The PhotoBook

October 30, 2009

Verso Limited Editions : Book Publisher of the Year

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:53 pm

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Bruce Davidson: Central Park in Platinum

Verso Limited Editions, an imprint of Santa Barbara-based  Serbin Communications, Inc. has been awarded the prestigious 2009 Lucie Award for Book Publisher of the year for their publication of Bruce Davidson: Central Park in Platinum, which I had earlier reviewed here.

From the press release: Renowned portrait photographer Joyce Tenneson presented the award to Glen Serbin, President of Verso Limited Editions on October 19th at the 7th Annual Lucie Awards, a gala black-tie ceremony held at New York’s Lincoln Center. Ms. Tenneson, the author of 13 photography books herself, introduced the nominees with a moving statement about the impact that books have on all of us.

The worldwide photography community pays tribute to the year’s most outstanding photographic achievements at the annual Lucie Awards ceremony. This year, 1100 people attended the event from 25 countries around the globe. The Lucies recognize men and women whose life’s work in photography merits the highest acclaim by their peers.

Other 2009 Lucie awards were presented in categories ranging from Lifetime Achievement to Ara Guler, for Achievement in Fashion to Jean-Paul Goude, Photojournalism to Gilles Peres, Portraiture to Mark Seliger, Sports to Marvin Newman, Documentary to Reza and Humanitarian to Fazal Sheikh. Achievements in support categories from fashion to advertising included Harper’s Bazaar for Fashion Layout of the Year and Steve Fine, Director of Photography for Sports Illustrated for Picture Editor of the Year. Nadav Kander won the 2009 IPA competition for International Photographer of the Year.

Congradualtions to them all!

By Douglas Stockdale

October 26, 2009

Gunnar Smoliansky – One Picture at a Time

Smoliansky_Cover

Photographs copyright Gunnar Smoliansky 2008 courtesy Steidl

The 55 year photographic oeuvre of Gunnar Smoliansky captured in One Picture at a Time, illustrates how this famous Swedish native continues to mine his local cultural landscape, constantly revealing the subtle nuances that have taken him a lifetime to discover. He has not veered far from his Scandinavian borders to create a broad and rich body of work.

It is apparent that Smoliansky was captivated by the human element early on, whether it was his family or those moving about him at both work and play. In an early self-portrait created in 1952, we can detect other elements that would eventually become a part of his style, the inclusion of geometric architectural elements, bordering on abstraction.

Although Smoliansky did not general work on photographic projects per se, it is evident in retrospect that there are a number of themes that wind their way through his work in addition to his early street photography. Thematically he was attracted to the middle ground landscape, both urban and natural, family, the nude studies of his girlfriend/wife, portraits, self-portraits and later in his career, more emphasis on abstract architectural and environmental studies.

In Marie Lundquist’s essay, she notes that Smoliansky in his later years started to turn his attention away from photographing the people directly, but indirectly by photographing the tracks that they behind. Badger probably states this best, “The removal of the direct presence of people from his pictures has not resulted in a removal of humanity from them, nor of the things that concern people.”

We rarely see a grand sweeping landscape photograph, as his photograph of the snowy car overpass revealing the car tack patterns, seen below, is about the maximum vista you will find. Smoliansky appears to be interested in the details, to explore the various textures and as such, he stays close to his subject.

It is also apparent that he has a worldly view, as he pays homage to various photographers while assimilating their concepts into to his own style.  It is possible to relate to a Penn’s gutter photograph, a Friedlander’s long tree shadow looming into the foreground or a house cloaked by a transparent wall of tree limbs, a Siskind’s abstraction extracted from a painted wall or Stieglitz’s fontal nude of his then girlfriends breasts.

Case in point, the fore mentioned winter landscape below, resembling one of Siskind’s Chicago winter landscapes, includes a lone person striding through the lower edge of the pictorial space, providing a poetic and humanistic touch to what otherwise be a cold and abstract patterned landscape.

In an informative essay by Gerry Badger, he provides an external context to Smoliansky’s photographic style as a Northern European photographic way of seeing;

…predicates a particular photographic strategy, indicating photographs taken on a walk, that is, photographs articulating an everyday experience in which we have all participated, an experience fundamental to our well-being, where we not only take exercise, but spiritually refresh ourselves. And taking photographs whilst walking is essentially a reactive rather that a proactive process. As might be expected, given the period when he began to photograph and upon the evidence of his practice, Smoliansky is a phenomenological rather than a conceptual photographer, photographing spontaneously, as his mood and sensibilities strike him, rather than  than predetermining his picture in the contemporary, postmodern fashion. In a crucial sense, Smoliansky is not making art but responding to life. He is a photographer-flaneur, his lucid and eloquent voice deriving from an almost forensic attention to place, light and time.

