Polka Happiness chronicles the immense popularity of the music in nineteenth century Europe and its enduring popularity in the United States. After tracing the history of polka’s spread throughout the world, the authors focus on the emergence and intense rivalry of the Chicago and Eastern styles in the United States. The book also traces the role of the International Polka Association in establishing networks, promoting events and providing an environment in which Polish Americans can celebrate and nourish their cultural heritage.
Bright Balkan Morning documents Romani musicians and their place in the cultural ecology of northern Greece using photographs, texts, oral histories, and soundscapes. The book tells an unusual story about both “the Gypsies” and “the Balkans,” in which difficult socio-economic conditions context a mutually rewarding ritual reciprocity in the Nommos of Serres.
“In rapport with the layered texts by the Keils — Dick Blau’s amazing photographs give the book a sense of presence, the intimacy of people viewed up close and distant, always lovingly, with respect and with awe. There’s an inviting pulse here, an energy and inwardness that take human shape; rapt bodies register and make palpable an unheard music. Blau’s camera dances with its subjects and makes them real.” – Alan Trachtenberg, author of Reading American Photographs
The Goat Dance of Skyros is said to be the most authentic and the funkiest Dionysian carnival still practiced in Greece. It is, the islanders say, based on an event some 4000 years ago when there was a snowstorm on Skyros and the goats all died. After the storm, a goatherd took the bells off his flock, flayed the corpses, draped himself in the skins, and then walked back to town with his wife. When they got there, the goatherd was so horrific and riveting a sight, both man and yet also beast, that the townspeople have celebrated his arrival ever since. Thus, in the three days and nights before each Greek Lent, the Goat Dancers appear, attended not only by their wives but also by creatures like this Frango, who accompanies the fierce clanking of their bells by playing an eerie, silent tune upon his fiddle. Read more...
In Elephant House, photographer Dick Blau and historian Nigel Rothfels offer a thought-provoking study of the Oregon Zoo's Asian Elephant Building and the daily routines of its residents -- human and pachyderm alike. Without an agenda beyond a desire to build a deeper understanding of his enigmatic environment, Elephant House is the result of the authors' unique creative collaboration and explores the relationships between captive elephants and their human caregivers.
Living with His Camera is a complex reflection on photography and the place it has in our desires and our lives, especially our home lives. It is also a reflection on family, an attempt (like Blau’s photographs themselves) to portray the realities of family life, beyond the pieties and idealizations of conventional representations.
Each chapter of the book reads Blau’s pictures in conjunction with a major book on photography. It treats (in succession) major statements on photography by Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, the novelist Kathryn Harrison, and Pierre Bourdieu.