Darius Himes is an editor, publisher, lecturer, photographer and writer based in Santa Fe. He founded Radius Books with partners David Chickey, Joanna Hurley and David Skolkin after being at Photo-Eye for almost 10 years.
"My top ten list is drawn from a two-volume set titled The Great Ideas, a Syntopicon, which was developed by Mortimer Adler during his tenure as Editor in Chief at the Encyclopedia Britannica and specifically as an accompaniment to a set of "great books of the western tradition" stretching from the pre-Socratics to the late 19th century philosophers and linguists. These two volumes can be summarized as a topical reading of the Great Books, using a set of just over 100 "great ideas" that have been pursued and written about throughout human history. Want to know what writers of the western tradition for the past 2500 years have said about "Beauty", "Infinity", "Love", or "Will"? Turn to these volumes (check your local used bookstore or www.abebooks.com).
These two volumes have been extremely edifying in relation to the arts and contemporary photography. It's been invaluable to be able to trace the different conceptions and understandings, as well as subtlety, of far-reaching, universal concepts and then both think about and discuss those ideas and how they play out in the world in front of the camera lens.
I've selected 10 "great ideas" and suggested a photobook (or 2) that I think somehow embodies the bigger concepts. I hope you all find these thought-provoking. I'd love to hear suggestions of other books you think fit these themes." [Check out Darius' Blog for more]
10. UNIVERSAL AND PARTICULAR
Alleverythingthatisyou by Mike and Doug Starn. The Starn twins have been creating works that deal with the full range of "particulars" of several given "universals". The universal "snowflake" is catalogued and explored in all of its glorious particular diversity.
9. SIGN AND SYMBOL
Nakazora by Masao Yamamoto. Yamamoto's work has intrigued me for many years now. He is digging deep into spiritual concepts, using the ephemeral details of this world as signs and symbols of something bigger, something beyond the material...
Telex Iran by Gilles Peress. The Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 was brilliantly captured by this daring French photographer. But as with any revolution, many dark deeds go unrecorded
7. NECESSITY AND CONTINGENCY
In Praise of Shadows by Hiroshi. Sugimoto is exploring large concepts with intelligence and heart. This simple little book contains a couple dozen photographs of a burning candle. each image is reproduced on mylar so that it is completely transparent which emphasizes the nature of the contingency of the flame. By necessity and definition, the nature of a flame is to flicker and blow or burn out eventually. To me, this book sums up necessity and contingency.
6. NATURE (and TRUTH)
Bird Watching by Paula McCartney. I first saw Paula's work last year at Review Santa Fe. it stopped me dead in my tracks with a combination of beauty, elegance, comedy and a dose of surreality. "Nature" and the nature of "Truth" are swirling around in this artist's book.
Zara's Tales by Peter Beard. The legendary photographer compiled various stories of his African adventures that are his daughter's favorites. It's fantastic reading and gives a glimpse of early conservation efforts in eastern Africa.
5. LIFE AND DEATH
There are numerous books that could be listed to exemplify LIFE and DEATH. Here is one. Moksha by Fazal Sheikh. Sheikh's book deals with the role and status of widows in traditional Indian society. Their life is determined by the death of their husbands. It is a moving, touching, question-provoking book.
4. HISTORY (BEING & FATE & ONE AND MANY & WISDOM)
Dead Man, a film by Jim Jarmusch. Simply put, this is a superb, metaphor-laden, literary film. The real lead in this movie is not Johnnie Depp, but Gary Farmer (an actor who lives here in Santa Fe). Farmer plays an Indian who goes by the name of Nobody, and who recites the poetry of William Blake to Depp's character, whose name is William Blake just not the William Blake that Nobody assumes he is. I think I want to write an essay about this movie. The soundtrack/soundscape by Neil Young is stellar and moving.
This picture of my nephew (my brother's son) and my two nieces (my sister's girls) and their Grandfather (my father) sums up this great idea.
Domestic Vacations by Julie Blackmon. Julie is the oldest of nine children, all of whom are married, have children and live with their families in a two mile radius of where they grew up. Radius Books just published this book on Julie's work and the book launches at photo-eye in Santa Fe tonight, June 27th.
Bill Jay's Album. Bill Jay has been photographing fellow photographers and historians for over 30 years. This handsome volume presents a family album of sorts--Bill's photographic family.
The World from My Front Porch, by Larry Towell. "When I was an adolescent, my father once scolded me for wanting to drive to Florida with a friend. It was too far from home, and I would be corrupted by the distance. I was 16. He hated travel. The world was his front porch."--Larry Towell.
1. VIRTUE AND VICE
There are so many books that portray the darker side of the human experience, but the fact that virtue and vice are linked as great ideas--as the opposite poles of a very long, imaginary line--makes finding one particular book difficult. Whenever I reflect on this passage it makes me think about the usefulness of the contrast between the two. "Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, O people, that ye deal not treacherously with any one. Be ye the trustees of God amongst His creatures, and the emblems of His generosity amidst His people." An extract from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah
Labels: The Original Top Ten List