One of my issues, although a small nitpick, is that the book’s photograpahs are not sequenced in linear time, thus difficult to visualize and comprehend Smoliansky’s artistic progression. The work from the same period is spread thought out the book, you need to piece it together to grasp how his photographic work evolved. The book is not separated thematic either, mixing time and themes. The parings of the photographs on facing sides of the spread do not readily seem to be synergistic; they are not playing off or complementing each. Perhaps this layout design is intended to create a discontent chord, an uneasy edge to keep you stimulated, involved and to keep you looking.

Predominantly his photographic images are all clearly seen, sharp black and white images with long tonal scale befitting a photographer who cherishes the wet darkroom and the classical esthetics of the printed image.

The essays by Marie Lundquist and Gerry Badger add a nice dimension to this monograph, which includes 230 tritone plates, is nicely printed with a cloth bound hard cover with dust jacket.

by Douglas Stockdale

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October 24, 2009

Source magazine: more blurring of magazines and photobooks

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:54 am

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I recently acquired the Summer 2009 issue of Source Magazine, a beautiful magazine which is not widely distributed within the United States, as I had to obtain my copy directly from Dublin, Ireland, where it is published.  I had received it shortly after obtaining a copy of Volume 2 of The Aftermath Project.

The_aftermath_project-vol2-cover

 From a physical standpoint, it was interesting to compare the stiff cover book of the Aftermath Project with the stiff cover magazine. Dimensionally they are approximately the same size, similar in heft and hand and perhaps similar in page count. It is a little difficult to really compare the quality of the printing as I have temporarily misplaced my 10x loop during the studio re-modeling project, but they look comparable, probably both printed offset. The binding of Source is sewn but not glued, thus it has the capacity to really lay flat on top of my desk, while The Aftermath Vol2 has been glued and does not have the same capacity to lay flat, e.g. it has a memory and wants to close itself.

The paper stock is considerable different, although the paper stock is similar in weight and dense opacity (yeah, you can not see through each page, so no image ghosting), the Aftermath Vol2 is matte stock and the image has been lightly varnished, while Source is printed on a near luster. The paper stock and image varnishing making for one of the biggest differences after the binding in terms of each’s aesthetics.

I will discuss the details of The Aftermath Vol2 in a future post, but suffice to say, there really is a blurring of the higher end magazines like Source as compared to these recent stiff cover books. And the quality of this “magazine”, much like LensWork and a few other magazine,  is actually superior to some of the softcover/perfect binding print on demand “books” that I have reviewed.

I suspect that sometime in the near future, it will be very hard to tell these two apart, which I think in the long-term, benefits us all.

Best regards, Doug

October 19, 2009

Sandra Lousada – Public Faces Private Places

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Copyright Sandra Lousada 2009 courtesy Frances Lincoln Limited

While reading Sandra Lousada’s retrospecitive monograph, Public Faces Private Places, I am impressed with the intimate and sensitive portraits that she has been capturing for the last fifty years. Her subjects are predominately the public figures of the United Kingdom, both in their roles as actors and private personas that occur during the day-to-day behind the scenes.

Her portraits are mostly obtained while on commercial assignment for a large assortment of magazines, eventually including those published in the United States. While we may recognize her subject’s public persona, we may not have been able to identify the photographer behind the lens. Lousada has created a body of professional portraits that attempt to reveal her subject, and now this collection of photographs allow her own professional personality to quietly become a little more visible.

Perhaps Lousada’s ability to understand the private places of those who have public faces can be traced to her public family. Her grandfather was a MP (Oxford University) and author, Sir Alan Patrick (A.P.) Herbert, her “mum”, Jocelyn Herbert, a leading British theatre designer and her mum’s boyfriend was Gorge Devine, director of the English Stage Company. For her, Laurence Olivier just might be known as Larry.

Her start in commercial photography, especially for a woman in the late 1950’s, was more daunting that it is today. To begin as a studio assistant meant hauling enormous amounts of view camera equipment, lighting and associated gear required for commercial assignments, the domain of male assistant’s. To try to capture an assignment meant enduring the gender bias of the time, such as a straight forward rebuff she remembers from Vogue, “Only men do Beauty. Women can’t”.

