Book Review: Unleashed by Amanda Jones (2017)

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Floofing Good Fun

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

Pet photographer Amanda Jones has released several books of canine photography, but Unleashed represents a bit of a departure. Here she says au revoir to the studio, instead capturing her doggo subjects out and about in the wild: retrieving sticks, chasing balls, clowning around with friends, catching some rays beachside, and stopping to smell the roses (errr, hydrangeas?).

The photos are organized by season, with spreads for spring, summer, fall, and winter. To no one’s surprise, the autumn backdrops are among the most gorgeous – but even bleak, chilly winter days are vastly improved by the addition of a pupper or two.

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0028 [flickr]

Finnick sez, “Don’t get any ideas, human.”
——————————

It’s hard to choose just one favorite dog (among the best problems, I say), but my favorite subgroups are 1) little dogs doing Big Things

and b) BFFs teaming up to conquer the world (or at least playtime).

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0035 [flickr]

I mostly loved the photos and found many of them poster-worthy, although the colors on a few felt a little washed out.

The layout is pretty rad, with a mock dog collar belted around the cover of the book. (I like it when artists pay attention to the cover hidden under the dust jacket, too. Naked covers are so boring!)

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0017 [flickr]

Don’t mind Mags, she’s camera-shy. By which I mean she thinks it’s h*ckin evil.
——————————

If I could change just one thing, it would be to add a brief write-up about the model and setting. I need to know more about these awesome doggos and heart-stopping, seemingly dog-friendly destinations.

Okay, I lied.

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0031 [flickr]

Truman. Truman is my favorite dog.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Red-Blooded American Male: Photographs, Robert Trachtenberg (2016)

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Cheesecake Galore!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

If I could give this book ten stars, I’d still complain that ten isn’t enough, that the rating scale is rigged and/or incapable of handling a title of this magnitude. Red-Blooded American Male: Photographs IS THAT GOOD.

2016-11-29 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0004 [flickr]

I mean, just take a gander at that cover. Will Arnett! In fishnets! And black combat boots! Squeezed into a slinky dress and splayed on a swanky couch, looking all emo! Like some random dude just mansplained how the backlash against Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot is really about authenticity and faithfulness to the source material, not sexism and misogyny, you silly girl you! Or maybe it was some diatribe about Gamergate and journalistic integrity. It doesn’t really matter, because he stopped listening several drinks ago. Mind: blown, but in the worst way possible.

Red-Blooded American Male is a collection of photographer/filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg’s (mostly) celebrity photography, from 1994 to the present day. There are actors, singers, athletes, entrepreneurs, chefs, models – even a few children, paired with the occasional woman and/or dog. (Meryl Streep arm wrestling Tommy Lee Jones is a definite keeper.) I was only familiar with, like, half of them; many I’d never heard of. Some none of us will have; for example, little Caleb Ivison, whose mom traded some editing work for Trachtenberg for a photo shoot of her kids. Anyway, consider my interest sufficiently piqued. (This only applies to the 18-and-over crowd, obvs.)

Spoiler alert: not all of Trachtenberg’s subjects are American. (I’m down with bending the rules for some of the guys, but Justin Bieber? Really? Throw in a Ryan Reynolds doing his Deadpool shtick and maybe we’ll call it even.)

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0007 [flickr]

The photos are uniformly stunning, with a mix of black-and-white and full-color images. At 10″x13″, the book is nice and big, and so are the photos; each one occupies at least a full page, with some spanning two. Each image deftly captures the personality of its subject, with a fun and eclectic mix of tongue-in-cheek sexy/cheesecake; goofy and playful; sophisticated and classy; dark and moody (Jimmy Fallon legit looks ready to jump; someone make sure he’s okay, yes?); and straight-up bananarama bonkers.

