in 1976, this second
edition of Friedlander’s
influential and sought-after book features the
same post-bound sheet
design and a new essay
by Peter Galassi.
MACK Books, $85
A bilingual facsimile
of the first edition,
published in 1986,
of what some consider
the greatest photobook
in the history of
Eggleston’s first book,
in an edition of five,
gathers images he
made in 1976 traveling
from Memphis to
hometown of then
newly elected President
In her text for Extra Super Natural!, Emily Shur explains that at some point she realized the subject of
her photographs wasn’t what she thought
it was. When she made the first of her 16
trips to Japan, she felt she’d found “my
place,” a source of inspiration, “a country
whose natural beauty is accentuated by
thoughtful design, a culture that values
simplicity and kindness, yet also embraces
the completely absurd.” We understand
these qualities in Shur’s images of Japan.
We see the humor in the street-side
arrangement of life-size dog statues.
We see the attention to esthetics in the
manicured gardens or hotel lobbies, or
at the carefully considered intersections
of built and natural environments. But as
Shur returned again and again to Japan,
the pictures became less about the place,
more about “an exploration of my own
perspective on photography and the act
of taking photographs,” with Japan as a
Shur writes about the instant of
photographic inspiration, when “shapes
and colors seem to fill the frame as nature
intended.” It’s then, she explains, that she
understands, “I am in the right place, doing
the right thing, and in that moment, I feel
truly grateful.” In some sense, then, her
book is about that feeling, and the roles that
camera and subject play in its creation.
It’s also about the photographer’s search.
Shur found her moments through
wandering. Some came in expected
places—a glassy pond overlooking a misty
mountain forest, a towering red shrine on
a beach. Others emerged from less likely
scenes—parking lots or gas stations, laundry
hung out to dry, a portrait studio window,
ferry boat ashtrays. Color and light and
geometry and content can align almost
anywhere, Shur’s book suggests. She also
emphasizes how elusive photographs can
be, writing of days of frustration, promising
trips that don’t pan out. “I worry about how
much I worry,” she confesses. Shur wonders
if viewers recognize photographers’
“struggles and elation” in their images.
Some may not. But photographers will
recognize the seeking, the process, the
attention to color and light and form, and
they’ll understand at least some of what
went into making these pictures. They’ll
feel the “sensation beyond photographic
satisfaction” that Shur’s images describe.
By Emily Shur
135 color images
Before San Francisco was synonymous with tech money and progressive politics, there were other versions of the city. The version that Fred Lyon celebrates in his new book is a
classic—San Francisco full of smoky jazz clubs, neon lights in fog and
sharply dressed men and women stepping on and off of trolley cars.
Made mostly during the 1950s and ’60s, Lyon’s images are big on
atmosphere and style, and hit many parts of the city that visitors love.
The Golden Gate Bridge emerges from fog; a man sweeps the steep
steps of a Kearny Street sidewalk; and shiny cars park outside the
seafood restaurants at Fishermen’s Wharf. There are glimpses of the
city’s upper crust dancing at a debutante ball and taking their seats
on opening night at the opera. Other images show more ordinary
moments—men unload ships and catch fish with nets, and roam the
city’s alleys and rain-soaked streets wearing fedoras and trench coats.
In a foreword, Nion McEvoy calls the photographs “Lyon’s
valentine to the city.” Lyon is a fourth generation San Franciscan
and spent 75 years photographing there, sometimes in the company
of beloved San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. Like any
valentine, Lyon’s images tell one part of a story to the exclusion of
others, and present a sort of simplified version of San Francisco.
They show little of the era’s growing counterculture or the city’s racial diversity.
My favorite photos show houses and apartments at night, densely packed onto
hillsides. Their curtain-less windows glow and allow a peek into the private worlds
of San Franciscans, hinting at complex lives just out of sight. —REBECCA ROBERTSON
By Fred Lyon