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1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEarly ExposuresEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGoing Into TownGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersGreat Hiking Trails of the WorldH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaHow Art WorksI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNot My ShameNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPortraits of ResiliencePostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlayRXSame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe PervertThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?Why Comics?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Reviewing this ambitious survey of photojournalism since 1955 presents a challenge for anyone, photographer or not, who sits down to digest its 400 pages. Borrowing its title, Things As They Are, from a quote by Sir Francis Bacon which served as documentary photographer Dorothea Lange's favorite motto, the volume sets out to canvas the changing face of photojournalism spanning 50 years through 2005. In most cases, one or two photo essays have been chosen to represent a given year. In the preface, Michiel Munneke, managing director of World Press Photo and its chairman Gerrit Jan Wolffensperger state, "it is not intended to be 'the best', but rather to tell the story of photojournalism through the selection of published features."
At the outset, the enormity of the publication's mission is immediately reflected by the heaviness of the book. Staring at the cover image of three masked youths bending over to grab and throw small objects at the viewer, I asked myself, "is this the way things are?" The only answer I was able to summon is it depends on where one is standing and when one happened to be standing there. Leafing through the pages, I searched for more information about the photograph and finally discovered (on the back flap) that the photograph, entitled Youths Practice Throwing Contact Bombs, was taken in Manimbo, Nicaragua in June, 1978 by Susan Meiselas. Based on the physical violence that has been erupting in so many pockets of the globe since 1955 and the barrage of images and information assaulting us daily on television and the Internet since that time, I conclude that this image is apropos to epitomize Things As They Are.
Venturing further, the tome is divided into five ten-year periods including When Magazines Were Big, The Vietnam Era, Heroes and Anti-Heroes, New World Order, and Rise of the Reporter Artist. Within each section a myriad of photo-essays from around the world have been selected. Truly international, the book features many photojournalists and magazines that were unfamiliar to me as an American. Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain's '66 black & white essay published in Du, a Swiss cultural magazine, mirroring the harbor city of Valparaiso is a case in point. Another intriguing example is the gentle reportage by Hiroji Kubota exploring Bangkok in '76 for Japan's left-wing monthly journal Sekai.
Juxtaposed to these exotic spreads, however, familiar American ground is duly represented. Examples include the well-worn images of the Kennedy Assassination by Abraham Zapruder, published in Life in '66; and the waist-high portraits of men and women who constituted the '76 political landscape by Richard Avedon, originally published in Rolling Stone.
Moreover, many iconic photographers such as Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Eugene Smith, and Mary Ellen Mark are featured yet the work chosen is not their common fare; in other words, their "most famous" work, repeatedly anthologized in photographic journals. A prime example is Cartier-Bresson's surprising color series on China struggling as a new nation which appeared in Life in '59. A longtime fan of the legendary French photographer, I wasn't aware of his color work until perusing Things As They Are. According to the text introducing the essay, he later destroyed most of his color transparencies.
Another extraordinary entry for the same year presents W. Eugene Smith's series on Pittsburgh entitled Labrynthian Walk. Upon retiring from Life, Smith struggled with the independent project for four years until it finally covered 38 pages in Popular Photography. However, because he considered it a failure, the series has rarely been shown since.
Although Smith's rich black & white signature is apparent on the page, the five spreads from the original magazine are encapsulated on just two pages minimizing his stunning imagery. Unfortunately, similar problems pervade the layout of many of the photo-essays; often they are crammed onto the page making them difficult to absorb and appreciate.
While this survey is expertly researched and provokes deep thought regarding photojournalism as it has grown, changed and perhaps outlived itself, I found the graphic design dense and distracting from its impressive content. Things As They Are serves well as a reference tool for academic study or photography aficionados. However, its folios are far too crowded and visually demanding for the average eye.
© 2008 Meryl Spiegel
Meryl Spiegel is a fine art and documentary photographer who also teaches English and Writing at Dowling College in Oakdale, NY. Her photographic work has been shown in museums, galleries and libraries on Long Island. In addition, she has contributed numerous feature articles to the New York Times - Long Island section. Website address: www.merylspiegel.com