Kodachrome Memory
American Pictures 1972 - 1990
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A Good Week for “Kodachrome Memory.” The book was recognized twice in the past few days by prestigious organizations. American Photo magazine, November/December 2013, included “Kodachrome Memory” as one of the “Best Photo Books of the Year” in the Documentary category. Other photographers recognized in the Documentary category include Bill Brandt, Weegee, Brassaï, and Margaret Bourke-White. Regarding “Kodachrome Memory,” the American Photo editors wrote,

“Culled from Benn’s cross-country assignments for National Geographic, this set conjures a bygone Americana that’s poignant, humorous, and full of contrasts: society ladies and impoverished families, vintage cars and aerial crop dusters, lonely rebels and flag wavers. And slide shots evince more surprises from a visually rich era.

DC-3 airplanes aerial spraying insecticide for mosquitoes contro

The Wall Street Journal weekend edition of October 12-13 featured a photograph from “Kodachrome Memory” as its pick for the weekly “Photo-Op” feature. Benn was in a helicopter when he took the photograph of a DC-3 airplane spraying clouds of insecticide over Collier County, Florida in 1981 (see above). The image was used over four columns of the 5-column WSJ page. The short essay by the WSJ essay concluded, “As with all Mr. Benn’s photos, we know just where we are, if not quite when.”

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Javier F. Alonso, San Diego, CA, comment posted Oct. 9 on Amazon Customer Reviews:

“The quality of the images is great and the photography is excellent. This book shall be in every photo enthusiast library.”

— Thank you Mr. Alonso!

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beautifuldaze.org, Oct. 6:

This is simply a lovely book. Although the title is Kodachrome Memory, it is essentially a journey through the heartland of America; of a time that is mostly, but not yet completely past. The photographs range from gentle portraits, to desolate street scenes of ageing towns, to African American families in wooden shacks, to the absurd and obscene Klan meeting, to British eyes at least strange rituals, and smatterings of ordinary life.  This is quality photography that implies acknowledgement to Robert Frank, Walker Evans and the American 20th century photographic tradition.

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Wall Street Journal “Bookshelf,” October 13, 2013: “Road lines and contrails are two constants of America’s crazy-quilt landscape. From the thick pine forests of desolate northern Maine to the black-cinder slopes of Hawaiian lava fields, you can see yellow stripes at your feet and white streaks overhead—twin threads that bind the vast, restless country together. But even these familiar phenomena vary by region. In Nathan Benn’s 1981 photograph (above), the stubby-winged DC-3 swooping low across an empty road and trailing dense clouds is not carrying passengers but spraying for mosquitoes—a near-necessity for swampy Collier County, Fla., to be habitable year-round. Mr. Benn’s ‘Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures, 1972-1990′ (powerHouse, 166 pages, $50) is a study of regional texture, the fruit of two decades as a photographer for National Geographic. Mr. Benn’s unshowy compositions and the rich, clear colors of his Kodachrome slide-film make his images seem both timeless and particular. In a 1975 shot from upstate New York, five majorettes parade along a small-town street in the rain; a teenage boy in the foreground straddles a hammock, his pants tucked into wool socks against the cold. In an image of Hickman, Ky., faded lines demarcating parking spots are barely visible along the rundown main street in front of city hall, a brick box identified by a black-on-white rectangular sign. And in another photograph from Florida, a familiar view of parked cars through a windshield is varied by a glimpse, in the distance, of the vintage rockets on display at Cape Canaveral. Or is it Cape Kennedy? As with all Mr. Benn’s photos, we know just where we are, if not quite when.”—The Editors

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Peter Popham in The New Review, September 15, 2013, the weekend magazine of The Independent UK on Kodachrome Memory’: “Despite the passage of time, his Kodachrome transparencies – much more stable than rival film – retain their vividness, while the didactic mission that motivated them has faded away. What remains are the elemental seductions of his craft, a four-way love affair between America, Kodachrome, Leica and gorgeous light.”

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I am deeply moved and grateful for the generous comments from readers of NYTimes LENS, The Online Photographer, and Facebook during the week of August 12, 2013.     — Nathan Benn

“Absolutely beautiful work Nathan ~ Coming up as a young photographer your work in the Geographic has always been a inspiration. Never knew you were also a fellow Miamian ( small world ). . All The Best”  Oscar Hidalgo via Facebook

“Mr Benn, strikingly brilliant sensitivity to color. And to light, mood, tone and composition. Amazingly rich photos.” – Raspy, Brookline MA via NYT LENS

“Splendid reminders of vivid decades and glorious color – I still miss Kodachrome. Shot of house in water and crop duster – amazing!.” June Sprigg Tooley, Pittsfield MA via NYT LENS

New Haven, Vt., 1973—What an absolutely wonderful photograph. Have not seen it before and what a pleasure to discover it….This is the kind of image you could place on a wall and every time you come upon it, make up a new story for the image. Each time you could find another reason it works. For example, notice that both arms line up with the railings on the step as does the raised thigh, while the upper left arm matches the folded leg, the whole thing making a zed (OK, zee) pattern. So many levels, so little time.”  George Barr via The Online Photographer (theonlinephotographer.com)

“That ‘New Haven, Vt.’ image just captures perfectly the reason why photography is endlessly fascinating, infuriating, elusive and unclassifiable. No clever perspective tricks, the subject is centre frame, colours are muted, nothing is actually happening and it was probably taken on a camera that’s worth about $25 today. And yet I could look at it all day and still find new things to discover. This is the antithesis of pixel peeping, gear oriented photography. Just gorgeous.” Colin via The Online Photographer (theonlinephotographer.com)

“Wow! – Sometimes I think there is simply NO END to photographs beautiful and original such as Nathan Benn’s are.I don’t guess I’ve ever seen his work before, or that I’m aware of anyway, and Kodachrome or not (and I certainly agree on all the remarks about the wracked out color) to my eyes, Nathan’s is yet another example of the extraordinary, everyday originality that we could all drink in and take a lesson from.” Phil via The Online Photographer (theonlinephotographer.com)

“Seldom do I think “vintage” or “timeless” when viewing color. This shot has changed that personal prejudice.” MJFerron via The Online Photographer (theonlinephotographer.com), regarding New Haven VT 1973

 

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