Just in time for the world's largest photography fair, Photokina, which is to begin on September 16, the PhotoBookMuseum in Cologne, Germany, opened its doors. The museum is located in the Carlswerk, a former copper wire factory, and has lots of space. Check out their website.
At the opening of the museum, two photographers gave presentations in the reading room, a small section of a former factory hall seperated from the busy exhibition space.
The first was Carolyn Drake, whom I knew from a National Geographic article on China's Uygurs. She showed some amazingly interesting work she had done with the Lubavitchers of Brooklyn, NY. Carolyn makes a very modest, unpretentious appearance, which I'm sure has helped her a lot in getting access to a rather closed group like this. And she really got very close, as you can see from her pictures here. In her talk she reminded us that some societies have rules that seem somewhat strange to an outsider, yet begin to make sense as soon as you get more insight into the group. I have had that same experience many times on my travels, most recently when I spent some time in a Hutterite colony in northern Montana, a society that seems strange from the perspective of mainstream Western culture yet immediately reveals its merits if and when the visitor enters with an open mind.
Carolyn proceeded with great photographs from her book Two Rivers. Be warned, though: the book is out of print. After the presentation I was eager to buy a copy, but had to learn it is no longer available. The good news is that she is working on a new book which should be equally interesting. We will learn the details in a few weeks.
Next was David Alan Harvey. I have admired David's work since the early 1990s and tried to learn from him as much as possible. Ten years ago, in the fall of 2004, I met him at a workshop in the small Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. Apart from hearing about his experience and his work, it was simply great to watch him shoot in the streets and to see how he interacted with his subjects. Many people think a street photographer would always try to seem inconspicuous and act like the proverbial fly on the wall, but watching David work shows you a different way. In fact he tells people that he doesn't want to be that fly.
At the PhotoBookMuseum, David showed quite a few pictures from all phases of his career. It became clear that he never just developed a 'style' and stayed with it. Quite the contrary: it seems he never stops evolving. He started in B&W, moved to color later on and sometimes does B&W again today. Although known as a Leica rangefinder-carrying street photographer, he uses all kinds of equipment from an iPhone to an 8x10 view camera. Earlier photos are more descriptive or literal than later ones. Although he is 70 by now he doesn't seem to slow down.
Oh, and there is some bad news here, too: his innovative book with photographs from Rio de Janeiro, named (based on a true story), is - you guessed it - sold out.