The PhotoBook

March 31, 2009

Jeremy Stigter – The Jewish Bride

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:48 pm

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Photographs copyright of Jeremy Stigter, courtesy of Nazareli Books

I have been enjoying Jeremy Stigter’s  first book, The Jewish Bride, a photo play, recently published by Nazareli Press at the end of 2008. But unlike my attendance at most theatrical plays, there is no introduction or prologue provided, nor any copy within the book to help establish a contextual framework, but just the serial black and white photographs to experience.

And you are left to your own imagination, which in this case, is a very good thing.

Jeremy states that is a photo play, although I really like the publishers reference to a photo-novella, a short prose tale that is characterized by wit or satire. Much in line with the popoular Mexican tv novella’s that have found their way to the United States recently, with twist and turns, some subtle, some not, with hot romance, intrigue and dark secrets.

For me though, Stigter’s image framing is too tight for a play, per se, but more in line with a cinematic noir film.  We start with a partial framing of the  set, progress to a series of close-ups of the principal actors, then back out again, as the movement of the frame continues to lead you through a story line. And there is some dark weirdness in this story.

Nevertheless, it is a story, thus not unlike a play, although a play that you would want to return to again and again, in search of the clues you missed on the first showing. And much like I had to do repeatedly for the movie Sixth Sense. And the dark under tone to the series is further emphasized by the suggestive black and white photographs, to further establish the noir  quality to the story line.

Unlike some stories, where once through is enough, I find that I have a new visual story each time I move through The Jewish Bride.  I am not provided any written clues, thus I can freely and imaginatively supply my own dialog. And by the way, I am only hinting at the ending, because like the movie Sixth Sense, you miss much of the movies appeal by knowing the ending. Even though Stigter’s ending is very slippery and mysterious, thus for me, constantly evolving. Which increases my delight each time I pick up the book.

Enough to say, the book has a beginning, story line, evolves and a ending.  And like a good novella mystery, you are tantalized wondering: what if? (or what the..?)

This is a large and beautifully printed and bound book, measuring 11 x 14″, with 58 duotone plates over 120 pages. The linen hardbound cover has a tipped-in image from the series.

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 By Douglas Stockdale

March 24, 2009

Photolucida Critical Mass publications

Filed under: Photo Books, Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:45 pm

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One of potential opportunities of participating in Photolucida’s Critical Mass juried event is becoming published, as the top three photographers will be rewarded with a book. For the person who scores the highest, their book will be in hardcover, not softcover. All of the books are the same size of 8 1/2 x 10″, although not anotated within the books, they are printed in Hong Kong.

The 2006 Critical Mass winners books, Camille Seaman‘s The Last Iceberg, Amy Stein‘s Domesticated, and Donald Weber‘s  Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl, have just been released by Photolucida. These three books are added to the previous three titles they published from the 2005 Critical Mass.

While providing my recent book making workshop at the 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, I acquired five of the six titles, above. I will be reviewing these five titles over the next couple of months.

By Douglas Stockdale

Ann Mitchell – Austin Val Verde

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:57 am

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Photographs copyright of Ann Mitchell

I have to admit, I have known many of Ann Mitchell’s photographs from her 2007 Balcony Press book, Austin Val Verde, Impressions of a Montecito Masterpiece, as we have shared the January-February 2008 issue of LensWork magazine together. From the start, Mitchell’s photographs struck me with their introspective and quiet viewpoint about a specific place.

The photographic series of this estate was completed over two years and the final book is a collaboration of her commissioned photographs and the personal recollections of Gail Jansen, the founding Executive Director of the Austin Val Verde Foundation.  Mitchell writes about the tranistion of her own creative interpetation of this large estate during the progression of this project.  Her earlier work was softer with a narrower and selective viewpoint and over time the the “extreme detail is found in the later images“. 

As such, there is a certain quality to her earlier images that recall the elegant garden photographs of Eugene Atget.  I sense a more atmospheric essence to her earlier studies, and I find them to be really wonderful. To Mitchell’s immensecredit, the later photographs, which have the entire subject in focus, are equally elegant and beautiful.

To undertake a portrait of a place, built and subequently developed by a series of owners, but now in transition to become a public place, I find daunting. Much like trying to define a person, to go beyond the surface facade and devel deep to try to find the spirit and soul.

