a copy of their likeness in their hand.
That George Washington Wilson was a very astute business man is an understatement, but what I found most captivating was his definite sense of artistry – I’ve never warmed to successful businessmen as such (hence my dislike of most things Kodak related), but when that business sense is put together with a determined effort to provide enduring images that are of the highest artistic merit, then I take notice.
The book follows a basic chronology of the Wilson family line, and explains without ever labouring the point, the social situation of the time.

Wilson was ‘lucky’ to be working in Scotland just as Queen Victoria and prince Albert became enamoured of the place, but if he hadn’t had the vision to make the most of his royal appointment, and produce images that showed a human aspect to HRH, it wouldn’t have been so successful – he certainly made the most of his ‘luck’ – and having the ‘by royal appointment’ on his business card was handy!
Wilson was very astute in keeping up with trends for the masses, and he had no qualms about changing the popular print size if it could benefit his business. He was canny to realise that after many years of popularity, stereocards would eventually be passé, so he started printing them up as singles with great sucess (talk about money for old rope!), and he was also a very early adopter of the ‘cabinet’ sized print.

Detailed and academic biographies can quickly get bogged down in minutiae, but the author really brings every aspect to life. He explains each stage of the process so the reader can easily grasp the difficulties of being a photographer as each decade and development moves along – whether it be hand sensitising plates, processing ‘in the field’, or just the difficulties of running a business that is limited by the number of prints that can be run off each day – assuming you have enough sunlight to do it… on that note there is an hysterical diary extract from Wilson from 1863, for a week of prospective shooting in Loch Maree – where seemingly day after day his efforts to capture anything in camera were dashed by the god-
awful rain. Strangely enough his diary reminded me of a family trip to Rothsea in 1972…
This is a very beautifully printed book, and makes one wish that every so-so printed photography book of the last 40 years could be reprinted with such love and care.
Whether you are a stereo nut or not, this book is highly recommended – best of all you don’t need to worry about having a viewer to enjoy the many images reproduced – they’ve included a very sturdy fold down pair that nestle in the rear cover.

There’s a very nice introduction by Brian May, and also a spread at the back of other titles from The London Stereoscopic Company – from ‘crinoline’ to the super creepy ‘Diableries’, not forgetting mr May’s other life on stage with “Queen in 3D”.

The cover price for the Washington Wilson biog is less than the current going rate for the original (and substandard)edition – it’s a no brainer – and a perfect stocking filler!
(Review by Timothy Campbell)

Hardback: 206 pages, 23.9 x 1.8 x 31.2 cm
ISBN-13: 978-0957424692
Publisher: The London Stereoscopic Company
Price £18.99

Secure the shadow. Somerset photographers 1839 – 1939 By Robin Ansell, Allan Collier and Phil Nichols

Most readers in the club will have an interest in old photographs and the history of photography. This book, whilst concentrating on Somerset, also includes a huge amount of interesting facts about photographers and their lives and puts them into a fascinating social context.

The book is innovative in that much of the information provided is in the normal printed form and is then supplemented by a host of other data contained on a DVD attached to the inside back cover of the book. This has allowed the book to be reasonably priced and of manageable size. Possibly it may also allow easier updating in years to come.

The book is by three experienced researchers and authors and lists all of the known photographers who operated in or visited Somerset from the very earliest days of photography up until 1939. It is the culmination of years of devoted research. Many of the facts in the book have never been published before and details of sources are often provided for further research.

Of particular interest are the biographical, lifelong timelines of many of the photographers listed, their families and their occupations.

All of this data has been gathered from census records, birth, death and marriage records and the 1939 Register etc. It has also been gleaned from newspaper reports, historical advertisements, obituaries and details of wills and numerous conversations with, and visits to, photo-historians, libraries, museums, County Records Offices and leading collectors.
Of special value is that much of the information in the book is fully annotated with reference to the original sources.

The images have come from the authors’ own collections, from the Victorian Image Collection (www.cartedevisite.co.uk), the biggest collection of cartes de visite and cabinet cards in the world, from other contributors throughout Somerset and the neighbouring counties and from as far afield as Australia.

The DVD includes several thousand scans of examples of the work of Somerset photographers in the form of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, stereocards, cartes de visite, cabinet cards and postcards showing both portraiture and topography.

The book includes a large alphabetical directory of Somerset photographers. who are also indexed by location (town). There is also a list of all women photographers. Significantly, amateurs are shown in a separate appendix as well as travelling and itinerant photographers that passed through the county during the 100 year period. There is also a separate record of professional photographers who were not resident in Somerset but are known to have taken at least one Somerset image.

There is also a collection of the names of photographers living in Somerset but with no known studio there; the information coming from the census returns and from the 1939 Register. Another chapter mentions many of the Somerset photographers that contributed to the war effort between 1914 and 1918.

All in all, a hugely comprehensive work which is thoroughly researched, well structured and presented in a way that makes it easy to find what you are wanting to know.

A book of real interest, not only for photo-historians, family historians and local historians interested in Somerset, but for those with similar interests from the rest of UK as well. Excellent.

(Review by Ron Cosens, member No.1)

Softback, 30 x 21 cm, 105 pages , with accompanying DVD
containing 4,495 pages.
ISBN 978-1-905639-34-2
Published by The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society
Price £12.00

The Vest Pocket Kodak and the First World War By Jon Cooksey.

The first Vest Pocket Kodaks were issued just over 100 years ago and club members may have seen Colin Harding talking about the camera in the BBC Four documentary Hidden Histories: WW1’s Forgotten Photographs, broadcast in 2014 as part of the BBC’s World War One Centenary programmes. As this month sees the centenary of the Armistice that ended the ‘Great War’, this review seems particularly timely.

The author – a leading military historian, broadcaster and battlefield guide – is eminently qualified to write about the First World War, but this book also shows him to be almost as capable when it comes to photographic history, and one great strength of this book is the way in which he skilfully integrates the history of the ‘VPK’ with that of the war in which it was used.

The book is divided into two sections, ‘The Camera’ (pp.16-52) and ‘The Conflict’ (pp.54-91), with the latter half providing examples of how the VPK was used in the different fields of war. The book is illustrated throughout, with diagrams and advertisements, wartime images and photographs taken both with, and of, the VPK.

The opening section on ‘The Camera’ provides an admirably clear exposition of the VPK’s production. Over two million were produced between its launch in April 1912 and discontinuation in 1926, making it one of the most popular cameras of the time. Part of its appeal, of course, was its small size – when closed, the VPK measures just 1 x 2½ x 4¾ inches, thus able to be slipped comfortably inside the pocket of a waistcoat, or what the Americans term a ‘vest.’ After the declaration of war in August 1914 the VPK was explicitly promoted as the ‘soldier’s camera’, and thousands of amateur photographers packed it into their kitbags as they set off for the battlefields of Europe.

