Thursday, May 29, 2008

The last person in the world refusing to admit it ended in a tie

You may recall that chuckling recently bought a picture book. It arrived in the mail today!

Just Another War is a book of photographs by Kenneth Jarecke, with text by Exene Cervanka and a forward by John Hockenberry.

The photo above is recognized as perhaps the most famous photograph of the first gulf war, whatever that was about. I'm not exactly sure what that buys you, having the most famous photograph of a forgotten war, but it's a great photograph in any context.

To tell you the truth, I was afraid to open the book. I had heard of Jarecke's work and expected to be brutalized with photo after photo of charred, crumbling Iraqi soldiers. But I was surprised to find that the vast majority of the pictures were classic black and whites that perfectly captured the play of light and shadow across the faces of soldiers, detritus of war and the vastness of desert space alike. It's some technically marvelous work and beautifully profound as well.

My major quibble, and it is major indeed, is that each photograph has been cropped into a square. A photograph has a ratio of 3 x 2, which closely approximates the divine proportion. Frankly, that sucks. I want to see the real photos, un-cropped, or at least cropped to the proper ratio. If they look that great with such horrible cropping, how great would they look in their natural ratio?

As for the text, I'm sorry, but I don't care about the text (though I should note that the title of this post came from Exene's work). This is a book of photos. And I recommend it. Expecially for $10 plus shipping. It's a steal. Jarecke, far and away the most, but also Exene, Hockenberry, Mortensen; they all have earned the recognition. Consider tossing ten bucks their way. It may be chump change, but still, it feels good to be paid.