Sally Eauclaire, in her two books, the 1984: New Color New Work: 18 Photographic Essays and the 1987: American Independents: Eighteen Color Photographers covered many of the artists in 'Starburst' and a common element in the three books is that they all consider eighteen photographers, eight are in all three. Kevin Moore's book is very comprehensive with 301 photos in color and he writes a detailed twenty-nine page historical essay outlining the changes from a slow color start in the early seventies to a full blown acceptance by the start of the eighties. William Eggleston could probably be considered the photographer to really get things going with his 1976 MoMA exhibition and as Moore says, few people, at the time, "got it". Wasn't color just for family snaps, magazine covers and the ads inside? Art photography was black and white, end of story. Looking at Eggleston's 1973 photo of the red ceiling, light bulb and wires perhaps it was understandable that folks didn't get it.
After Moore's essay and another twelve pages with contributions by Leo Rubinfien and James Crump each of the eighteen gets a portfolio of their work, all of it interesting and nicely, rather typical of each persons output. There are, though a couple of oddities: Robert Heinecken gets twenty-four examples, including a very repetitive eighteen, of his anti-war Vietnam soldier overprinted on cosmetic and fashion ads and Stephen Shore has all ten of his fake postcards he had printed for the road trip across the country in 1971, surely the six pages for these could have been better used for more of his real work.
Predictably with this photographic style overview there are going to be some artists that you'll appreciate more than others. I find Robert Heinecken ads, Les Krim's Polaroid work and Richard Misrach's Hawaii jungle none too fascinating but I was amazed at John Pfahl's altered landscapes, Harry Callahan's eleven stunning 1977 exterior shots of houses and Neal Slavin's lovely group portraits. The subject matter of these eighteen photographers is incredibly varied, though landscapes are perhaps a dominant theme.
'Starburst' covers its subject well but I thought that the book had a rather cold presentation. It is predictably over-designed: the text is in one column using a rather stark sans face (Avenir); with tiny page numbers (five point); footnotes (in six point) at the back of the book instead of being placed in the very generous margins on each relevant page. Worst of all though, the pages are the wrong format. Because it is upright the ninety-six landscape photos, the dominant format, all sit rather uneasily on the page with too much white space above and below them. If the book had been landscape all these photos could have been larger and it would have easily accommodated all the other photos as well.
I think I still prefer Sally Eauclaire's coverage of these photographers rather than the 'Starburst' version. Her two books, with 327 images, present each photograph in a more sympathetic landscape format.
***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.