Books: Penny Wolin – Descendants of Light. American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry

Penny Wolin – Descendants of Light. American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry is reviewed on ThePhotoBook Journal blog, by Gerard Clausing who I have referred to here before. I am particularly interested in this book due to the people in it, the subject covered, its layout and the fact it is a kind of hybrid between art and information too. And I’m a bit saddened to see that due to the fact it was crowd funded and had a limited print run, it is not that all that affordable.

As an aside, and admittedly somewhat defensively, I noticed page numbers which were categorically and triumphantly dismissed as crass or somehow gauche on the OCA forum the other day by staff and students, which (I’m afraid to say) irritated me due the dogmatic stance it seemed to express. In Wolin’s book page numbers are used where necessary on text and information pages, although not on the image only pages – which is how I would have preferred to use them if the facility on Blurb’s online software had been available for A1.  It would have been useful to have page numbers on the final pages where I included the thumbnails of collaborative art, and then onwards through the information pages,  making it easier to locate items. I am reminded to keep looking at a wide variety of sources for inspiration and to trust my instincts and prior experience working in a marketing department that put together books and pamphlets, many of which contained images.

Now that that is off my chest, Clausing says, “This book is a painstakingly researched and intelligently thought-out compendium of ideas and visual content along several dimensions. It contains cultural information and stimuli, drawing on the featured photographers’ shared cultural history and beliefs that provide the basis for a rich universe of creative thought and stimulation, against a background that also is tinged by discrimination and suffering. Dozens of influential photographers are featured: their biographical and bibliographical information, challenging interview segments, portraits of many of them by Penny Wolin, and also photographs by the photographers. This publication is the result of a project encompassing many years of passionate research and collaboration, and was partly crowd-funded.”

The fact the book contains Lillian Bassman, a hugely accomplished photographer who reinvented herself (or at least her work) again and again throughout her life up until her death in her 90s, suggests to me this book is extremely well-researched and goes well beyond the usual compendium of names we see on our book shelves. I’ll have to start saving my pennies.


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