I've only ever seen mono 'Learning from Las Vegas' photos in the MIT paperback edition where they are, for the most part, poorly printed. This book of the photos, in color, is based on their exhibition in Germany during 2009. After looking through the pages several times I wonder why they were exhibited or printed because they are really no better than snaps.
Photography has lots of uses besides art or consumer snaps: police mug shots; time-lapse security; aerial reconnaissance; or anywhere that a visual record is required. The 102 Las Vegas color photos printed over 125 pages in the book fall into this working category and I really don't think they could be considered artistic or worthy of presenting as one to a page in a classic photo book format. Frequently badly cropped, too much contrast, repetitive or just inconsequential regarding the subject matter nevertheless I can see that they could well underpin an architectural theory that is still thought provoking today but presenting student taken photos like this seems an editorial mistake so two stars.
Four stars, though, for the rest of the book that falls into three parts: an essay by Martino Stierli; a conversation between Peter Fischli, Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist; an essay by Stanislaus von Moos rounds out the pages. I thought all of this content was far more interesting than the bland photos. In particular Stierli's essay was fascinating overview of architecture, popular and car culture in LA and Las Vegas over the last few decades. He pulls together New Topographic photographers, mixed media artist Ed Ruscha, photorealist painter John Baeder (who, incidentally, has an impressive collection of roadside photography waiting for a publisher) authors like Reyner Banham and Peter Blake. Blake's 'God's own junkyard', published in 1964, was a strong influence with Venturi.
Of the other two chapters the conversation between Fischli, Koolhaas and Obrist was mildly interesting and von Moos writes about the architecture, photography and Pop art. The essay is a chapter from his book about Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates and I found it rather elitist with its (predictably) extensive footnotes.
The book was produced in Germany and reflects contemporary European publication design. Two of the chapters have the main text on the right-hand pages with photos and graphics on the left-hand page, nicely, all the footnotes are with the text they refer to so no searching pages at the back of the book. The Las Vegas photos are printed with a two hundred screen on semi-matt art paper with the rest of the book on standard stock.
The eleventh paperback printing of this popular title.
A rather underwhelming title page.
A spread to show the format of Martino Stierli's front of book essay, over twenty pages. The text is on the right, photos and graphics on the left with footnotes on the far left.
A spread from a ten page conversation between Peter Fischli, Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist. The thumbnails are of photos in the main book section.
A spread from the sixteen page essay by Stanislaus von Moos. Text on the right, images on the left. Each text page has extensive footnotes set in four columns. It does give the impression of being terribly elitist.
Spread from Martino Stierli's front of book essay.
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