An intimate look
Rudy Burckhardt is probably best known for photos of artists and their work during the fifties and sixties in New York. He was familiar with artists long before that, there is a photo here of his neighbor Willems De Kooning which he took in 1938 and dance critic and poet Edwin Denby was Burckhardt's companion for years.
What makes this book rather different and special from the usual photographer monograph is that it is a facsimile of one of Burckhardt's photo scrapbooks, the original is in the Metropolitan Museum. The fifty-four pages are printed in four color (with a 200 screen) though all the photos are black and white but color gives the pages a faded look and picks up the slight shadows created by the edge of the prints in the scrapbook. The title page is in Burckhardt's handwriting and dated 1938 though a copy of Life magazine on a newsstand photo is a September 11, 1939 issue (he could, of course, have started the book in 1938 and added photos over the coming months).
Burckhardt divided the photos into three sections with a typrwritten poem by Denby introducing each part. The first eleven one-to-a-page photos are sidewalk close-ups of buildings showing fire hydrants, grills and parts of entrances. Part two has thirteen straight on shots of advertising signs, barber shops and newsstands. Part three, over sixteen pages, has forty-three street scenes of pedestrians walking past Burckhardt's camera. Some of these shots are three or four to a page.
Overall I thought this was an intriguing look at the work of a lesser known émigré photographer (he was born in Switzerland) and made even more fascinating because it is a beautifully produced facsimile of Burckhardt's original scrapbook. Somehow I feel closer to his work while turning the pages because of the intimate presentation.
The back of the book has an interesting illustrated twelve page essay by Doug Eklund, Associate curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum. A nice touch is that this essay is printed on matt white paper.
Burckhardt's original scrapbook cover, blemishes and all. The photo has been stuck on like the original.
Burckhardt's writing on the title page.
Edwin Denby's poem starts the photo section.
The start of Section three with a poem ny Edwin Denby.
A spread from the twlve page essay in the back of the book, printed on white paper rather than the scrapbook page color.
You don't see too many Colophons in books these days.
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