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Koudelka's Wonderful Book
on September 14, 2011
Josef Koudelka's "Gypsies", first published in the United States by Aperture in 1975, has long been a scarce and desirable example of this artist's work. The new edition, published by Aperture and printed by Gerhard Steidl, demonstrates just how far the craft of making books has advanced in the past 35 years.
The book differs in several ways from its predecessor, though it represents the same body of work. First, it utilizes a vertical rather than a horizontal format. Horizontally formatted images are presented as two-page spreads almost 20 inches wide, meaning that Koudelka's marvelous use of wide-angle lenses can be viewed in the correct perspective. Two-page spreads usually fail because of the space lost to the gutter, but the new "Gypsies" is beautifully bound and opens almost flat.
There are also no distracting reflections, because the book is printed on matte stock. It is tempting to describe Steidl's quadratone printing as "sumptuous", which it certainly is, but more to the point, the printing serves the photographs: Steidl's craft, in that sense, is totally transparent. The images have a vitality that suggests that they were made in the darkroom, somehow using ink instead of silver.
The work itself remains timeless. It is based on Koudelka's original maquette, adding more than 30 photographs that were not in the 1975 edition, and every one of them is worthy of its place in the new book. If you have never seen Josef Koudelka's work before, there is no better pace to start than with "Gypsies". If you are familiar with the 1975 edition, this one will amaze you. Rarely has an artist been so well-served by his printer and publisher.