The PhotoBook

September 29, 2014

World PhotoBook Day > October 14th

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:07 pm

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Copyright the photographers, various titles recently published by Aalphabet

A brief shout-out about the pending World Photobook Day occurring on October 14th. This fun day (this year on a Monday) originated by The Photobook Club of Madrid in conjunction with my buddy Matt Johnston whose idea was to form the various Photobook Clubs from his base of operations over in England.

This date is a direct homage to the first known photobook: Photographs of British algae with Cyanotype impressions by Anna Atkins (a trivia question if I ever saw one!). As the exact publishing date is unknown, they have taken the date that appears in the registry records of the copy in British Library: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/photographyinbooks/record.asp?RecordID=3048

So here is a short list ideas for how to participate in this event:

  • Post a #PhotoBookDaySelfie on social media: an image with you and your current favorite photobook.

  • Discuss your love of photobooks via the twitter hashtag #PhotoBookDay

  • Donate a photobook or photozine to your nearest public library or school library. One of the things  that I am considering.

  • Buy a photobook. Many bookshops and publishers will make special discounts for the day. As alternative, read a photobook that you have not picked up for a while or one that you have acquired and not really spend time with yet.

  • For me, I think I will be publishing a photobook review on the blog this day.

So what about you?

Cheers!

September 23, 2014

Landmark – The Fields of Landscape Photography

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Copyright the various photographers 2014; Published by Thames & Hudson

This photobook is a curatorial discussion of the contemporary practice of landscape photography and perhaps why the practice of Landscape photography matters today. The editor of the book, William A. Ewing, a museum curator and writer about photography, makes the elegant point that the current (and urgent) issues of pollution, war, global warming to name but a few, could not be better suited for public and political discussion than by the practice of landscape photography. Ewing argues that as a result landscape photograph has come in par with portraiture as readers are daily inundated with landscape photographs in one form or another.

On this blog I am not as keen to write about photobooks that provide a survey of a genre of photography, but I have to admit to a fondness for contemporary landscape photographs. And although a little reticent to review this book, I will say that Ewing successfully lured me in with clear and articulate writing and an interesting selection of supporting photographs for each of the ten themes that he advocates; SublimePastoralArtefactsRupturePlaygroundScarControlEnigmaHallucination, and Reverie.

Ewing has selected a diverse set of 100 photographers and 250 photographs to broadly illustrate his themes. In general after reading his reasoning’s, I concur that these ten themes provide a broad investigation of contemporary landscape with a slight niggle here and there as to his image selection. The reader may find that some contemporary photographers or images have been grossly overlooked (or maybe should not have been included as these individuals are not known as “Landscape” photographers) but overall I think Ewing is continuing to extend the discussion as to what is a contemporary landscape photograph and why should it matter.

Of interest to me is that in Ewing’s historical review he states that for contemporary Landscape photography, the New Topographics exhibition and subsequently the Dusseldorf school seems to have a strong and lingering effect.

This horizontal, dense hardcover book with dust jacket is beautifully printed and bound, with each photograph presented classically with a nice margin that makes the book a delight to hold and read. The editor of the text for the Preface, Introductions and Historical background is William A. Ewing. Each of the photographers provides a short concise statement (Artists’ Voices) about their landscape practice which I found to be equally fascinating and informative. A book to consider if one is interested in the contemporary practice of Landscape photography.

Cheers

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September 21, 2014

Tri-Fold Pages

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:16 pm

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Copyright Laia Abril 2014 “The Epilogue” published by Dewi Lewis Publishing

I just received Laia Abril’s photobook “The Epilogue” and I was surprised by a design aspect of her photobook that is both unique as well as very smart;  interior pages (leaf) that a reader could pull out to reveal a hidden panel. Perhaps this page design has been lurking out there in the designers book of tricks, but it was new to me. It is similar in idea to a gate fold to conceal interior page panels, but with an interesting twist.

I quickly queried both Abril and the publisher, Dewi Lewis, as to what they were calling this design aspect. Abiril and Ramon Pez, her photobook design collaborator,  are calling it tri-fold pages, while the publisher is calling this a concertina fold out. Both descriptions seem applicable, but I am going to defer to Abril and Pez for what this design is called as they were responsible for the initial concept of this design as part of the final object. I do give immense credit to the Dewi Lewis publishing team for advancing this design into the resulting photobook as well as the spot-on printing execution by Grafiche Antiga (Italy) which is already a well know high quality photobook printer and binary.

