In “Evidence,” a collection of images from government agencies, unrelated photographs are placed side by side, transforming the interpretations one might make if each was seen separately.
Grace Jones celebrates her birthday in 1978 at Le Farfalle, also in New York, with, among others, Divine.
Andy Warhol in 1973 at Jimmy’s Disco in New York.
Review by PHILIP GEFTER
No matter what you think of the paparazzi or the mania fueled by their work, DISCO YEARS (Powerhouse, $65) is more than a guilty pleasure. Ron Galella, best known, perhaps, for the restraining order Jackie O. obtained against him in 1973, has become the standard-bearer of flash-filled shots of first-name-basis stars in the off hours, or, in the case of this book, the wee hours. These candid moments highlight Andy, Bianca, Calvin, Halston, Liza-with-a-z, Truman and their minions primarily in their stratosphere of privileged notoriety at Studio 54, but also in other discos of the late 1970s and early ’80s where the night played out in exuberant excess. Maybe it’s not all pretty, but these celebrities knew how to party. Despite the questionable intentions of a photographer looking for scandal in every social bouquet, this edifying example of paparazzi photography chronicles a cultural moment and those who defined it, yielding a few life lessons in the faces and the behavior of the unsuspecting prey captured so doggedly by the hunter.
So many photography books are published these days, but here’s one that makes sense of all the others. Volume II of THE PHOTOBOOK: A History (Phaidon, $75), by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, is an accessible, informative history of photography books published since the mid-’70s, and it provides a concise and astute history of contemporary photography along the way. As in the first volume, which presented books published from 1839 to the 1970s, the selection is international in scope. Without adhering to the medium’s canon, the authors present enough seminal works to construct a credible version of photography’s history, and many others that will no doubt serve to revise it.
Chris Townsend’s FRANCESCA WOODMAN (Phaidon, $75) presents more than 200 pictures by a photographer who committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 22. While the influences of Duane Michals, Clarence John Laughlin and Ralph Eugene Meatyard are obvious in Woodman’s work, critics have written extensively about the strategies of feminism she brought to her image making. Whatever. At their core, her haunting, playful and poetic photographs evolve from Surrealism, and they seem to become more important with the years.
Industrial landscapes in Great Britain might seem like a sober subject for the holidays, but the surprise is in the descriptive clarity of John Davies’s photographs. THE BRITISH LANDSCAPE (Chris Boot, $60) includes pictures he made over the last quarter-century, from the mountains of Cumbria to the outskirts of cities and towns throughout Britain. The well-organized and intricately articulated black-and-white photos are often taken from an elevated position in dramatic natural light, and the sweep of factories, dwellings, roads and terrain forms a kind of geometric puzzle that keeps our eyes moving while offering a social-studies lesson about Great Britain.
Known as the first woman photographer of Mexico, Lola Alvarez Bravo (1903-93) was influenced by her husband, Manuel Alvarez Bravo. She lived mostly in Mexico City, where she mingled in accomplished artistic circles, owned a prestigious gallery and gave her friend Frida Kahlo her first solo exhibition. Her portraits of artists and writers in Elizabeth Ferrer’s LOLA ALVAREZ BRAVO (Aperture, $50) are intimate and modest, and her street pictures capture the spirit of her country.