Sometimes it is too easy to be pulled into by the textures, lines, shapes and mass to miss the underlying structure that ties it all together. Mitchell is able to visually link the structural design that establishes the story about the persons responsible for the ensusing building and surrounding grounds. We have a more of a sense of who they were, even if they are no longer with us to personally tell their own stories. In a sense, attempting to capture latent traces of their spirit.

Mitchell has gone well beyond just a straight documentary of the architectual facts or a scrap book of mementos.

There is a certain handling of  both light and space that is consistent though-out this body of work, as Mitchell has patiently waited for the right moment for each composition. The entire body of work was created with a 4×5″ camera, with a Positive/Negative film that leaves a certain tattle-tale mark along the entire margin of the image. At first, I found this technical remnent a disturbing photographic attribute, but later realized that it helped with establishing that this series as a body of work, should not be taken literally, but suggestively. The photographs are not meant to be the thing itself, but a creative record of the essence of what is.

Like wise, the warm toned photographs are also suggestive of a time before, as Mitchell points out, some of the rooms with their red walls literally scream out at you. So choosing to use a toned black and white photographic image, Mitchell was able to move past the emotional colors to a suggestive inference to the presence of those who called this a home.

All in all, I just enjoy the balance of shapes and forms within the photographs, as the light leads me around and inside the photographs. Such as the first photograph below, of the steps which leads me away, to where, I am not sure, but perhaps to a place that I will find is peaceful and calm.

Another creative decision that I enjoy with this book is the ongoing dialog that accomplies with each photograph by Jensen as she shares personal antidotes about the Austins, while Mitchell shares what she is attempting to create with each photograph. The pairing of the two dialog creates another dimension to this body of work and as a result, I have really enjoyed this book. I think that it goes beyond an informative caption, as the both writings (example on the bottom two images below) are a sensitive sharing as to their experiences.

In a sense, Mitchell has indirectly written a wonderful book about what it takes to create a photographic series, how an artist has to individually contemplate each composition and understand what it is that they are attempting to capture. To analyze what is there before the lens, what it is that they want to capture and what emotional effect that will result. In my opinion, this alone is probably worth the price of the book.

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By Douglas Stockdale

March 17, 2009

Nina Berman – Homeland

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:12 pm

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Photographs copyright of Nina Berman

I am trying to figure out why Berman’s book Homeland bothers me so. As a political and religious satire, I think that it follows too close to a grueling two year presidential election here in the United States. Thus a political book that attempts to redicule her opposition is just not working for me at this time.

She includes a fictional narrator who provides a very slanted & opinionated viewpoint, with “factual” photographs and OMG captions and then wishes that what appears “over the top”,  for “the reader to consider a different interpretation”. Yes, she has a thinly veiled political and religious agenda and it comes off as tedious & repetitious, when it has the potential of being some much more.

She no doubt is a very skilled photographer, as she can deftly bring into a photograph the elements that supports her point of view. In this case, she has provided her expose of those who hold an opposite view point. What comes through is that those on both political/religious extremes have a similar style to their rhetoric, just a slight difference in the actual content.

I could actually enjoy many of the photographs if I could just ignore the OMG sensational captions with each photograph. Many of the photographs are either very humorous or provide viewpoints clearly seen, such as the older lady getting prepared for some event, wearing her gold gilded glasses above her mask. As though she is out for a senior social event, but we can tell by her yellow shirt and the busy background, it is something other than an afternoon tea with her friends.

It is though that Berman does not trust us to use our imagination, and she has to be sure that we get the point, so we get mentally clubbed over the head with some over detailed captions. Thus, these overbearing captions become one of the weakest points of the book and this body of work. Like I said, perhaps this book just happens to be published too close to this last presidential election with both parties running for office providing a multitude of innuendos and slanted reporting of the “facts”.

There are three sections within the book; exploring the simulation excercises if a catastrophic event were to occur (Prepare), those who attend Megachruches (Believe) and events by the armed forces  and police units (Defend). These are photographs that reflect an investigative reportage style and appear a little too much subjective in their editing.

The book design does try to provide a solution with providing larger photographs in a small book, the book measuring 7 1/2″ x 10 3/8″. All of the horizontal photographs in this vertical book are printed as a full two page spread, thus providing large 13 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ photographs without creating another large horizontal format book. The photographs are a delight to look at as you can note all of the nuance’s and details within the photographs.

