Book Reviews By John Veldhoen

  • Dreaming Together: Books at The Camera Store

    What my writing for this blog can achieve is limited most of all by exigency, but since what I have penned here was written periodically, I can make limited reparations for the stupid things that I have said. Writing tends, like painting and photography, to point outwards to other things. If I was explicit about what I know is the ultimate nature of reality, while it would be a heartfelt recital, I wouldn’t be able to take credit for it. The early part of this blog is irenic, and the last piece I wrote about materialism and synesthesia was wrong. I certainly admit to materiality, and I am deceived not least of all by my own vanity. This recalls a Christian apologist from India that I have been reading recently, who wrote about a Zen adherent, and an incident where the disciple thought of his heart is like a mirror needing to be cleaned, and to whom the apologist replied that if everything is nothing, where can the dust cling?

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  • Book Review: Layers of Reality

    What fascinates me though is how the expanded definition of synaesthesia used in “Layers of Reality” is how representational realism, and dualism, has become the reigning position of our age; many today find the descriptions of materialism comforting.

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  • Banking on Images and Conversations

    I’ve been thinking lately that the discursive images used in architectural mock-ups have something to do with what all photographs are, as writing with light, photographs now seem to me as fractal parts of a greater design.

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  • The Street Photography of Garry Winogrand

    Garry Winogrand is the preeminent practitioner of what has become known as the genre of street photography, which he’d probably resent the heck out of my writing. In an interview in 1981, when questioned about the term street photography, Winogrand referred to it as “a stupidity”. Geoff Dyer is a writer, primarily a novelist, though he is a fine critic.

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  • Reading American Photographs, Another Photographic Reality, and Mexico

    So, a weaving approach to write about a book I have wanted to read for years, Alan Trachtenberg’s “Reading American Photographs”. Time gets in the way, and I have had to put it off. But, I recently ordered a few copies for The Camera Store, and I am now quarter of the way through. I get slowed down when I read history, I get side-tracked with historiography, and get down into the reeds.

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  • Empire of Illusion

    “I have been walking all day. I started out with a mere idea, to see what I could see. It began without structure, and as I progressed, it gathered some. Along the way today I ran into a street photographer that I admire named Alvin. His working methodology is most closely akin to Garry Winogrand. He photographs with film, with a Leica, a prime lens with a small aperture, looking quickly at the edge of the frame. I love his pictures more than Winogrand’s because Alvin’s pictures are more compassionate to me, with mixtures of the intimacy that Winogrand seemed so tragically to avoid, and the irony of the street. I stand with him as he works on a corner that he normally shoots, in awe of his tenacious path to the ten thousand hour requirement to earn the title of mastery. I skinned my knee badly after a fall last week, and I am happy today that it is warmer, and I can stretch it. 

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  • Poetry and Photography

    I recently read Yves Bonnefoy’s “Poetry and Photography” and struggled with it. I write that I read it, but the truth is that I finished far short, at the section where Bonnefoy references a work by Stephane Mallarme entitled “Igitur” that I did go on to read, and found deeply disturbing, and so also Bonnefoy’s definition of photography in turn, as it stems from his reading of the same vein of French symbolism.

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  • Notable Books: 2017

    To effectively split my list into two halves from the start: There are a number of books that I have not reviewed this year, that I am not adding to this bedroll of notable books from 2017. There were some giant books published by Steidl, including the Gordon Parks Collection, and David Freund’s “Gastop”, for instance. Books like these defy reduction; so, I’ve left them off to concentrate on smaller publications. I have also left off some even smaller books, also because of their incomparability and distinction, and maybe because they are closer to the heart: In particular Between Dust and Sky comes to mind, “An Intimate Wilderness”, and “A Good Stress”.

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  • Bystander: A History of Street Photography

    When was it? Seven years ago? I was working in a bookstore in a photography gallery and I had access to a tattered copy of the original version of this book from 1994. I looked through it, but can’t say I read it. At the time, I wasn’t making photographs that were any good myself, and I wasn’t reading anything with intention either. I was just looking (but not seeing).

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  • Blind Spot and Western Landscapes

    Siri Hustvedt is an American novelist, but along with her work as a fiction writer, she has written essays on diverse subjects, like neuropsychoanalysis, and painting. The latter investigations presuppose a connection between selfhood, and perception. She is the author of the introduction to Teju Cole’s new book of photographs, “Blind Spot”. Cole is a photographer, but is also a writer, and contributes a regular column to the New York Times “Lens” section entitled “On Photography” which I have mentioned on this blog before, in connection to essays written by Luigi Ghirri.

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