Book Review: A City Seen

Cleveland scenes seen

Each year since 1990 Cleveland's George Gund Foundation has commissioned a photographer to look at one aspect of the city and contribute photos the Foundation's Annual Report. The book has 134 photos from a 2003 exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Foundation.

I thought this a quite stunning look at Cleveland and the format works so well. Rather than have photos of the city mixed together the twelve photo essays let you concentrate on individual aspects: neighborhoods; schools; people working; gardens; Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River; Metroparks and more. Each essay starts with thoughts from the relevant photographer followed by their images (the book has almost ninety percent of the exhibition's content). I thought the format makes the book very comparable to two well known city photo titles: Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project, 1955-1958 and Witness to the Fifties: The Pittsburgh Photographic Library, 1950-1953

The photos are of a quality I would expect from so many well known names. Lee Friedlander contributes his usual dense, fascinating compositions, he looked at people working. His selection is followed by Gregory Conniff's take on urban gardens and interestingly some of his compositions, taken through a chain-link fence are rather reminiscent of Friedlander's style. Frank Gohlke covered Lake Eire, kicking off with a remarkable shot looking out of an ice covered ruined room towards the Lake. Linda Butler has nine beautiful photos of the cities art institutions. Barbara Bosworth concentrated on the Metroparks, lovely shots but they are in a triptych format with two black upright lines rather spoiling her work.

The book is as impressive as the photo content. Meridian Printing used a 300 screen for the duotones on a lovely matt stock. Each photo has generous margins, though rather annoyingly all the captions are in the back pages. The front has a good essay from John Szarkowski about Cleveland and photography.

'A city seen' works as a lovely book with wonderful photos.

A City Seen is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

A City Seen - 01
Michael Book looked at Neighborhoods.

A City Seen - 02
Typical Lee Friedlander photos: full of interesting shapes and depth.

A City Seen - 03
Lee Friedlander.

A City Seen - 04
Urban Gardens by Gregory Conniff, a bit of the Friedlander look here I thought.

A City Seen - 05
Lois Conner covered the Cuyahoga River.

A City Seen - 06
A colorful spread at the back of the book listing all the photos in the exhibition, about ninety percent appear in the book.

A City Seen - 07
First spread of John Szarkowski's essay about Cleveland and photography.

A City Seen - 08
The Gund foundation annual Reports from 1990 to 2001.

A City Seen - 09
Dawoud Bey looked at Families.

A City Seen - 10
Linda Butler covered Art Institutions.

A City Seen - 11
Larry Fink: Cleveland School of the Arts.

A City Seen - 12
Douglas Lucack on the Urban Landscape, four color sepia style photos.

A City Seen - 13
Nicholas Nixon photographed the Free Medical Clinic

A City Seen - 14
Barbara Boswort's photos are presented as triptychs.

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