The subtly of the design and execution lies in the near invisibility of the fold until the reader notes the subtle added thickness of the page and upon grasping, extendes the page out which reveals the hidden panel (see the example below from the photobook’s interior). For this book the revealed panel extends the narrative as well as symbolically “breaking the book” when the subject of the book, Cammy, has experienced a severe break down in her life’s journey. Brilliant!

Looking down on the top view of the book, the tri-folded pages are a bit more apparent.

Cheers

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September 18, 2014

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Here and Now

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Copyright the estate of Henri Cartier-Bresson & Magnum Photos, published by Thames & Hudson 2014, first English edition

This is a thick and dense retrospective that devils deep into the details behind the well-known French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (b.  August 22, 1908, Chanteloup-en-Brie, FR , d.  August 3, 2004, Montjustin, FR). Although this monograph is really not meant to be an exposé per se by the Clement Cheroux, the editor of the book, he does provide a comprehensive and tantalizing biography of the photographer, cinematographer and painter. Cheroux reveals, at least for me, some little known facts about this elusive and private photographer. A quick snapshot of Cartier-Bresson, who is known for his Surrealist, Communist propaganda, filmmaking (director & actor), photo-reportage & co-founding Magnum Photos and who became known for the decisive moment and later in life, painter.

The book is broken into multiple chapters with the key ones for which characterize Cartier-Bresson and his photography; The Attraction of Surrealism (the underlying concepts for what became known as his decisive moment), Political Commitment, Film and War and The Choice of Photo Reportage.

Cheroux provides a clear distillation of the Surrealism principals as these relate to Cartier-Bresson’s early oeuvre, that which provided the building blocks for his latter propaganda photographs and lead into his decision for a career in photo reportage. As a student painter he had learned pictorial design and composition, which he then applied to Surrealism photography. He would first find and compose a graphic background and then wait for the right person to enter the frame. This was a surrealist idea of the combination of composition and chance, which Cartier-Bresson labeled “simultaneous coalition” and was later re-branded by a book publisher as the “decisive moment”. Cheroux explores the principals of Surrealism that Cartier-Bresson adopted; Dialectic Synthesis, Fixed-Explosive, Veiled-Erotic, Magic-Circumstantial, Daydreamers and the Salt of Distortion.

It was also during the days of Surrealism that Cartier-Bresson became more elusive about his past as well as secretive about himself, as his parents owned one of the 200 largest companies in France (a thread company which merged with Thirez to form TCB in the 1930’s). It was his family’s wealth that although allowed him the economic freedom to travel where he chose, but created a philosophical issue with the economic tenets of Surrealism.

As a result Cartier-Bresson adopted various names to publish his photographic work. The conflict created by his family’s wealth subsequently became even more acute for Cartier-Bresson with his active participation with the French Communist party in the mid to late 1930’s. After WWII the sanction of the communist party and those associated with it created further angst for Cartier-Bresson, but as a result of having kept a low personal profile he was able to deftly side-step almost all of the communist purging that occurred in the late 1940’s and well into the 1950’s. He became very public about his photographs, but learned to be very private about himself.

The massive book was first published in French by Editions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, copyright 2013 and subsequently this first English edition by Thames and Hudson, 2014. The book was published in conjunction with the Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, that ran February to June, 2014. The photographs images were reproduced as close to the original C-B prints, such as the warm tone print provided below. The book was edited by Clement Cheroux. Perhaps lost in the fine print, but very obvious in the print quality that this book was printed by Steidl in Gottingen, Germany. Very nice and a recommended book for the fans of HC-B and photojournalism.

Cheers!

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September 12, 2014

Amit Desai – America Sutra

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Copyright Amit Desai 2012 published by Stephen Cheng, Hong Kong

America Sutra is an amazingly complex and layered artist book created by Amit Desai (b. 1977, Brahmin and resides in India) while he was in transit between one American seaboard and then back again, as well as its Southern border and eventually up to the Northern border, including Hawaii, over a ten year odyssey spanning 2001 through 2012.

Although born in India, he grew up in Valley Stream, New York and eventually began exploring his adopted country. Desai draws equally on his original self as a Hindu and his adopted American heritage while composing this experimental body of work as a Sutra; a collection of short statements and original thoughts with spiritual inspiration, thus attempting to fuse Eastern and Western influences into a very unique narrative.

Although photography provides a base-line, various other artistic aspects of a multi-media narrative are interwoven through the series of books. America Sutra is composed of seven distinct volumes and maintains some semblance loosely kept together by a slip-clover casing. Each volume is a unique vison of America; The Young and The Old, After the Fall, Love is a Photographer, Paradise Park, Time Code, White Mountain and United States. This seven volume set was envisioned to be a collective portrait of the American Dream.

