Wednesday, May 28, 2014

William Klein Rome The New Photobook

William Klein: Rome: the City and Its People 

Binding: Hardcover
Edition: 1st Edition
Publisher: Viking Press, New York
Date published: 
Description: Hardcover. Black cloth-covered boards with title stamped in white on spine, with photographically illustrated dust jacket. Photographs and text (in English) by William Klein. Includes notes on the plates. 192 pp., with numerous black and white photogravure plates richly printed in France. 11-1/8 x 8-7/8 inches.  [Cited in Andrew Roth, ed., The Open Book. (Göteborg, Sweden: Hasselblad Center in association with Steidl Verlag, Göttingen, Germany, 2004). ] Divided into five sections (Roman Citizens, The Street, the Eternal City, Youth, and the Catholic World), each demonstrative of Klein's keen eye for expression, gesture, juxtaposition, movement, mass, and time, Klein's Rome is a collective and definitive portrait of a living, yet ancient city. This is William Klein's second book, and one of his five signature 'city books, ' which also include: New York (1956); Tokyo (1964); Moscow (1964) and Torino '90 (1990)

William Klein's Roman Holiday

Picture 2.jpgHeroes were more accessible in 1956, according to photographer William Klein. If you liked someone's work—say Fellini—you called him up, showed him your own work, and that could lead to an assistant position on his next film. That's what happened to Klein, anyway, who had just published a widely acclaimed book of his street photography, New York,when he tracked down Fellini.
But when Klein arrived in Rome in 1956 to work on Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria), nothing went as smoothly: A casting call for real prostitutes and pimps became a circus, financing was in a knot and production couldn't begin for two months. Killing time, Klein began to photograph the city with Fellini's cadre as tour guides and the result was Rome, a collection of messy, affectionate, man-on-the-street photography that shows the city as he grew to know it. (The book will be published this month by Aperture in collaboration with Contrasto, and is available through for $85.)
Klein shows us young men playing football among the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus; a family balancing on a vespa as his car passes, regarding him coolly; a sand-covered sunbather looking coyly off camera; Fellini himself, an espresso in hand, larger than life. And through the captions, Klein's voice, in turns brash and quietly observant, pulls us into the scenes alongside him. Like a good Fellini film, Klein's photographs make you want to live inside his Rome.—KRISTA PRESTEK
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The Americans Case 3: The New Photobook: Photography as Personalized Experience
The New Photobook:
Photography as Personalized Experience

Although the release of the 1959 Grove Press edition of Robert Frank’s The Americans is often considered in and of itself a high point of mid-20th century American photography, it was the concurrent publication of a number of equally significant titles that signaled a defining moment in American photography and established the photobook as a viable and elastic format for photographers to explore. Key among these publications is Aaron Siskind: Photographs (1959), Richard Avedon’s Observations (1959), Sid Grossman’s Journey to the Cape (1959), and William Klein’s Rome (1960) . The shared importance of these works is their presentation and articulation of a cohesive body of work in the photobook format. They clearly identify a shift from a perception of photography as shared fact to photography as personalized experience. The social or artistic significance of what was pictured in the work is now leavened by another consideration, the photographer’s ability to work within the realized artifice of the photograph to create a new type of document based upon the photographer’s probing of a wholly subjective and photographic moment.

On Display:

[1] Gift of the Grape
Lloyd Reeve, Ansel Adams, Pirkle Jones
San Francisco: Filmer Pub. Co., 1959

Gift of the Grape is not considered an innovative exemplar of the American photobook. The primary purpose of the photographs is to illustrate the author’s text. Yet it serves as a good example of how a photographer’s work was typically published in 1959. All photographers must pay their bills and commercial photography was the common means by which photographers earned an income. Although it is difficult for us now to consider a time when there were few photo galleries, when museums seldom collected photographs or gave photography shows, and when photography books were a novelty, this was, in fact, the case in the late 1950s. One of the few means a photographer had to earn a steady income was by partaking of regular commercial work and magazine assignments. Today an Ansel Adams print will sell for tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the 1950s even a successful photographer like Adams regularly undertook commercial assignments. With his former California School of Fine Arts student, Pirkle Jones, Adams photographed on assignment the Paul Masson champagne cellars of Saratoga, CA, in 1958-59. Out of that work came a United States Information Service touring exhibition, “Story of a Winery,” and this book, Gift of the Grape[2] Aaron Siskind: Photographs Aaron Siskind, Harold Rosenberg New York: Horizon Press, 1959 With an essay by the American art writer Harold Rosenberg, Aaron Siskind: Photographs is not the first photobook to appear with a text by a noted critic of its era, but it was rare for a photobook’s essay to foreground the notion of photography as an artistic practice and analyze that practice from an art historical perspective. What also made the Siskind book stand apart was its design by Siskind and Ivan Chermayeff, its presentation of a limited aspect of a photographer’s output as a cohesive body of work (1944-1955), Siskind’s effort to create photomechanical reproductions that functioned as true surrogates of the original prints, and ultimately, the critical impact of the book. Although sales were negligible, it was widely reviewed in the photographic and popular press (New York TimesApertureArt NewsTimes Literary SupplementImage). Rosenberg’s essay, titled “Evidence,” and the difficulty with which he engaged the issues of reproduction and originality, painting and photography’s relationship to one another, and Siskind’s particular approach to photography versus what Rosenberg describes as “boy and his dog” photography, tellingly reveals the uncertainty and unease with which the high art establishment considered photography.

