In my opinion Aaron Siskind was of the great 20th Century photographers. His primary focus was the abstract; his subjects were paint on streets and walls, portions of rock formations, sand, weathered objects and other found fragments that caught his imagination. Published in 1993 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, this is a stupendous retrospective of his life work.
In 2004 I was fortunate to see a major exhibit of his photographs at the great Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. If you ever get a chance to see his work, do it! I don’t think Siskind is exhibited nearly as much as some of the other Masters, such as Adams, Weston, Strand and Stieglitz, so the next best thing is to get his book if you can. Unfortunately it had a limited production run so it is out of print and somewhat pricy. I was lucky enough to purchase it when it first came out, but if I didn’t own it now and had to make a decision on how to spend my scarce photo book dollars, it would surely be at the top of my list.
The large reproductions of Siskind’s black and white photographs are beautifully printed, each on a single page, facing a page containing only the name of the image and the year it was made. Clean and elegant. His “Credo” that guided his work is also included as an introduction.
What is so important about this book is that it shows you that it is possible to produce deeply meaningful and personal black and white photographs in your own surroundings (another very different example of this is Paul Strand’s exquisite photographs made in his garden). Perhaps abstract is not your cup of tea, but Siskind proves that there are no excuses for not being able to go out make photographs wherever you are.
Look at this wonderful book and be inspired to get out there and be more aware of the limitless possibilities that lie before you!