Robert Tanitch’s Round-up of Books No. 1 (2017)
Moonshots by Piers Bizony (Voyageur Press £60). 50 years of NASA space exploration seen through Hasselblad Cameras. The first human voyage to the moon took place in 1969, launching July 1 and landing July 20. The extraordinary high-definition photographs, taken five decades ago, continue to amaze. The book is awesome, a fabulous celebration of space-faring, highlighting NASA’s greatest achievements, and enriched by the sheer size and resolution of the film frames. Space enthusiasts will be over the moon. Bizony declares if humans stop venturing into space we would mourn the loss of that capability and feel ourselves lessened as a species.
Winter Gardens reinventing a season by Cedric Pollet (Frances Lincoln £30). French photographer Pollet is a professional botanical photographer and his book will have a big impact on all those who are passionate about gardens and landscapes. The book reinvents the season and celebrates its ravishing beauty. A sad tale’s bests for Winter – something Gothic, perhaps? Who would have thought Winter could be so full of blazing colour and glowing light? Pollet thinks Winter rivals the exuberance of Spring and the flamboyance of Autumn. The book looks at 20 gardens in UK and in France and shows what artistry can be achieved with structured planting. The spectacle is luminous and dramatic. The photographs are amazing,
British Embassies Their Diplomatic and Architectural History by James Stourton. Photographs by Luke White (Frances Lincoln £40). The book is a photographic record of 26 embassies with a bit of diplomatic history and anecdote thrown in describing climatic moments “when Britain made a difference.” (Sir Henry Wootton famously said that an ambassador was “an honest man who was sent abroad to lie for his country.”) The embassies, handsomely built and furnished, superbly photographed, are projections of power and prestige, a reminder of a time when Britain was a power to be reckoned with. Nowadays, in our decline, our strongest diplomatic card is the Queen and a visit by the younger royals.
The Cities Book A journey through the best cities in the world (Lonely Planet £40). It’s a fun book to dip into. There is a double page spread for each city, listing its strengths and weaknesses. There are 750 images. The choice of images (between 2 and 4) is often surprising and sometimes inadequate and, in the case of London, quite appalling. The larky and popular advice might give potential travellers a laugh. It’s interesting to read about a city you actually know and see if you agree with what is being said.
Unseen London (Frances Lincoln £30). Photographs by Peter Dazeley. Text by Mark Daly. These splendid photographs will whet appetites for sightseers. There is so much to choose from: Battersea Power Station (for those who like SF), Harrow School’s speech room (for those who like debating), Crossnees Pumping Station (unexpectedly richly decorated), the main hall in the Royal Courts of Justice (inspired by 13th century cathedral naves), Royal Hospital Chelsea (a Christopher Wren masterpiece), the Daily Express Building (with its fabulous art deco lobby), the New West End Synagogue (very lavish, very Jewish), St Sophie’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral (exotic, spectacular) , Freemason’s Hall (with its art deco) and many more, including HM Prison Wandsworth for those who have not already been inside.
Oxford by Martin Parr (Oxford £30). It’s not the Oxford I know. It’s not the Oxford I once knew; but then the Oxford I once knew wasn’t the Oxford of my imagination, the Oxford of Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson. Parr, President of Magnum and one of the best contemporary photographers, documents a year. He is more interested in people than he is in Oxford; but then brash commentary is his forte. He is making a social comment. As I turned the pages I longed to see them in an historical context which would begin in the mid-19th century and work its way through the 20th and right up to Parr’s vision.