Each of the seven books does maintain a bit of consistency in the dialog within the covers of each respective book, whether the use of Polaroid’s, film, digital capture, hand-made collages and drawings. That said, this is not entirely a photographic book, but leans towards being an artist book, with each of the books having a unique artistic expression. Likewise, the photographs, stories and collages are not always meant to be taken literally, as most are fictional metaphoric narratives.

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As a quick synopsis of the seven journals that comprise this artist book, the first book being The Young and The Old is the earliest book developed in this series, at time when Desai was developing his vision and bouncing between street photography and the studio. This book was photographed while in his early twenties, thus a youthful mad-cap collection of what was seen and playful creations.

The second book, After The Fall, is a surrealist journey, where Desai photographed a roll of film, then reloaded the same roll of film back into the camera to re-expose it again. He was creating chance double exposures, not knowing what may come of his experimentation. It is to be open to the serendipitous layering of memories. The third book, Love is a Photographer is a series of street photographs captured on SX-70 Polaroid film, which ironically is an analog film that went out of production during the creation of this body of work. The photographs tend towards the lyrical and tender.

The fourth book, Paradise Park, is a leap from the analog into to the digital capture, from capturing a poignant moment to creating a fictional body of work inclusive of bubble dialog captions to supplement the visual stories that are being played out and the most massive of the seven books. The fifth book, Time Code is constructed from a surveillance video and edited set of still captures that are resulting from a combination of improve, chance and reactionary theater, as all of the subjects know that they are being recorded.

The sixth book, White Mountain, is a pairing of erotic poems and drawn images, perhaps lithographs, inked, printed and re-photographed with Polaroid’s. The seventh book, United States, is a running dialog of short stories that have been typed out and then framed on top of various colleges. I have the impression that these are a collection of personal stories as told to that Desai during his odyssey.

The reading of each of these seven books is complex in and of its own right, but when slammed together with the other loosely related books, this collection becomes daunting, intriguing and challenging to all of the senses. In my own first reading, I was overwhelmed by the chaotic visions presented in each of the books and then attempting in vain to draw that experience together to frame the entire body of work. I found it necessary to read and delve into each of the books individually and then a greater awareness of the totality began to rise.

As shared by the publisher, “Like the seven chakras of our subtle body, these books exist and are connected energetically on the invisible plain. Each has a different vibration, but the all belong to the same body of energy. Ultimately, it is the realm of feeling that these books come together to form America Sutra as a whole.”

Seven stiff-cover books, four color lithographic printing and perfect bound, all in cased within a hard slip-cover. As a result of the perfect binding, the book’s interiors can be vexing to read as they do not easily remain open. The seven volumes are a part of a multi-media web-based art presentation containing video, images, text and sounds, found here: http://www.americasutra.com For my review, I was working with the second edition of America Sutra.

Cheers!

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September 7, 2014

Wynn Bullock – Revelations

 

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Copyright the estate of Wynn Bullock 2014; published by University of Texas Press, Austin & High Museum of Art, Atlanta

In some regards attempting to write about Wynn Bullock (b. Percy Wingfield Bullock, Chicago April 18, 1902, d. Monterey (CA) November 16, 1975) and his photography is a bit difficult for me having followed his photographic career since we moved the Pacific Coast in the early 1970’s. It seems to me that I am writing about the obvious but I realize that his photographs and diverse and creative background are a bit unknown to the current generation.

To place into context his black & white landscapes have that Brett Weston West coast appearance while his investigations into abstraction (both black & white and color), metaphysics and symbolism place him much closer to the photographic likes of Minor White. He was a friend of and knew many member of the f/64 group that birthed modern (straight) photography but he experimented in techniques and unorthodox manipulations of the photographic materials more than most of his peers. This was probably a result of living in Paris and the influence of the post-impressionist in the early 1920’s and his association with the photographers/artists Man Ray and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

As the book’s editor Brett Abbott states; “Ultimately Bullock was of the existentialist lineage drawn by Sartre. He (Bullock) pursued his art under the premise that an individual must live passionately and sincerely and that his experiences – including creative acts – were as important as philosophy and science in the unraveling the meaning of human existence.”

The two Bullock photographs that were selected for Edward Steichen’s “The Family of Man” exhibition the mid-1950’s were highly acclaimed and he gained international recognition as a result. He, like others in the 1960’s, struggled with the reproduction of color photographs and as a result only displayed his color experiemental work as slide shows. Fortunate for the reader, included in this retrospective is a large selection from his oeuvre “Color Light Abstraction”. His later black & white photographs are reversal prints (sometimes inverted) that are a delightful challenge to read.

