Books I Love: Beyond the Fall

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The latest installment “Books I Love.” The concept is very simple. Find a book in my collection, photograph it, then share it with you. The idea being to share what I love about the book or why I have it. The books will range from traditionally published, POD and handmade. The only stipulation is that I love the book. Most of them have a backstory, which I will also share. Books and photography are forever linked, so why not explore the relationship through my bookshelf. Hope you enjoy.

In short, I don’t think you can find a better book of reportage. “Beyond the Fall” by American photojournalist Anthony Suau is a ten-year look at the former Soviet Bloc in transition. TEN YEARS for those of you who came of age in the “modern” photography world of weekend essays, isn’t an exaggeration or typo. He spent TEN YEARS working on this book, and one look at the images living on those pages and you will very clearly see what that kind of time does when it comes to the quality of reporting. Suau covers it all, politics, family, war, high-society and everyday life. When I think of documentary photography books, it’s publications like this that set the bar. You have to remember something very, very important. This is a book of moments. The vast majority of these images are one frame moments. Just think about that. Just think about how much time and focus that requires. Now think about doing that over a ten-year period. So many of the documentary books I see today are the “abstract urban landscape book” void of people(So no need for interaction or model release) or the “portrait series” documentary book which can be done VERY quickly(There are a few stellar books in this category however). Forget it, this book was like an ultra-marathon.

Now, books like this rarely get the credit they deserve because for whatever reason work like this is considered too reality based and the art world doesn’t seem to know what to do with it(Something that has been written about by a fair number of art-world folks), but for me this work is SO DIFFICULT, so RARE and so TIME CONSUMING it deserves it’s own wing in the museum world. Forget the gallery world, this work it more important than MOST of those spaces(There are worthy galleries.)

I KNOW there are so many of you out there living under the ultra-romantic notion of photographer. The loner walking the back streets of a crumbling empire, Leica in hand, pouring their life into their contact sheets. Well, in this case, that is in some ways what you had, but I will remind you of the DATE these images were taken, and the reality that this lifestyle is EXTREMELY rare today because the industry that supported photographers at this time is basically gone. Even during the time this book was made it was a supreme struggle to do this work. Today, nearly impossible. The time isn’t being spent, the work is made digitally now and it just doesn’t have the same cache or impact, nor do folks want to slow down and actually appreciate the work. The reason I’m telling you this is to slow YOU down when you consider a book like this. This is a treasure. A gem. Give yourself, and the photographer, some respect and sit down alone, sans mobile phone umbilical cord, TV, laptop, iPad, etc., and just look at the work, start to finish, front to back. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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I simply can’t tell you the range of what this book offers. I’m not even going start with design or materials, which are both very good, because I still can’t get over the quality of the photographs. The alarming thing is that each photograph represents what has to be an archive of other work. You see an image of a destroyed downtown Grozny during the height of the Chechen War and you think “What ELSE does he have?” You realize to get that one image there had to be MONTHS of preparation and sacrifice. This work is “classic” in all the right ways, and could or should be used in photojournalism schools to illustrate the kind of work being done by one motivated individual with time and resources. Perhaps not as much as he would have liked, actually don’t know, but I’m guessing. This book gets better with age.

Don’t walk, RUN, and go by this thing.

23 Responses to “Books I Love: Beyond the Fall”

  1. David Suess says:

    I also love books such as this… Just looked for it over on Amazon – $120 for a used copy and $421 for a new one. Too bad, but I suspect that Mr. Suau is not realizing any of that revenue.

    Thanks for the tip.

    • Smogranch says:

      David,
      Fairly common in the book world. Most illustrated books don’t make money and the artist rarely does. However, often times that’s not why they do them. And in this case I actually don’t know how many printed or sold.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks for the info

  3. David says:

    Daniel, you might also see Jason Eskenazi’s Wonderland. great book.

  4. JP says:

    Yeah, with books like these they are often out of my price range or out of print. I did find a listed price for the book in a Finnish bookstore at around $90 (new), but they had none in stock. Better hold on to yours!

