Andre Kertesz - On Reading

Robert Gurbo in the introduction to Andre Kertesz's book On Reading writes that the famous series is reissued at a time when digital media, ebooks and computers are threatening to eliminate the reader of the printed word.  The timeless image of a person head-down poring over a book is now being replaced with people transfixed in similar ways to their cell phones, laptops, e-readers.

The New York Times ran a photo spread on the impossibility of capturing street images of people without anyone head down checking their devices (Misha Erwitt's: Cellphone pre-occupation). The series of pictures shows people in states of preoccupation talking, texting, checking email. (My favorite is the the woman talking next to the Giacommeti statue). In comparison, as Gurbo notes in the preface, "... Kertesz's timeless images of people transported to another world by the intimate process of opening a book or newspaper ... "

Is there an essential difference? Is there a difference between a person texting on a bench versus a person reading a book? Is it more of a disconnection from reality and your surroundings to be staring into a computer screen into the vastness of the internet versus fingers curled around a folded newspaper?

I went back and forth between the collections and I tried to reach a conclusion - is one better than the other? or is is just a symptom of conditioning?

Sounds like a beaten down trope - "digital bad, analog good"

To me, there is an appropriate choice of words for  Erwitt's series versus Kertesz's.

Preoccupied vs. absorbed
Distracted vs. transported
Disconnected vs. immersed

It's hard for me to believe that anyone can actually read anything on the internet with it's easy-to-navigate HTML links. Add to that the numerous distractions of messages, tweets, and emails. You don't really travel anywhere on the internet, you simply bounce around.

This is one my favorite images from Andre Kertesz's collection of photographs - On Reading.  A boy eating an ice-cream reading the comics section from a scattered bunch of newspapers. Andre Kertesz captures the essence of reading: the solitary, self-absorbed pleasure that transports you to a different place. The only thing that would mar that image would the silhouette of a person talking on the cellphone. Of course, the boy would not notice.

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