Lousada was unknowingly in the middle of a big transition within the fashion industry, and the related fashion magazines. She was working during the pre-computer, instant on-monitor assessment & immediate feedback days. Perhaps it was an understanding by the series of editors that she worked with that created an editorial following, such as Willie Landels quote; “Sandra looked in her own way, with tenderness and kindness and understanding” and Felecity Clark, beauty editor while at Vogue; “We liked the soft quality of her results”.

Lousada states that she aimed to elicit as much of the real person in her photographs as possible, even on fashion and advertising shoots, creating circumstances whenever she can where the sitter or the models feels relaxed enough to move and gesture in a way that is true to themselves and habitual, and where they can almost forget that they are being watched.

In the informative Essay by Cathy Courtney, she states;

When she [Lousada] set out with her camera, it wasn’t with the aim of becoming famous. Her focus has always been on fulfilling the brief and on working as part of a team to deliver what was needed rather than on creating a professional persona whose identity was stamped on her photographs at the expense of their subject matter or the client’s requiremets. This restraint of ego has been an asset, allowing her style to develop almost subconsciously so that, as this book shows, her identity emerged through the body of her work rather than by calculated imposition. It may also have been something of a disadvantage, as the coherence and value of her output has not, until now, been properly celebrated.

Her photographs usually have a wide tonal range and she allows her subject to fall out of the frame, providing a candid and casual appearance. It is though she is an invisible observer, allowing her subjects to do what is they do with a minimum of interference. For her subjects to just be themselves, perhaps permitting their inner persona and personal habits to become more visible and be revealed.

She show us her ability to enter into a theater scene and capture the actors doing what they do best, be the character and off-stage, to allow them the space to return to normalcy. For Laurence (Larry) Olivier, to comfortably be seated and reading the newspaper while his two children look on, his daughter with rapt attention with her hair shimmering in the light. These were the days that you might still be formally dressed and relaxing at home, as I also note that his son is wearing a tie. I would guess that Olivier was probably reading the paper to them as he paged through it.

When dealing with her thematic projects, such as Hands, she has the ability capture the essence of her subject, such as the muscular and dusted hands of Sally Clarke, and create a sense of both power and sensuality. The lighting and shading create wonderful forms and lines in this study, which moves your eyes down to Clarke’s right hand manipulating the raw dough.

This book has thematic sections; Fashion, Babies, Hands, Actors, Couples, Writers, Artists, Architects, Musicians, Designers, Directors, Dancers, with a strong bent to theater performances. The majority of her portraits are in black & white, a preferred medium for her, with the fashion photographs and a few of the others in color.

Lousada is not known as well for creating iconic portraits, but has created a nice and refreshing body of work that does celebrate her subjects and not at the expense of her own individual fame. And she appears to be very comfortable with it.

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Jacob_Bronowski_n_daughter_1961_p120 James_Gowan_n_James_Stirling_1962_p86

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By Douglas Stockdale

October 9, 2009

Bill Westheimer – Momento

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Copyright Bill Westheimer 2009

An emotional trigger is when one experiences an event or in the presence of an object, there is an immediate recall of memories of past events and related emotions. Triggers can be diverse, such as a whiff of a particular perfume may recall visits with a favorite Aunt or perhaps the first dance with a future spouse. The trigger may also recall a traumatic event or a last conversation, and for some, the intensity of the memories may even allow someone to recall the touch, smell and background noises. I swear that when I think of my grandparent’s home in Western Pennsylvania, I can smell the faint scent of coal dust that seems to linger in that region.

Bill Westheimer’s book Momento strives to capture the collected memories associated with an object, in particular cameras, that have been kept as mementos. He couples a specific camera with the story of an associated memory. An undercurrent to this book is the reason why we keep mementos, for the associated memories that we hope to hold and treasure.

For many, the camera is the equipment that we might actual use to create specific memories, the photographic documentation of a person or a place. I do not think that many think of the camera as an memento object to be treasured, save one, the photographer behind the camera. Nevertheless, almost any object can carry with it a memory for its save-keeper. And sometimes those objects and related memories are passed along, with the memories perhaps becoming stronger, perhaps weaker and many times changing specificily with whom it now resides.

Like a lot of momentos, these cameras have been difficult to give up, trade in, sell or give away, as the strong pull of the associated memories appear to be too strong. As an example, Bill shares his personal memories that his collection of camera is associated with memories of his father and grandfather, as well as of events related to his decision to persue photography and his subsequent photographic projects.

The camera may be a keepsake from a favorite relative, perhaps from one that they had not know well, but they may use this momento to dream about where it might have been, what it might have seen, and to know that it was in a special persons hands. For some photographers, these camera momento’s are links to a past experience, such as although they may now be full digital, the film camera brings back the smell of film developer and fixer of darkroom days long past.

