Picture Books

Last night I took about 180 snapshots with my new Nikon D70, trying to get a handle on the way the thing works. It was a blast; I was up until 2:00a tinkering, experimenting and poring through books. The books themselves have been a revelation, too. On Naz’s advice, I went looking for an older photography reference that would help me get up to speed on the basics, rather than something brand new off the shelf at a mega-sized bookseller.

He said there were some brilliant layouts to be found among the forgotten photo texts out there, and he was right. I’m enamored with one that my girlfriend took out for me from her school library: the first edition of Barbara London’s “A Short Course in Photography.” It’s a masterful example of traditional design in the modernist school, featuring a page grid executed with a gritty, low-level genius. Though I have a bias towards all things digital, there is a warmth to this book — the black ink on these pages is blotchy and malformed, and the typography and diagrams all lack the inhuman precision and passionless perfection in their edges that can be had effortlessly with today’s design and production techniques. Sometimes it’s nice to see that.

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