Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The one photo book that influenced me most

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

I guess every photographer has a “starting point” early in life, a key event that actually made him want to become a photographer or -as in my case- even a press photographer.

For me, it’s easy to pin-point that event in my life. Back in the 1970s, when I was in my early teens, my parents purchased a coffee table book, “The best photos of LIFE” (German edition). On 304 large pages it presented a superb collection of the finest press photos available, most of them in black & white, shot by some of the best press photographers the world has seen. All the big names were there, and we know today that these are the pioneers of photojournalism: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andreas Feininger, George Silk, just to name a few. Of course, I did not know anything about them or photography or journalism at that time. But I did like what I saw.

680 press photos from all areas of life, exploring the entire LIFE archive of more than 18 million photos! Ralph Graves, LIFE’s final editor-in-chief, explains in the introduction that it was “a nightmare, and a privilege, to make the selection”. He covers the period from 1936 to 1972, the short lifespan of LIFE magazine. Despite the enormous amount of photos available, the twenty chapters of the book help to structure the selection, from “The Moment” to “The Telling Picture” and “Fun in Life”. And the editors did not just focus on the big moments in photo journalism; they also show simple yet beautiful details of everyday life.

Book Cover: Die besten Photos aus LIFE

Anyway, I saw this book, and I was hooked. I knew immediately that THIS was what I wanted to do for a living. Photo journalism meant notonly to be in the middle of the action and to capture the most important moments for the history, but also to show the people and their lives as they were. This job enabled a single individual to present his (sometimes limited) view to the world. An idealistic view of our job, sure, but fascinating nonetheless.

Life went on. I entered photography. And I forgot about the book.

When we moved to our new house a couple of months ago, I found it in the basement between other books. I opened it – and was hooked again, after all those years. I spent an hour looking at the superb photos. That old feeling came back, and I knew I had done the right thing. :-)

Thanks to the Internet, you can probably not only snatch a copy of this book on eBay or Amazon*, you can also view the most important photos online, in the TIME & LIFE picture archive, where the images are presented in cooperation with Getty Images.

There is some truly amazing stuff to be found there, even more so if you think about this being an “all film” archive coming from a time with no (or very little) automatic camera functions. Breathtaking.

I swear, this book is worth its money. You won’t regret it.

*Ralph Graves (Ed.)
Die besten Photos aus LIFE
ISBN-10: 388102073X
ISBN-13: 978-3881020732

True Love Show

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Old Typewriter
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Some of you wonder what I am up to when I am not traveling, taking photographs, scanning slides, or creating websites? Well, I write screenplays! Go figure. :-)

Today I released my latest full-length motion picture screenplay titled True Love Show. It is about the host of the No. 1 coupling show who tries to cure his midlife crisis through a vacation and falls in love with a bushpilot. She rejects him, but he uses all the tools of his trade trying to convince her…

If that sounds like a good read to you, please feel free to download the full 90 page screenplay as PDF. I appreciate your feedback.

And yes, inquiries to buy the screenplay are welcome. :-)


Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Restless by William Boyd

by William Boyd
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in 2006
325 Pages
ISBN 978-0-7475-8837-2

Imagine that your mother has lied to you about an integral part of her life – the time prior to your birth. Imagine that for some strange reason your mother decides to tell you her secret when you are 27 years old, a single mother still working on her thesis at the University of Oxford. And finally imagine that you learn that your mother was – a spy!

That’s the foundation of William Boyd’s excellent novel Restless. Ruth Gilmartin learns during the hot summer of 1976 a lot about her mother Sally, who has been hired by the British Secret Service in 1939 to become a spy in the upcoming world war. And an excellent spy she is, with assignments in Holland, Belgium, and the United States. She is perfect at doing what is requested of her and is always using her instincts to get a job done. Then, in 1941, one assignment goes badly wrong, and she needs to cover her tracks extremely well to escape her own colleagues…

The exciting story of Sally Fairchild unwinds in front of us, gently jumping between past and present. While it takes a few pages for the story to take off, it gains momentum and drama as the reader gets acquainted with the characters, soon steaming at full speed towards a great finish. Both parts of the story – past and present – are crafted well with deep and interesting characters. Ruth is working as teacher for English as foreign language, and so she is used to foreigners. Yet soon the question builds up whether everybody is actually who he says he is? Can Ruth trust anyone? This makes the story of the present as interesting as the story of the past.

There is one drawback for the story, though: Boyd has used several German characters for Ruth’s story of the present, probably to add credibilty to the spy theme and to create an environment of distrust, but all this does not fully add up. Why does Ruth need to have connections into Germany? Why does she allow for dubious German friends to stay in her appartment the whole summer, even if she disapproves it? Why does her son needs to have a German first name? All this is not really necessary and just distracts from the main storyline. Personally, I would have preferred a full focus on Ruth and her mother, and maybe even more insights into the actual work of a spy at wartime. But this remains my only criticism.

All-in-all, the story is captivating and intelligently written. Certainly not your typical spy thriller. A good read.

William Boyd, photographed by Mark Zanzig
William Boyd
Photo: Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Keeping the Masses in Check

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Just to put a little perspective on my book review of State of Fear published earlier today. The partnership between politicians, journalists, and scientists is working quite well in Germany. I found the picture below in my photo archive, dated 07-APR-07. BILD is one of the leading newspapers in Germany, very popular with non intellectual readers (aka The Masses), and the headline says: “New climate report shocks Germany. How we have to change our lives now!” All thanks to the recent reports on global warming. It’s working beautifully already.

So müssen wir jetzt unser Leben ändern!
Mark Zanzig/zettpress