The corresponding risk with this layout design concept is that something might get lost in the middle gutter, such as in the second photograph below. You could argue that missing some of letters of the word could impact the image message, but we mentally do fill in the missing letter and finish the photograph’s intent. But that creates a slightly different photograph than if we were to see this as a print in a gallery, where everything is intact as it was meant to be seen. Due to Berman’s compositions, not many of her photographs lose something in the gutter, but it is a distraction when it does occur.

Nina Berman’s Homeland was published in 2008 by Trolley books, a beautifully printed book in Italy by Grafiche Antiga with 90 color photographs with an image wrap cover over the hardbound boards.

 

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Best regads, Douglas Stockdale

March 10, 2009

Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:12 am

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Photographs are copyright of the estate of Paul Outerbridge Jr

This last month, I have seen a small flurry of activity regarding the photographic body of work by Paul Outerbridge Jr. ( 1986 – 1958) who was a eccentric contemporary and competitor of Edward Steichen, a friend of Marcel Ducamp, Man Ray and others while living in Paris, and known for both his Platinum and Carbo-Color Prints. The latter better know for both the phonographic virtoso technique and the fetish nudity subject matter.

Thus I decided to provide a quick review of my 1980 first edition of Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs, published in hardcover with dustcover by Rizzoli, New York. I take full credit for a couple of the not so great copies of photographs from the book, below. Thus if Outerbridge was alive, as the perfectionist that he apparently was, he would have skinned me, so I will have to make do with him just rolling in his grave.

This is a retrospective monograph of Outerbridge’s body of work, edited by Graham Howe and G. Ray Hawkins, and was the first published book about Outerbridge. Now, how ever, there have been a number of books produced about Outerbridge’s photographs and life.

Outerbridges photographic career can be broken into two distinct periods, which the book provides a portfolio from his platinum prints, 1921 – 1933 and then after learning the Carbo-Color process, a portfolio of prints from 1935 – 1939.

During Outerbridge’s Platinum period, he was very much a competitor during Steichen’s commercial photography days. Apparently the aesthetic side of their photographic competition was narrowed down between photographs of cups and saucers versus eggs, the whole ability to make the best possible photograph of a entirely white on white subject. There were other aspects of this rivalry, which to the credit of Howe and Hawkins, makes for interesting reading.

Outerbridge was captivated by the cubist movement and he felt that photography was even a better medium to create cubist work, which most of his contemporaries in Paris agreed. When Outerbridge moved to Paris, it appears that he and Man Ray became close friends. The book’s authors trace some of  Outerbridges later erotic work back to Man Ray’s own private photographic studies of himself with Kiki, his model and muse, that apparently was shared by Ray with Outerbridge.

Outerbridge was an earlier innovator of the limited edition print, as he usually only printed one of each of his Platinum prints, like wise later when he began printing the Carbo-Color prints. Both are very labor intensive printing processes, with the  Carbo-Color print taking upwards of nine hours for each one.

Since the Carbo-Color printing process utilized actual ink, the prints are said to be absolutely amazing in their three dimension appearance. (Thus if you are in the Los Angeles area, there will be an exhibition of Outerbridge’s photographs at the Getty Museum, on exhibition March 31 – August 9th, 2009).  Regretfully, that amazing color or feeling is not apparent from the printing of this book.

Overall, within the 160 pages of the book, it provides a broad but not inclusive, survey of Outerbridge’sbody of photographic work, with a strong concentration and emphasis on his earlier Platinum work. 

For the color photographs, although the nudity was at the time very controversial and eventually led to the declining interest in Outerbridges prints in the 1930’s – 1950’s, they are pretty tame by today’s Internet standards. Outerbridge apprently did understand the current issues of the time with his nude studies, which he created as “neo-classical” studies, which were his public work.  Because of the subject matter, Museums did not purchase these or allowed them to exhibited.

He also had an “interest in sexuality, eroticism, fetishism and decadence”.  The latter were privately held for himself and a small group of friends, with only a very few of these in the book.

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By Douglas Stockdale

March 9, 2009

Anne Deniau – Nicholas Le Riche

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 1:02 am

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Photographs copyright of Anne Deniau (aka Ann Ray)

Anne Deniau’s book Nicholas Le Riche, which is being published this month by Editions Gourcuff Gradenigo, France, has an interesting solution to an old dilemma.  When creating a photo-biographic body of work, how do you separate the artist from their performance?

