Catalog to a museum show in Vienna, Japanese Photography is probably the most successful work, bringing together portfolios of work by 12 contemporary photographers. The subtitle and theme of the show, juxtaposing the material and spiritual, is somewhat superfluous in the face of the individual talents exhibited, but it is a valid frame for the works. More important, those familiar with the currents of art photography will know most of the names and, especially because several works by each master are shown, will readily recognize influences across borders. Those merely browsing will be enthralled by the beauty and diversity of the works. The historical survey of a century of German photography is successful in drawing connections between the social milieu and the photographs, but its in-depth textual analysis will be of greatest interest to a scholarly community. Encompassing propaganda and photojournalism as well as art photography, the book investigates how the medium came of age in the German context. Students of the rapidly evolving Teutonic culture of this century will appreciate especially the essays on the Weimar-era images and comparisons of the uses of photography in the two Germanys after World War II. General readers will value the more than 120 large-format reproductions and dozens of other small images that were part of a show in Bonn earlier this year. Contemporary German Photography is the most disappointing. Collecting several works by about two dozen young and largely unknown German photographers, the book obsessively concentrates on diary-style artists operating under the influence of Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans. The rambling preface offers no compelling justification why photographers of diverse styles should not have been included, and the short paragraphs introducing each grouping (apparently written by the artists themselves) vacillate between dry and sophomoric. While individual images are compelling, the redundancy of vision makes even the best seem formulaic. The Taschen book is not recommended; Honnef’s work belongs in most all academic libraries where it will be appreciated by social historians as well as art researchers; and Japanese Photography will be a fine addition to contemporary art collections in both public and academic institutions.?Eric Bryant, “Library Journal”
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.