The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

May 25, 2017
by Dan
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Gerhard Steidl is Making Books an Art Form

Rebecca Mead’s long profile of publisher Gerhard Steidl for The New Yorker is a wonderful, fascinating read: Each Steidl title is unique, printed with a bespoke combination of inks and papers. But to the informed eye, and the informed hand, … Continue reading

October 20, 2016
by Dan
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William Eggleston, the Pioneer of Color Photography

Augusten Burroughs’ strange and sad profile of photographer William Eggleston for T, the New York Times Style Magazine: WE LEAVE THE OFFICES of the Eggleston Trust and go to his apartment. The first thing one sees upon entering is a bright red … Continue reading

July 15, 2016
by Dan
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The Mesmerizing Movies of Robert Frank

Nicholas Dawidoff on the films of Robert Frank for The New Yorker: Critics, including Manohla Dargis, of the Times, and younger filmmakers, such as Richard Linklater and Jim Jarmusch, consider Frank the godfather of independent American personal cinema. They revere his … Continue reading

September 29, 2015
by Dan
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Tim O’Brien Series Design by Jo Walker

As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, designer Jo Walker recently redesigned the covers of Tim O’Brien’s classic Vietnam war novels If I Die in a Combat Zone, Going After Cacciato, The Things they Carried, and Northern Lights for 4th Estate in the UK. The series uses a single, searing photograph of a … Continue reading

July 14, 2015
by Dan
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The Antiquarian Bookshops of Old London

At the lovely Spitalfields Life blog, the Gentle Author reminisces about buying and selling used books in London, and shares some wondeful black and white photographs of the city’s secondhand bookshops taken in 1971 by Richard Brown: Frustrated by my … Continue reading

July 3, 2015
by Dan
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Robert Frank: The Man Who Saw America

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a remarkable profile of photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank by writer Nicholas Dawidoff: Frank absorbed artistic influences all over New York. Edward Hopper’s moody office-scapes, restaurant interiors and gas pumps were not in … Continue reading

April 2, 2015
by Dan
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Olivia Laing on the Future of Loneliness

Olivia Laing whose new book The Lonely City is out in 2016, has a personal essay on loneliness and technology in The Guardian that, like her books To the River and The Trip to Echo Spring, weaves a lot of surprisingly disparate threads … Continue reading

February 21, 2014
by Dan
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Tate Shots: William Eggleston

“William Eggleston never takes multiple shots of the same image, just the right picture at just the right moment.” Curator Simon Baker discusses the work of photographer William Eggleston, currently on display at the Tate Modern in London:

February 6, 2014
by Dan
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Truth. Beauty. Bailey.

“Are you filming, or am I wasting my fucking time?” A short film by Jamie Roberts about British fashion photographer David Bailey, who I will forever associate with David Hemmings propeller-purchasing photographer in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow-Up: The film was commissioned … Continue reading

February 5, 2014
by Dan
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Rachel Kushner on Images

Author Rachel Kushner discusses her novel The Flamethrowers (now out in paperback), and the importance of images to her work, with The Quietus: I’m inspired by visual art and film… Whether or not I’m writing about those mediums directly, as I … Continue reading

January 13, 2014
by Dan
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Saul Leiter: No Project, Only Pictures

I missed this when it was posted last month: Brian Dillon on New York photographer Saul Leiter, who died on November 26th, for the London Review of Books blog: Leiter used cheap film that gave his images a muted quality, … Continue reading

December 4, 2013
by Dan
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Projection: 85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies

Created by photographer Joseph O. Holmes, this charming (if occasionally grisly!) 12-minute super-cut features clips of projection booths from 46 different films, from Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr. to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds: The film debuted at New York’s The Museum of the Moving … Continue reading

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