A fascinating coverage of seventy photo books that manages to present a clear overview of Swiss photography. The selection gives a clue to the book's thoroughness. Some of the country's most knowledgeable commentators on photography created an initial long list which was reduced to those that appear by the book's four editors. The advantage of this approach meant that it avoided one of the problems of other photo books which tend to be based on collections of the author. Another advantage, I thought, was that the selection was as broad as possible. For example there is the 1998 Annual report from the Swiss supermarket company Migros, a 1997 children's book about zoo animals, the 1935 Oerlikon Engineering company facility booklet.
Switzerland has a long history of publishing photo books and Peter Pfrunder mentions an interesting point, in his excellent intro, that the nation's book clubs helped to create an interest in this form of publishing. The seventy books are mostly by Swiss born photographers and obviously included are several well known outside the country: Robert Frank; Rene Burri; Werner Bischof; Albert Steiner; Rene Groebli. Not all the books were originally published in the country. Frank's 'The Americans' was issued in Paris, John Berger and Jean Mohr's 'A fortunate man' and 'The great wall of China' by Daniel Schwartz both originally came out in London.
The editorial is divided into five sections: 1900-1938; 1939-1967; 1968-1988; 1989-1999; 2000-2010. Each starts with an essay and then the book's twenty-two authors consider the title's photo content in detail. I thought this text was particularly relevant and placed the work in its historical context (and a tip of the hat to whoever translated the German into conversational English, they did a brilliant job). The text is illustrated with a cover and spreads from each book, printed with a two hundred screen and nicely the photos all have a drop shadow to create an impression of floating on the page. The number of spreads from each book averages about ten and they get a generous display.
This is a thick, chunky book because the matt art paper used is quite heavy but it is beautifully printed. The 704 pages include 128 (on a thinner stock) for the English and French translation of the German text. I was, though, very disappointed with this section, so four stars, because the English and French are set in such a tiny typeface (six point) which is frankly far too small for ease of reading. The German text is almost twice as large in eleven point! Another couple of editorial flaws are that the page numbers for the seventy books are not included with each book's relevant translation requiring a constant flipping to the English or French Contents pages. The page numbers throughout the book are next to the gutter instead of being on the outside edge of each page where they work best.
Despite my comments above (which really only effect English and French buyers) I thought this was a quite remarkable book that reveals some wonderful photobooks to a wider audience.
>>>LOOK AT SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.