Historical Mexican Portraiture The Subject Of New Photography Book

mexican portraitsSince the invention of the camera, portraiture has been an important part of the cultural history of Mexico. Now, a new book, “Mexican Portraits” (Aperture, $85) curated by photographer and editor Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, beautifully captures the essence of this complex country’s people.

The goal of Monasterio’s book, however, is about more than mere imagery. According to CNN, the author was also interested in focusing on recurring themes, “such as lucha libre wrestling, or occupational portraits.

For anyone interested in Latin American history, black-and-white photography, or portraiture, “Mexican Portraits” is a striking, often haunting, story of a country rich in diversity, culture and humor, as well as defined by economic, religious and political instability.

Click here for a slide show from the book.

[Photo credit: Aperture]

New photography book on food and travel profiles meals around the world

food and travel bookThere are a few key things that unite mankind, one of which is the need to eat. Whether the act itself is one of indulgence or subsistence is largely a cultural and geographic, and not just economic, issue. It’s this dichotomy that forms the theme for a fascinating new addition to the food and travel book genre.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets
is the work of photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith d’Aluisio. The duo traveled to 30 countries to profile 80 vastly different people and the “food that fuels them over the course of a single day.” Each profile features extreme examples of the subject’s diet and caloric intake, rather than a daily average, and provides a window into world foods we might not otherwise be aware of.

The authors also note on their website, “While we have been diligent about providing cultural context and geographic relevance in each of our stories, the people profiled represent only themselves and no one person, or even five, can represent an entire country. Please use this work to further your exploration and understanding of the world.”

Profiles include a Maasai herder in an extreme drought in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, a Bangladeshi seamstress, a Latvian beekeeper, a Minnesotan teen who works in a mall, a Mexican rancher, and a Tennessee man who is a candidate for obesity surgery.

You can see a slideshow of sixteen of the book’s subjects on Time’s website, here.

Chameleon with a Camera and Dennis Darling’s packing list

There’s a photography book Chameleon with a Camera: A Unique Primer on Travel Photography and How to Survive a Trip in the Philipsburg, Montana Public Library. It’s a slim volume perfect for taking along on a trip for inspiration. The author, Dennis Carlyle Darling is a professional photographer and a professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin.

Each summer he and his wife, Helen Darling, country western song writer and singer, come to Philipsburg. They are both charming, lovely people.

As I read through the book, particularly enjoying the travel related quotes and rejuvenating my interest in taking pictures of people–one of Dennis’s fortes, his packing list caught my attention. He’s traveled to various countries on several occasions and has suggestions for items that are easy to take along and useful. One of them I haven’t seen on a packing list before.

It’s a sink stopper. As Dennis pointed out, and I’ve found to be true, many sinks and bathtubs in hotel rooms or hostels don’t have stoppers. To do laundry, keeping water in a sink can be helpful. Dennis suggests the round, flat rubber kind. To jazz it up, try this dolphin stopper version.

Dennis also suggests:

  • waterproof matches
  • a few clothes pins
  • string to use as a laundry line
  • packing tape in case you want to send packages home. As he said, good packing tape is hard to come by
  • a small pair of scissors
  • a needle and thread
  • zip lock bags
  • maps. In many countries, the maps may not be as good as what you can buy in the U.S. Even if they are, having maps from the get go can make a trip easier.

Although the book is not recent, the information is particularly pertinent to anyone who is interested in hitting the road with a camera and ready to capture artistic images worth sharing.

Dennis also points out that taking photographs is solitary and time consuming. Great shots come from effort. When traveling with others, such shots can be hard to come by. In that case, perhaps a dolphin sink stopper might be a welcome, happy looking relief at the end of a day of chasing images.

One for the Road: China – People, Place, Culture, History

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about China. But I’ve been thinking about the country this evening while admiring DK’s new book about the Asian empire. Seems a good time to tell ya about it — China: People, Place, Culture, History is a massive tribute to the country, with over 700 specially commissioned images by world-class photographers.

The photos are grouped around themes: landscape, history, people, culture and architecture. The book sets the scene with stunning images of the mountains, plateaus and plains of China’s three “steps” and then follows with a chronological look at the dynasties that ruled throughout the country’s 4,000-year history. The people section does a spectacular job of peering into daily life in China with profiles of craftsmen, farmers, children, religious, artists, business people and retirees. Cultural traditions are also captured with vivid color and descriptions — calligraphy, opera, literature and philosophy are all explored. And to complete the collection, an architecture section marks the nation’s transformation through its buildings — from ancient courtyards to modern skyscrapers. Anyone with affection for China will want a copy of this spectacular look at the evolution and every day life of a world superpower.