Brush and Shutter
REVIEW by Willard Manus
Getty Publications has just published several important photography books, led by BRUSH AND SHUTTER: EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY IN CHINA. Edited by Jeffrey W. Cody and Frances Terpak, the handsome, 220-page tome was released in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name which ran recently at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
BRUSH AND SHUTTER is a fascinating visual history of China during photography's first century, from the late Qing period to Republican Shanghai and wartime Chongqing. "The photographs in BRUSH AND SHUTTER range in subject and date--from a portrait of a Chinese family near Shanghai taken in 1859 to revolutionary soldiers in Shanxi province taken by a French missionary in 1911; they also range in scale--from small cartes-de-visite to expansive panoramas of Chinese cities amd they reflect several photographic techniques: salted-paper, gelatin silver prints, glass slides, and albumen prints, some of which are hand-colored," explains Getty researcher Thomas W. Gaehtgens.
BRUSH AND SHUTTER contains essays by both Chinese and foreign writers. The essays deal with a wide range of topics: early photography in China, Chinese portraiture through the lens of Milton Miller, China "seen through a glass" by foreigners, photographic genres in the 19th century, the camera in wartime China.
BRUSH AND SHUTTER is a major work about Chinese photography--and the Chinese way of looking at life.
The hardbound book is lavishly illustrated (61 color and 75 b/w prints) and sells for $45.
The other new Getty photography books are PHOTOGRAPHY IN FICTION and THE TREE IN PHOTOGRAPHS.
The former, written by Erin C. Garcia, zeroes in on the popular tradition of staging scenes specifically for the purpose of being photographed. Beginning in the 19th century, photographers went to elaborate lengths to create scenarios for the camera. Their efforts took on new meanings a century later, when advertising, film and television adapted and refined their techniques. The work of such artists and photographers as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz and Andy Warhol are displayed in this handsome and informative 112-page book (hdbnd $24.95).
THE TREE IN PHOTOGRAPHS, by Francoise Reynaud, focuses on the image of the tree in its many manifestations down through the history of photography: poetic and even religious symbol, poster girl for Mother Nature, commercial use (greeting cards, calendars, interior design, etc.) Among the many photographers represented are Paul Strand, Anne Brigman, Carleton Watkins and Robert Adams.
The book, like the current exhibit at the Museum, charts the progress of photography, beginning with the days of the daguerrotype and concluding with the digital prints of the 21st century. As Reynaud, curator of photographs at Paris' Musee Carnavalet, comments, "People attach a personal feeling to trees. It goes back to childhood and the simple act of climbing a tree."
94 color illustrations, 112 pages, $24.95 hdbnd.
Getty Publications, 800-223-3431, gettypublications.org.