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Staff Picks: Readings on Photography


Editors and staff at Aperture Foundation share what we’ve been reading recently.


“What I Talk about When I Talk about Photography” by Melanie Bühler for Still Searching, the Fotomuseum Winterthur blog: “If one thinks about photography in medium-specific terms, digitization actually hasn’t introduced any significant challenges to the essence of the photographic moment.  Cameras and iPhones that produce digital photographs still contain optical lenses that record light from which an image is generated. What has changed, however, is the process of image creation that directly follows from this moment.”

Michael Famighetti, editor of Aperture magazine

I unearthed The Love of Indoor Plants (Octopus Books, 1973), by Lovell Benjamin, in an outer-borough junk store. It’s an ostensibly practical guide to houseplant care illustrated by what seems to be half stock photos, half images shot for the purpose of the book. (The same lace background pops up again and again.) The layout is clunky and the badly cropped photographs might as well have been culled from a Google image search, but I love its little nods to style: a flash of satin, a glossy pink ribbon, woodgrain, ceramics, decorative rocks. You can, however, have too much of a good thing. In his introduction, Benjamin cautions against plant-hoarding: “So dense are they in some windows that one cannot help wondering whether the rooms inside are equally cluttered up with these beautiful plants. This very thought prompts a warning. If there are too many present, house plants lose one of their most valuable qualities that of giving accent to decor.” Proceed with caution.

–Madeline Coleman, copy editor/proofreader, books, and coordinating editor, The PhotoBook Review

I have not yet gotten my hands on a copy of Charles Simic’s new book of prose, The Life of Images, which contains many writings on photography, but its release this week reminds me of this essay he once wrote for the New York Review of Books website, on the occasion of Aperture’s 60th anniversary. Simic worked at Aperture magazine from 1967 to 1970 doing various odd jobs around the office as its “business manager.” But mostly, he remembers looking at photographs: “I recall rainy afternoons with nothing to occupy me in the office but some photograph by Dorothea Lange, Paul Caponigro, Jerry Uelsmann, or by a complete unknown that I couldn’t stop looking at, because it seemed to grow more beautiful and more mysterious the longer I kept looking. Then, abruptly, a phone would ring with some irate subscriber shouting that his issue arrived damaged in the mail, and the spell would be broken.”

–Alexandra Pechman, online editor

I reread Paul Graham’s essay for the 2009 Yale MFA book [“Photography is Easy, Photography is Difficult”] frequently, when I hate photography and need to be reminded to lighten up and just do it.

–Sarah Goldberg, bookstore manager

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