As the author of the Strobist blog, books just show up in the mailbox and doorstep several times a week. To be honest, far more often than I would like — as Strobist is generally not a book review blog. Luckily for me, one of this week’s crop was an advance copy of Steve Simon’s The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great. Simon’s experience in his genre (documentary photography) rivals McNally’s as a lighting photographer. But what makes this book special is Simon’s ability to get his tenets across to the reader with clarity as well as passion. The bullet points in the promotional copy above give you a sense of what the book contains, and I won’t repeat them here. But they really do not give the book justice. This book is very hard to describe in a single sentence. The best I can do is this: Passionate Photographer is to the fieldcraft and compass point of being a photographer as Joe McNally’s books are to small-flash lighting. And that is saying a lot. Suffice to say that “The Passionate Photographer” is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. I give it five stars because Amazon won’t let me give it six. I think it is destined to become a classic.”
For more than 100 summers and time unknown before, native people have journeyed great distances to gather at a peaceful lake in north-central Alberta. It has been said the waters of Lac Ste. Anne have miraculous healing powers. Documentary photographer Steve Simon’s compelling and evocative photographs combine with quotes from the people gathered at the lake to tell a powerful story of faith and hope.
“Somehow, Steve Simon was able to create photographs of the event that stand apart from all others–stunning, unique, intelligent and thought-provoking images which help us to consider the very health of our democracy“.
Stacey D. Clarkson, Art Director , Harper’s Magazine
“Steve Simon set to work to capture, in stark, disturbing and yet often ruefully funny black and white photographs, images of that summer’s Republican Convention. The book is a terrifying tour de force: half circus, half Armageddon. It’s tempting to think of Republicans as inevitably easy to caricature, but there are shots here of a tumult of true believers all tinctured to death with memories — of 9/11, of Iraq, abortion phobia and of God’s once being on their side — that make your blood run cold.”
Gary Michael Dault, The Toronto Globe and Mail
“Steve Simon behaves differently. He shows us the staging off-camera and television personalities before they compose their august on-air expressions. He gives us the blur of the secret service removing an unwanted dissident from the arena. Simon is an unusual type of spy, one who records information others regard as irrelevant. We live still in an age when public debate is carefully choreographed, under a government that prizes control. In this setting, in these times, Simon’s images remain renegade.”
Mark Engler, from the introduction to The Republicans
“Heroines and Heroes is another visual milepost on the 25-year chronicle of the HIV-AIDS pandemic.” — David Friend, Editor of Creative Development, Vanity Fair, August 2006
“Simon has produced a collection of images that is simultaneously devastating and ennobling — It’s a stirring, inspiring collection.” — The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Art Critic Gary Michael Dault, Aug 21, 2006
“Some shots are almost unbearable to contemplate in their poignancy. Others are unexpected, heartening snapshots of life under dire circumstances.” — Matthew Halliday, See Magazine, November 30, 2006
“Steve Simon’s creates an intimate portrait with elegant, expressive sequencing. He shows us the humanity of people much like ourselves.” — Marianne Fulton, Author, Curator and Photographic Scholar, November 2006-digitaljournalist.org
From the Publisher
This coming December 1st is World AIDS Day, and it is also, not coincidentally, the official launch date of Canadian photographer Steve Simon’s new book of photographs, Heroines and Heroes: Hope, HIV, and Africa. The softcover book, which includes 98 mostly color pictures, is the product of four trips to Africa that Simon has taken since 2002. The photographer is donating all of his royalties to organizations fighting AIDS in Africa, and one of his hopes for the book is that the pictures will motivate readers to make donations themselves. To that end, a list of worthy candidate organizations is provided towards the end of the book.Heroines and Heroes, says Simon, represents a look at one particular slice of the AIDS situation in Africa, not an attempt at a comprehensive view of the entire story, if that would even be possible in one book. Like any book on AIDS must, Simon’s work contains difficult pictures of sickness and loss, but it is not just a relentless catalog of suffering, shot in stark black and white, as the traditions of documentary photojournalism might prescribe.
“I didn’t want to ignore the harsh realities of the scourge of AIDS,” says Simon, “but at the same time, I wanted to show some of the positive things that were going on in the fight against AIDS. I wanted to show daily life. I wanted to show the beauty of the landscape, and that not everybody is always miserable.” Eamon Hickey, robgalbraith.com
“The people he has visited are dying from AIDS. It cannot have been easy to make photographs of them without isolating them, sentimentalizing them, objectifying them or exploiting them, but Simon has produced a collection of images that is simultaneously devastating and ennobling — troubling, and yet teeming with the innate vitality of human warmth and joy and resilience under pressure, under siege, under the terrible impress of time. It’s a stirring, inspiring collection.”
Gary Michael Dault, The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Art Critic
“Steve Simon’s work continues to evolve and we, in turn, continue to be inspired by it. Heroines and Heroes is another visual milepost on the 25-year chronicle of the HIV-AIDS pandemic.”
David Friend, Editor of Creative Development, Vanity Fair
“Steve Simon’s latest book, Heroines & Heroes balances human tragedy with hope in sub-Saharan Africa. The book captures ad intimate portrait of small villages with small clinics making a big difference. The expressive sequencing of this documentary work is indeed elegant. Beginning with beautiful vistas it moves through impoverished villages-people singing in church and young couples meeting, dancing, wedding-and includes dark figures of young prostitutes greeting potential customers. People receive care while others are at the end of their lives; death is a community affair and the business of death is always present. He reaches out showing us the humanity of people very much like ourselves and provides the resources through which we can help.”
Marianne Fulton, Author, Curator and Photographic Scholar
“Simon’s talents as a photographer are in strong evidence throughout the book; some of his shots are almost unbearable to contemplate in their poignancy. In one, a stack of child-sized coffins lies propped against a wall, awaiting fresh bodies. In another, terminal patients sit in a dark room, their gaunt, knowing faces lit only by candlelight, or obscured by shadows. But other photos are unexpected, heartening, and even funny snapshots of life under dire circumstance (and we’re not talking about trite “inspirational” shots of laughing African children and dancing villagers). An especially poignant photo shows a young boy riding across the vast savannah on horseback, looking like nothing so much as an African cowboy.”