This work, culled from the archives of The Mariners' Museum, features 100 historical photographs depicting the relationships of mariners with their vessels and the sea. Each photograph chronicles a fragment of the mariner's experience over the past 200 years shipbuilding, and the making of a wooden skiff, commercial fishing and whaling, amateur sailing, deep-sea diving, and naval encounters. In his introduction, Szarkowski shares his artistic rationale for selecting the particular images that appear in the book. The mix is eclectic - some are the work of photographers, while for others the photographer was a chronicler with a camera and an eye for composition. Richard Benson applies electronic and other techniques to the archival photographs. His essays unify the image and story in time and place, of historical, societal, and individual meaning.
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Though the title is A Maritime Album, this book is less about the sea than about man's perceptions of it, as expressed through photographs. Authors John Szarkowski and Richard Benson have collected 100 photos taken between the years 1859 and 1956, all concerning some aspect of boats, boat building, and maritime life: the exuberance of a boat christening in 1900 and the eerie foreignness of arctic whalers in 1882, for example; shipwrecks and shipbuilders abound, and many of the photographs--those from the 19th century, especially--focus on the skin and bones of the trade, from the rotting shells of abandoned boats to the boilers and propellers of ships in the making.
The camera's subject might have been the sea, but the book is about so much more. Szarkowski, the former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, has selected each of these photos as much for what they say about humanity's relationship to the sea as for the artistry of the pictures themselves. Richard Benson's commentary, meanwhile, speaks of technology, the futility of war, and the effects of mass production, as well as a wealth of information about maritime life. More than just a coffee-table book, A Maritime Album offers plenty of food for thought about the sea and the place it occupies in our lives and dreams.Review:
A Maritime Album is a book for coffee tables and collectors, a moving testimonial to the exaltation and apprehension of human interaction with the sea. In fishermen's parlance, it's a keeper. -- The New York Times Book Review, W. Jeffrey Bolster
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