I have enjoyed these stories and find myself recalling past memories with my own closet  respository of cameras which sometimes haunt me with their close presence, but no longer in active use. I have my own Nikkormat, Canon FT, Palorid SX-70, Instamatic and twin lens reflex (620 format) cameras stories that silently whispered to me as I paged through this book. And more recently the stories of why my Minolta one degree spot meter is totally unusable, with the prism permanently dislodged and out of alignment from the last time I inadvertently dropped it, and my other film cameras which sit silently on the shelf.  Similar to Jay Maisel’s story about his iPan CrazyCam, that although he has not used this film camera for the last seven years, that “like everything in my life, it’s on my list”.

The accompanying camera photographs were created by Bill using a collodion wet plate (black and white) negatives with an 8 x 10 view camera. A process that pre-dates most of the cameras photographed, that leaves a somewhat trademark of mottling within the image and the wet plate holder shadows framing the image. This provides an interesting contrast of the old process documenting the relatively new camera equipment. The cameras as a still life object has not become a cliche like a vase of lilies, sea shells or perhaps a pepper.

One issue that I have with this book is that what appears to be an attempt to create a larger variety of shapes to avoid a static sameness, some of the photographs are displayed inverted on the page. The placement of the inverted shadows creates an unsatisfactory tension in relation to the memories being shared. Similarly, how the object fills or is truncated by the framing of the pictorial edges, also increases the feeling of tension. It is though the photographic images and the layout design were completed independent of the book’s intent, which I feel to be the warm and fond memories that are related to an object and to be “comfort food” for photographers. The depiction of the object does not feel related to the object’s own story.

I did enjoy the shared stories and how the many of the photographs triggered my own memories while I was paging through this stiffcover book. Also to note that this book has a glued in spine typically of a print on demand perfect bound book, and the printing does take full advantage of a full black & white tonal scale.

 

Rollei 35 Hasselblad 500C

Argus Seventy Five Nikkormat 2

Nikon D300 Westheimer-Momento-Minolta Autocord

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

October 6, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair – Oct 14-18

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:08 pm

Just a quick note that the Frankfurt Book Fair will be starting in a couple of weeks, which runs from October 14th – 18th, in Frankfurt Germany.

This year, China is the guest of honor, and more information can be found here. There is a Hall dedicated for photography, Hall 4 which I know some publishers who specialize in photobooks will have their booths.

I have recently received a swarm of press releases from various publishers, so it appears that there will be plenty of photobooks to evaluate.

Regrefully, I will not be heading back to Europe until later this Fall, so I will not be able to attend. Bummer!

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

October 4, 2009

Chris Jordan – Running the Numbers

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Copyright Chris Jordan 2009 courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery and Prestel Verlag

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are the numerous stories of the Prophets who have an unpopular message for their leaders and the masses, messages that most would prefer to ignore in order to not disrupt their current enjoyable life style. Likewise today, there are those who have grasped what the possible future might look like and apparently like past generations, it seems that many have hoped they were wrong and would soon fade away.

A concerned individual, whether they are a business man, scientist, artist, activist, student or professor, can now create insightful environmental messages utilizing better documentary photographic evidence. Thus shrinking glaciers, or glacier rivers where there were no rivers before, or no ice where there should be fields of ice, can directly illustrate the environment changes. As a “Doubting Thomas”, you can actually go, look and see the changes.

The ability to visual changes is a central issue for Chris Jordan when had attempted to grasp and illustrate the environmental issues of waste. He was finding there was not an effective way to actually visualize what was occurring. It is difficult to comprehend the relationship between being an individual consumer and what the potential accumulation of that consumption might actually look like. Thus he created a series of images based on using individual objects, that when compiled into a larger image in conjunction with an identifying caption, could help us understand what the Big Picture might look like. That at the core is what his recent book Running the Numbers, an American Self-Portrait is attempting to help us comprehend.

The concern for Jordan is that most of the “facts” regarding the components of environmental waste are provided as numbers, frequently in statistics that most of us have difficulty comprehending. The abstraction of statistics can impede us is to understand the relationship between the can of soda in our hand and the tons of cans which end up in a land fall. Especially on a hourly or daily basis, and for some things, it be staggering what we use in a couple of minutes. We can comprehend the individual can, perhaps our filled trash bin at the end of week, but impossible to see all of the cans that are being used in a single week throughout the nation.

