Picture hunter gatherers
Graphic Eye: Photographs by International Graphic DesignersStefan G. Bucher<br>RotoVision, £22.50<br>
The modern malaise is to over-complicate. In her chatty foreword to The Graphic Eye, Natalia Ilyin succinctly cuts critical theory down to size, while the rest of this book gives the lie to creeping professionalism and the annexing of skills, by proving that you don’t have be a ‘photographer’ to take great photographs.
Stefan G. Bucher, a German designer based in the US (see Khoi Vinh’s review of his 100 Days of Monsters in Eye 68), has curated an intriguing and inspiring collection of photographs by friends, colleagues and contacts – all graphic designers – from around the world. Simultaneously at home and aboard, Bucher is a new-school flâneur, a voyeur who doesn’t idle but travels fast. His heightened ‘way of seeing’ results from being both a designer – paid to look – and a cultural transplant, like so many of the contributors in this book. Here is evidence of designers’ ‘hunter-gatherer’ instincts, alongside souvenirs from the spaces they inhabit.
The subject matter and technical means on offer are diverse: from experiments with equipment and materials (Ed Fella’s Polaroids; Cybu Richli’s pinhole camera), to attempts to capture the intangible (Roger Fawcett-Tang’s LEDs; Ken Carbone’s shadows), along with explorations of personal obsessions (Bucher’s flying; Gregory Sylvester’s bedroom shoot), and an abundance of what Matt Wingfield calls ‘aesthetic indulgence’.
Accompanying comments, long or short, are always illuminating. Yee-Ping Cho aims to ‘find a new way of seeing the familiar’ when revisiting old haunts; Jeri Heiden uses photography as ‘a form of sketching or journalism’; Jakob Trollbäck captions one Midtown building site in his ‘Looking Up’ series as, ‘an inner-city launch pad, a perfect manifestation of the hubris and the beauty of civilisation’. In his introduction, Bucher celebrates these ‘dilettantes and amateurs’. His edit proves that graphic designers are also ‘anthropologists and aesthetes’, and interested in just about everything.
First published in Eye no. 74 vol. 19 2009
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.