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0008 [flickr]

Many of the photos are accompanied by a brief description of how the shoot went down; these tend to be super-funny and greatly enhanced my appreciation of the artwork. See, e.g., Janes Van Der Beek’s “Tush,” “More Tush,” and “Even More Tush”; or how Bryan Fuller’s nighttime routine is meant to “restor[e] sensations first felt in the womb.” I found myself nursing an intense sense of disappointment when a photo – especially a favorite, or of an actor or celebrity I fancy – went un-commented upon. But I guess the way to look at it is, maybe these stories were meh and would have turned us off, so better to omit them altogether?

My favorites include Judd Apatow, with his cheeseburger baby bump;

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0010 [flickr]

a fierce Jimmy Kimmel cosplaying as Daenerys Targaryen; Bryan Fuller, with his moisturizing gloves and dog pile;

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0002 [flickr]

Bryan Cranston being moody AF; the recreation of Herb Ritts’s iconic 1989 naked supermodel huddle, done with the cast of Jackass; Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, from way back when they were on Comedy Central, naturally; the morning after Bob Saget’s drug-fueled romp with a furry; Kevin Hart being pulled along the beach by a Great Dane/small pony;

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0005 [flickr]

the acid trip-like John Leguizamo montage; and Denis Leary feeding a…barnyard full of Chihuahuas?

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0006 [flickr]

I don’t know what’s going on there, but I want in. (I’m a crazy dog lady, can you tell?)

Oh, and Jeff Garlin on the treadmill in the middle of the forest? Strangely endearing, if only because I could imagine Murray Goldberg doing something stubbornly nonsensical like that. (Dear ABC, please publish his attempt at scrapbooking on the internets. TIA!)

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner sharing an embrace is hecka sweet, though I found myself wishing it was Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian Mckellen. Those two are my OTP of elderly white guys.

2016-12-18 - Red-Blooded American Male - 0011 [flickr]

Okay, so they’re all kind of awesome. YOU NEED THIS BOOK. Get it, now! Then go buy a copy for your elderly grandmother / recently divorced mom / college aged, still-figuring-himself-out younger brother / amateur photographer aunt. Basically anyone and everyone, male or female, gay or straight, genderqueer or pansexual. It’s silly, it’s sexy, and it’s even a little subversive. David Bowie would be right at home here.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend, Nancy LeVine (2016)

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Old Dogs Rock (and so do Nancy LeVine’s Portraits!)

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: Schiffer Publishing provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

An old dog’s eyes, milky white, are not so much going blind as they are being clouded by memory: every stick, every ball, the squirrel that got away – they’re all there. Nothing is forgotten. The day she swam across the lake, or chewed your mouthguard into a million pieces. Remember when she was lost for two days, and came home soaking wet, muddy, and with a bird’s feather – blue and white – somehow lodged beneath her collar? She remembers. They all do. Every word, every walk, every time you RUBBED their neck. The memories spill into their eyes, and eventually all they can see is the past.

– Daniel Wallace

Anyone who’s ever opened their home and their heart to a dog is sure to love Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend. Award-winning photographer Nancy LeVine traveled across America, photographing senior dogs in their natural habitats: in forever homes and animal sanctuaries; lounging on couches, riding along with their humans in tractors, and playing with their siblings, human and non; aging with dignity and wisdom and grace.

The eighty-six portraits included here promise to tug at the heartstrings – and make you hug your canine companion just a little bit tighter tonight. The dogs featured run the gamut: there are big dogs and little dogs; pit bulls, dachshunds, greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and mutts; and several tripods, a few one-eyed dogs, and one very big German Shepherd on wheels (hey, Abby!). There are even two Otises, both chocolate Labs by the look of ’em, living just a state apart in Washington and California. LeVine lovingly captures the spirit and personality of each of her subjects; while the book is rather short on words, each picture sings and shines and speaks volumes, dancing off the printed page and right into the reader’s heart.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, Guinnevere Shuster (2016)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Epic Photos for an Awesome Cause

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley.)