As a book object this retrospective is dense with photographs and the essay’s are clear, informative and footnoted and accompanied by an illustrated chronology. The interior photographs are beautifully printed as originally conceived without the mild cropping of the early books illustrating his work, with the photographic plates having generous white margins, captions; including dates of the work accompany each photograph. Recommended.

Cheers!

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September 4, 2014

September Photobook Fairs; CCNY – NY Art Book Fair – VSW

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 7:59 pm

Summer is coming to a close, schools are getting into high gear and Fall is quickly approaching!

As you may have noticed, I took most of the summer off from posting photobook reviews, not that I was avoiding photobooks per se, but more about a concentration on another of my personal projects (working title: Memory Pods) investigating memory and its preservation. Interesting for me is that I initiated this particular project without a clear pre-visualization as to what a resulting photobook might look like and even if there will be one. The subject drew me in and I just followed. nice.

Okay, back to the subject in hand; on the East coast (Right Coast) of the States in September are three photobook events. Two of which, CCNY and VSW (Visual Studies Workshop), occur on the same date but different sides of the state of New York, while the NY Art Book Fair is much broader book fair than just photobooks.

September 13 & 14 (12 – 6pm), opening reception Friday, September 12 6-8pm  EST: The Fifth Annual CCNY Zine & Self-Published Photo Book Fair  at the Foley Gallery, 97 Allen St. Lower East Side, NYC, NY.

September 13th, 12 – 7pm (FREE) VSW Second annual Pub Fair, VSW Auditorium, 31 Prince Street Rochester, New York

September 25th – 28th, Printed Mater’s NY Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, NYC, NY

Lots and lots of photobooks and zines to enjoy. Personally I will be on the Left Coast patiently waiting for the LA Art Book Fair in the Spring 2015.

Cheers!

July 7, 2014

Brooks Jensen – Looking at Images

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Copyright the photographers 2014 published by LensWork Publishing

Brooks Jensen is the Editor and Publisher of the LensWork journal and almost exclusively is focusing on Black and White photography. The bi-monthly journal is released concurrently in a print edition and a DVD that contains additional portfolios and audio interviews of the artist by Jensen.

Jensen also publishes a blog, also titled Looking at Images, where he provide extensive homilies about a singular image selected from the LensWork journal portfolios. Jensen has carefully selected a broad group of his published essays which provides the material for this book. In this book, Jensen’s photographic commentaries are sequenced alphabetically as to the photographer work that he is discussing. Each photograph and photographer being discussed is provided a two page spread with the photograph on one page which faces Jensen’s commentary on the other.

I am very honored that Jensen has selected one of my images from the In Passing project which was published in the #74 issue (January/February 2008) on page 252 and 253. This is the same photograph and a similar commentary that Jensen wrote about on his Looking at Images blog in 2010. I have known that Jensen was immediately taken by this image from the early days of my submission, as he had quickly asked if I would be open to a print exchange for one of his. That deal was a no brainier as I had been earlier intrigued by one his photographs, so we did the print swap. I guess you can say with Jensen as a collector of my work, this photograph keeps resurfacing in a very nice way. Likewise, the publication of In Passing in LensWork was a great validation of this somewhat controversial project and led to my subsequent publication of In Passing in a hardcover book through Blurb (Now sold out and out of Print).

As an insight to how Jensen categorized his commentaries, my image is a warmed toned black and white, not a pure black and white photograph, thus my photograph is grouped in the Colored Images section of the book, as were a number of other toned images. Which may seem odd as my print color is very close to all of the slightly warm selenium toning photographs printed in LensWork.

A couple of other Left-Coast photographers that are included are Hiroshi Watanabe, Aline Smithson, Ray Carfano and Larry Wiese of the 122 commentaries published. There is a strong emphasis on Modern Black and White Photography, there are some interesting Contemporary Black and White photographs included to make this a fairly diverse body of commentaries.

As a book object, the stiff cover book has a decent heft for the 264 pages and I am assuming from the high quality of the printing (another forte of LensWork), that this book was printed and bound by the same Vancouver, Canada printers that print the LensWork journal. Jensen has also included a QR code with each commentary that links to an audio file about this photograph and topic.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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June 7, 2014

Sarah Malakoff – Second Nature

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Copyright Sarah Malakoff 2013 published by CHARTA

Sarah Malakoff (b. 1972 Wellesley, MA and resides in Boston, MA) chose to photograph a subject that she knows well, the interior living spaces found in the greater Boston area where she was born and raised.

