With holiday shopping season approaching, I took a look at three new photography books from international publisher Prestel. You might consider putting any of the three under someone’s tree—perhaps your own.
It looks like it’s a lot of fun to be Julian Schnabel, who’s played the role of artist-about-town in real life and on screen since the 1980s. He’s best known for his painting, but he also sculpts and takes photographs; it’s the latter craft that’s collected in the slab-size clothbound volume Julian Schnabel Polaroids, collected by Petra Giloy-Hertz. The artist has a rare piece of equipment to work with—a 20×24 Polaroid Land camera from the 1970s—and it produces images with a beautiful texture. That said, this is a volume that will bear far more interest for Schnabel fans than for photography buffs. In keeping with his übersocial nature, Schnabel snaps his glamorous buddies (Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken) as well as his own work. Most interesting are the photographs he doctors by painting over them. The images to build on, though, if Schnabel continues to seriously pursue photography, are the intimate photographs of his children. Schnabel’s sons and daughters appear in warm but mysterious portraits; their diffident gazes and naked bodies recall the work of Sally Mann. In these images, there’s a seething of feeling that is less conspicuous in the expensive snapshots seen elsewhere in the volume.
Portraits are also the stuff of Horst A. Friedrich’s collection Or Glory: 21st Century Rockers. The acclaimed photographer takes as his subjects members of the UK’s persistent Rocker subculture—yes, those Rockers, the ones who aren’t the Mods. It’s been 31 years since Quadrophenia and 55 years since James Dean died, but Brits young and old (mostly, on the basis of Friedrich’s documentation, old) still grease their hair and shrug into black leather jackets to gather in ride-or-die solidarity. Or Glory could be seen as an anthropological exercise, but that’s not really what it is—an interview with a pair of Rocker DJs is unenlightening with respect to the social forces that shape the Rockers’ enduring culture. (“Nothing has changed 50 years on.”) These are simply magnificent black-and-white portraits of men and women committed to their look, portraits almost decadent in their detail. Friedrich’s acute eye sees past the tattoos and the Brylcreem to the very human faces and complex inner lives of these weathered road warriors.
At the other end of the continuum is Simone Werle’s Style Diaries, an explosion of youth and color. The ironically fat little volume collects images of a dozens of style bloggers: men and women who have distinctive personal looks and share them with the World Wide Web. The images are taken from the subjects’ own blogs, so the style of the photos is as relevant and individual as the style of the bloggers’ clothes and hair. Minnesota has the honor of opening the volume, in the person of Shannon Licari, who rocks long bangs and ankle boots like a fashion-forward Cat Power. Style Diaries is an exuberantly democratic collection, full of subjects who aren’t waiting to be awarded kitties—they’re taking them, whether you’re ready or not.