Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Reviewed by:
Jack O’Malley, Metadata Lead
Frick Art Reference Library

Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, a library of 170 titles published by Bloomsbury Publishing, aims to provide students in the visual arts with practically minded resources for inspiration, technical advice, and career development. The digital resource library is organized according to major visual arts disciplines: fashion and textiles, design and illustration, photography, film and animation, architecture and interiors, and marketing and advertising. Within each discipline there are a number of “Basics” and “Fundamental” series, fit for practitioners of all levels. More intermediate resources include both hands-on exercises and more theoretical “required reading”, as well as instruction on career management.

The homepage of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Individual pages (also serving as subject guides) further break down the disciplines into a number of sub-topics. At a glance, these pages communicate the key areas covered by the resources. The “Explore Key Topics” side-panel brings users to an index of chapters tagged by topic, while the links at the bottom of the page bring users to entire e-books. Users can otherwise only see a list of e-books by turning to the “Browse Books” page, which lacks the filtering features users can apply to chapters. The search feature also indexes by chapter with filters available to narrow down searches by key topic. Both the key topics side-panel and the search bar bring users to the same results, but the advantage of the search feature comes primarily from full-text searches of chapters.

The Bloomsbury core disciplines.
The Film and Animation discipline page.

The books and chapters themselves are excellently rendered, with (according to Bloomsbury) 150–250 full color images per title, the option for personal download of chapters via the print button, and a smooth and functional full-screen viewer. On mobile, many of these features are diminished by layout changes and screen size, but all the content remains available. Many chapters contain further sub-sections captured in a side-panel table of contents, which facilitates use of these resources as reference material. The contents accurately reflect the resource’s commitment to providing granular, practical introductions for new to intermediate students in the visual arts. The titles take nothing for granted when explaining how to point a camera or craft a portfolio. 

The page view for a chapter of the book The Fundamentals of Digital Photography

The resources in Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts have been aptly selected for the target audience of visual learners, especially for students who may want to frequently refer to reference material in a specific chapter as they move through the learning process. Delivering these titles digitally makes sense for the same reason, especially given the quality of the digital titles. The limitations of the search and browse features can make discovery more difficult than necessary, but it is still possible to consistently find the right resource. Bloomsbury also adds new resources on a regular basis. Applied Visual Arts also supplies the title list as an Excel Sheet, which has some additional metadata and may aid collection development selectors in evaluating the resource.

Librarians interested in the benefits of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, such as facilitation of self-learning, explicit focus on applied basics, and breadth of coverage, will have to balance them with the financial cost. Although Bloomsbury offers a free thirty day trial, institutions will ultimately need to request a quote and pay to secure ongoing access for their users. Bloomsbury does not provide general pricing information. Comparable open-access resources include MERLOT, Open Textbook Library, and other introductory titles in the library catalog, among others available online, and librarians will need to choose between curating resources that fit their students’ needs with the broad coverage and disciplinary topics of this resource.

Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey

Reviewed by:
Marilyn Creswell, MLIS

Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey is a one-hour segment of PBS’s American Masters series in partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES series. It is a documentary film about a photographer’s ability to capture architecture and sculpture, so translating an object from one medium to another is central to the story. It fits the tone of other PBS documentaries: both informational and relaxing. In the canon of artist documentaries, it is similar but more professionally focused than the 2021 Rita Moreno episode of American Masters. It may be most similar to the 1993 The South Bank Show episode on Annie Liebovitz: structured by significant projects, showcasing famous works, and supplemented by personal interviews. 

This work would pique the interests of photographers, sculptors, architects, and anyone who studies those subjects. In addition to covering Guerrero’s photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and their works, the documentary includes Guerrero’s coverage of war and the “Mad Men” era of magazine imagery. Thus, some segments might appeal to students of different periods of American media history. Despite the preview’s mention of his upbringing in segregated Arizona, the documentary only briefly engages with his Mexican-American identity as it relates to his decision to enlist. Instead, it focuses more on the subjects of his works. The work was filmed just three years before Guerrero’s passing in 2012, so it functions as a retrospective of his main works. 

Only a three-minute or six-minute preview is available through the PBS website for users without an account; the full film is also available via the Kanopy streaming service, to which many public and academic libraries subscribe. Purchase of the documentary is available through a digital download or on DVD through PBS or Amazon ($24.99). It can be rented or purchased as a digital download on the Apple TV store ($4.99-$9.99) or Amazon ($4.99-$7.99), as well as via Prime Video or Apple TV subscription streaming services. Apple and Amazon both allow users to view materials in browsers or through their apps. Despite the partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, the Kanopy instance of the film did not offer Spanish audio and caption options at the time of this review. 

PBS produced a book, digital exhibit, and other educational resources to accompany the documentary, which will be helpful for viewers who wish to study individual photographs at length. Interviewees in the documentary remark on Guerrero’s ability to capture three-dimensional architecture in a two-dimensional form, and the documentary filmmakers highlight that ability. The movie includes many of Guerrero’s photographs, then shows where he took them, demonstrating how artfully he captured the feeling of a place. When covering more biographical elements of the story, the documentary includes interview footage with Guerrero; at other times, it uses historical film footage. These were effective tools to give audiences a better sense of who Guerrero was and what world he lived in. 

Alt-Text: Guerrero in his living room, facing the camera.
Pedro E. Guerrero speaks to audiences, reflecting, “I’m still amazed what can happen with just the click of a shutter […] I’m ninety-two, of Mexican descent, still proud, and I’ve had a fantastically glorious life, and it continues to be that way.”