The VPK used negatives that measured just 1⅝ x 2½ inches, the same size as those in the No. 0 Folding Pocket Kodak which had been introduced 10 years earlier. When Kodak amended their terminology in 1913, the film format used by the VPK was renamed 127.
Cooksey presents a lucid and confident explanation of these and other technical innovations, including the introduction of the ‘Autographic’ VPK in 1915, which came with a metal
stylus that could be used to write notes on the back of the negative.

There are valuable discussions of the practicality of using the camera, in addition to related topics such as VPK photographs of the 1914 ‘Christmas Truce’, the use of Kodak images in the media, and the question of Censorship, in which the author provides details of the War Office’s steps to ban photography on the battlefront and the court-martial of one Private Mullis for ‘having and using a camera.’

Although the Foreword by World War One historian Richard van Emden claims that Cooksey ‘places the camera on the Western Front in its historical context’, one attraction of the book for me was that the author manages to avoid the typical overemphasis on the British experience on the Western Front. There are images here of Sikh soldiers, ANZACS at Gallipoli and the nurses known affectionately as ‘the Madonnas of Pervyse’; nor is the coverage limited to the Allies either, with reference made to the use of VPKs by German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers.

As is noted in the Foreword, recent studies of the First World War have moved away from the official histories written by senior officers and establishment figures in order to pay more attention to the ‘forgotten voices’ of ordinary soldiers, civilians and other personnel. This has been a welcome shift, and a comparable focus on the images taken by amateur photographers is long overdue. This book is not only a valuable addition to the literature on the First World War but will be appreciated by anyone with an interest in Kodak cameras, the cultural history of photography and the role of the media in reporting on global conflict.
(Review by James Downs)

Hardback, 12 x 18 x 1 cm. 96 pages. Illustrated.
ISBN 9781781452790
Published by Ammonite Press, 2017
Price £6.99

Polaroid – the missing manual – the complete creative guide

By Rhiannon Adam

Most readers will probably have experienced a Polaroid camera at some time, either as an owner, as a collector or maybe just by being in a Polaroid photograph, and I’m sure that many readers will be aware that Polaroid film production ceased in the early 2000s, so you may be wondering ‘why this particular book, at this particular moment in time?’ Surely an in-depth guide to Polaroid and all its variations would have been worthwhile in the late 1970s, when sales of both film and the trail-blazing SX-70 were at their height? 
To answer this, I feel that this excellent book should have been titled ‘Instant Film cameras – the complete guide’ – as it contains information on far more than just Polaroid.
Containing two main sections – Camera and film format guide, and Creative techniques – the author has identified that there will be readers wanting to find out  how to get the most from their camera, and others who are interested in the history of  Polaroid instant film in its various guises from peel apart to the ‘true’ instant format of the SX-70, and has very successfully laid out the pages with cross referenced sections and sub sections, along with a comprehensive contents page. The beauty of it is that you can very quickly jump to the in-depth detail on just about any model of camera, see the accessories that were made for it originally, see the accessories that are available now and critically see what films it is compatible with. If that last line sounds odd (given the unavailability of new Polaroid film), then ‘The Impossible Project’ needs to be introduced and explained. 
Basically, on hearing of the soon to be discontinued film and production facilities of Polaroid, a bunch of enthusiasts took it upon themselves to re-introduce the instant film format – no simple task given that only part of the entire production process was known and that many of the chemicals involved were now more or less banned. But perseverance has paid off, and it is now entirely possible to buy many different ‘Impossible’ instant film types, and cameras that only a few years ago were almost valueless curiosities are now very much in demand as users. Not only that, there are companies that offer fully refurbished cameras – for a price!
I must mention that as well as Impossible project items, the range from Fuji (Instax) is also covered, all models and films being fully documented here. 
A recurring feature within the book is ‘Polaroid Relics’ – a page or two devoted to particular ranges from the company that failed miserably – I always have soft spot for this kind of thing, the unloved mongrels of famous siblings, and if anything it’s good to see the history balanced in this way, rather than concentrating solely on the successes.

Anyone who has toyed with instant film will no doubt be familiar with the manipulations that can be made during the development stage of a print, from pushing the entire image around, to drawing streaks using a blunt implement and so on, but here the treatment is taken to an astonishing level –  from stamped shapes from the print rollers, to multiple exposures, even cyanotypes from a Polaroid? Oh yes, it’s all here.
The text is very nicely written, being informative and enjoyable, the history of Polaroid features some very nice illustrations and pack shots showing how the brand developed over the years, and there are many line drawings, mock ups and exploded diagrams of the main models explaining just how technically advanced they were. For those of a more molecular bent there are even diagrams explaining the construction of the film layers – phew! There are pages detailing the (infamous) Kodak instant cameras, the dead end Russian versions and a tidy spread or two of the kiddy marketed models – surely no-one can resist a Tasmanian Devil camera, from the Warner Brothers cartoons?
What I liked particularly about this book is that it is a true snapshot of the instant film scene today – it will be interesting to re-review it in five or ten years’ time to see whether things flourish (particularly for the first camera from the Impossible Project team – the I-1 camera). 
As mentioned my only fault with this book is the slightly misleading title – but don’t let that put you off – the content is highly recommended.

Hardback, 24x19cm, 240 pp. ISBN 9780500544600. Published by Thames & Hudson. Price £19.95

Timothy Campbell

‘Retro Cameras’

by John Wade

There are plenty of books on collecting ‘classic’ cameras, and more recently there has been a wave of books on collecting the more quirky/unusual/obscure ones that most ‘serious’ collectors turn their noses up at. This new title by our very own John Wade takes a novel and ‘of the moment approach’ to the subject – for Retro Cameras is not merely a collectors’ guide, it is a very informative guide to actually taking photographs with those cameras.

Being a collector doesn’t necessarily mean being a user of cameras – it seems that the majority of the PCCGB rarely, if ever, take a photograph (that’s not a criticism, merely an observation), but for me, and a for a growing number of people worldwide, there is an immense satisfaction in using the camera for its intended purpose, so this book is most definitely welcome!

The last five years or so have seen a huge increase in the amount of 35mm and 120 film being sold across the world, in no small part due to the success of LOMO. The re-introduction of the Polaroid instant film process has probably had a knock-on effect as people who had never taken a traditional photograph have discovered the pleasure of doing things manually and analogue – not unlike the popularity of vinyl LPs.

This wonderfully illustrated book goes through each of the major camera types and formats that are still available (more or less) and explains in a very clear and precise way how each of the cameras can be used, what to look out for when buying each one, and lists alternate models and choices when appropriate.

John has used a simple 5-star rating for the rarity of each camera, but has sensibly not given any price indication as that can vary hugely, depending on the model, the condition and most importantly where it was purchased!

