The PhotoBook

December 31, 2008

John Sexton – Reflections

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:01 pm

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I thought that I would like to end 2008 with a review of a book that has been quietly sitting on my shelf for a while. Although John Sexton’s book Reflections was published in 2006, I did not purchase it until 2007.

On the little more technical publishing side, it is a hardcover book (trade and limited edition), 140 pages, 12″ x 12″, with 45 black & white photographs (plates), printed on 80lb Sappi Lustro Gloss Cover. Beautifully printed, bound and has that impressive book weight & heft to it. The book was published by Venana Editions, which is John Sexton’s publishing company, thus this could be considered a self-published book, and in of itself, truly reflects Sexton’s design aesthetics.

I should first admit that in the early 1980′s, I attended some classes that Sexton was teaching at Cypress College and the Muckenthaler Center while he was still attending college and living in Southern California. At the time, he was just getting his workshops tweaked with Ray McSavaney and Bruce Barnbaum, both of whom were still living in Southern California. I was already committed to the zone system, using a medium format camera and very interested in the natural landscape, but more interested in Minor White and Wynn Bullock than Ansel Adams. Right after graduation, Sexton then moved to Northern California to work as Adams assistant. And I purchased this book as I was making my transition away from the natural landscape towards the urban and industrial landscape.

As this book is meant to be a thirty year retrospective, the thematic bond of the photographs is that they are all rendered in black and white. Sexton is primarily known for his natural landscape photographs, but has also worked on an industrial series as well as the some architectural details. Interestingly, none of the industrial photographs were included in this book, an interesting exception for a retrospective body of work. This exception results in the danger that the book becomes more of a catalog of photographs suitable for framing for your living room.

Many of Sexton’s black and white photographs thus resonate within me, and I can easily place myself within the frame of the image or perhaps behind the camera looking at these same compositions thru the lens. The solid foundations of rock and stone with the running water, the fluid symbols of time and life, etching their way through and creating new pathways, have always has a special appeal to me. And Sexton creates these photographs with a delicate touch, capturing the nuance’s of tonality and providing a wonderful and peaceful harmony.

For me, one of the challenges of natural landscape photography is to extract the essence of that natural moment, but balanced with a compositional design that can potential elevate the resulting photograph to another aesthetic level. There is a risk of creating “just another pretty natural photograph”. Using the black and white medium does help with creating a more abstract image and disassociation from nature.

The book contains some classic natural elements, such as the corn lilies, oaks in fog, water cascades and trees in blowing snow (book cover). But there are others which are true abstractions, such as the “Foam on Water”, very graphic, rendered in just pure black and white, no gray tonalities. To have seen and subsequently capture this graphic pattern present in nature is a delight. The same is also true for the Sandstone Forms, Painted Window, Cracked Mud and his rock details. One photograph of the “Sculptured Sandstone and Pool” borders on the obscene, a symbolic Mother Nature who is revealing her most private intimacy.

Sexton is not known for creating heavily manipulated images, that show the effects of his hand in the darkroom. Nevertheless, his photographs are not truly “straight” interpretations as was proported by Edward Weston, but have been deftly manipulated to create a visual effect. He provides some additional information about his creative darkroom processes in his photographers notes, which I suspect might be of some interest to those who have thought about attending his creative photographic workshops.

All in all, it is an interesting collection of photographs, containing the natural images you would expect by Sexton, but with some wonderful surprises. A book that I would recommend if you want to visually experience the potential range of images that are possible with a creative interpretation of nature.

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Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 19, 2008

Errata Editions at photo l.a.

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 2:21 am

Speaking of Jeffery Ladd, I just received a note from him that he will be at the Schaden booth at photo l.a. along with the four new books that he recently published through his Errata Editions.

So if you are in the L.A. area January 9-11th, 2009, drop by and introduce yourself, much like I expect to do on Friday.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 18, 2008

SB4 – best books of 2008

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 10:10 pm

I just noted that Jeff Ladd has published on SB4 his short list of recommended best books for 2008. A list that requires serious consideration!

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Also noted some new books from The Ice Plant. Since I did not have them on my publishers list, I have just provided a link.

Update: and I have added link to Rathole, the Japanese gallery which publishes some nice books, but it does take a little naviagation to get to the web page for their publications.

December 10, 2008

Farewell Books at Utrecht in Tokyo

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 12:01 am

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Naini and the Sea of Wolves, by Trinidad Carrillo, courtesy Farewell Books

Farewell Book is now being represented by Utrecht’s new project space in Aoyama, Tokyo, which is featuring Farewell Book’s 2008 Swedish Photobook award, Trinidad Carrillo‘s Naini and the Sea of Wolves.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 9, 2008

Pond Press Night at ICP

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 11:22 pm

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Female Bodybuilders by Martin Schoeller, courtesy Pond Press

Tomorrow night (Jan 10th, 2008) at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC, Pond Press is going to have a book  signing event, from 6pm – 8pm, which is open to the public. This event is inconjunction with the ICP’s Members Holiday Sale & Party.