Every year, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters; of these, 3.9 million are dogs. Roughly 35% are adopted, while another 26% are reunited with their families. The remaining 26% are killed, usually for lack of homes.* This translates to a staggering 1.2 million dogs (not to mention 1.4 million cats) per year.**

Given the overwhelming scope of the problem, animal shelters and welfare groups have gotten pretty darn creative in their rescue efforts – aimed at both placing animals in homes, as well as preventing them from entering the system to begin with. For example, some groups offer grants to low-income pet owners who are facing unexpected veterinary bills. Others provide free or low-cost checkups and spay/neuter services to those in need.

Nonprofits that focus on humans have gotten into the act as well. With an increasing awareness of the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence comes programs that cater to both human and nonhuman victims. For instance, domestic violence shelters are starting to open their doors to the companion animals of their human clients, as a sizable percentage survivors refuse to leave their furry friends behind.

(I volunteer as a foster home for one of two such groups in the Kansas City area, and it’s extremely rewarding. In particular, I find it easier to foster dogs who already have homes. Don’t get me wrong, I still fall in love with them, but at least I know I have to give them back. Otherwise I’m likely to adopt myself out of fostering in no time flat. Anyway, I cannot recommend it enough.)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Learning to See Creatively, Third Edition, Bryan Peterson (2015)

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Useful for Beginners and Pros Alike

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Originally published in 1988 and revised in 2003, the third edition of Bryan Peterson’s Learning to See Creatively is all-new, completely rewritten and re-illustrated, with a brand new section on Photoshop. This is my first Peterson book but, judging from some of the other reviews, he seems to be a well-known and respected photography author and instructor.

And it’s easy to see why: Learning to See Creatively is accessible and well-written, with a positive, can-do attitude and plenty of helpful illustrations and activities to help get those creative juices flowing. Peterson frequently includes photos of the same subject, taken from multiple angles and perspectives and with different composition and framing, to give the reader an idea of what works – and what works better. (His eight-photo spread of the Dutch windmill is my favorite use of this technique.) There’s a decided emphasis on personal vision with creative exercises to help you find your own.

The book’s divided into five sections, which you can either browse or read straight through. “Expanding Your Vision” challenges the reader to think about what you see – vs. what your camera sees. There’s also an excellent primer on choosing the right camera lens for the job. The “Elements of Design” introduces us to line, shape, form, texture, pattern, and color, exploring how they work in harmony – and how we can best coax them into working for us. “Composition” covers everything from the basics (horizontal vs. vertical orientation; the rule of thirds; contrast) to more advanced topics (working your subject; breaking the rules). Last but not least are the chapters on “The Magic of Light” (direction, color, overcast and rainy days) and “Photoshop.”

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Capture the Moment: The Modern Photographer’s Guide to Finding Beauty in Everyday and Family Life, Sarah Wilkerson (2015)

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Love the Creativity Exercises

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

According to its website, Clickin Moms was founded by Kendra Okolita, who wanted a safe place to talk photography with her friends. Over the years, it’s evolved into a “community of over 16,000 professional photographers, aspiring professionals, and women who are simply passionate about capturing the lives of their children.” Written (or perhaps “compiled” is a better word) by company CEO Sarah Wilkerson, Capture the Moment: The Modern Photographer’s Guide to Finding Beauty in Everyday and Family Life is a photography guide that couples tip and tricks with large, bold images contributed by Clickin Moms community members, thus capturing the spirit of the website.

Capture the Moment is divided into six chapters, each focused on a discrete aspect of photography: Natural Light; Composition; Storytelling; Fine Art; Black & White; and Low Light. Each page features one tip paired with an image for illustration; in some cases, the spread takes up two full pages. Along with the photographer’s name, each photo includes information about the camera, lens aperture, shutter speed, and ISO employed in the creation of said image. The result is a photography guide that’s aesthetically pleasing, but sparse on text: nice to look at, but with a minimum of instruction. As a beginner, I found a wealth of inspiration here – but more advanced photographers may be disappointed (or outright bored).

