A Book of Readers

CONTENT Photography and texts
DATE 2011
ISBN 9782922892529
FORMAT 20.5 x 26.5 cm
LANGUAGE French, English
PRICE $49.95
In bookstores

After Bourbon St - New Orleans 1955 (Editions du Passage, 2006), photographer George S. Zimbel returns with A Book of Readers, a tribute to readers he encountered over his sixty years of work. From the 1950s to today, in Montreal, New York, Paris, Barcelona and Venice, from the sidewalks to the library tables, from the comfort of a bed to the confines of a submarine, Zimbel's readers bring us that moment of grace when time and space disappear, leaving behind a fascinating world of images. Following in the footsteps of Doisneau, Ronis and Cartier-Bresson, George S. Zimbel's pictures speak to the evolution of everyday life over time, as well as the endangered practice of documentary photography.

An essay by the American critic Vicki Goldberg (The New York Times) addresses George Zimbel's career and his contribution to humanist photography. Writer Dany Laferrière recalls, with humor and affection, ten snapshots from a reader's life. As the extraordinary witness to more than fifty years of her husband's art, Elaine Sernovitz Zimbel captures a more intimate portrait of the photographer, the man, the father and the reader. 


An American by birth, Montreal photographer George S. Zimbel is known worldwide for his photographs of John F. Kennedy, Jackie Onassis, and Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway air vent. In 2000, a major retrospective of his work was exhibited in Valencia and Madrid. His photographs are on display in various museums around the world (Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, etc.).

Vicki Goldberg, one of the leading voices in the field of photography criticism, wrote about photography for the The New York Times for thirteen years. She taught courses at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, and the Rhode Island School of Design and still writes on photography for various magazines. She published several books, among them, The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives (1991) and Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography (1986), which were each named one of the Best Books of the Year by the American Library Association. The anthology she edited, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (1988), was cited in The Wall Street Journal in 2006 as one of the five best books ever written on photography. She has received numerous awards for writing, including the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award, the Royal Society's Dudley Johnston Award, and the Long Chen Cup (China).

Dany Laferrière was born in Port-au-Prince in April 1953. After his journalist colleague and friend Gasner Raymond was murdered, he left Haiti and settled in Quebec. In 1987, he published his first novel in English, How to Make Love to a Negro without Getting Tired (Douglas & McIntyre) that was an immediate success. Other books followed, including An Aroma of Coffee (1993, D & M), Down among the Dead Men (1997, D & M) and I Am a Japanese Writer (D & M, 2010). Laferrière’s books are published in a dozen languages. His latest title, The Return (2011, D & M), won the 2009 Prix Médicis in France and the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix in 2010. As well as being a writer, Laferrière pursues a career as journalist, columnist, screenwriter and, above all, is an insatiable, passionate reader.  

Elaine Sernovitz Zimbel is a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, and investigative journalism. She is the author of the literary memoir Bullet to the Heart, One to the Brain - a Psychodrama Played on the Page (2005).


Zimbel is an astute observer of the passing scene and events with sharp, instantaneous, and, when the shoe fits, a witty or ironic response to this thing we call life. […] He can capture news, dramatic night scenes, strippers and exotic dancers strutting their stuff; not to mention humor, melancholy, and the off-hand or familiar made trenchant and worth cherishing through the grace of his Leica, tri-x film, and his gimlet eye. He shows us an amusing and apparently trustworthy world as it goes past, and he brings home the diversity of everyday experience and emotion that we might otherwise leave behind on the plains of forgetting.

Vicki Goldberg

Several years back, upon seeing a series of photographs, I discovered I had been observed by a gentle, courteous man. When I say “I,” I mean all the readers George Zimbel has so patiently photographed over the last decades. He has observed us reading everywhere in the world, and in every situation. [...] True readers are so absorbed by their book that they lose all self-consciousness. They give themselves totally to someone (the writer) they don’t know, hoping the writer will guide them through unknown territories. The perfect image of this letting go is intrepid Alice, blindly following the rabbit into its hole to escape her boredom. Reading saves us from that monster that kills by degrees. Observe these readers’ faces – peaceful, illuminated, astonished, frightened, delighted, attentive, perplexed – that attracted the photographer’s attention, an artist so sensitive to the force of dreams. [...]

Dany Laferrière

You can take a photo at 1/100th of a second, but it takes longer to read it. Then the fun begins. Reading a photograph is more like taking a trip. You see things that kindle all kinds of memories good and bad. Your life is the reference.

George S. Zimbel