Her pensive photographs are characterized by a warmth and intimacy. These are not the staged interior photographs found in advertisements or glossy interior decorating magazines so common in America. The beds are ruffled and unmade, a box of clothing lies haphazard under a bed, a board game is askew on top of a table, and there are particles of soot lying on top of the carpet in front of the blazing fire, leaves and debris on the kitchen floor adjacent to the sliding door and the many lounging animals, both real and inanimate. Nevertheless her interiors are still a bit too clean and tidy, bordering on sterile, perhaps more indicative of the person who resides there than the photographer.

These are homes, not houses, a place where people reside as evidenced by the interiors. We are only indirectly introduced to the home owners by what and how they have chosen to decorate their residences. One might suspect that these homes are owned by cats and dogs, as these are the only ones present in Malakoff’s photographs. The inclusion of the cats and dogs are a subtle reminder that their owners, although out of sight, are not far away.

Malakoff has chosen to photograph her interiors with a middle ground composition, not focusing on details or grand views. It may perhaps be a practical matter, as many of the older New England homes have smaller rooms, tight quarters to use the nautical term, as compared to the mini-mansions now being built today across America. New England borders the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and many of the founders of this region worked the boats and sea, thus the nautical theme a popular motif, such as a basement bar made out to resemble the prow of a boat.

As such, this body of work is a study of identity, which in this case has a strong New England flavor. I recognize that these photographs are instilled with much of this regional essence and the interior home photographs would appear much different if compared to those found in the South, Midwest, Southwest or Pacific Coast of the United States.

Malakoff provides us with an opportunity to make a leisurely tour while visiting these diverse residences and wonder about who has chosen these places to nest, what interesting places might lurk just outside the windows and what events may have transpired in these wonderful warm and inviting places.

The hardcover book is nicely printed and bound in a way that allows the book to be opened fully without any image contest lost in the gutters. The interior photographs are either graced with a classic white margin, or a single image printed across a two page spread, with an edge bleed of three of the four sides and both image formats allows these photographs a pleasure to read.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook & co-published in Emaho magazine.

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June 1, 2014

Robin Maddock – III

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Photographs copyright 2014 of Robin Maddock, published by Trolley Books

The British photographer Robin Maddock (b. 1972 Leicester, UK, resides in Los Angeles USA & the UK) has taken an interesting departure from the his previous color documentary style, evidenced in his prior two books, with a more conceptual theme photographed in black and white. His subjects included three objects that Maddock introduces into the pictorial frame; sheets of white paper, ping pong balls and milk. This is a project photographed in California (San Francisco and Los Angeles) over a span of a couple of years with black and white film. As Maddock has stated “It is a product of California, not about it”.

Maddock has stated elsewhere that this book-project was a result of wanting to work on a change-up, a completely different project. His previous photographic work has garnered him some nice accolades and was developing a stylistic look. For some photographer/artist, developing a recognizable visual trademark is something that is sought after, while for others, like Maddock, it is akin to an artistic kiss of death.

For this project, he chooses to include three white objects which were found, positioned, tossed or flowed (spilled per Maddock) somewhere within the frame. As to why these three different objects, perhaps why not, but they each have unique physical characteristics and unified by sharing the same color. Another possibility is the sexual attributes that can be attributed to these objects with the ping pong balls have maleness, the milk is both male and femaleness and the flat white paper seemingly neutral.

Three is also one of those magical numbers. A good presenter knows that making three points in a presentation will have the most potential effect. One of something which is often repeated can become boring and repetitious. Two different subjects’ will add diversity to a message while three subjects add complexity as well as diversity. With four subjects the message begins to become overwhelming and losing too much focus. A photographer only has to look at his tripod to understand the concept.

Maddock’s ensuring photographs are a madcap range of the absurdity to the playful and witty, such as the tongue-in-cheek rubber band filled with milk or the ping pong ball sitting on top of the end of the rain spout. Maddock incorporates his own shadow into many of the photographs perhaps indicating a potential autobiographical nature of this project.

His photographs are a little higher in contrast with the shadows frequently become dark masses to push into a stronger graphic appearance. This also serves to push the whiteness of his introduced objects to a flatter and almost abstract quality. Maddock frequently uses a vertical format and tightly composes his photographs. As a conceptual project, I do wonder if this book might have received as much critical attention if it was Maddock’ s first book.

This book object is a bound hardcover book with a tipped-in image and embossed linen boards. Another well printed book by Grafiche Antiga (Italy), the go-to printer for Trolley Books, and the black and white photographs were printed on Tatami Ivory paper. The book does not contain an essay, pagination or captions leaving the reader entirely to their own interpretations. I did notice that the dark linen cover is a dust magnet and regretfully I did not get my book into a protective poly cover quick enough.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook and co-published in Emaho magazine

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