[Book Nerd Links] Vita Sackville-West, J.J. Phillips, Gerda Taro and Natasja Sadi

Vita Sackville-West (circa 1926)

[Alternative Muses] Birthday Mashup: Edmond de Goncourt/Dorothea Lange

“History is a novel that has been lived, a novel is history that could have been.”-Writer Edmond de Goncourt (born 26 May 1822)

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All photos taken by Dorothea Lange (born 26 May 1895) during The Great Depression

A Year in Books/Day 183: Tinisima

  • Title: Tinisima A Novel
  • Author: Elena Poniatowska
  • Year Published: 1992/This Edition: 1998 (Penguin Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2004
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: Although she is now one of my favourite photographers, the image that introduced me to Tina Modotti was not by, but rather of, this magnetic and enigmatic woman. It was, of course, an Edward Weston.
    Tina Modotti with her arms raised by Edward Weston (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

    Tina Modotti with her arms raised by Edward Weston (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

    I enjoy his work, but feel a resolute kinship with the art of the woman whose talent he encouraged. Tinisima, in translation from the original Spanish, is a fictionalized account of her turbulent, sacrificial, frustrating, many-faceted life. In a way, it is a more fitting tribute to its mysterious subject than any well-researched biography.

  • Motivation: Having read Patricia Albers’ excellent biography Shadows, Fire, Snow a couple of years earlier, I was interested to see how a fictional account of Modotti’s life would play out.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 171: “Eight picture in one day! She always mulled over each shot, even visited the scene and studied the light at different times of day before shooting; she waited for the exact moment, the click ringing out in the sacred silence. Now he is telling her to press the shutter without thinking about the results, like the unconscious blink of an eye. That is journalism.”
  • Happiness Scale: 8 1/2

A Year in Books/Day 174: Blumenfeld Photographs

  • Title: Blumenfeld Photographs A Passion for Beauty
  • Author: William A. Ewing
  • Year Published: 1996 (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers)
  • Year Purchased: 2010
  • Source: My lovely Momma
  • About: Before reading this book, I could recognize some of the more iconic images of Berlin-born photographer Erwin Blumenfeld as his, but I knew nothing of his life. Although I place value on my own emotional responses to art, music and literature, and as a parallel it could certainly be argued that the end product is all the biography we need, I love back stories, perspective; I’m obsessively curious about context, facts, and individual versions of the creative process. Artistic pathways fascinate me. The 235 illustrations in this thick coffee table volume are, of course, extraordinary. From erotica to fashion to adverts, it is all here; the experimental nature of his work is stunningly apparent. All are sumptuous, provocative, memorable. The biggest revelation for me-and it really was a revelation, make no mistake-is the extensive text, which, in forming a serious and detailed biography, echoes back to my love of concrete information. This two-sided approach gives us a bigger picture (ha!) than either traditional biographies or coffee table retrospectives usually offer. The result is aesthetically pleasing and deeply satisfying.
  • Motivation: I love coffee table books and vintage photography.
  • Times Read: Once
  • Random Excerpt/Page 32: “It is more than likely that Blumenfeld’s mind had not been entirely focused on his work. Ever since his arrival in the Netherlands-indeed, since he had fallen in love with Lena just prior to the war-he had been making art, partly to communicate this passion, partly as a release from the mundane pressures of daily life, and partly as a means of expressing his outrage over the war and the bankrupt values which, in his view, had brought it about.”
  • Happiness Scale: 8 1/2

A Year in Books/Day 110: Ansel Adams An Autobiography

  • Title: Ansel Adams An Autobiography
  • Author: Ansel Adams
  • Year Published: 1985/This Edition:1996 (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Year Purchased: 2000/2001
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: Iconic is an over used word and idea. Very few people truly and permanently achieve that status. Ansel Adams, the Californian known for his crisp black and white nature photography, certainly deserves the label. His expansive, down-to-earth and gruff nature flies off the page, making 82 years of wide experience seem fresh, lively and interesting. For eight decades, he witnessed the extremes of a rapidly changing America; as a pioneering artist and activist, he was responsible for much of that transformation.

    A photo portrait of photographer Ansel Adams, ...

    A photo portrait of photographer Ansel Adams, which first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook. Deutsch: Portrait des Fotografen Ansel Adams, erstmals 1950 im Jahrbuch der Yosemite Field School erschienen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Motivation: I love to learn what drives and shapes creative people and their processes.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 55: “The snapshot is not as simple a statement as some may believe. It represents something that each of us has seen-more as human beings than photographers-and wants to keep as a memento, a special thing encountered. The little icons that return from the photo-finisher provide recollections of events, people, places; they stir memories and create fantasies. Through the billions of snapshots made each year a visual history of our times is recorded in enormous detail.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9 1/2