Art and Design

Read Sand, Stone, and Sandstone

Read Sand, Stone, and Sandstone by Bruce Barnbaum

The remarkable monograph, published by LensWork publishing, contains 65 black and white images. The imagery includes many of Bruce’s most celebrated photographs made over his 45 years in photography, along with many older, but seldom seen images, and very recent images that nobody has yet seen.

A spectacular monograph from one of my favorite photographers. His black and white work truly uses the silver of the silver gelatin. His photos glow. He often uses high contrast, and sharpness, in his images for a striking and complex image. It’s a good reminder to see these photos, how I like photos to be processed, and how I might like to lean into the glow when I edit my own photos, and not be scared of contrast like I prefer.

I was delighted to find that this book includes both his natural photos of stone and sand — dunes and canyons — but also selections from his architectural photos of European cathedrals and convents as well as other manmade stonework.

The book itself pairs the photos on facing pages wonderfully, adding another layer to contemplate — the photos individually, the photos together, and the commentary the photos have with each other. One: a stone staircase, dark at the core and light at the passages on, contrasts with two arcing dark stones at Antelope Canyon creating a similar form — tonal inverts of each other, yet both carved stone, one by man, one by water and wind. A delight for the eyes and mind.

It’s interesting to look through this book of photos, and compare with the Edward Weston book I read recently. Both photographers, I learned about in high school, and got both books because I had liked their work then. Barnbaum’s work resonates much stronger with me than Weston’s. Both photographed dunes and nature, but Barnbaum’s have more feeling, for me. The richness he achieves in his prints, and the way he captures and extracts forms from complexity, are truly fine art photography, something more in a world where every person with a phone is a photographer. His work remains as moving as I recall from when I first saw it nearly twenty years ago. Much landscape photography leaves me cold, too perfectly beautiful, but these images create meaning as well as beauty.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

One reply on “Read Sand, Stone, and Sandstone”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *