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Photovision Magazine

Photography Book Reviews
From VOL. 3, NO. 3 • JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2003

Ruven Afanador
Introduction by Héctor Faciolince
Poems by Gloria Maria Pardo Vargas
Edition Stemmle Publishers, $75.00
ISBN 3-908163-48-X

Review by Bruno Chalifour

Torero, a book of 158 black and white photographs printed in quadrotone, shows portraits of young bullfighters taken in Spain, Mexico, Peru and Colombia (the native country of the author). A few still-lives of various artifacts related to corrida and aficion (bullfights and the love of them) are used as punctuations by the photographer whose background is in fashion photography. Born in Colombia in 1959, he came to the United States when he was 14. In the 1990s the music and fashion worlds became fully aware of his talents.

From cat-walk to bull-fight arena, the step seems to have been motivated by a portrait session with the famous Colombian writer Garcia Marquez. The conversation went to bull-fights and for reasons that may emerge from the viewing of Torero, Afanador decided to make this the topic of a self-assigned project which would bring him closer to life-long role-model, Irving Penn. If the choice of black-and-white was deliberate and justified to separate commercial from personal work, the reference to great photographs by Penn, Avedon, Horst and Hoyningen-Huene, as well as Afanador’s drive toward reaching fine-art photography becomes obvious, sometimes too obvious.

Almost all of Afanador’s portraits and nudes, or semi-nudes, are devoid of context; the real background of a torero’s life has been exchanged for Irving Penn’s uniform gray canvas. Many of the costumes were borrowed from museums; they belonged to famous bull-fighters. We are in the presence of the same props and backgrounds and fine-art quotations as the ones used in most good fashion photographs. However, the realization of a recurrent element, central in some images, gives another perspective. The clue is found in the Spanish word: cojones. Just like guts, a torero has to have them and protect them from the bull’s horns.
A lot of Afanador’s imagery belongs to the homo-erotica genre: young ephebes idly offering their bare torsos and hardly covered genitals to the camera. The nudes of Noel Pardo, the eyes of Miguel Angel Valencia Sánchez looming over a woman’s spread-out fan, Arturo Martin Paniagua sitting also holding a fan in his right hand, look like bad visual puns, too literal to be really humorous, too artificial and removed from the subject.

Although the book is technically well-printed, its imagery is still too close to the glossy pages of the magazines that feed it: sexually titillating, with a touch of irreverence but not breaking any new ground, not serious enough toward whatever it is trying to achieve. BC


Lee Friedlander: At Work
DAP Inc., $55.00
ISBN 1-891024-48-5

Review by Irving Goldworm

If a new book by Lee Friedlander no longer seems quite so timely as it did back when Self-Portraits was published more than thirty years ago, still a significant number of images in At Work seem as timeless. My appreciation of Friedlander has developed and deepened over the years and was unabashedly confirmed when I saw his loving portrait of William Gedney and Mr. Dog in Gedney’s posthumous book, What Was True.

At Work is made up of portraits of people on the job mostly interacting with machines even where the machines are not visible. The pictures were taken during a span of 16 years beginning in 1979. Some of the work was commissioned by company CEOs, others by curators, and one by The New York Times Magazine. To a remarkable degree, Friedlander possesses the ability to serve his clients needs while remaining true to and continuing to enlarge his own vision.

I responded to the 1995 close-ups of people working in telemarketing, all of them wearing headsets and mouthpieces. The headsets are like grafted-on sense organs and their wires like mutant insect legs. I wonder if the next generation of telemarketers will have these devices surgically implanted in a technological enhancement of the tools of the trade? The burst of Friedlander’s strobe in these pictures functions as metaphor: The visual equivalent of the ringing of our phones when telemarketers call. The pictures are intimate as well as close: just like being on the phone.

In many of the pictures we don’t know what the workers are making, and we wonder if they themselves ever see the finished product toward which they provided a chuck of the labor. Often in corporate culture, at any level, in one’s livelihood is found one’s ruin. In At Work these cultural criticisms are, if not right up front, then revealed just below the matter-of-fact surface. IG


Polaroid Manipulations
Kathleen Thormod Carr
Amphoto, $29.95
ISBN 0-8174-555-8

Review by J.J. Allen

If you are a photographic purist, the techniques that you will find described in Polaroid Manipulations will not interest you very much. On the other hand, if you are open to all the new ways of seeing that contemporary techniques makes possible, you may find that Polaroid SX-70 manipulation is a tool that will allow you to express yourself in a different almost non-photographic way—a way that will allow you to produce works closer to the works of the French impressionists than to the purely photographic works of an Ansel Adams for example.

The SX-70 process involves exposing Polaroid Time Zero film and manipulating the photographic dyes within the film before they harden and possibly altering the image further through hand coloring or a variety of digital applications.

The one requirement seems to be that the camera accepts Time Zero film. Other films can be used for Polaroid transfers, which Ms. Carr also covers. My unanswered question is which camera that is still in production can be used to produce the manipulations she describes. If you are interested in learning the fascinating techniques Ms. Carr teaches, I encourage you to contact Polaroid, call a photographic supply house that has a knowledgeable staff, or check with used camera dealers.

