Book Review: Photographers A-Z


A fascinating book about four hundred photographers that obviously invites comparison with Phaidon's The Photo Book which featured five hundred alphabetically. Both books come from European publishers and reflect a world view of the art though I thought Koetzle's was perhaps a more personal choice.

There is an important visual difference between the two books that might be relevant to potential buyers. The Phaidon book has a simple format of one large photo a page for each photographer plus some short biographic detail and it works well enough. The Taschen title presents the photos as facsimiles from a photographer's published books so the actual shots are really large thumbnails, very similar to Parr and Badger's two volume history of the photo book. As a publication designer I love this format but it might not suit everyone especially if they expect to see large photos in their art books.

As well as the book spreads each photographer has a hundred words or so biography and a selective exhibition and book listing. The four hundred chosen by Koetzle for inclusion do seem to me rather personal. Jack Delano and Russell Lee are not included, Julius Shulman is but not Ezra Stoller. Magazine art directors Alexander Liberman and Alexey Brodovitch are here and so is painter David Hockney but James VanDeZee isn't. Still, there are a lot of European and Japanese camera folk I'm not familiar with so turning the pages was a pleasant bit of photographic serendipity.

The really big names, for example: Capa; Cartier-Bresson; Frank; Lartique; Leibovitz; Renger-Patzsch; Rodchenko get two pages with spreads from two or three books or magazines (oddly Walker Evans only gets a page with two spreads from Fortune magazine). The book's production is the quality one would expect from Taschen, a matt art with 175 screen. I found a slight annoyance with some of the text setting, though. The biographies are set in one long block with no paragraphs and the book and exhibition listings are printed in a grey tint making them a bit hard to read in artificial light. Nicely all the book and magazine facsimiles have a tone drop shadow which gives them a slight dimensional feel on the page.

The Phaidon and this one are both reference books to great photographers but presented in two different formats. I like looking through both but have a preference for Koetzle's edition.

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

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Snap. Two books look at the same folk, each in their own way.

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Title spread.

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Both books look at Larry Burrows. Left, the Phaidon edition that has one big photo a page throughout the book. Koetzle's book uses facsimile spreads of each photographer's work.

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