CD 's Reviews > 100 Days in Photographs: Pivotal Events That Changed the World

100 Days in Photographs by Nick Yapp
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Sep 06, 2010

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bookshelves: history-american, history, photography, 1960-s, civil-rights, journalism, middle-east, oversize-coffee-table, politics, pop-culture, war
Read in June, 2010

The photos in this work deserve a different rating than three stars. The compilation details 100 great and important events, yet the photos that illustrate them are not necessarily the best or even very good in some instances for the subject detailed.

Examples of the mismatch between the story and the image include the Hungarian revolution entry that shows an otherwise pedestrian photograph of a crowd burning a poster of a hated leader. Yet, the thousands of images that came from this event covering a gamut from bodies in the streets, to public executions, and finally tanks rolling in the middle of Buda & Pest are not used. Various other entries have similar problems with photos that have a certain greatness, but don't illustrate well the event that helped to change the 19th and twentieth centuries.

An example of the quality lies with the Partition of India where sheet after sheet and roll after roll of film were exposed where each and every one was stunning. The photos selected for this entry in the "100 Days in Photographs" are at best only average in their impact and don't illustrate well the story told of the throngs of people fleeing one new country or the other depending upon their religion.

Mentioned many times in regards to this work is the problem of rights and clearances. A question arises if the photographs were chosen that were publishable and if that drove the selection of events. Or, were events chosen and photographs previously unseen searched for and the list pared down to the magic 100? Various critical assassinations were neglected, events that were arguably only a small part of the larger story were told and illustrated, and other disjointed editorial choices abound.

There are great and important photographs to be found in this book. Historical early work from the Crimean and Boer conflicts, for example, illustrate early photography well. The sequence photographs documenting the building of the Eiffel Tower are important for a spectrum of reasons. How photography was used and developed is apparent from beginning to end in this book, just not consistently explained.

Finally a note on the photographs from certain photographers. The pivotal events of World War II seem to be skewed in favor of a historical misrepresentation regarding what were the important events and favoring certain Time Life photographers who were not the greatest in photographing certain events. There has to be a rights problem as Time-Life published much better and far more critically acclaimed London Blitz photos, but they were by different photographers than the ones noted. National Geographic surely has better unpublished or not widely seen images of Vietnam and more pivotal events than these of the fall of Saigon.

If this were to just be never before or rarely seen images of pivotal events, it only goes part of the way. If this book is a select 100 events it is only partially successful in the relative value of the 100 selected. Inconsistency in the editorial compilation, erratic commentary on the photographs and events, and in many cases a safe selection of photographers drags this book down from a pinnacle to only stand on the lower slopes of the heights that photographs of 100 great events could bring to a reader.

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