Photography is fascinating, not only because it’s a seductive pursuit that engages with something elemental within us as it stops time and preserves memories, it also has a rich history populated with many photographers with fascinating histories of their own. There are plenty of resources available that illuminate the lives and works of those who have helped define the history of the medium.
My latest discovery is a series of beautifully written profiles of legendary photographers of the Twentieth Century. The author, Peter Silverton, has an intriguingly sparse online presence: an abandoned twitter account, a handful of years-old blog posts about books on Elvis, and details of a handful of his own published books — including one on Elvis.
Silverton has, over the last few years, also used his literary skills to craft the perceptive and engaging portraits of photographic masters such as Walker Evans — You could almost say that it’s Walker Evans’ world and we only get to look at it; Annie Leibovitz — She captures wealth and power — from the inside, with the love, admiration and wit of a favoured courtier, a court jester even; Diane Arbus — She lived the life she photographed, hanging out on Manhattan’s social fringes, having sex on the back seat of Greyhound buses with strangers; Eugene Smith — Paid to photograph Pittsburgh for three weeks, he took three years on the job, amassing 21,000 negatives and getting beaten up by the very workers he sought to heroise; and William Klein — He won his first camera, a Rolleiflex, playing poker.
The profiles of these photographers and over two dozen more who helped shape the art and craft of the medium can be read on the United Nations of Photography website.