Book Review: The Art of Reading by Lawrence Schwartzwald
By Darcey Pittman
There are many symbols associated with New York City – the Empire State Building, yellow taxi-cabs, the Statue of Liberty, fashion – but reading isn’t usually one of them. Yet, Lawrence Schwartzwald captures moments across New York City, as well as a few other cities, documenting people enthralled in their love of books for his most recent work, The Art of Reading.
Schwartzwald set out to find people “engaged in what seems to be a vanishing art-the Art of Reading” through his photography in what he calls a “search for a reading nirvana.” With the technology of smartphones, laptops, and TV taking over our lives, Schwartzwald sought to photograph people in their natural state of reading to illustrate this dying art.
At the start of this heart-warming collection, Schwartzwald dedicates his book to all English teachers. The photographs in this collection include people across ages, races, and classes. From a homeless man reading on the street to Anne Hathaway perched with a newspaper, people from many walks of life can be found in this book.
Schwartzwald has worked as a freelance photojournalist for many years, publishing in well-rounded outlets including the New York Times and the New York Post. One photo he took that landed in the Post sparked this larger project, according to Schwartzwald’s introduction. The photo features a street bookseller bent over a book with his plumber’s crack showing, gaining attention and influencing Schwartzwald to turn this into a larger project.
Schwartzwald certainly has a knack for finding candid, compelling moments out in public, which are united in the book across their theme of reading. One of these moments is a man holding an upright bass along his body as he reads in a subway station with a train whizzing by. Another is a man lying on a set of stairs in Penn Station with a book next to a sign stating “DO NOT SIT ON STAIRS.”
For city lovers and bookworms alike, The Art of Reading is a beautiful collection of moments showing the connection we feel to printed word across locale and identity.
Images © Lawrence Schwartzwald 2018, courtesy of Steidl publishing