Broken down into four major sections (Basics, The Cameras, Retro Accessories and Further Info), with plenty of very high-quality images for the subjects (from John’s personal collection, with a handful of acknowledged images supplied by fellow club members) this is both a feast for the eyes and an inspiration to go out and get shooting.

John’s previous books have shown his love for both the quirky and the classic, and here that is also evident – fancy some rangefinder fun? John recommends a Leica M3, and an Argus C3! Does an SLR sound like your cup of tea? Have a go with a Nikon F… or a Wrayflex! How about the viewfinder camera route? Choose from a Periflex 1, or an Ilford Advocate!

There’s a huge range of suggestions in here, some obvious, some obscure, all of them entirely feasible.

Retro Cameras is a beautifully printed and bound book, and will appeal to collectors and new users alike – but bear in mind that it may take several decades and very deep pockets to get a collection as impressive as the one shown within these pages!

Hardback, 2.4 x 2.8 x 20.6 cm, 288 pages. ISBN 9780500544905. Published by Thames and Hudson Ltd. Price £18.95

Timothy Campbell

‘Cameras At War’

by John Wade

The latest book from longstanding PCCGB member John Wade takes a slightly unorthodox approach to the theme of ‘war photography’.
There are a great number of books that use photography to illustrate the horrors, the conditions, the aftermath and so on of war, but if any mention is made about the equipment used, it is usually quite scant, and almost an after thought. John has instead produced a book which concentrates not on the photographs taken, but on the gear used – and most importantly has
explained in a very clear and concise way, the limitations of technology at any given time to explain to the reader just why the gear was how it was!

As John states in the introduction ‘this book will undoubtedly be read by photo historians who know how cameras operated but not how they were used in wars. But it will also be read by war historians who know little about the technicalities of how a camera works or is used.’ A simple summation, but to write a book aimed at two very different reader types without ever coming across as patronising or over simplistic is a real achievement.

The book covers a 100 year period and as readers will know the development of cameras and photography moved at an astonishing rate during the 20th century – and wars will always accelerate that technology. The stages of that development (of both film and cameras) are explained in each chapter, and help give the reader an understanding of the limitations and how they were overcome.

The thirteen chapters go from ‘the early years’, through the Crimean war, WW1, WW2, the cold war and the Korean war, with some chapters focussing on key cameras – for instance the Vest Pocket Kodak, the Minox camera and the Ensign Midget (!)

I make no secret of admiring John’s writing style, and what might have been a heavy and arduous subject (what could be more serious and sobering than the death and misery of a war) is in fact a surprisingly upbeat read, without making light of the war periods that are being discussed.

There are some marvellous illustrations in the book, and as someone who has written previously in Photographica World on the subject of aerial cameras (PW #132), I was particularly interested to see wartime adverts for such cameras as the Williamson aerial camera – not the kind of thing you see in the pages of Amatuer Photographer, even in the 1940s!
The propoganda angle is covered with pages from Camera Comics, where artistic licence has been taken with the dimensions of the hand held Williamson type camera the pilot is wielding (in mid dog fight, with his canopy pulled all the way back!).

The Cold War chapter not surprisingly veers into James Bond territory with a decent representation of not just spy cameras, but the entire range of covert and disguised gear that the KGB (especially) invented. It might seem far fetched that you could make a camera that was concealed on the body and took photos through a button that seperated in two for the fraction of a second to make the exposure – and with clockwork motor wind built in – but that’s the Russian K-21 in a nutshell.

I’m possibly a bit of an anorak so a few of the details within I disagreed with – for instance an American matchbox light meter is labelled as a camera, and the Minox is mentioned as being flash synched from 1948 (that actually debuted with the 1953 Minox IIIs) – also I would have liked to see a mention of some of the less well known aerial cameras. The hand held Williamson and the large F52 (seen on the front cover being man handled into a port on a reconnaissance Spitfire) are there, and a whole chapter is dedicated to the Thornton Pickard Hythe MKIII ‘Lewis gun’ training camera, but no mention is made of the Williamson version, or the Japanese types. But these are minor niggles and the author doesn’t claim to list or discuss every camera used in the 100 year period covered by the book!

I felt some frustration when I finished the book as it stops at the Korean war and although John summarises that at this point in time the Japanese were just about to step up to take over the camera buying world, I would have liked it to carry on to the 1960s and the Vietnam war, where the camera, and particularly the Nikon F gained the reputation of being an unstoppable workhorse – but 100 it is, and so that’s where it ends!

Aerial cameras and service versions of cameras are quite difficult to find and can be eye wateringly expensive even if you can find them, but it’s mind boggling to try to estimate the current value of the cameras on show here.
What is affordable is the book itself. While not a lavish book (it is paperback, after all) it is nonetheless an absolute bargain and really should be in every readers Christmas stocking!
Highly recommended.


Paperback, 15x20cm, 260 pages –
illustrated throughout
ISBN : 978 1 52676 010 4
Pen & Sword books

Timothy Campbell

Photographing Tutankhamun: archaeology, ancient Egypt, and the archive

by Christina Riggs

Anyone hearing the name ‘Tutankhamun’ will likely visualize one or more of several iconic images: the face mask, the statues guarding the entrance to the tomb perhaps, or the famous photograph of Howard Carter’s face bathed in light as he gazes through an opening in the burial chamber at the treasures inside. The story of the ‘boy-king’ and the extraordinary artefacts that were unearthed in his tomb is so well-known, and the associated images so familiar, that little consideration is given to the context of their creation, the process by which they were reproduced, published, catalogued and archived. This history is complex, however, and closer examination reveals as much about the prejudices, presumptions, professional relationships and colonial structures that underpinned 20th century Egyptology as it does about ancient Egypt. The book invites readers to look at the photographs ‘in a different light – a light not of royalty and renown (though that will come into it), but of sunlight bounced off reflectors held by Egyptian hands and lamplight powered by generators specially supplied by the Egyptian government’ (p.5.)

American-born scholar Christina Riggs was appointed Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University last year and is an expert on Egyptology and photography. She has worked as an archaeologist and museum curator – this book was preceded by a touring exhibition, ‘Photographing Tutankhamun’ (2017-18) held in Lincoln and Cambridge – whose and her publications include Unwrapping Ancient Egypt (London: Bloomsbury, 2014) and Tutankhamun: The Original Photographs (Wales: Rupert Wace Ancient Art/The Gower Press, 2017). One of the book’s strengths is the author’s ability to navigate fluidly between the fields of Egyptology, archaeology, visual anthropology, heritage studies, museum culture and archival practices, as well as the history of photography and printed media.