In addition to SX-70 manipulations and image transfers, Ms. Carr’s book covers other techniques that include bleaching, and staining with coffee or tea. In addition Ms Carr leads you through the use of other equipment including the Daylab and Vivitar Slide printers and even the 20x24 Polaroid camera. JJA


Art Ketchum
Artistic Light Publishing, $29.95
ISBN 0-9714916-0-7

Review by Christy Mock

Bringing together 100 images from his award-winning portfolio, Art Ketchum exposes the methods with which an up-coming photographer can build a commercial portfolio. Empha-sizing lighting and modeling techniques, he infuses the book with helpful hints and encouragement. Easy-to-read lighting diagrams clearly explain many different lighting styles in the studio and on location. Numerous posing tips and background hints emphasize the importance of keeping an open eye to your surroundings for ideas.

Full-page color photographs invite scrutiny and encourage experimentation. His affability certainly welcomes anyone new to photography to try the pose and lighting techniques he uses in the book. A point he makes repeatedly is the importance of looking at other photographer’s work, magazines and advertisements for posing and lighting ideas. Once you find one you like, he insists, “Try it.” It will inevitably change during the process and become your very own. Working closely with models and developing a relationship with them is also key to a successful photograph. Ketchum also provides many do-it-yourself hints, such as how to make a diffusing lens with nail polish and how to trade services with make-up artists and models in order to enhance your own portfolio and theirs.

Mingling candid stories with numerous helpful hints, he develops a personable rapport with his readers. However, these candid stories reveal a startling view of female beauty. Comments such as “I felt we had a very hot image with her stunning mesh dress” can be seen in poor taste during these politically correct times. While this type of phrasing could be troubling to some readers, the book does reveal many lighting, studio and modeling techniques useful to the new photographer. Ketchum’s obvious love of photography is inspiring to anyone who wants to pursue a career in studio photography. CM


Beware of Dog:
You Might Fall in Love
Martha Casanave
Center for Photographic Art, $29.95
ISBN 0-9630393-8-5

Review by Donald R. Anderson

How do you create a book of dog photographs without being sentimental or cute? Martha Casanave has done just that in her new book, Beware of Dog You Might Fall in Love. With 44 photographs, Casanave establishes the bond between herself and a gangly dog she rescued. Two short essays precede the photographs. An introduction by Huntington Witherill explores the unique relationship between human beings and dogs. And, in her poignant essay, Casanave discusses how she adopted a whippet in 1992, at “a time when I was fatigued with an undiagnosed illness…I wanted an animal for companionship.”

Seeing the cover photograph of a somewhat distorted dog’s shadow with only a remnant of the dog’s rear end shoved down into the lower right hand corner signals that this is not an ordinary canine picture book. Casanave photographs her dog using the camera’s requisite rectangle in startling ways.

One of the first photographs in the book, opposite Casanave’s essay, is a fragmented, mysterious picture, that suggests, on close viewing, the connection between the author and her subject. A dog’s nose enters from the upper left of the frame; a hand, cut off at the wrist, extends down from the top of the image and appears to hold, caress, and formally mimic two out-of-focus dog’s legs. The legs look as if they do not belong to the dog whose nose we see.

The sequencing of photographs in Beware of Dog, is intelligent and thoughtful. The cover photograph, repeated three more times, once in negative form, acts as a leitmotif, giving the book its visual coherence. Divided into three sections, parts one and three are similar in content and form showing closeups of whippet anatomy, combined occasionally with Casanave body parts. A negative image of a running dog photographed by a panning camera using a slow shutter speed launches section two. The positive image of that same photograph appears on the opposite page.

Photographing her rescue dog not only helped Casanave heal but also taught her some valuable lessons. “Doing the photographs has been important to me,” she says, “perhaps more important than looking at them. The process of paying close attention to every detail of my dog and watching her behavior closely has caused me to find more joy in quotidian things, to be more conscious of being fully present…”

You can visit Casanave’s website ( to see some of the photographs. DRA


Large Format Nature Photography
Jack Dykinga
Amphoto Books, $29.95
ISBN 0-8174-4157-3

Review by Donald R. Anderson

Jack Dykinga is one of the more significant color landscape photographers working today. In this book the author of Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau and Desert, The Mojave and Death Valley reveals how he takes his magnificent 4x5 photographs. The book covers composition, light, camera use, lenses, exposure, film, filters, gear and weather, and career pointers with photographs illustrating these topics. Captions for the photographs describe how they were taken.

Reading the book is like taking a workshop with Jack. The techniques he uses and describes in the book would be essential for the beginning large format photographer and are useful for those who are more advanced. I find his frequent use of wide-angle lenses insightful. Indeed he remarks that Western photographers tend to use wide-angle lenses to show the open vastness of the West while Eastern nature photographers tend to use longer lenses, isolating subjects in the more forested environment. I also found his subtle use of warming and color compensating filters interesting. All in all, large format photographers or those contemplating large format photography will find much useful information in this volume. SCP