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Your Family in Pictures, Me Ra Koh (2014)

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Forty Recipes for Gorgeous Family Photos

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Blogging for Books program.)

Me Ra Koh found solace in photography. After miscarrying her second child, Aidan – during the tail end of a two-year tour to promote her debut book, Beauty Restored: Finding Life and Hope After Date Rape, no less – Koh fell into a deep depression from which photography became her lifeline out.

In the twelve years since, she’s started a wedding photography business which evolved into a way to teach photography to children and moms, giving a “voice to the voiceless”; published multiple books on the subject (Your Family in Pictures is her third); and partnered with Disney to host a series on Disney Junior (Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh). Oh, and she’s also launched CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for women around the country. (In fact, some of the photo recipes included in these pages were either contributed or tested by workshop participants.)

Your Family in Pictures builds upon her previous two books – Your Baby in Pictures and Your Child in Pictures – by focusing on ways to capture those fleeting family moments, including the more mundane scenes that we might otherwise take for granted. She begins by offering basic photography advice that’s applicable to most any situation (my favorite – “We have to be willing to miss shots to get greats shots.” – will likely prove the hardest for me to implement!), and then outlines forty “photo recipes” for creating innovative and breathtaking photos.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: We Animals, Jo-Anne McArthur (2013)

Monday, February 17th, 2014

null

“It will change the world, for the better, for us all.”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free pdf copy of this book for review.)

“What you see on these pages may surprise or disturb you. My aim is not to turn you away but to draw you in, bring you closer, make you a participant. I want my photographs to be beautiful and evocative as well as truthful and compelling. I hope you’ll take the time not just to look but to see — if only as a mark of respect for the billions of animals whose lives and deaths we don’t notice. To look at this book is to bear witness with me, which means also that we confront cruelty and our complicity in it. As a species, we have to learn new behaviours and attitudes and unlearn the old ones.” (page 9)

Photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur has spent the last decade and a half traveling the world – both on her own and in the company of animal activists – documenting our complicated relationships with nonhuman animals. Relationships that so often boil down to objectification, exploitation, and consumption. If you’ve been involved with animal advocacy for any length of time, no doubt you’re familiar with some of McArthur’s images. She’s photographed open rescues conducted by Animal Equality; documented the affecting actions of Toronto Pig Save; and set sail with the crew of the Sea Shepherd. McArthur bears witness through the lens of her camera, exposing atrocities that many of us would prefer remain invisible.

Recently featured in Liz Marshall’s The Ghosts In Our Machine, We Animals features 100 of McArthur’s photos – some taken for the film, others on behalf of various animal advocacy organizations, and the rest during the artist’s travels. The result is a stunning portfolio that’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. From the Calgary Stampede to the Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, McArthur brings us examples of unimaginable cruelty – and selfless compassion.

(More below the fold…)

furkid friday: dog parts (rat terriers, in macro!)

Friday, April 8th, 2011

This week I spent a few (much-needed) lazy afternoons outside, alternately napping and chasing the dogs around the yard, camera in hand. I can’t remember why, but I thought it might be fun to take some “macro” shots of the dogs and all their adorable little body parts: eyes, noses, behinds, ears, legs, tummies.* (Lever 2000, holla!) Now I realize that this might make for an awfully cool art project – print and display my favorites in uniform sizes and frames, arranging them on a single wall to make one larger exhibit. I just need to find an available wall!

And more pictures of Ralphie: of all five dogs, the 13-year-old, one-eyed wiener dog proved hardest to catch on camera. Go figure.

2011-04-05 - Jayne - 0011

Ralphie butt, on the move!
——————————

2011-04-05 - Ralphie - 0023

Not very macro, but here’s a decent look at Ralphie’s missing eye.
——————————

2011-04-05 - Ralphie - 0011

Ralphie shoulder, complete with extra skin rolls!
——————————

(More below the fold…)