Harry Burton (1879-1940) made some 3,400 photographs at the tomb of Tutankhamun between 1922 and 1933, mainly using a Sinclair ‘Una’ camera (see PW 37, 156 and 157), which are now held by the Griffith Institute in Oxford and the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the form of negatives, slides, prints and albums. The author explains the labyrinthine complexity of how Burton’s archive ended up divided between the two institutions, and deserves praise for having identified the sequence and likely dates of the photographs by matching museum records with correspondence and other accounts. A widespread weakness of previous books on the excavation is that scholarly interest has been limited to the content of the images – what they show – neglecting to give any thought to the photograph themselves.

Photographing Tutankhamun opens with an overview of the excavation and an introduction to the relationship between photography and archaeology, exploring the influence of photographic practices on archaeological methods and interpretations, and the development of ideas about archives and the preservation of knowledge. Chapter 2 follows the history of Burton’s archive till the 1960s, untangling the journey of the thousands of images, documents and ephemera. Chapter 3 discusses photographic practices during the excavation, how Burton worked, lit and composed his photos and kept an inventory. Chapter 4 focuses on object photography and how it was shaped by ideas about scientific objectivity, racial ideology and the conventions of western fine art: ‘decisions about how to photograph different objects both reflect and reinforce decisions about what kind of object a thing was and what value or values it spoke to’ (p.139.)

Chapter 5 looks at photographic representations of archaeological labour, including the contrast between the heroic depiction of white western archaeologists and the omission or else patronising treatment of the Egyptian workforce, whether senior archaeologists, porters or camera assistants. The use of the derisory colonial term for inferiors, ‘Boys’, to caption an image of Egyptian politicians in the Metropolitan Museum archive is revealing, despite the fact that the group includes the past, present and future prime ministers of Egypt. Careful study of the photographic reveals instead the indispensability of Egyptian labour and expertise. The next chapter considers the use of Burton’s images by media such as The Times – with whom Lord Carnarvon signed an exclusive and controversial contract – as well as Carter’s own publications and commercial postcards, all of which used photography to promote particular stories about the boy-king. Chapter 7 follows the revival of interest in Tutankhamun with the touring exhibitions of the 1970s, shifting relations between Egypt and the west, and the role of cultural and diplomatic exchanges in the evolving political landscape of the Middle East, as Burton’s archive became part of a wider transformation of Egypt’s cultural heritage through the advent of digitisation.

As this summary indicates, Photographing Tutankhamun is an ambitious and far-ranging study that covers much more terrain than its title suggests. While arguing for the need for a greater awareness of the complex processes and relationships that underpin a photographic archive, there is also a wider call for critical self-awareness in archaeology and Egyptology, and a more candid acknowledgement that much of our present knowledge has been built at the expense of others whose contributions and narratives remain ignored. Tutankhamun’s world might seem very distant, but this book addresses pressing contemporary concerns about our colonial past and consequent obligation to acknowledge the structures of power and privilege that shape photographs such as these.

One minor point – the name of art historian and photographer Clarence Kennedy is given as ‘Charles’ on both p.117 and in the index – and there are moments where keen photo-historians might wish for more detailed discussions of photographic practices, but given the scope of this book such considerations are superficial. This erudite and compelling work will likely appeal to anyone interested in the history of photography, but should be required reading for all students and scholars of Egyptology as a bulwark against the myths and misconceptions that cling so stubbornly to the tale of Tutankhamun.

Paperback xiv + 256 pages. 64 illustrations.
ISBN 978-1-3500-3851-6
London: Bloomsbury, 2019

James Downs

Image and Exploration:
Early Travel Photography from 1850 to 1914

By Olivier Loiseaux, Gilles Fumey and Freddy Langer.

Although it’s not clearly stated in the introductory material, the photographs in Image and Exploration are from the collections of the Société de Géographie, whose president, Jean-Robert Pitte, provided the preface for the original French edition – the book was first published in 2018 as Les Premiers Voyageurs Photographes and was a joint venture between the Société de Géographie and Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), where the Société’s photographic collections have been housed since 1942. The book also contains an introduction and epilogue by the BNF’s curator of Maps and Plans, Olivier Loiseaux. This new English-language edition has a preface written by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘s photographic editor, Freddy Langer, contrasting the ubiquity of contemporary travel ‘selfies’ with the sense of wonder and curiosity found in these old photographs. While this may be an over-generalisation, there is no doubting the contemplative spirit and Romantic sensibility that characterises these images, beautifully reproduced in rich sepia tones and the occasional cyanotype.

The book is divided into four regions, with accompanying text by Professor Gilles Fumey of the Sorbonne: Africa (with 13 locations including the Libyan desert, Madagascar and Kimberley’s diamond mines), the Americas (19 locations, ranging from Cape Horn through the Amazon jungle and Yellowstone to the Arctic circle), Europe (13 locations, such as Lapland, Cologne and Armenia), and finally Asia and Oceania (17 locations, including Persia, Kashmir and Indochina.) The sequence of images can be experienced as a journey along the Nile from North Africa, across to the Americas and then over to northern Europe, crossing the Alps and heading down through the Balkans to the Ottoman Empire, through Asia and ending in Australia.

The European section has four photographs from the UK: two of London, plus Liverpool and the Forth Bridge. The absence of the Scottish Highlands here is rather surprising, given that it’s perhaps Britain’s only genuine wilderness areas and was the focus of exploration and Romantic ideas about landscape during the period covered by this book. There are some extraordinary images in these pages nonetheless, including unusual locations and activities that rarely feature in studies of picturesque photography, such as the four-page spreads on guano mining on the Chincha Islands and an industrial complex in the Russian Urals. The text provides fascinating details about the photographers and their careers, plus insights into the history and ethnic cultures of these often-remote regions.

At the end of the book (pp.228 ff) there is a short section on the history of the Société de Géographie’s photographic collections. Founded in 1821 in Paris, it is the oldest Geographic Society in the world and its photographic archive has grown over the years to hold some 145,000 photographs taken between 1850 and 1950.

Obviously the parameters of the book’s coverage are set by the decision to select all its illustrations from photographs in the Société de Géographie’s collections, but there are some noticeable trends in the selections. While the photos of the American landscape are generally the work of American photographers (e.g. Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson), those from the Middle East were almost all taken by French photographers – including several army officers and colonial administrators (e.g. Captains Pierre Delanneau and Gustave de Baigneux, Marquis De Courcival) or British photographers, who also provide most of the images from China and India (e.g. Samuel Bourne, John Burke, William Baker and John Thomson.)

With the sole exception of Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei, the absence of indigenous photographers is striking. Maybe their work is completely absent from the Société’s collections, which have been compiled largely by donations from the photographers rather than a diverse acquisition policy, but the overwhelming bias in favour of western colonial explorers and administrators is unfortunate, particularly as this is never addressed in the text. There are ample records of Indian and Chinese photographers, for example, who distinguished themselves in the photography of landscapes, the undertaking of archaeological surveys and the recording of ruins and antiquities across large swathes of their native countries. The names of Lala Din Lyal, Lai Afong and Tung Hing spring to mind, and an intriguing aspect of their work was the way they were influenced by local artistic traditions.

While the selection could be justified by the fact that ‘Travel Photography’presumably excludes local residents, not all travelling photographers were European or American: Japanese photographer Sanshichiro Yamamoto made some fine in Peking and Tientsin around the turn of the century. Arguably, an opportunity has been missed to showcase the Société’s photographic archive within a broader discussion about how western photographers engaged with foreign cultures, and how the latter responded. It would be a shame if the colonial era’s tendency to sideline or dismiss the contributions of indigenous workers was reflected in a compilation of photographs of the places in which they lived.

The other remarkable feature of the selection is that every single photographer is male. While most travel photographers during this period were indeed men, there were photographers such as British-born Evelyn Cameron (1868–1928), who captured the prairies and uplands of Montana, or the American pictorial and landscape photographer Sarah Hall Ladd (1860-1927) who took photographs on her travels around the Pacific Northwest, and many others too. It would surely seem fair to have some of this work represented.

Given the rich array of photographs on display in this magnificent volume, it may appear churlish to comment about absences rather than the treasures that are present.
Image and Exploration is a book that will be enjoyed by photographers, photo-historians and armchair travellers alike.

Hardback, 240 pages. 230 duotone illustrations.
ISBN 978-3791385921
London: Prestel, 2019

James Downs

Retina Collector’s Guides
by David L Jentz
Fascicle 1: Retina and Retinette Cameras, 1934-1941 (2018)
Paperback, 48 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 9781518451638 (£10.16 ex VAT)

Fascicle 2: Resumption of Retina camera production at Kodak A.G. in 1945 (2018)
Paperback, 48 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 9781388114282 (£20.42 ex VAT)

Fascicle 3: Retina and Retinette Cameras, 1945-1954. (2nd edition. 2019)
Paperback, 84 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 9780464563730 (£30.17 ex VAT)

The Anatomy of the Retina. (2018)
Paperback, 60 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 9781518401541 (£20.16 ex VAT)

These four volumes are the result of over twenty five years of research into the production and marketing of Kodak Retina and Retinette cameras, and draw on data compiled by the Historical Society for Retina Cameras (HSRC), whose database contains information on over 43,000 cameras.
In addition to the array of detailed and carefully-documented material on individual cameras, there is also a
fascinating historical account of how the Retinas came to be produced, and the impact of the Second World War.

As many PW readers will know, the
Retina line began as a personal project of Dr. August Nagel, one of the co-founders of Zeiss Ikon, who had left the company in 1928 to form his own firm, Nagel Camera Werks AG.
He continued to oversee design and manufacture of cameras at the premises in Stuttgart after Kodak bought the firm in December 1931, concentrating on producing a low-cost, high-quality miniature camera.
The first Retina, Nr. 117, was introduced in late July 1934, and Dr Nagel continued to contribute to the development of successive models until his death in 1943, when he was succeeded by his son, also named Helmut Nagel.

Much of this history is covered in Fascicle 2 which, despite its title – Resumption of Retina camera production at Kodak A.G. in 1945 – actually covers the early history of the company as well, and includes a reproduction of the purchase agreement between Kodak and Dr August Nagel Kamerawerk on 1 December 1931. There are also numerous photographs of the Stuttgart factory buildings and offices, as well as a detailed account of how the plant was converted into a munitions factory during the war, specialising in the production of precision time-fuses for German anti-aircraft shells.
This volume continues with an account of the Allied bombing of the factory in 1944, subsequent occupation by French troops and then the period from 1945 to 1948 when the company was under the control of the American Military Government (AMG.)

While Fascicle 2 provides a historical overview of the company, Fascicles 1 and 3 provide a more detailed guide to individual models. In keeping with the author’s aim to be a ‘scientific historian’, all the information here is based on careful research and primary documentation, avoiding the republishing of data from previous books that could not be verified from original sources. For each camera model, information is provided under ten headings that include the model name and number designation, historical information, lens/shutter/DOF combinations, and special import or marketing features. There is at least one large image of every camera, along with additional illustrations of manuals, boxes, press adverts and other marketing materials, as well as close-up photographs of important details.

On p.35 of Fascicle 1 there is a helpful illustration showing the fourteen different Retina models produced between 1934 and 1941 – a very useful comparative guide that does not, however, recur in Fascicle 3. In addition to the large number of marketing materials drawn from Germany, the UK and America, there are others from France, Italy and Canada, and I was especially interested to see some Arabic-language materials from Lebanon.

Fascicle 4 reproduces – or rather fuses – the contents of two Kodak AG manuals from 1956, namely the illustrated Die Anatomie der Retina and The Anatomy of the Retina (an English translation of the text).
Rather than being a mere reprint of the manual, this is presented as an ‘artistic compilation’, bringing together the images from the German manual with the English text from the translation in a larger and more durable format: this allows careful study of the detailed colour illustrations along with some additional editorial comments at the end. In addition to the actual camera, this manual also discusses a range of accessories, from lens hoods and micro-adapters to enlargers.

In all four volumes, the quality of the images is excellent, and the wealth of detail allows for close comparison
between features that will enable readers to quickly identify the different models. The meticulous care with which the information has been compiled, backed by the resources of the HSRC, should reassure readers that this will remain a reliable and authoritative guide for Retina collectors, users and historians for years to come.
A few minor typos – such as several instances of ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’ – can no doubt be amended in future editions.

All in all, the publication of these four books is a marvellous service for all collectors and users of Retina cameras, as well as those with a wider interest in the history of camera manufacture, the Kodak company and the German photographic industry.
Might we look forward to a fifth fascicle covering developments after 1954?

Those interested in obtaining these books in the UK can do so from

James Downs

Co-Illusion. Dispatches from the End of Communication

By David Levi Strauss, with photographs by Susan Meiselas and Peter van Agtmael.

Hardback, 165 pages, illustrated
ISBN 9780262043540
Published by The MIT Press, 2020

David Levi Strauss is a cultural critic who writes on the relationship between art, photography and politics, with perhaps his most notable works being Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (Aperture, 2003) – which had a preface by John Berger – and Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography (Aperture, 2014).
Both books include essays that engaged with the work of photographers such as Sally Mann, Kevin Carter, Richard Cross, Susan Meiselas – whose photographs help illustrate this book – and Joel-Peter Witkin, as well as topics such as the images from Abu Ghraib, the problems of aestheticising documentary images of conflict and atrocity, and the challenges of conveying political or social messages through photography in a world that is absolutely over-saturated with images.

