The interesting cover the of the ABC Photography book.
The interesting cover the of the ABC Photography book.
'A is for Art'.
'A is for Art'.
'I is for Imagine'.
'I is for Imagine'.
'T is for Time'.
'T is for Time'.
'V is for Visible'.
'V is for Visible'.
The book finishes with an inspirational quote.
The book finishes with an inspirational quote.

Book review: ABC Photography by Jan von Holleben – including a round-up of child-friendly photography exhibitions

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Click, snap, ping! Kids in Museums volunteer Miranda Baxter reviews the letter by letter, 26-page ABC book, introducing contemporary photography to kids aged seven and above.

Lately, I have been wondering how children discover art photography given the ubiquity of our image-saturated world. So, on behalf of Kids in Museums, I was eager to read and review this short introduction with works by Martin Parr, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin, Sebastião Salgado and others.

This book is inspired by the idea that photography is storytelling and the alphabet is the making of stories. I was drawn in by the cover image of a cat and mouse entitled ‘My cat bringing his new friend to the studio’ by Benne Ochs. The bright, colourful pages throughout the book are playful, as are the selected photographs which are complemented by humorous, ironic and often quite philosophical statements and questions. Even before we get to A, the author writes ‘that everything you see belongs to you’ which could start a conversation around the power of our eyes, ownership and shared meaning. Thumbnails of each image with titles and artists names in alphabetical order conclude the penultimate two pages before readers are reminded again that ‘really, everything you see belongs to you!’

I enjoyed the ideas around inclusion and democracy, as the author tells us that we are all photographers and all you need is a camera and your eyes. I was curious about ABC Photography’s target audience. I sensed the book was geared for older children who might be too old for an ABC, however, I felt they would have an interest in photography and could start a conversation about the pictures with peers.

To test this inclination, I enlisted two of my friends’ daughters, aged eight and ten. Both enjoyed ‘the funny pictures’ and ‘objects that don’t belong,’ picking up on ‘J for juxtaposition’. They said it made them think more about what a camera can do and the questions made you think. According to my young collaborators, the images thankfully spoke more loudly than the supporting text.

I was surprised by the way the book prompts thinking about images but it doesn’t actually explain what photography is. While I discovered that my young readers didn’t know what film or digital photography was, and were slightly perplexed by ‘E for exposure’, they both owned digital cameras.

The author reminds us that photography is for everyone and books are an accessible and more portable way to look at pictures. In guided discussion, the ideas in the book would enable deeper exploration of other photographic experiences.

ABC Photography by Jan von Holleben is available from the publisher, Tarzipan, and all good bookshops (such as RRB Photobooks) – Price: £16.00.

After you’ve read this book, why not take your ideas along to one of these three, not-to-be-missed photography exhibitions:

Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines

The Photographers’ Gallery, London

23 June – 8 October 2017

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

15 July – 8 October 2017

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933, Otto Dix (1891-1969) and August Sander (1876-1964)

Tate Liverpool

23 June – 15 October 2017

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