Two New Books About Enigmatic Photographers

~Miki Johnson

Salon today has an intriguing review of two new fictionalized novels about the lives and loves of two photographers who share the first name Edward: Steichen and Curtis. First, The Shadow Catcher, by Marianne Wiggins, and then The Last Summer of the World, a debut by Emily Mitchell. Neither book gets an overwhelming thumbs up from writer Sarah Karnasiewicz, which has me thinking that maybe the review itself is worth as much consideration as the novels. As evidence I submit these rather astute observations:

1. We have long since given up on the idea that photographs serve up impartial truths and embraced them as art. But is it any less naive to believe we can glean a glimpse of the men behind the lens by looking at what they placed in front of it?

2. How is it that two men of such penetrating vision can remain so elusive themselves? It may be that, when working with photography, the real, everyday present of artists' lives is eclipsed by the allure of the frozen past.

Both questions sound so enjoyable to contemplate that I just might pick up the aforementioned books after all.

~Miki Johnson

(Photos: (Left) Edward Curtis; (Right) Edward Steichen)

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