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I’ve been collecting photography books since the early 1980s–as long as you manage to snag a book in print, it is a relatively inexpensive way to acquire a lot of images–but some books go out of print, and used prices can be very high.   A few books exist that have never been “in print”–for example, Lee Friedlander’s book Cray at Chippewa Falls, a book commissioned by the management of Cray Computers to celebrate their 15th anniversary, and distributed as a gift to the employees.  (The book is listed in Badger and Parr’s The Photobook: a History, Volume 2, page 199. ) I’ve never seen a copy, and the  few copies that popped  up for sale on e-bay over the years  were always bid to levels much higher than I was willing to pay.  But about 6 weeks ago, a “new, in-shrink-wrap” copy came up, and I bid as much as I thought I could afford, and got a copy.  When it arrived, I thought for two seconds about keeping the book in shrink-wrap, but I buy books to look at, not for an investment, so off it came, and I dove into the book.  The book is a beautiful object, from the orange cloth cover to the thick creamy paper to the lush tri-tone separations by Richard Benson–no expense was spared on the production of this book.

Lee Friedlander--Chippewa Falls

The photographs are divided into two sections,  the first from the town of Chippewa Falls–and, by golly, they have a falls, as well as railroads, graveyards, old factories, and fields, farms and trees.  The pictures are pure Friedlander (how does he do that, why do we know after looking at three images that these are Friedlander’s,  no one else would ever make these pictures?), and pure small town America.

Lee Friedlander--Cray Worker

The pictures of workers inside the factory show men and women using their hands to build these amazing nests of wires that become machines that think far faster than we do.  It’s like a 19th century factory producing one of the most amazing products of the 20th century, and the 80’s hair matches the cascade of wires.  Now most of those wires are on the chips themselves, and the computers we have on our laps are more powerful than the Cray’s of 25 years ago, but they are assembled by robots in factories on the other side of the globe.  But it’s nice to think of a time when people actually put their hands into the brains of these machines.

One Comment

  1. thank you for your post …

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