What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Matthew Trammell is not like a piece by James Wood, and neither is like a piece by Peter Schjeldahl. One could not mistake Finnegan for Frazier, or Lepore for Paumgarten, or Goodyear for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best of 2016: Photos

Photo by Pari Dukovic

Here are my favorite New Yorker photos of 2016:

1. Pari Dukovic’s “Yuja Wang,” for Janet Malcolm’s “The Performance Artist,” September 5, 2016 (see above). I knew from the moment I first saw this photo that it would be my #1. The arresting keyboard-level angle, the piano’s sleek black curve, the greenish-blue tint, Yang’s spread, tense hand, her tight, glitzy dress, her closed eyes, open mouth, messed hair – wow! It magnetizes my eyes, makes me smile. Interestingly, Malcolm’s superb piece ends with a description of Dukovic taking this very photo.

2. Simon Norfolk’s “Camp on the Chhota Shigri Glacier,” for Dexter Filkins’s “The End of Ice,” April 4, 2016. Green sky, streaked with pink tracer-like star trails; harsh, sharp-edged, black-and-white rock; and in the lower left corner a blue-roofed tent softly illuminated from within – this is a memorable shot, evoking the cold, star-lit, rock-strewn, Himalayan terrain that Filkins traverses in his excellent piece.

Photo by Simon Norfolk

3. Edward Burtynsky’s “Saw Mills #1, Lagos, Nigeria 2016,” for Raffi Khatchadourian’s “The Long View,” December 19 & 26, 2016. Rafts of floating logs seen from high overhead are like textured fans of bone or bamboo stitched on a ragged, shredded brown, black, and tan patchwork textile that is actually boats, sheds, bark, sawdust, among other interesting elements, that constitute the sawmills of Lagos, Nigeria. In his absorbing piece, Khatchadourian says Burtynsky explores “the tension between realism and abstraction in manufactured environments.” “Saw Mills #1” exemplifies this tension perfectly.

Photo by Edward Burtynsky

4. Isabel Magowan’s “Emma Kline,” for James Wood’s “Making the Cut,” June 6 & 13, 2016. Cool, ravishing, painterly colors of white, lime and aquamarine. Cline seems frozen in place like a mannequin, her pensive blue-green eyes fixed on something beyond the photo’s realm. She has the look of a seer. In his piece, one of the year’s best reviews, Wood writes about Cline’s “ability to look again, like a painter, and see (or sense) things better than most of us do.” These are the words The New Yorker uses as a caption for Magowan’s portrait. They match magnificently.

Photo by Isabel Magowan

5. Katie Orlinsky’s “Chasing Winter,” for Tom Kizzia’s “The New Harpoon,” September 12, 2016. Reader, I have lived this photo. Caribou skins drying on a wooden rack, snow littered with bones, weather-beaten bungalow on piles (boat and motor parked out front, waiting for spring thaw), snow streets and snow roads, wind-polished ivory skies, on and on – I know (and love) these things. For almost ten years, they were part of my life. Orlinsky’s wonderful photo, a piece of Inuit reality, brings it all back to me.

Photo by Katie Orlinsky

6. William Mebane, “Babu Ji,” for Silvia Killingsworth’s “Tables For Two: Babu Ji,” January 11, 2016. I’m a Mebane fan. His “School of Rock” was on my “Best of 2015” list. He could’ve had two or three shots on this year’s list. I’ve chosen “Babu Ji” for its delicious colors and riveting composition.

Photo by William Mebane

7. Meredith Jenks’s “”MIMI,” for Shauna Lyon’s “Tables ForTwo: MIMI,” September 5, 2016. This is an inspired image. It has the look of a found composition. But someone had to be there to recognize the pictorial potential of that jazzy multi-hued stairway and wait for (or arrange for) a server carrying a delectable dish to ascend. That person was Jenks, a photographer with a Matisse-ian eye for texture, pattern, and color.

Photo by Meredith Jenks

8. Jeremy Liebman’s “Yemen Café,” for Nicolas Niarchos’s “Tables For Two: Yemen Café,” November 21, 2016. I devour this image: still life with pots, skillets, flame burners, and magenta stove knobs. It exudes a keen awareness of life and art – kitchen reality and the beauty of kitchen reality – simultaneously.

Photo by Jeremy Liebman

9.  Benjamin Lowy’s “Gustu,” for Carolyn Kormann’s “The Tasting-Menu Initiative,” April 4, 2016. The focal point of this great kitchen shot is Kamilla Seidler, chef of Gustu, “the most ambitious restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia.” Seidler figures centrally in Kormann’s wonderful piece. Lowy shows her working in the restaurant’s glassed-in service kitchen. The dining room is visible through the windows in the background. The dominant colors are brown and tan with accents of white (jackets worn by Seidler and two helpers), orange and red (lantern hanging in the dining room), and silver (stainless steel cookware). It’s a stunning shot containing several details mentioned by Kormann.

Photo by Benjamin Lowy

10. Philip Montgomery’s “Michel Martelly,” for Jon Lee Anderson’s “Aftershocks,” February 1, 2016. I admire clear, well-lit, sharp-focus photos immensely. This one, a portrait of Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, is extraordinary.

Photo by Philip Montgomery

Honorable Mention: Cait Oppermann’s “El Sabroso,” for Becky Cooper’s “Tables For Two: Lunch à la Mode,” September 19, 2016.

Photo by Cait Oppermann

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