Saturday, April 21, 2012

“St. Louis Parks”

ST. LOUIS PARKS — a new book from Reedy Press — with photography by yours truly, including the photo on the cover:

St Louis Parks cover_high

This view shows the World’s Fair Pavilion atop Government Hill, in Forest Park, in the City of Saint Louis, Missouri. Teenagers are seen here enjoying the cool water of the fountain on a warm June day. I think this photo adequately captures the joy and simple pleasure that ought to be found in a pleasant park.

This book contains over a hundred of my photos of parks located within the City of Saint Louis. Click here to get your own copy of this book:

From the publisher, Reedy Press:
St. Louis Parks By NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton, Foreword by Peter H. Raven 
St. Louis has great parks. And St. Louisans are passionate about them. St. Louis Parks delivers portraits of St. Louis City and County parks, both major and minor, that prove why these common spaces are crucial to the region’s way of life.

Acclaimed local historians NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton take readers through the city and county, respectively. Starting with the establishment of Lafayette Park from thirty acres of common fields in 1836, Harris covers the creation of gems like Tower Grove Park, the nation’s finest Victorian Park, and the dazzling, 1,293-acre Forest Park, while including Citygarden, and its interactive artwork, in the heart of downtown.

In the county, Hamilton highlights one-of-a-kind attractions like the renowned Museum of Transportation and Laumeier Sculpture Park, the Butterfly House and St. Louis Carousel at Faust Park, a farm zoo at Suson Park, and the military museums at Jefferson Barracks. In both sections, the authors recognize the citizens, civic leaders, and architects whose work delivered to all St. Louisans picturesque landscapes, ball fields, tennis courts, natural savannahs, and grasslands filled with wildlife, and trails that lead runners through forests and by shimmering lakes.

Dramatic photography by Mark Scott Abeln and Steve Tiemann complement the essays. The photographs evoke the unique character and history of the individual parks. They visualize the importance of green space for both escaping and coming together as a community.  
NiNi Harris’s earliest memory is of an early autumn evening, picking up acorns as she and her father walked along Bellerive Boulevard to Bellerive Park. Her great- great-grandfather’s first job when he arrived in St. Louis in 1864 was planting trees in a St. Louis park. This is her tenth book on St. Louis history and architecture.

Esley Hamilton has been working for the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation as historian and preservationist since 1977. Among preservation-
ists in the St. Louis region, Hamilton’s is a household name. He teaches the history of landscape architecture at Washington University and serves on the board of the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

Mark Abeln is a native of St. Louis and attended college at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Mark started taking photography seriously after he took disappointing photos of an important subject. He spent the next years learning the art of photography, and his photos can now be found in numerous publications as well as on his website “Rome of the West.”

Steve Tiemann graduated from McCluer High School and went on to obtain his forestry degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia. Steve has enjoyed his career as a park ranger and park ranger supervisor with St. Louis County Parks for nearly thirty years. He tries to be in ready mode with a camera while patrolling on foot or bike.
Mr. Peter Raven is President Emeritus of the famed Missouri Botanical Garden.

This book’s publication date is May 1st. You can order a copy now:

You can also purchase my earlier book of photography, Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Good Photograph

SOMEONE ASKS, “What makes a good photo?”

According to modern philosophies, if any answer to this question is given at all, it is usually convoluted, unsatisfactory, or it has nothing to do about photography. Instead, I will go back to ideas discovered by the philosophers of Greece and the Middle Ages, eras that produced great art that astonishes us still.

A good photograph will please the eye and give it rest. Nothing can be seen that ought to be removed, nor can the imagination perceive anything that ought to be added or changed.

A good photograph will cause the viewer to stand outside of himself for a brief moment. The viewer, in his imagination, is transported within the frame of the image.

A good photograph will reward a viewer every time he sees it. He can contemplate it many times for many years, and yet discover new things never before noticed. It does not grow stale or boring over time.

A good photograph will evoke immediate recognition within the viewer. The viewer will think that he has seen the photograph before; indeed, the photograph will seem to be a part of the viewer’s earliest memories.

A good photograph will become a part of the viewer. The viewer will use his memory of the photograph as a type and model for other things.

A good photograph will cause the viewer to see that this particular photograph is the most appropriate medium for expressing the subject.

A good photograph will have a sense of unity — each part will relate in some way to every other part.

A good photograph will have due proportion and symmetry, a formal structure that is harmonious and expressive of the subject matter.

A good photograph will have a clarity and vividness that expresses the photographer’s intention.

A good photograph will clearly show the truth, even if what is depicted is not factually true, but rather instead expresses a higher truth.

A good photograph will obviously show that the photographer has mastery over the medium.

A good photograph will elicit a lively positive response from all who view it, without regard to age, sex, race, nationality, education, class, party, or religion.

Now, this is a very high target to aim for, and very few photographs ever come close. But it helps to know what we are aiming for, even it we always shoot low. These ideas are also applicable to very many of the fine arts, and not just photography.