Issue #35  11/7/2001
New Book Has Different Take On Le Gray

By Alex Novak

My friend Ken Jacobson has never done things the easy way. He has self-published two books now. The first was a wonderful catalogue entitled Etude d'Apres Nature: 19th Century Photographs in Relation to Art. It is still available from Ken for $65. I highly recommend it (it is one of my picks for a basic photography collector's library).

In his second book he takes on a number of important issues under the gentle title "The Lovely Sea-View". Most important of all he challenges many of our preconceptions about an area that most researchers thought to be thoroughly explored--something that turns out to be an academic fantasy rather than reality. The problem with the photo community is that so many of us think that everything has already been discovered in this field. Fortunately, we have someone like Ken Jacobson to help us realize that we are just at the beginnings of our education and research and that we should get down off our academic high horses.

Ken's book is about Gustave Le Gray's Seascape pictures. He makes a case that perhaps some of these historic images were actually taken by other photographers and that Le Gray acted in a publisher role. While I don't happen to agree with him, he has made a thoughtful and thought-provoking case. In the process, he also corrected numerous errors about Le Gray that have crept into the photo history books, instead of doing what too many writers do--that is just repeat the old mistakes over and over again.

The book contains a very comprehensive list of Le Gray seascapes, the most comprehensive to date, with newly corrected titles and better dating. The is also a very good bibliography on Le Gray. And Ken is not only a great researcher but also a fine writer. This is a book worth having and I recommend it heartily, especially if you are an academic who thinks all important photo history was complete and correct when Beaumont Newhall and Helmut Gernsheim finished their books. Do not misunderstand me. I appreciate the fine work both gentlemen started. It is just that there is a lot more to go. I have already been busy correcting my own information on my own small stock of Le Gray's.

If you are in the US, you can get Jacobson's book (The Lovely Sea-View: A Study of the Marine Photographs Published by Gustave Le Gray, 1856-1858) from Carl Mautz Publishing. The price is a mere $35. You can reach Carl at 530-478-1610 or at cmautz@carlmautz.com. If you are anywhere else, you can also get your book directly from Ken Jacobson himself at 44-(0)137-181-0566 (you don't need the zero unless you are calling from within the UK) or at ken@jacobsonphoto.com for the same price in the appropriate currency.

Both sources have told me that they will waive shipping charges for our newsletter readers until the end of the year if our readers mention this to them when purchasing.