Photography is Magic
book review by Richard Rivera
Photography Is Magic encompasses the world of fine art photography at its widest measure possible by featuring the work of 85 contemporary artists. It is a tour de force of all visual media that may stray or touch in the most peripheral way upon any photographic means to create an image. Hence, it includes a remarkable assortment and variety of representational, abstract, conceptual, and non-representational approaches and media including, solarization, posterization, constructions, 3-D printing, 2D images extrapolated into three dimensions, free-standing, traditional collage, and digital composites. The degree of media, materials, and forms presented is truly extraordinary.
The contemporary photographic landscape is being continually reshaped by new technologies and the vast majority of the work shown (created from 2010 to 2014) is on the cutting edge, highly creative, exciting, engaging, and experimental in pushing the boundaries of photography. Photography Is Magic is definitely for lovers of the avant garde but it is also a book with something for everyone attuned to fine art photography. However, it does not include any photography geared towards documentary or portraiture per se. Indeed what the selection of photos does show is that fine artists are willing to take on the greatest challenge of the photographic image: to resist mere documentation, which is the default view of the camera as a recording instrument.
The book is beautifully printed and shows wonderful dynamic range from the lightest colors to the deepest blacks. The expert highly detailed color reproduction imparts an excellent sense of detail and scale to the artwork. But the high gloss ink printing together with the 1 inch thickness of a softcover book that never lays flat makes it difficult to view a glare free image.
The selection of images in Photography Is Magic were curated by Charlotte Cotton, who has held curatorial positions at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Photographer’s Gallery in London. She has also been a visiting scholar at New York University, Parsons the New School for Design, and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, amongst others. This book is informatively well-rounded with artist statements for each of the 85 artists represented and annotations as to the corresponding pages where their work is shown.
Richard Rivera's review also appeared on the New York Journal of Books website
December 14, 2015
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