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I have a thing for books of photographs about places you normally don't get to see. The places covered in these books tend to be hidden technical spaces created by man; they appeal to me as photographer, engineer, and gamer. The first book of this sort in my collection was Stanley Greenberg's beautiful black & white Invisible New York - The Hidden Infrastructure of the City. After that came two books about the New York subway -- Christopher Payne's New York's Forgotten Substations - The Power Behind the Subway and the New York Transit Museum's The City Beneath Us - Building the New York Subways -- both of which, through black & white homage to the subway, fed my inner geek.

Recently I added two more books to my collection. Both, this time, by German photographers: Dead Tech by Manfred Hamm and Underworld by Peter Seidel.

Dead Tech, subtitled A Guide to the Archaeology of Tomorrow, dates from 1982 with a 2000 reprinting. Its coverage of dead factories, rail-yards, harbors, and aircraft boneyards is a disappointment. Hamm's inconsistent mixture of b&w and color photographs lend it a disjointed feeling. The quality of the photographs themselves is inconsistent. A few rise to the level art exhibited by Greenberg and Payne, while most are no better than I might have done with my trusty Pentax K1000 and a roll of T-Max 100 or Ektachrome 64. The accompanying text by Rolf Steinberg is noisome -- perhaps a victim of a less-than-artful translation into English. I haven't yet decided whether I will hold on to this book.

On the other end of the spectrum is Underworld, subtitled Sites of Concealment photographed by Peter Seidel with text by Manfred Sack and Klaus Klemp. The book is color throughout. The text is confined to the introductory chapter; after that you are left alone to absorb the images on your own. And what a fine set of images they are. Seidel captures in color the same lush, deeply textured, feel that Greenberg has in black & white. The subject matter is anything underground -- from salt mines to grottoes; sewer plants and water works; to crypts and strategic bunkers of the State. This is the kind of book that that will take a long time to fully absorb. It has around ninety photos of such size and detail that each one draws you in and holds you as your eyes soak it in. This one is a keeper.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 25th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Oooh, Underworld looks fascinating. That cover photo is amazing! Beauty in the design, even if it's a completely utilitarian space...where is it? That's something I'd love to get my hands on. Secret spaces are intriguing.
Jun. 25th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
That cover photo is amazing! Beauty in the design, even if it's a completely utilitarian space...where is it?

Would'ja beleive that it's part of a sewer plant in Frankfurt-Niederrad? The whole book is pure WOW! ...And prime RPG fodder. :-)
Jun. 25th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
You know, that's an excellent example of art in architecture...I mean, how many people would ever have seen the inside of a sewer plant? And yet, still, it was designed with beauty in addition to its utility. Nice.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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