Book Review: Taradiddle by Charles H. Traub

A taradiddle by definition is a petty lie, a little falsehood or trifling told often to amuse or embellish a story. But the Oxford English Dictionary also offers a second meaning: Pretentious or empty talk; senseless, unproductive activity; nonsense. Ironically, it’s a self deprecating term for such meaningful work. But then, that’s part of the fun.

So many of the images created by Traub involve witty visual interplay, tongue-in-cheek sight gags that beg the viewer to look again. But that summary sells them short. There’s much more going on here, there is wit and a sophisticated way of seeing what is in front of the camera. Traub’s work in Taradiddle is a collection of discoveries built around the idea of seeing – not just looking. He is a photographer’s photographer; demonstrating mastery of the medium without hubris or egotism. There is keen observation without embellishment in Taub’s oeuvre. As David Campany writes in this introduction to the book, the unifying element to Traub’s work is that “they are all in one way or another about photography. They may even amount to a commentary upon photography as a phenomenon of daily life. Photography as something we do daily, and photographs as things we encounter daily, often by chance. To this extent at least, these are meta-photographs.” Photos about photography.

An assistant to Traub suggested the term ‘taradiddle’ during the process of curating the images that would ultimately comprise the book. It stuck. An influence and friend early in Traub’s photo career was fellow Kentuckian Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Meatyard kept a collection of names he found funny and/or interesting. One could easily imagine the list might include a Miss Tara Diddle, of Lexington. In that spirit, Traub’s images ask the viewer to see and absorb an inside joke: the landscape painting of Death Valley on the side of a building located in front of the actual mountain range of Death Valley. A large red rock with hand-painted white letters in Monte Vista, Colorado prompting the visitor to bring the camera. He did. Ironic tongue-in-cheek humor with signage and whimsy like the Estate of Confusion building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Or the compositional use of a natural frame-within-a-frame in a street scene in New Orleans to highlight we are viewing a selective representation of the three-dimensional world – an image akin to the work of Luigi Ghirri, one of the most influential conceptual photographers of the 20th century.

Over the span of the book we see the Michelangelo fresco painting of the Creation of Adam in several iterations. We see it in a hardware store, a poster reproduction poorly framed within a larger gold frame mounted to a wall, or in a faded wallpaper pattern behind a framed photo of a wedding portrait with bride and groom in a similar pose, touching hands, creating a future together. Traub captures an image of faux wooden boards with painted shadows on a flat metal door, mimicry of floral patterns on upholstery and carpet placed in front of a nature scene right outside the window. These witty visual interplays beg the viewer to think about visual reproduction, visual representation, and realistically… it can be humorous how people often choose to replicate a natural environment in such unnatural ways.

It is always a joy to pour over artwork in a book where the next image can’t come quickly enough, or there can’t be too many of; like a child who eagerly begs their parent to repeat a joke or trick they adore – again…do it again. Taradiddle is one of those books where I found myself soaking in the images, laughing to myself or making a interjection of appreciation, then quickly turning the page to see the next one, and the next, then the final one, only to work my way back toward the front of the book again. I have seen Traub’s work before the opportunity came to review this project, but critically thinking about it prompted the realization that I hadn’t fully recognized how much his photography was interconnected to other masters of photography who inform my comprehensive view of photography.

Taradiddle brings out the simplistic joy of creating images; photographing without pretense or strict conceptual confinement. “For me, serendipity, coincidence and chance are more interesting than any preconceived construct of our human encounters”, Traub says. Make no mistake, creating images and understanding the concepts and implied meanings and interpretations is required in endeavors such as this. Traub believes one should not front-load the creative process for fear of restriction, “All image making is basically conceptual and needs introspection. However, a self-conscious praxis often constipates it.“

Whether the final image is simple to describe, or built upon a complex relationship of elements within the frame, Traub’s work transcends subject matter and speaks most importantly to what we are seeing. It’s more than documenting a place, it’s more than a portrait of a person, it’s more than capturing the essence of a place. His work connects conceptual ideas with a visual interpretation of the world we live in, and also experience through photography. His images strive to lay bare the profound commonality of our lives; serendipity and humor included.

Taradiddle by Charles H. Traub
Essay by David Campany
Published by Damiani
Hardcover, 11.75 x 9.5 in / 116 pgs / 100 color
ISBN 9788862086219

Charles Traub was born in Louisville, KY and has been photographing for 50 years. He has eleven books to his credit and sixty major exhibitions including one person shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hudson River Museum, the Historic New Orleans collection, and is in the collections of more than two dozen international museums. For the past 30 years, he has been the Chairperson of the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media program at the School of Visual Arts and presently is the Co-Director of the Aaron Siskind Foundation.

David Campany is a writer, curator, and artist who is widely recognized for his award-winning essays and books regarding the lens and screen arts. He teaches at the University of Westminister in London and is the recipient of the ICP Infinity award and the Royal Photographic Society’s award for writing.

To purchase a copy of Taradiddle please visit To find out more information about Charles H. Traub and view his work, please visit his website at

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JOHN R. PEPPER @ The Empty Quarter Gallery

© TheEmptyQuarter, John R. Pepper, “Chara sands”

December 12th , 2018 – January 27th, 2019

Opening Reception : December 12th, 2018 – 7:00 pm

“John R. Pepper’s deserts are not ultimately the result of travel photography. His photographs, paradoxically, don’t take you to the actual places where they are shot. They take you elsewhere, to a new place for your mind and imagination to inhabit.”

