ROBERT TANITCH’S ROUND-UP OF BOOKS No 3
KUWAIT by SEBASTIAO SALGADO A Desert on Fire (Taschen £ ). One of Salgado’s most brilliant and dangerous shoots is a brilliant dramatic award-winning document of one of the worst environmental disasters in living memory. The raging fires were set alight by the Iraqi army in 1991. The sheer, soaring, epic scale of the ravaged landscape, the charred sand, littered with cluster bombs, is truly terrifying. The smoke and soot obliterate the sunlight and dwarf everything. The spectacle is awesome, horrific, apocalyptic, like something out of Dante, Bosch, Goya. The heat was so excruciating his small lens warped.
MOMENT BY MOMENT photographs by John Loengrad (Thames & Hudson £35). Marilyn Monroe waves, Ronald Reagan laughs and the Beatles sing in a Miami swimming pool. Jimmy Carter is deep in thought. A freezing gaunt Berenice Abbott stands by an unlighted stove. Loengrad takes a close look at Louis Armstrong’s lip, Brassai’s eyes, an Arizonian ranch foreman’s hands, J R R Tolkein’s hands, and Bill Cosby’s silhouette. He records a house hurricaned in Mississippi, the fainted body of guardsman on the tarmac during a royal visit, and a game of dominos played in a working man’s club
EUGÈNE ATGET PARIS (Taschen ) Eugène Atjet (1857-1927), one of the most influential photographers, was famous only after his death. His life work was to document Old Paris and to that end he explored the streets and buildings, systematically district by district. It is a nostalgic and invaluable record of the past, austere, restrained, mundane. His images have been described as “discreet poetry in the guise of prose”. He used an old-fashioned camera on a tripod. It’s an amazing collection.
JANE BOWN CATS (Faber & Faber £14.99). Bown is one of the great British photographers. There are cats and cats. Think of TS Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lewis Carroll, Mikhail Bulgakov, Dr Seus, Holly Golightly, Blofeld, Michelle Pfeiffer. The cats look proud, smug, evil, sly and comic. Is there a likable cat among them? I prefer Bown when her lens is on humans. Cat-lovers, however, will, doubtless, be purring.