[3] Observations
Richard Avedon, Truman Capote
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959v
While Frank’s The Americans is now looked upon as initiating a new photographic practice based on the aggressive exploration and structuring of banal, everyday visual information, Avedon’s work inObservations reveals an equally tough, uncompromising, and original sensibility at play. The Americans’s flow of consciousness is countered by Observations’s staccato pace, yet both books are profoundly authorial, each clearly and unreservedly the product of an intensely focused and personalized photographic aesthetic. Each book displays an insistent psychological examination of subject matter and foregrounds the photographic concerns of their authors. The Americans, firmly rooted in the tradition of Walker Evans’s engagement with the vernacular, and intensifying the dispassionate stance of the photojournalist, marked a tipping point after which the work of a photographer such as Garry Winogrand seems inevitable. Avedon’s Observations, with origins in the great fashion photographers, modified by an almost Bauhausian media experimentality and inventiveness, and informed by the great stylistic examples of Martin Muncaksi and Alexey Brodovitch, points towards the work of Diane Arbus.

[4] Journey to the Cape
Sid Grossman, Millard Lampell
New York: Distributed by Grove Press, 1959

As a founder and one of the major photographers and teachers associated with New York’s Photo League (and later as a private teacher) Sid Grossman’s influence on the New York photo scene of the 1940s and 1950s was immense. An exponent of socially instrumental photography in the early years of the League, Grossman and the League fell afoul of the FBI and the McCarthy era witch hunts of the late 1940s. Prior to the disbanding of the League in 1951, he began a series of private evening workshops at his apartment. During the summers of 1947-48 he photographed a Coney Island beach known as Bay Eleven, a public beach area frequented by the Latino youth of the city. These photographs, along with earlier work from Panama and later work from Cape Cod, were published in Journey to the Cape. The book also included color photography, at that time considered the domain of only the amateur and commercial photographer and infrequently photographers such as Grossman. Despite Grossman’s importance, there is no major monograph or exhibition catalog on his career and work.

[5] Eternal Italy
Janos Reismann, Carlo Levi
New York: Studio-Viking Press, 1959

[6] Rome: The City and Its People
William Klein
New York: Viking Press, 1960

William Klein’s Rome is not as well-known as his first book, Life is Good & Good for You in New York William Klein’s Trance Witness Revels (Paris, Milan, London, 1956) and suffers somewhat as the second rather than the first in his great photobook series (Life is Good, 1956; Rome, 1960; Moscow, 1964; Tokyo, 1964). Yet, while first appearances are indeed important, continuations of practice are particularly noteworthy in that they are paradigmatically significant. Life is Good was barely reviewed, and its impact on the American photographic community difficult to judge. But with the “forthcoming” publication of Rome, Herbert Keppler’s article, “What does Wm. Klein do?” appeared in the September, 1959 issue of Modern Photography, evaluating Life is Good and introducingRome. Just as in the early reviews of Frank’s The Americans, Klein’s unconventional style and technique were immediately commented upon—and not positively. In a later May 15, 1960 New York Times comparative review (titled “Which Italy?”) of Janos Reismann’s Eternal Italy and Klein’s Rome, Herbert Mitgang saw the difference between Reismann and Klein as the “eternal Rome of the church or the neo-realistic Rome of The Bicycle Thief, of “smiling” vs. “somber.” Mitgang discussed this moment of divergence between Reismann’s traditional, normative photographic approach and Klein’s novel, convention breaking practice: “[Rome] has an internal life that is lacking in the more conventional and prettier Eternal Italy. The emphasis is on the stark face in front of the monument; the smell of the motor scooter....It is a cynical city that Mr. Klein sees through his grainy pictures, an inside view not on the standard tour.”

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