Jordan states; “My hope is that images representing these statistics might have a different effect than the raw numbers we encounter daily in books, magazine, and the news. Statistics about our mass culture can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it hard to connect the profoundly important issues they represent. Finding meaning in these huge numbers is made even more difficult by the fact that there is nowhere we can go to see the actual phenomena….they are spread across our nation in an invisible collective that is impossible to experience in any way other than rows of numbers with lots of zeros, written on a page…The underlying aim is to question our roles and responsibilities as individuals in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible and overwhelming.”

The images themselves run the gamut of bland color fields, such as the orange wide stripes, to patterns or perhaps a recognizable but slightly distorted iconic image. What is striking is when you have an opportunity to move in close to study and analyze the details; what objects are used to create the larger image. The image details in conjunction with the descriptive caption as to what this image represents is a powerful, abet sometimes very subtle, message.

The book first provides Jordan’s overall image and in the following pages, starts to drill down into the details of the compositions. As an example at the macro level, we see a somewhat abstract image of a nude woman’s exposed breasts. Then as we drill down and get closer to the granular aspects of the image, it becomes evident that the image, like the pointillist of the turn of the century, has been composed using undressed Barbie dolls. That in itself could be a commentary within a commentary, eh?

The caption for this image provides the external context to the amount of elective breast augmentation surgeries each year, which at first may be difficult to place into the books context of creating industrial waste. Until you consider that this at best is usually an elective surgery, that there are many disposable instruments, sterile drapes, sterile gloves, components and sterile packaging used during the surgical procedure (I know, I have helped create the sterile barrier systems for some of these). The issue is that all of these disposable items are usually consider hazardous waste (having blood contact) without the potential of being re-cycled. They go direct to an expensive land fill for hazardous waste to spend the next thousands of years eventually decomposing.

Similar to his early book, In Katrina’s Wake, Jordan has brought together a broad group of individuals to provide informative essays about both his project and the questions that this project raises about these environmental issues. The essays are written by Chris Bruce, Lucy Lippard and Paul Hawken.

The book was developed in conjunction with Jordan’s traveling exhibition, which was originated at the Museum of Art at Washington State University in Pullman, WA.

As a personal note: with my day job, I have realized that without thinking, I could be unwittingly part of this environmental waste issue as identified by Jordan. By keeping these issues in mind, I know that it is possible to develop smaller, elegant and greener packaging systems that can leave a smaller carbon footprint. And to Jordan’s point, I do believe that each of us can individually start to make a difference, such as what we do, what we purchase and how we use it.

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by Douglas Stockdale

October 3, 2009

Some Blurb News for those who self publish

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 6:18 pm

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Copyright Dan Nelken, 2009 & Blurb P.B.N Editorial Honorable Mention

Blurb just announced some new stuff for their self publishing services, an software upgrade to v2.5 for BookSmart and some better shipping rates for your books. The details will follow shortly.

Also recevied news that Dan Nelken, a photobook author whom I reviewed here earlier in the year, received recognition for his Blurb book Smash ‘em Crash ‘em, gardening an Editorial Honorable Mention.

Interesting to note regarding Blurb’s self publishing photobook contest that Dan, like the Grand Prize Winner, used a designer to help him develop his final book. Some folks are taking this book competition very seriously.

INTRODUCING BLURB BOOKSMART 2.5

Blurb BookSmart® 2.5 is available for download, and includes
many new features that give you even more control in the
customization of your book layouts; how images are accessed,
viewed, and filtered; integrated help options within BookSmart;
and increased stability of the application itself. You can
grab it here:

http://links.mkt2330.com/ctt?kn=4&m=4247623&r=NDg1MTI2NTc0NAS2&b=2&j=MTM4NjY2MDYyS0&mt=1&rt=0.

Regarding their flat rate shipping, this is what they had to say:

We also wanted to make sure you’re aware of our new flat-rate
shipping option, which significantly reduces the shipping
costs when you order between 1 to 5 books – using U.S. Ground
or International Economy options – as follows:

- US: 1 to 5 books = $6.99
– Canada: 1 to 5 books = $7.99 (USD)
– Europe: 1 to 5 books = 5.99 Euro
– UK: 1 to 5 books = £3.99
– Rest of world: 1 to 5 books = varies per order

BTW, I hope to acquire a copy of the Grand Prize Winner of the P.B.N. for review later this year, stay tuned;- )

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Update: Oops, I forgot to add the Blurb link to Dan’s winning photobook (okay, embedded above), because I figure you would at least like to look at his book tease, eh?

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