The book provides an elegant answer, showcasing the two different aspects of Le Riche as two books in one, depending on which side/cover you enter.  From one side you will find either Nicholas, the person who is the artist/actor/performer, or from the opposite you find Le Riche, the fluid and graceful performer with Deniau’s beautiful interpretation of his performances.

Interestingly the book is as complex as the artist. Deniau’s photographs provide us with a visual feast of Le Riche’s performances and literally on the flip side, personal photographs of the person who is the actor and dancer. We are allowed to see behind the theater curtain, during the rehearsal time, the strain of getting things “right”. Or the more personal time, to meditate or practice playing the gitar while in the one of many faceless hotel roads on the road.

It is a difficult task to find the spirit of a person who resides behind the veneer of the many masks we all wear through out the day, least a trained and talented actor who knows the integrity of a lens and film. It is to Deniau’s credit that she penetrates the veil, as you pause during the flow of images, you begin to sense who Le Riche may be beyond the fascade provided for at the theater.

In actuality, this book can be considered a joint collaborative project between Deniau and Le Riche.  As this series evolved over a considerable amount of time, you can sense the mutual trust.  There is the hint of  vulnerability, an openness between them. Perhaps there was more of a personal dance and performance between them over time. Viewing the body of work, it appears that Deniau was able to capture more of the spirit of Le Riche, and she did so with grace and respect.

Deniau utilized a variety of ways to express Le Riche’s athleticismand artistic movements while he was moving through his performances. It can be difficult to illustrate on a two-dimension medium the amount of raw energy that takes place as a dancer explodes off the stage, momentarily flying effortlessly, suspended as though hanging by a wire, then gracefully falling back to earth.

Predominately, her photographs are black and white, with the grittiness that results from low light conditions and film being pushed. The flow of the images is nicely paced and the occasional full bleed photographswork very well to provide that extra sense of openness, especially the largeness of the stage. The pairing of the photographs also play off each other, such as the photograph of Le Riche applying makeup while on the facing page, we see the audience finding their places. The anticipation of the both the audience and the actor is felt in the tension between the two.

Although this is book is about a specificly about Le Riche, it is a story and an insight about all artists and especially ballet performers.  Each artist has a private life that is much diffent than the very public life under the lights and in front of the audience. They are real people, dealing with real problems, who work untold hours to fine tune their skills and craft, all to create the allusion of how “effortless” the abilities are while on stage. Deniau captures all of that, from the down time, to the rehersals and hours of work to prepare the performance, the resulting sweat and worn out ballet slippers.

Only after a little time with Deniau’s photographs do you start to find the little things that are left in the corners of the image, such as an old photograph that is tucked in the corner Le Riche’s stage mirror. A constant reminder of the past as well as what standard is to be expected and maintained in the performance that is about to take place.

The book is 354 pages, with 311 black and white photographs and 93 color photographs, in a beautifully bound hardcover book, that is 9 3/4 x 12″ with dustcover. The text is both in French and English.

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By Douglas Stockdale

Update: Anne has provided a photo, below, from the first book signing in Paris, of her, Nicolas and another friend during an amusing moment. There a web-journal has been started for the book, including subsequent photographs of Nicholas by Anne, which can be found here.

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From the signature (launching of the book) that took place on the 23rd of October 2008 in Paris at the Repetto boutique, rue de la paix.

March 2, 2009

Photography.Book.Now call for entries

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:34 pm

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Beth DowIn the Garden” 2008 Photography.Book.Now Grand Prize Winner

The 2009 Photography.Book.Now self-publishing book competition is now open, with more information here. The lead book juriest for this will Darius Himes, co-founder of Radius Books, who was a judge in the 2008 competition. The grand prize will be again, $25,000.00, which is probably why there were 2,000 entries in last years competition.

There are a number of important aspects of this competition, the first is the personal results of self-publishing your own work if you have not had a opportunity to complete this yet. The quality of the submission are very high, thus this competition should not be be taken too casually. There is the opportunity to participate in the shared photography book community, with the awards celebration and meet-ups that are on-going and will continue world-wide.

You will have until July 16th to complete your entry, and I wish you all the very best as you develop your book.

Regards, Douglas Stockdale

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