Jeanloup Sieff (book review)

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment


When it comes to classic designer fashion shoots, iconic celebrities of the 60’s and intimate portraitures, the work of Jeanloup Sieff is stunning!

This book is highly regarded in the photography circles and to the people who really appreciate his work, hence I bought it without even looking at the contents. In my first viewing of this book I had mixed feelings, more good than bad, and when I say bad, I mean silly things that annoy me as a photographer. So how can I say his work is stunning, yet slightly annoying. I will explain further on.

Jeanloup Sieff

Jeanloup Sieff

This book is a great size (30 x 2.1 x 24 cm) and is mainly a visual feast of Jeanloup Sieff’s work, split into four chapters that cover four decades (1950’s – 1980’s). The body of work ranges from Designer fashion shoots, celebrity portraits, artistic photos, reportage,  landscape and some you could almost say street photography. Beside each photo is a brief comment from Jeanloup, in English, French and German; whether it was explaining who or what  was in the photo, being truthful or sharing his humour. This was a nice touch as it was good to read his thoughts behind the photo.

Jeanloup Sieff’s portrait work really are little pieces of art in themselves, with beautiful lighting, shadows, skin tones, use of texture, framing, elegance and eye catching yet easy on the eye; all the high qualities a black and white photo should reveal. His nude portraits reveal an intimacy and beautiful moments of the female form that are wonderful. There are also amazing, and at the time high profile celebrity portraits, some glamorous  and some that have that informal yet honest soulful feel to them.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the actress Jean Seberg from one of my all time favourite films Jean-Luc Godard’s breathless in this book. The more times I opened this book, the more I appreciated it.

Okay so what annoyed me, when all I have done is praised this book. The are a number of photos in this book mostly the landscape photos, where the burn and dodge processing technique is awful, distracting and somewhat takes my focus off the main subject instead of enhancing it, as burn and dodge is supposed to. (Burn and dodge is a processing technique that enables the developer of the photos to lighting and darken areas of the photo). This very common technique is so heavily used on a few of the photos, we see strong white halos around people and on various skyline horizons. As an example the landscape would be exposed correctly, but the sky would be processed many F-stops darker, so we would have a dark sky that would be white where it met the horizon. I know I am being picky but if you look at the book you may come to the same conclusion it just looks odd, and may slightly dilute the finer photographs he so masterfully captured.

Jeanloup Sieff
Hardcover: 192 pages Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Publisher: Taschen
ISBN-10: 383651723X
ISBN-13: 978-3836517232

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