Posts Tagged ‘book’

Sarah Moon – Orient Express

Friday, January 10th, 2020

I’ve never travelled on the Orient Express, but years ago one of my late friends, Terry King, got what seemed to be a dream job, working on an advertising commission for the company.

He’d gone to their offices with his portfolio of gum bichromate prints and they had sat around them in awe in their kaftans (it was then a rather new age company.) I’ve described elsewhere how Terry, Randall Webb and myself had all started investigating the process but Terry had evolved his own methods of progressing with the process, using several large paper negatives printed in different tones and colours and with carefully controlled manual development at each stage to produce highly pictorial results.

So Terry got a free trip on the Orient Express to Venice, where he spent a few days taking pictures before returning to his London studio and working on the results, producing prints to take back to the company. He went in to show them the results and immediately sensed the company had changed management; in place of kaftans the executives were now all in smart business suits and ties. They didn’t appreciate his work and the project was abandoned.

Terry did make some fine prints of his work in Venice, and some of them will still be hanging on people’s walls around the country, with sales through an art dealer in Richmond. (I have one of his pictures of London on my wall – we did a swap – but not of Venice.) Until recently you could see some of them on his web site, but that is no longer on line. The only example I can find is on the Silverprint web site, a company which supplies fine photographic materials – including some of the chemicals and sundries that both Terry and I used. It is a picture from Venice and I think is possibly a cyanotype over a gum image, though it could possibly be simply a gum using two shades of blue.

I have met Sarah Moon (above with photographer Joan Fontcuberta), though only fairly briefly when we were both speaking at the FotoArtFestival in Bielsko-Biala in 2007. We shared several meals at the event and had some long conversations and there are a few more pictures of her in my diary.

Sarah Moon with film-maker Nina Rosenblum and photo-historian Naomi Rosenblum

Which brings me – finally – to the reason for this post, Sarah Moon : Orient Express – Louis Vuitton Editions – which was featured on ‘The Eye of Photography‘. This is a book in their Fashion Eye collection, a series in which each “book evokes a city, a region or a country, seen through the eyes of a fashion photographer.”

LV is a French fashion house and luxury retail company founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton, who introduced a range of luggage with flat-top trunks for travel, which meant they could be stacked, particularly on rail journeys – previously trunks had been made with rounded tops so that the rain would run off when they were carried on open waggons and carriages. The Orient Express which began in 1883 thus seems a very appropriate subject.

You can read about this book on the UK LV web site, which has the same selection of stills as ‘The Eye of Photography’. But if you scroll down the page there is also an over- rapid ‘page-through‘ video of the book, which gives a good idea of the size and layout of the work. And if you change the video to 1080px, make it full screen and stop the playback you can actually see and read the pages. Presumably you can buy it in their shops as well as on-line, but at £42 (including standard delivery) although it looks an intersting book I find it a little too expensive – like their luggage.

Frank dies

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Robert Frank whose book ‘The Americans‘ shook up photography when published in 1958 (and 1959 in the USA) died Monday, 9th November 2019. Born on 9 November 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland, he was 94. Frank was clearly one of the truly great photographers of the 20th century.

Studying that book changed photography for many of us, though many like me came to it rather late, though not long after I took up photography in the 1970s. As well as the direct influence there was also the work of a whole generation of photographers that were influenced by it, notably for me Friedlander and Winogrand. If you are a photographer you will probably already own a well-thumbed copy of ‘The Americans‘; if not, rush out and buy one.

In his Vanity Fair article written in 2008 about Frank’s visit to China, Charlie Leduff decribed the book as “his artistic albatross of sorts” and for many of us it stood head and shoulders above his earlier and later work.  It seemed to be a definitive statement that left him little or nothing to say.

Frank went on to make a number of films, of which the best known and almost certainly least seen is the 1969-1972 ‘Cocksucker Blues‘ of the Rolling Stones, never commercially released but which you can watch on YouTube. It’s a remarkably intimate film which epitomises sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and was rather too extreme for the image that the Stones wanted to make public. The sound track includes some great music but much of the speech is for various reasons unclear and if you are not a fan of the music and the musicians the film is difficult to watch other than as a document of that particular age and time.

Some of his other films are more conventional, and perhaps for that reason less interesting. Again for fans of the beats, ‘Pull My Daisy‘ (1959) is required viewing. Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie and adapted by Jack Kerouac from an act of his play Beat Generation, it has an improvised narration by Kerouac and among others stars Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Alice Neel and David Amram.

Perhaps the best of the obits I’ve so far read is unsurprisingly in the New York Times, but The Guardian is also worth reading, and there a brief note on the BBC web page, and many more.

There are many obituaries of Robert Frank, and I don’t intend to write another, though I’ve previously written about him and his work at some length, though these pieces are not currently available on the web. Since this is no longer available, I’ll revise and post it, or at least some of the more interesting parts of it over the next few days.