This Week in Photography Books: Charles Traub

 

My kids love the Beatles.

Can’t get enough, really. (My son in particular.)

Who doesn’t love the Beatles, though?
Right?

Those guys might well have been the four most-likable-mugs the world has ever seen. (You’d have to have quite the cold, dead heart not to enjoy some chunk of their canon.)

Honestly, I listen to that shit all the time. I love that Beatles channel on the Sirius radio.

One time, riding with my son, we actually heard a fan takeover on the station.

Some Baby-Boomer-Jewish-guy bid at a charity benefit to play DJ on the Beatles Channel for an hour, and the first thing he chose to play, I swear to god, was him and his son doing a Beatles-jazz-cover together at someone’s Bar Mitzvah.

Theo and I burst out laughing, as the dude had a heavy Long Island accent, and the whole thing was so ridiculous. But then, after like five seconds, we shut up.

Because the guys were really good.
Excellent, really.

I mean, you just never know.

But I mention the Beatles because we were discussing them, as a family, at the dinner table last night. (Frozen pizzas, if you’re wondering.) We all love the Beatles, but for dinner music, just for something different, I put on the Rolling Stones.

“Exile on Main Street,” from 1972.

Right away, they started asking questions.

Who is this?
What is this?

When is this?

My daughter, all of 6, lead the charge.

“I hate this. It sounds like it’s from the cheesy 70s.”

My son: “You don’t know what cheesy means.”

“Yes I do. Daddy told me.”

“Yes, it’s from the 70s. She’s right,” my wife said. “Right?”

“Yes,” I said, “It’s from the 70’s.”

“Fine, he said, “she was right. But I don’t like the way they blend jazz with rock. It’s weird.”

“It’s not jazz,” I said. “It’s blues. Blues and rock.”

“Whatever.”

“You guys think the Beatles are the best. Lots of people think they’re the greatest Rock and Roll band of all time. I do. But plenty of other people think the Stones were the best.”

“Well, we hate it,” they said.

“Fine, If you all hate it, I’ll get up and change the station.”

I got to the speaker, and had the Spotify in my hand, dialing up something new.

Before I could though, the song changed.

The Stones’ crazy soul/funk/blues/rock spirit wailed through the house on a cold December night.

“Wait,” I heard.

“Wait.”

“What?”

“Wait. It’s different. It’s new. We’ve never heard anything like this before.”

I waited.

“I’m done waiting. I want to eat my Paul Newman’s pizza. I’m coming back to the table.”

I sat back down.

“We like this,” they said.

“You should,” I said. “It’s amazing music.”

“They stayed together, right? The Stones?”

“Yes,” I said. “They never broke up, and still tour today. The lead players, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts are still around.”

“They made this album after the Beatles broke up, right?” he asked.

“That’s true. 1972. And they kept making good music until 1981, with ‘Tattoo You.'”

“But what about now, Daddy? Is their music good now,” my daughter asked?

“Good god, no,” I said. “Nobody listens to what they make now.”

“Why not, Daddy?”

I paused. I looked at my wife. She arched her brow.

Huh. How to explain that.

“Most artists aren’t good forever,” I said. “Lots of them seem to lose their mojo, and don’t keep making great stuff later in life.”

I said, “Remember that Willie Nelson album I played the other day, that he made when he was 85?”

“Yes,” they said.

“Well, that’s the exception to the rule. Very few people keep their creative edge later in life.”

“Most people run out of steam,” my wife said.

It’s the truth.

But not everyone. There’s a Bill Murray for every Chevy Chase. A Martin Short for every Eddie Murphy.

I mention this today as it came up a few weeks ago, when I reviewed “True Places.” I said I’d sensed the book was made by someone who’d been around a while.

Not a youngster. (Turns out I was right.)

With “Taradiddle,” by Charles Traub, I didn’t have to wonder. He and I have corresponded a few times, but never met, and Charles was kind enough to send the book along, which was published this year by Damiani.

I know he’s in charge of the photo program at SVA in New York, and kind of assume he’s in his mid-to-late 50’s. (Somewhere in that range, anyway.) He’s been around the block, is what I’m saying.

And it shows, as this book oozes a well-traveled joie de vivre, and is definitely one of my favorites of the year.

There are so many incredible color, (likely) digital photographs in this book. Scores, really. The best of them, and there are many, manage to break down the picture planes into various layers; so many variations of fore-mid-and-backgrounds.

Given digital photography’s inherent flattening of the picture plane, the look often ends up nearly surreal, making me think of Magritte, in particular.

Beyond the consistently excellent compositions, and smartly connected pairings, these pictures are comprehensive in their global scope. The more pages I turned, (all without titles,) the more I thought “Damn, where didn’t this guy go?”

It felt like I was seeing a cross-section of human culture in the 21st Century.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying a younger person couldn’t have made these.

Sure, they could have.

I guess.

But the lived-in, masterful way these pictures are built, it feels more Bill Belichick than Sean McVay, for my NFL-fan-readers out there.

There were some photographs that mystified me more than others. Pictures where I stopped and stared, if you will. One, I couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity, but couldn’t place it either. I swore to check the titles at the end, and come back. (Turns out it was my old neighborhood, Greenpoint.)

On the negative side, I think the book was 10-15 pictures too long. Early on, I felt the narrative stop when a few average photos popped up. Just when I forgave him, after dozens of great ones in a row, by the 70’s, there was a bad run again.

Bad being a relative term, meaning average.
Or just OK.

(In a book with this many killer photos, just OK stands out.)

That’s me, though. I like things to be as taut as possible.

It’s a quibble.

Photography is unique, as a medium, in how much it relies upon literal depictions of the actual world. By crisscrossing the globe, and bringing a humor, pathos, and dare-i-say-it wisdom to this photobook, “Taradiddle” feels like an honest slice of life, to me.

Which is ironic, as the word means a petty, little lie.

The dates are a little unclear, as the statement says they were made from 2002-17, but there are images dated 2000 and ’01. It essentially covers the entire new century.

Basically, it’s an absurdist archive of life on Earth at a time of great import in human history.

Hard to ask for more out of a photo book, I’d say.

Bottom Line: Witty, wise, color photos from around the world

To purchase “Taradiddle” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers so we may maintain a balanced program.

Jonathan Blaustein

There Are 2 Comments On This Article.

  1. Yup, guy’s still got it! Ya wanna talk swan songs- Lee Friedlander!

    “Well, I’d look look pretty daft doing this in my forties- wouldn’t I?”
    -Mick Jagger