The Empty Quarter Gallery
Gate Village, Bldg 02,
DIFC, Dubai, UAE,

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Pierre-Yves Linot @ School of Visual Arts

Pierre-Yves Linot: Immigrant Song
December 4, 2018 – January 3, 2019

Opening Reception: Monday, December 10, 6-8 pm

“Immigrant Song consists of diptychs, each one including the portrait of an immigrant and a still life of the arrangement he or she made with four stones. These photographs are part of an ongoing project where I explore through interviews, written words, and objects what it means to be uprooted.”

School of Visual Arts
209 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010

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1947, SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR IN AMERICA @ Sous Les Etoiles Gallery

Coast to Coast, SONJ,1947 @Estate of Esther Bubley

DEC.13, 2018 – FEB. 9, 2019


“This exhibition curated by Corinne Tapia, director of Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, aims to illustrate the depiction of De Beauvoir’s encounter with America at the time. It is the first time that this book becomes the subject of an exhibition.”

Sous Les Etoiles Gallery
100 Crosby Street #603
New York City, NY 10012

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Steve Schapiro @ Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography

Steve Schapiro. David Bowie. Kabbalah. Los Angeles, 1974
© Steve Schapiro, courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

January 11 – March 31, 2019

“This exhibition shows never-before-published photos from the 1970s, including the performance with Cher on the Cher Show, and shots from the film set of the popular movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. After that role, Bowie entrenched the character of an odd creature, a stranger and a temporary visitor of our planet.

The essential part of the exhibition features Bowie’s portraits from the famous 12-hour private photo session in Los Angeles in 1974. That collaboration between Schapiro and Bowie provided images for magazine covers such as People and Rolling Stone, and album covers for Station to Station, Low and a compilation album Nothing Has Changed. It was the first meeting of the two artists.”

Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography

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Thomas J. Panzner @ Galerie Esther Woerdehoff

Thomas Jorion, Metamorfosis, Série Palais oubliés, 2016
Tirage pigmentaire pelliculé, 80 x 60 cm
© Thomas Jorion, courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoff

Thomas J. Panzner: forgotten Palace
07.02 – 04.13.2018

Opening Thursday, February 7, from 18h to 21h

Galerie Esther Woerdehoff
36 rue Falguière
75015 Paris – France

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Nelson W Armour and Michael Kreuser @ Uri-Eichen Gallery

© Nelson W Armour & Michael Kreuser

Nelson W Armour and Michael Kreuser: Pre-Existing Conditions
December 14, 2018 – January 5, 2019

Opening Reception: December 14 | 6 – 10 PM

“Pre-Existing Conditions combines portraits and stories of those with pre-existing conditions in an effort to personalize the healthcare debate by showing the impact of pre-existing conditions on individual people. During the opening, there will be a discussion with the artists and Claudia Fegan, who is the Chief Medical Executive for the Cook County Health and Hospital System and a part of Physicians for a National Health Program.”

Uri-Eichen Gallery
2101 S. Halsted St.

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Kenneth Josephson @ Stephen Daiter Gallery

Kenneth Josephson: Squared
December 7, 2018 – March 2, 2019

Opening Reception & Book Signing: December 7 | 5 – 8 PM

“This survey exhibition presents a cross-section of Josephson’s two-and-a-quarter inch negative works, beginning in the late 1950s up to the 2010s. Though the photographs themselves originate from the various series in Josephson’s oeuvre—most notably Marks and Evidence, Images within Images, and History of Photography—they are united not only in format but often in theme and character, and as a whole, are self-reflexive, experimental, and highly conceptual, the hallmarks of Josephson’s playfully intelligent photography.”

Stephen Daiter Gallery
230 W. Superior St.
Suite 400

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Larry Chait & Katsy Johnson @ Perspective Gallery

© Katsy Johnson

Noir: Larry Chait
Pretty Dark Things: Katsy Johnson
November 29 – December 30

Opening Reception: December 1 | 5 -7 PM
Artist Talk: December 13 | 7 PM

“Larry Chait’s Noir series represents a synthesis of his love of film noir and of Georges Seurat’s black conté crayon drawings from the mid-1880s. For Katsy Johnson’s series Pretty Dark Things, she has developed a multimedia process of hand coloring her photographs and uses layers of acrylic to conjure up bucolic scenes that have the effect of looking like vintage reverse glass paintings. ”

Perspective Gallery
1310-1/2B Chicago Ave.

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Colleen Keihm and Nicole Mauser @ Filter Space

© Colleen Keihm & Nicole Mauser

Colleen Keihm and Nicole Mauser: Break Here
December 7, 2018 – January 5, 2019

Opening Reception: December 7 | 6 – 9 PM | RSVP
Artist Talk: December 15 | 2:30 PM

“In this collaborative two-person exhibition, Keihm and Mauser use photography, painting, collage, and installation to construct abstract disoriented spaces – making marks by removal and absence. The mechanical aspect of film photography by Keihm and exerted muscle memory embedded within painting by Mauser describe similar desires for control yet strategically leave openings in their process for unpredictability. These gaps become spaces for the viewer to inhabit. Physical cuts into material prioritize viewers’ engagement in perception so as to frame the act of looking as the subject. ”

Filter Space
1821 W. Hubbard St.
Suite 207

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