The Gentle Slope of Castalia

Photography and Society

by Gisèle Freund
David R. Godine, 248 pp., $15.00

Diana and Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography

by Janet Malcolm
David R. Godine, 165 pp., $13.95

The Eloquent Light

photographs by Ansel Adams, text by Nancy Newhall
Aperture, 200 pp., $60.00 after December 31

Yosemite and the Range of Light

photographs by Ansel Adams, introduction by Paul Brooks
New York Graphic Society, distributed by Little-Brown, 144 pp., $75.00

Time in New England

photographs by Paul Strand, text selected and edited by Nancy Newhall
Aperture, 256 pp., $40.00 after December 31

Brett Weston: Photographs from Five Decades

photographs by Brett Weston, text by R.H. Cravens
Aperture, 168 pp., $50.00 after December 31

Water’s Edge

photographs by Harry Callahan, introductory poem by A.R. Ammons
Calloway Editions, distributed by Viking Press, 52 pp., $50.00

Harry Callahan: Color

photographs and text by Harry Callahan, edited by Robert Tow, by Ricker Winsor
Matrix Publications, Providence, Rhode Island, 144 pp., $85.00

Sudek

photographs by Josef Sudek, text by Sonja Bullaty
Clarkson Potter, 176 pp., limited edition $45.00

Lotte Jacobi

photographs by Lotte Jacobi, edited by Kelly Wise, introduction by James Fasanelli
Addison House, 187 pp., $35.00

Moholy-Nagy: Photographs and Photograms

by Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, text by Andreas Haus, translated by Frederic Samson
Pantheon, 240 pp., $35.00

Beaton

photographs by Cecil Beaton, edited with a text by James Danziger
Viking, 256 pp., $30.00

Allure

by Diana Vreeland, by Chris Hemphill
Doubleday, 224 pp., $30.00

Eye for Elegance Company

photographs by George Hoyningen-Huene
International Center of Photography, New York, and Congreve Publishing, 64 pp., $12.95 (paper)

The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers, 1925-1940

by John Kobal
Knopf, 304 pp., $35.00

Mrs. David Bailey

photographs by David Bailey
Rizzoli, 120 pp., $19.95

Special Collection 24 Photo Lithos

by Helmut Newton
Congreve Publishing Company, 50 pp., $35.00

Sleepless Nights

photographs by Helmut Newton, introduction by Philippe Garner
Congreve Publishing Company, 152 pp., $27.50

Women on Women: Twelve Photographic Portfolios

with an introduction by Katherine Hollabird
A & W Publishers, 164 pp., $22.50

42nd Street Studio

photographs by Joyce Baronio, introduction by Linda Nochlin
Pyxidium Press, Box 462 Old Chelsea Station, New York City 10011, 96 pp., $40.00

The Best of Photojournalism, 5: People, Places, and Events of 1979

with an introduction by Tom Brokaw
University of Missouri Press, 256 pp., $24.95

In China

photographs by Eve Arnold
Knopf, 204 pp., $30.00

Photographs for the Tsar: The Pioneering Color Photography of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, Commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II

edited by Robert H. Allhouse
Dial, 216 pp., $35.00

Across the Rhine

text by Franklin M. Davis Jr.. the editors of Time-Life Books
Time-Life, 208 pp., $12.95

Private Pictures

photographs by Daniel Angeli, by Jean-Paul Dousset, introduction by Anthony Burgess
Viking, 96 pp., $8.95 (paper)

Dialogue with Photography

edited by Paul Hill, edited by Thomas Cooper
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 428 pp., $6.95 (paper)

Photography in the Twentieth Century

by Peter Tausk
Focal Press, 10 East 40th Street, New York City 10016, 344 pp., $24.95

Fox-Talbot and the Invention of Photography

by Gail Buckland
David R. Godine, 216 pp., $50.00

The very first book illustrated with photographs, William Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844), carried as an epigraph a quotation from Virgil. Talbot, who was a learned classicist as well as a chemist clever enough to invent photography, enlisted Virgil’s aid in declaring how sweet it was to cross a mountain ridge unblemished by the wheel-ruts of previous visitors, and thence descend the gentle slope to Castalia—a rural paradise complete with well-tended olive groves. The gentle slope turned out to be a precipice and Castalia is buried miles deep under photographs. A subsidiary avalanche, composed of books about photographs, is even now descending. In this brief survey I have selected with some rigor from the recent output, which has filled my office and chased me downstairs into the kitchen.

In her book On Photography (1977) Susan Sontag darkly warned the world that images are out to consume it. Books about images are presumably also in on the feast. Hers remains the best theoretical work to date, although competitors are appearing with startling frequency. Gisèle Freund’s Photography and Society, now finally available in English, is half historical survey, half theoretical analysis. Her own experience as a celebrated photographer has obviously helped anchor speculation to reality. When the argument takes off, it takes off into a comfortingly recognizable brand of historical determinism. Thus it is made clear how the early portrait photographers served the needs of the bourgeoisie and wiped out the miniaturists who had done the same job for the aristocracy: hence the collapse of taste. Baudelaire, who hated the bourgeoisie, consequently hated photography too. These reflections come in handy when you are looking at the famous photograph of Baudelaire by Nadar. That baleful look must spring from resentment. Sontag, makes greater play with such historical cruxes but Freund gives you more of the facts.

Janet Malcolm, the New Yorker‘s photography critic, has produced a worthwhile compilation of her essays. She thinks “discomfit” means “make uncomfortable,” but such lapses are rare. More high-flown than Freund, although less self-intoxicatingly so than Sontag, Malcolm is an excellent critic between gusts of aesthetic speculation. Diana and Nikon is grandly subtitled “Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography.” Whether there is such a thing as an aesthetic of photography is a question which critics should try to keep open as long as possible, since that is one of the things that good criticism always does—i.e., stops aestheticians from forming a premature synthesis. In her essay on Richard Avedon, Malcolm assesses the April 1965 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, the one edited by Avedon, as a “self-indulgent mess.” But she insists on being charitable, against what she has already revealed to be her own better judgment, about his warts-foremost portraits of the mid-Fifties. “Like the death’s-head at the feast in medieval iconography, these pictures come to tell us that the golden lads and lasses frolicking down the streets of Paris today will be horrible old people tomorrow…. Avedon …

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