Josef Wirsching (1903-1967) was a German cinematographer credited with changing “the future of Indian filmmaking” to quote his grandson Georg Wirsching. His filmography starts with The Light of Asia (1926) and includes many superhits including Pakeezah (1972), one of Hindi cinema’s most loved films. With his graceful filming of Indian heroines and his ability to adapt German Expressionism to Indian melodrama, he was a part of the Indian movement in film making that sought to blend regional aesthetics with the European avant-garde and let nationalism find an expression in modernism. With the publication of Bombay Talkies: An Unseen History of Indian Cinema, edited by Debashree Mukherjee, film buffs and historians of Indian cinema find another reason to hold him in awe. He was not just a cinematographer but also an archivist, someone with a sense of history in the making.
It is next to impossible to review a Thames & Hudson book with remarking on the general excellence of the photographic illustrations. Islamic Architecture: A World History is no exception with several hundred photographs from, as the subtitle promises, around the world.
The ancient Greeks wrote extensively about their distaste for the opulence of the Persians of the Achemenid empire. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the Athenians were not themselves immune from luxury and even incorporated modes of Eastern opulence within their own cultural repertoire.
Half a year on from the publication of India: A History in Objects, the British Museum and Thames & Hudson have released a new volume of the same vibrant format on Southeast Asia, an endeavor at least as ambitious as that for the Subcontinent: “it is hardly possible to be comprehensive,” as Alexandra Green modestly admits in her introduction.
Development came to Macau relatively late and the city is therefore reasonably well-preserved by East Asian standards. But much, inevitably, has nevertheless been lost, as any perusal of old photographs immediately indicates. Photojournalist Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro spent a year collecting old photos and then tried to match them to present-day Macau. The result is an intriguing photo-album.
Imagine sitting in front of a large picture window and looking out. What you see before you isn’t your usual view, though, because you have been transported back to Japan at the turn of the 20th century by means of a massive book containing nearly seven hundred views of Japan in the last decade or so of the Meiji era (1867-1912). That it weighs some fourteen pounds (I viewed it on my newly-bought book-stand) ceases to matter as the photographs simply take over; the huge format becomes altogether appropriate, and readers will be mesmerized by its cinematographic proportions, vivid colors and sheer presence.
Art consultant Nicholas Coffill gathered, sourced, and annotated over 300 photographs from around 100 Cambodian and foreign photographers in a unique retrospective of Cambodia’s visual history, presented in Photography in Cambodia: 1866 to the Present.