It has been a while since I've talked about one of my primary sources of inspiration in photography - good monographs. I've developed a meager collection over the years and I'm always on the lookout for inspiring photo books to add to my shelves. I enjoy trips to second hand bookstores around town - it has become a favorite Sunday afternoon activity once or twice a month. One of my recent trips to rummage through dusty shelves turned up this little gem, "Elliott Erwitt's Handbook."
Erwitt has a candid style that I admire. His photos demonstrate his keen observance of people. The images have a very genuine, for lack of a better word, quality. Often there is something humorous about them. He has a gift for capturing photos of people in the activities of everyday life that bring about a smile or chuckle. This collection of photos is his ode to hands - something we all use daily, not just to grasp - but to express. It is with our hands that communicate through gesture and make contact with others. In this book Erwitt sought out those moments where hands play a crucial role and captured them. It isn't so much that hands are the subject of his photos - it's how people use them. Some of the photos are obvious in focus on the hands. Others are more subtle and it takes more than a casual look to see what the photographer saw. While the photos may give the impression that they were casually snapped, study will reveal the careful composition and timing. Erwitt's cleverness and wit are reflected in this collection of images.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my copy was signed by Elliott Erwitt. I'm not a big collector of autographs and I don't make much effort to get them. It is nice though to get an author or photographer to sign their printed works. I like that this book of hands was held and signed by the great photographer who created these images, even if I never get to meet him personally.