Although he has both studied and taught the history of photography in colleges in New York and elsewhere, Strauss is also a poet, and his sensitivity to the nuances of language underpins much of his writing about photography, which often focuses upon the relationship between words and images.

There are two parts to this book. The first contains a series of 35 despatches written by Strauss between 15 July and 21 November 2016, reporting on Trump’s presidential campaign.
These include his vivid accounts of attending the Republican and Democratic conventions- which he describes as ‘machines for making images’ – as well as the televised debates and the final days of voting. The second part contains a series of short monologues, written in the voices of Trump himself, his colleagues and supporters.

There are 32 black and white photographs in the book, two of them by the author, and fifteen each from Susan Meiselas and Peter van Agtmael, both of whom are award-winning photojournalists and members of Magnum Photos. (Their photos were originally in colour, but were specially converted to black and white for this book.)
The images don’t have a strictly illustrative role, but have been carefully chosen and arranged to juxtapose visual symbols of the political campaign with Strauss’s account.
In previous work the author has
suggested that text and image have an almost adversarial relationship, working best in a form of counterpoint rather than slavishly trying to match pictures with words. Readers will find their own way of drawing connections between the photographs and the ‘dispatches’.

The second half of the book – where Strauss switches from commenting on the political situation to writing imaginary monologues by Trump and one or two other key players – represents a shift in tone and, for me anyway, a slight weakening of impact. As many commentators have noted, Trump’s language is typically so ridiculous, abhorrent and/or infantile as to be beyond parody, leaving scant room for satire. Although Strauss often catches the tone of Trump just right in the short monologues, and makes some genuinely piercing observations, his words are far more coherent and lucid than those of #Potus45 and – given the author’s expertise in examining image-based controversies – I would personally have preferred this space to have been devoted to an incisive analysis of the disjunctures in Trump’s media campaign. No doubt Strauss will explore this in his forthcoming book on Photography and Belief, which is due out in November.

While Co-Illusion does not address these issues analytically, it is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of documentary photography and photo-journalism, as well as those familiar with, or concerned about, the potential of photographic images for misuse and manipulation. Strauss highlights Trump’s relationship with photographic imagery – ‘I’ve always known where the cameras are, always’ – and the diverse ways in which these images are disseminated through social media, meme culture, the internet and new communication platforms. Although these were once perceived as being broadly democratic tools, they are now revealed as being just as capable of serving authoritarianism – and as Strauss makes clear, this has been achieved under a form of ‘co-illusion’, the collusion, or complicity, between voters and media consumers who chose to go along with the reality TV star and fraudster in disconnecting words and images from the Real.
There is much in this book to make readers reflect upon the complicity of the camera and the power relations at play in the communication of images – themes which have been much to the fore in contemporary events in both the UK and the USA during the last two or three months, and which are likely to take on greater significance in the years ahead. Learning to navigate our way through this new symbolic landscape is a task of some urgency.

James Downs

Photography and War (exposures series)

By Pippa Oldfield

Published by Reaktion Books, 2019
Paperback, 220 × 190 × 20 mm
216 pages, 120 illustrations,
100 in colour
ISBN 9781789141450

Photography and War opens with a picture of prominent war photojournalist Robert Capa. Taken in Naples (Italy) in 1943 by Magnum Photos co-founder George Rodger, it shows Capa looking at the camera, a cigarette casually on his lip.
While Capa features prominently in war photography books, the choice of this picture set Oldfield’s book apart from many of its predecessors. Instead of focusing on the image, the book reproduces a print made in 1947 to accompany Capa’s fictionalised autobiography Slightly Out of Focus, published by Henry Hold & Co.
We can see traces of use in the photograph, from the blurred background around Capa’s figure to crop marks. These details are what interest Oldfield the most, and what makes the reading of Photography and War so compelling.

This is not a book about famous war photographers and their heroic attempts to cover global conflicts. Photography and War is a monumental study of what conflict photographs do and have done globally since 1839 to the present day.
As Oldfield states in the introduction, ‘throughout this book, photographic products and processes are assumed to be highly mediated affairs, which are made, viewed and disseminated in specific circumstances and motivated by particular impulses.’ (p. 8) This perspective, highly influenced by recent work on photographic practices and materiality, helps to connect the photographs analysed in the book with broader social, economic and cultural processes while, at the same time, broadening the definition of ‘conflict photography’.
By doing so, Photography and War destabilises traditional notions of war photography, including a wide range of materials that are often overlooked in the canon. Classic pictures such as Fenton’s Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855) and Khaldei’s Raising the Soviet Flag at the Reichstag (1945) coexist with Sara Castrejón’s portrait of Colonel Amparo Salgado during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Andrew J. Russel’s picture of African American labourers working on a railroad as part of the Union Army (c. 1863) and contemporary artistic projects such as Wendy Red Star’s embellished portraits of Native Americans that commemorate the role of the Crow tribe resisting genocide during the Indian Wars (2014/ 1880). The result is a fascinating, incisive study that leaves the reader wanting to know more.

The book is organised in five thematic
chapters: ‘Despatches from the Combat Zone’, ‘Military Vision’, ‘Home Fronts’, ‘Secrets and Exposures’ and ‘Legacies’. All together, these five chapter cover a wide range of topics, such as ‘propaganda, morale and marketing’, ‘corporate innovations’, ‘truth and authenticity’, ‘healing, recovery and reconciliation’ and the ethics of images. This thematic approach works well, and Oldfield makes a real effort to diversify the stories and the voices told in each chapter.
For instance, there is a constant presence of women photographers in the book, well beyond the iconic figures of Gerda Taro, Lee Miller and Susan Meiselas. In fact, when enumerating photographers in a sentence, Oldfield tends to casually list the female photographers before their male counterparts. It is a tiny, subtle detail that quietly subverts the traditional narrative. Similarly, the book pays attention to conflicts that are not usually prominent in English-speaking photographic history, such as wars and revolutions in Latin America.
I particularly liked Oldfield’s analysis of the different ways in which the Madres de Plaza de Mayo have used photography in their quest for justice for their disappeared daughters and sons in Argentina since the 1970s. The two images examined, a portrait of several women with white headscarves, one of them branding a picture of a young woman, and a
collage compiling images from the life of Graciela Mellibovsky, do not look like conflict photographs.
However, it is precisely the mobilisation of domestic photography for identification purposes and the role of the Argentinian military junta in the abduction and killing of many of the missing what makes these otherwise conventional images great examples of what photographs do in conflict (pp. 154-157).

The emphasis on the ordinary, common character of conflict photography is one of the best aspects of the book. Some images are aesthetically arresting, others are dull; some played a key role in conflicts, others have never been very important; some were taken with particular purposes in mind,
others were not. Precisely because of this variety, longer concluding remarks bringing all the themes of the book together would have been helpful, even if only to reiterate the fantastic introductions to each chapter.

