Author Archives: Rob

“What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye”

Will Gompertz

I love going to art museums. I tend to be most attracted to Medieval and Renaissance art, but over time I’ve become more and more interested in modern art (as opposed to “contemporary” art, which I don’t think I’ll ever care for). This book is an excellent brief overview of modern art and has even opened my eyes a little to abstract art. I learned a lot from it.

“Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction”

Alec Nevela-Lee

Welcome to the golden age of ridiculously long subtitles.

If one enjoys, or, more likely, grew up enjoying classic science fiction, this is worth reading. Nevela-Lee shows how editor Campbell seeded the writers in his pulp stable with story ideas. He also goes into a lot of detail about Hubbard and the murky origins of Scientology. Be warned, though, that if you admire these men your admiration might not survive reading about their relationships and attitudes towards women.

“Heartland: the Plains and the Prairie”

David Plowden

Around 1970 I bought a remaindered copy of Plowden’s “Farewell to Steam”. It was one of the things that influenced me to become a photographer (which I didn’t manage to do). I’ve loved his work, which has always reminded me of Walker Evans’, ever since.

“Heartland” is a beautiful book and the text is almost as good as the photos. His appreciation for place jumps out of every picture. Plowden is a great artist whose work should be more widely known.

“Patrol to the Golden Horn”

Alexander Fullerton

I see it’s been a long time since I read the first two books of this series. In this volume Fullerton’s protagonist, Nicholas Everard, is sent on a clandestine mission to Istanbul to disable the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben. Most of the book is about Everard’s submarine journey through the Dardanelles dodging mines, patrol boats, and anti-submarine nets. It’s full of technical detail, the quantity of which occasionally gets in the way of the story.

“From Darkroom to Daylight”

Harvey Wang

This book consists of interviews with several dozen photographers — some well known, some less so — about the transition from silver-based photography to digital photography. It also includes interviews with the inventor of the digital camera and the creator of Photoshop.

A range of views about the digital transition are presented, from skepticism to grudging acceptance to enthusiasm. The interviewees’ thoughtful observations made for interesting reading.


Alec Soth

This collection of black and white photos from around the United States, mostly shot at gatherings of one kind or another, reminded me of Bill Owens’ “Suburbia”. I know it was an artistic decision to use only minimal captions, but I’d like to know more about the subjects, and I dislike it when photo book designers put the text at the end of the book, especially when, as with “Songbook”, there aren’t even any page numbers.