Photo Gallery

photography book review - Magnum Landscape

Magnum Landscape Phaidon 1996, ISBN 0714836427

If I could only look at one photography book for the rest of my life, this is the book I would choose.

Look at a famous Ansel Adams print and you see (generalising grossly) a technically immaculate, beautiful image of something that is itself obviously impressive and beautiful. Which is not to belittle the level of visual imagination and craftsmanship that went into making those photographs.

Look at some of the images in this book and you see something utterly different -- the ability to see a picture, to pull a compelling and fascinating image, out of nothing, out of scenes most people wouldn't even glance twice at. Street corners, car parks, shadows on sand.

Again a gross generalisation, and there is work from a lot of different photographers in the book, but there is a coherent editorial eye at work here and a definite Magnum "house style".

I bought this book at the same time as a book of Ansel Adams classic prints. I looked through this one first and thought "oh no, now the Ansel Adams stuff will be boring". It isn't, it's completely different, but for me the Magnum pictures are more inspiring.

One person who reivewed this book on Amazon thought the pictures were poorly reproduced. I disagree. Seeing a reproduction of a photograph in a book can never do it justice compared to seeing a real print - but having had the good fortune to see prints of a lot of the pictures in this book at the Magnum Degrees exhibition, this remains my "desert island" photography book. It is a unique collection of high quality work by some of the world's most talented photographers, and more consistently interesting throughout than the huge and expensive "Magnum Degrees" book of the exhibition.

text ©2000 Alan Little