In conclusion, this is a brilliant book and an excellent resource for all photographic historians. It is the textbook we needed and I cannot wait to discuss it with my students.

Dr Beatriz Pichel

The Hasselblad Story.
Erna, Victor and the Camera that Captured the World
By Henrik Ekblom Ystén

Koenig Books, 2019
Hardback, 124 pp, 267mm x 270mm
Illustrations: 50 colour, 71 b&w
ISBN: 9783960986478

Hasselblad cameras have had a long association with NASA, as can be read about elsewhere in this issue, and most PW readers will be aware of the brand’s iconic status and reputation for high-end precision medium format kit. Now, to mark the fortieth anniversary (1979-2019) of the Hasselblad Foundation, The Hasselblad Story has been published, providing an intimate portrait of Victor Hasselblad and his wife Erna (née Nathorst) and their joint role in creating the Hasselblad brand.

The story is covered in five chapters, beginning with the meeting of Victor and Erna in December 1933 and then looking at their respective family backgrounds. Victor belonged to a prominent family in Gothenburg, where his great-grandfather had founded a successful wholesalers, F.W. Hasselblad & Co., in 1841. In 1885 the company became the sole distributor for Eastman Dry Plate & Film Company, and the personal links between the Hasselblads, George Eastman and Kodak would play a
pivotal role in Victor’s later life.

Born in 1906, Victor Hasselblad was expected to follow his father into the family business, and as a young man travelled around Europe and America learning about the camera industry. He was a passionate photographer of birds, and the book contains many attractive images from photograph albums he compiled during the 1920s, many of them taken with a Graflex camera.
Following his marriage to Erna in 1934, she appears in several photographs too, and she worked closely with him in the photographic shop ‘Victor Foto’ which they opened in central Gothenburg in 1937.
The first camera built by Victor was the HK-7, an aerial surveillance camera which he produced for the Swedish Air Force in 1941.
After the war, as owner and CEO of the two companies, Hasselblad Fotografiska AB and F.W. Hasselblad & Co., he concentrated his business resources on switching military production to the needs of civilian photographers.

The final three chapters document this work in detail, including their close association with NASA (several astronauts came to visit the Hasselblads in Sweden), relations with Kodak, the place occupied by Hasselblad within the European camera industry, and of course the stories behind the development of cameras such as the ‘Victor’, the 1000F, the 500C and the 500EL. These chapters are illustrated by a fascinating array of design sketches and marketing materials, as well as candid photographs showing the Hasselblads with European royalty and Swedish politicians, astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn, and photographers including Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Reinhold Heidecke and Kary Lasch. There are also many examples of photographs taken by Victor Hasselblad during his travels around America, Kenya and the Galapagos Islands.

Although this is an official Hasselblad publication, written under the auspices of the Hasselblad Foundation and drawing extensively on the family and company’s archives, there is no attempt to gloss over the various flaws and difficulties that hampered the development of the Hasselblad cameras. These include technical issues (such as faulty shutters and mechanical problems that dogged the early models), financial troubles – accusations of malpractice and contentious attempts to buy out the company – as well as personal ones, revealing the contrasts in temperament, background and outlook between Victor, his father, his wife and her family.

The difficulties faced by both Victor and Erna as they grew older are written about with poignancy and sensitivity – praise is due both to author and translator for the elegant, flowing style of the writing. It may seem unusual to focus so much on personal relationships and personalities when writing about the history of a camera firm, but The Hasselblad Story makes clear that the partnership between Victor and Erna was integral to the development of Hasselblad cameras – a fact of which they were well aware, and which they made an integral part of the company’s marketing strategy, promotional tours and entertainment of guests at their home on Råö island: as the author observes, ‘it was Victor and Erna themselves who made up the brand.’ (p.50).

This book should appeal to anyone interested in Hasselblad cameras or indeed the wider history of the photographic industry, but there is also much to attract a more general readership, from the beautiful photographs of birds and other wildlife, through to the chapter on space photography with its candid snaps of NASA astronauts, the portraits of celebrities as diverse as Sophia Loren and the Shah of Iran, and the glimpses into the political and economic changes across Europe during the middle of the 20th century.


James Downs

Discovering Lost Films of Georges Méliès in fin-de-siècle Flip Books (1896-1901)

by Thierry Lecointe, Pascal Fouché, Robert Byrne, Pamela Hutchinson
Softback, 280 pages, fully illustrated
17.27 x 1.78 x 23.88 cm
ISBN-13 : 978-0861967506
Indiana University Press

Many of us have experienced the thrill of finding a rare/unusual/obscure camera when wandering around camera fairs or trawling through ebay, and often it can be the most random event that can be the key to finding treasure (Jack Billington’s article about two
Dageurrotype cameras on the next page is a perfect example) – but not many of us have actually discovered ‘lost’ photographica!

This fascinating book covers the remarkable story that led to not one, but twenty rediscovered films by the French Pioneer film maker George Méliès.

‘Lost Film’ can actually be something fo a misnomer – many early cine films are not lost, they simply no longer exist – the volatile materials used in their production often meant that they could either self combust, or degenerate into unsaveable mush. Many pioneers were too busy trying to produce saleable films that they would not bother to archive or even have duplicates made of early work, and any existing copies that may have been shown around the country would be binned once the latest blockbuster was ready.
Film-makers such as Méliès and of course the Lumières are considered artists, but that is something that was bestowed on them after many years of effort – in the mid 1890s they were all just trying to be successful business men, with no consideration for future historians – and until now we only have the (likely) inaccurate memories from years later to try to decide IF such a film ever existed, and IF it was filmed AT such a place… and that’s where this book steps in.

The trail began in 2013 when Bernard Richter was looking for a cinematic raffle prize for an event he was involved in. He bought a ‘flipbook’ at a shop in Germany. After buying it he flipped through the images, which showed a train entering a station, the train and station details suggested to him that the flipbook MIGHT be made from images of a ‘lost’ film of 1886.

This book covers the entire adventure, and gets off to a cracking start with a wonderfully ebullient preface by Andre Gaudreault. I felt totally swept along with his breathless precis of the drama, and it reads almost like a carnival sideshow sales pitch, a variation of ‘nothing up this sleeve, nothing up that sleeve – et Voila’! Any preface that discusses Hitchcock and Vertigo is ok by me.

