Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It's a Snap!

I confess: I'm a fundamentalist of photography and I don't regret it! This is why I cannot but tell you about this brand new book from Canada:

"It's a Snap!: George Eastman's First Photograph" by Monica Kulling, illustrations by Bill Slavin, Pub. Tundra Books, Toronto, August 2009.

In this book, greatly illustrated by B. Slavin with watercolour pictures of various formats and perspectives, the author tells the story of how Eastman was able to invent, over 100 years ago, the prototype of modern photographic machines.

There are at least two factors of extreme interest in this book:

  • the first being the human experience of the character whom we meet at the age of fourteen: a fatherless child, obliged to leave school and find a job to support his family, Eastman decides to try a hobby to relax in his free time and chooses Photography. Like in "The Day-Glo Brothers" book, the main character in this book is very young as well, in Eastman's story too - like with the Switzer brothers - the ability to apply fantasy to a practical activity ended up giving unexpected results, with important implications in modern life;

  • the second factor is the historical and, indirectly, sociological one. Having kids approach photography from the pre-Digital era, and pre-Reflex as well, is not a mere scientific exercise but it allows to compose a much wider fresco including past and present customs, allowing highlights on their differences and likeliness. Who never posed for a group picture? But in the past, posing required quite some time. Nowadays we take pictures in every occasion, to remember precious moments, how about 100 years ago? When did they use to take pictures?
Monica Kulling's simple and solid writing, with the right pinch of irony and practical information, is the perfect way to get to understand the complex world of photography, and Eastman's intriguing life's course. Illustrations, at times whole page ones, others little fragments framing particular moments, some in colour, some in sepia tones (recalling the atmpsphere of old pictures), are completing the text with harmonious beauty allowing a parallel vision of the story told.

If you're interested in the book:

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