The photographers who will be signing their books include Martin Schoeller, signing Female BodybuildersHenry Horenstein signing ANIMALIA, David Graham signing Almost Paradise and Virginia Behan with advance copies of her book CUBA singing with bright tears. 

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 4, 2008

Jonathan Smith – The Bridge Project

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:57 am

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Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn photographs copyright of Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith’s book The Bridge Projectwas chosen as the Themed Category Winner of Blurb’s Photography.Book.Now 2008 book competition. It is a beautiful book and an equally wonderful project.

Jon states that he was closely associated with Joel Meyerowitz’s World Trade Center Archive, and his use of color and composition does reflect that close association. Meyerowitzis a contemporary of Gary Winogrand, and Smith’s photographs are equally direct in his vision and composition. Likewise, Meyerowitz has stated his interest in a  photograph’s color, which I likewise find as a undercurrent to Smith’s project.

But there is also a subtle irony in Smith’s photographs, such as his cover photograph above, when you find the only text within this photograph. But to watch for what? In as Jon has to work with what he finds, the word “watch” is in close associate with “look” and “see”. delightful.

As to Smith’s project, he has taken on a huge project, both in scope and size of his subject. In fact, I liken it to trying to photograph a huge and overwhelming sculpture, where you can only photograph parts of it to provide hints of its size, texture and mass. This is a documentary photographic project about a society which has had to adapt to the sculptures, the bridges. He has also included some smaller bridges that provide a comprehensible scale to help with the associations.

NYC has had to adapt to these huge and imposing structures, they become a part of their lives, there but not always recognized as to their presence. Smith has documented in a sensitive way how the people have learned to live with these huge structures. The bridges will not move, thus the people have to adapt to their huge footprints. To co-exist, to live and thrive with the ever present shadows looming over their every day lives.

Not all of Smith’s photographs are a direct observation, as some of the photographs are haunting in their monotones or relecting the change in seasons.  There is the evidence of the very old structures, the conditions and textures that are created over time.

Nevertheless, a very interesting and complete project, one worth spending some time with.

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Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 3, 2008

photo l.a.

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 5:48 pm

An excellent opportunity to see a broad and interesting selection of fine photographic books is to attend one of the many photography fairs or book exhibitions. So put on your planning calendar photo l.a., which will be in Santa Monica (LA County) January 9-11th, 2009 (Friday to Sunday).

photo l.a. is the 18th Annual International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition. At this time they will have 70 US and international exhibitors.  There are 10 book sellers or book publishers, including Bondi Books (Tokyo), D.A.P. (NY), Michael Dawson (LA), Simon Finch Rare Books (London), Leadapron (LA), Mondernbook (SF), Nazraeli Press (Portland), photo-eye (Sante Fe), Schaden Books (Koln), and 21st Editions (South Dennis).

Additionally, many of the photographic galleries which are exhibiting will have signed books available for the photographers that they represent.

Also of note is the LACMA Artist Conversation Series and Book Signings, with Charlotte Cotton, LACMA’s Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg PHotogrphaphic department. This will be occuring on Saturday, January 10th from noon to 6pm. I will provide more details as they become available.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

December 1, 2008

Man Ray – Taschen Special Icons

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:24 am

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All photographs are copyright of Man Ray, courtesy of Taschen

I recently picked up the Man Ray book published by Taschen  (published 2008) as part of their Special Icon series. I could almost afford not to, as the new price was $7.99 USD at Borders. And this is a hardcover book with slip cover no  less. Wow!

This small book (7-5/8 x 5-3/4) has 192 pages, the black and white photographs have been spot varnished and has a forward written by Andre Breton from 1927 (French Dadaist) and a wonderful Introduction written by Emmanuelle De L’Ecotais. The text is in German, French and English (American). Really nice!

Man Ray (b.1890 Emmanuel Rudnitzky, Philadephia – d. 1976 Paris, France) was the American photographer/painter in the middle of both the Dada and Surrealist groups and movements in Paris in the 1920′s – 1940. He was known for early invovation of both his Rayographs (photograms) and the creation of solarization prints. He is also known as the photographer/painter whom Bernice Abbott was the darkroom assistant to when she stumbled across Eugene Atget and his photographs in Paris.

This book and biography are not all inclusive off all Ray’s work, but does includes most of his well known photographs and follows his steps in photographic history. This book is a great collection of photographs by a well known name, but perhaps not well known for his entire body of work. I have not been really searching for a Man Ray book, but I had wanted to have a unified collection of his photographs for future reference. 

Contained within are Ray’s 1932 photograph of Pablo Picasso’s intense eyes and then, his hands. The solorized photographs of the Calla Lilies which have a sensual feel to them, almost erotic. The solorized nudes have wonderful clean lines, much like a gesture drawings. And his Rayographs run the full gamut of complex to simplistic, but a delight to read and think about.

Finding this little gem was impressive and at this price, a highly recommended purchase.

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Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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