Although the book centres (quite rightly) on the detective work and science behind proving that certain images could only have been filmed at a certain time of the day and at a specific year, and that the chequered pants worn by the comic hero of a certain flickbook means it must be Méliès himself (as he is identified in a well known book) there are also some elements of photographica that are covered.
The person who made the ‘Folioscopes’ that featured the individual frames from the Méliès films was called Lèon Beaulieu. His profession was a ‘Bimbelotier’ – that is a maker of Bimbelots, or knick knacks (toys) for children.
He was also the inventor of the ‘Petit Biograph Parisien’. This charming enamelled metal gadget allowed a Folioscope to be held in one part and flipped more easily than by using the thumb, which was the normal procedure.
It’s interesting to note that the first patent for the mass production of a Folioscope was in 1868 by British printer John Barnes Linnett, and of course the initial illustrated examples were overtaken by the very early days of Cinema and ‘moving pictures’.
The book basically consists of four sections – the story of Méliès and Beaulieu and Folioscope production, a section of documents, sketches and associated ephemera, a third one showing enlarged images from various titles and finally many pages of the highlights of the missing films.
Given that when watching the digitised versions of the Folioscopes it’s hard to see much detail at all, so these enlargements are a great way to study what is there, then afterwards enjoy the films for what they are – first class entertainment.
Thankfully all of that restoration and digitisation has been shared – visit:


The films are a mixture of ‘what the butler saw’, dancing ballerinas, slapstick shenanigans and ever so slightly shocking risque material.

The book itself is something of an enigma – maybe deliberately so?!
It has been printed in English at the front, the images section is in the middle, followed by the French language version. The English text parts run to 58 pages. The French pages run to 132!
Also many illustrations are used in the French part that are not shown in the English, and even with my mediocre grasp of French there is clearly a lot more that has not been translated, which I find equally puzzling and frustrating. Members with the language skills however may be able to get the full effect!

Even with that black mark against it, I recommend Discovering Lost Films very highly – it somehow captures the magic of the early days of cinema, features two pioneers, one who is (realtively) well known, the other a more or less unknown – and entwines the scant information about both to weave a plausible series of events that would result in a simple toy becoming a window onto a vital and exciting period of cinematic (and photographic) history.

Timothy Campbell

The Secret History of STASI Spy Cameras 1950 – 1990

By H. Keith Melton, Michael M. Hasco , Detlev Vreisleben
Hardcover : 224 pages, fully illustrated
ISBN-13 : 978-0764360459
Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Dec 2020

This latest volume by H Keith Melton is a sort of companion to the Secret History of KGB Spy Cameras, published by Schiffer in 2019 (See PW 161): this time the focus is on the East German end of things.

This book features a lot more information about the STASI and related secret departments, which is no bad thing, but it does mean that there is quite a bit of content not related directly to cameras or the methods that were used to capture images.

The book contains nine chapters, and as would be expected starts with an overview of the political situation at the end of the 1940s, and follows with sections on document copying, house search methods, observation and surveillance cameras, concealed and disguised cameras and their use.

The KGB primarily used cameras that were designed and made for their specific intention – the STASI would seem to have gone more for an off the shelf approach for their activities due to a severe lack of money.

I own a 1948 Minox II and I’ve often wondered if that camera was ever used covertly – as is well known the Minox was not designed as a ‘Spy’ camera but was so perfectly suited that it was used world wide for the purpose, however
I actually felt quite queasy seeing some of the cameras that were in action in East Germany as they are cameras that until now I had not viewed as anything other than something that I collect.
Seeing the ever so charming Ricoh half being used hidden inside a hand bag or within a leather jacket was a shock, maybe less so that the NICNON binocular/camera was used by many agents (see PW160 for full info about this and the Ricoh Teleca version).
The main reason for choosing particular well known cameras was entirely down to cost and being able to use standard 35mm in them – an order for 100 expensive Minox cameras would have raised suspicion, and of course film would need to be obtained – all of which would be easy to trace. So the Minox was reserved for special uses.

What I just can’t grasp is why all of the secret photography was required in the first place.
The KGB activities in the Soviet Union makes sense due to the size of the country, the number of people and the potential for plots and murky goings on, but reading that the STASI have an archive which covered a third of the population (6 of the 17 million) and that there are 60 odd miles of tickets and documents – it makes your head spin. A police state, indeed.

As with the KGB book there are a huge number of gadgets, gizmos and illustrations to accompany the text and, as with that book, the layouts and print quality are excellent.
A few selected revelations:
To pass on position and guidance during ground level surveillance the agents used a series of hand signals – I wondered what would happen if the agent got an itchy nose…
Disguises were common place, but one female agent had to be ordered to change her preferred tight T-shirts due to her pronounced nipples!
Cars were often fitted with Infra Red units for photography – sometimes built into the ‘fog’ lamps.
Clothing concealed cameras were utilised, sometimes on a neck mounted sling, and fired by cable release in a side pocket – these might be the already mentioned Ricoh half, or the tiny Tessina camera, and the KGB supplied AJAX K21 – the latter usually fitted with a button covering the lens that swung open for exposure – totally James Bond.
What is surprising is that along with personal favourite cameras in use, is that many manufacturers were providing special cameras (or variants) directly to the Stasi.
MEOPTA feature quite prominently – many of us will have used either their emlargers or their lovely MIKROMA 16mm subminiature.
Siegrist were tasked with creating a ‘silent’ version of their Tessina camera – this clockwork wonder was notoriously noisy during use – after many years of effort a teflon disc was fitted to create a more useable model.

The sheer amount of photography of all kinds that was undertaken is staggering, and to ensure absolute secrecy between departments there was a secret service WITHIN the secret service… talk about paranoid.

Some of the features and procedures are truly ingenious – ‘dead drops’ of exposed but undeveloped film were usually packaged with a set of batteries and a flash head – if the package was opened the wrong way, the flash was triggered, thus ruining the films!
Filming undesirables at any location needed special disguises – step forward the camera in a watering can (ideal for use in public parks and cemeteries). How about the pram that is fitted with a video camera – the batteries are placed in a shopping bag under the main carrier, and baby comes along to maintain the deception.

We all know how KODAK ruined it for 110 and 16mm users alike when they introduced the utterly abysmal ‘DISC’ format in 1982 – but they didn’t actually invent it. Several cameras over the years have used a disc of film (the Steineck ABC for one) – but seeing the miniscule Uranus camera (for microdot use) is a revelation – it looks small until you see it next to a 35mm film and you realise it is tiny: it took fifteen 2 x 1.4mm images on each disc!
Now that’s innovative!

A fascinating and intriguing read, I thoroughly recommend this book, and even if you have the KGB title there is so much to enjoy.
Sadly the proof reading has let it down – I found several instances of duplicated paragraphs within the same page – not a disaster but a shame all the same.

We’ve all had the ‘I wonder what I missed’ feeling when we’ve been at camera fairs… I wonder what I missed during trips to street markets in Eastern Europe – it would appear that the clothes brush, the thermos flask and the chess set that I ignored on a bric a bric counter are very likely to have contained hidden miniature cameras!

Timothy Campbell