    • Smogranch says:

      JP,
      That seems to be the way it is with books. They get better with age, especially today, when I’m not sure how much attention they get when they are first launched. They are an investment in both monetary and visual ways.

  5. I didn’t know this book. Thanks for the tip. I have been looking around at some online stores but prices for used copies are pretty high.

    I bought Jason Eskenazi‚Äôs Wonderland 2 years ago. It’s a wonderful book with amazing images. If I’m not mistaken, this book is also sold out. I saw a Facebook status update by Jason a few weeks ago regarding its availability.

  6. Hi Daniel:

    Great Pick! Can’t get this book anywhere anymore it seems. Much Like Trent Parkes’ Minutes to Midnight and many other great photo books, you have to get it right upon release or literally be best friends with the photographer or publisher! ;) Too bad.. Would love to own this book at a reasonable cost..

  7. lionelB says:

    The buying for investment route unfortunately means keeping it from new in a dust free box, inside a locked glass cabinet. A travesty. Books are to be read. Time to find out whether the public library system still functions on any meaningful level …

  8. anthony Suau says:

    My – thank you for your kind words. Yes Beyond the Fall took 10 years of hard core work. Not for the weak of heart.

    Now if I can only find the time and publisher to have my 10 years of work on America published, AMERICA the last best country – I will have sister book. Same size same design same photographer. I have had publishers speak to me about a box set of the two. Would be cool.

    http://www.smponline.org/ex_suau_america.html

    Many thanks – you made me smile today.

    The book is out of print but I do have a small stash of them in my possession.

    By the way Jason Eskenazi and I both helped edit each others books. We worked together many times in Russia and the east at the time. Wonderland was a disaster when I first saw. He made many changes leading up it’s publication. Amazing no one want to publish that book, it is so beautiful! He, in turn, helped me mold AMERICA the last best country. Jason sat with me on it for several weeks. He’s a tough critic.

    Beyond the Fall took 9 to 12 months to edit. I was living in Paris at the time and it was edited with a great photographer and college working for Agence VU, the master Stephane Duroy. He was so hard on me and my images. Many times he would leave me with what felt like blood on the floor. It was a brutal experience but worth every second.

    .

    • Smogranch says:

      Anthony,
      Really appreciate you taking time to comment. I’ve had folks asking about where to get the book, and the fact that price for those out there is getting pretty high. I guess that’s a sign, a good sign. The book world is such a winding road, but I wasn’t just being polite about what I said. Every time I look at this book I find it difficult to recall anything better. Plus, love what you said about the edit. I spend a good deal of time writing about the “lost art” of editing, and how much a part of our lives it used to be. Still is, but I don’t see the same focus I did before, but my circles and your circles are probably a bit different. I wish I could print your final two paragraphs and drop them out of low flying planes over every photojournalism school.

  9. Have you seen his newer book Fear This? Also worth it as is Wonderland.

  10. Martin Price says:

    I’m another who will recommend “Wonderland”, which I was fortunate enough to buy when it was originally published.

    For “Beyond the Fall”, there was a well-used copy available from a seller only one country away (I’m in Europe), so I will see what turns up.

    Thank you for the tip.

  11. lionelb says:

    Having researched, there is just one copy in the whole of the UK public library system. In the USA, only in institutions. Nothing at all in France. One in an institution in Amsterdam …

    • Smogranch says:

      Lionel,
      Most of the time these books don’t get printed in many copies. It’s a strange situation with books. Typically it’s a 1500-3000 copy scenario and they go quick. In some cases, with art books, the idea of scarcity is built in the overall plan, but with documentary books it’s a catch-22 for the photographer. You want people to see the work but it can also be advantageous to have a sold out book.

  12. mike a says:

    I’ve always liked his work. That’s a significant portion of your life to dedicate to a project but it really makes for a great body of work. People who think they do it in a day or a week are kidding themselves. The longer you work on something the more you see, the more you feel you need to cover. It takes time to do it right.

  13. Since you published this article, I looked around and found a second-hand copy in mint condition which arrived today. Price was very acceptable.

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