The PhotoBook

November 29, 2009

Duane Michals – 50

Copyright Duane Michals 2009, courtesy Edizioni Siz and photo-eye

Spending time with the recent Duane Michals book, 50, a fifty year retrospective by the Italian publisher Siz, was essentially re-experiencing much of my own photographic life, having come of photographic age with his somnambulist period. His fascination with dreams, dreamlike states and dream-walking precedes our current interest with making connections to memories. Michals is whimsical, elusive, sensitive, cerebral, witty, caustic, introspective, challenging and seemly always on the move, pushing boundaries along a zigzag course of his own making.

The book ostensibly sets out to describe the broad spectrum of Michals career, which it does very well, but excludes his combination photographic/painting that were not received to wide acclaim in the 1980’s. This retrospective begins with his earliest portraits, which paved the way into his commercial career. Michals’s multiple exposure portraits of the famous painter Rene Magritte, pair of photographs below, foretold of his well-known “Sequences” of the late 60s and 70s. In the use of the double exposures, Michals weaves in other trademark elements of Magritte’s paintings in this iconic portrait. 

In his Sequences he fully delves into the world of the Somnambulist, the dream walker, utilizing sequential images, multiple exposures and eventually hand-written narrations that developed into raw poetic verse, declarations, statements and always questions. Most, if not all, of Michals’s Sequences are contained with this retrospective, which provides an opportunity to study this important, and arguably his most critical, body of work.

Subsequent to the Sequences, his sarcastic wit was fully revealed with his “About Contemporary Art” series; probably best know for ribbing Cindy Sherman with the title “Who is Sidney Sherman?” and mocking post-modern art in general. This series is somewhat ironic in that Michals double exposures, sequences and hand written narratives challenged the modernistic norm of the 1960s and 70s. 

One weakness of the book is that the supporting essays, including his interview with Enrica Vigano, are in Italian. Overall, lacking an English translation in the book does not diminish an appreciation of Michals first fifty years and provides me with wonder on what still may be yet to come. Additionally, his hand written narratives in English included within many of his photographic projects provides a layer of supporting contextual information. 

by Douglas Stockdale

November 25, 2009

2009 Holiday Photo-Book sales

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:12 pm

One nice thing about the Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years Holidays here in the US are the various photobook sales & discounts that become available. So follow the links to some great deals.

Rather than a series of postings each time I become aware of a Holiday photobook sale, I am going to just keep updating this post, so check back here from time to time to see if something wonderful becomes very attractive, that may cause you to dip into your wallet. nice.

Aperture Foundation’s Annual Holiday Sale (Publisher) (until January 5 2010): 30% off books  is valid for online orders only and can not be combined with other offers. The cavaet: Some limited edition, signed or curated editions may not be included, so you will have to go through the purchase process to see if the 30% discount is applied. Aperture also has a Special book holiday deal for three Japanese books (Eikoh Hosoe, Takashi Homma, & Japanese Photobooks of the 60s & 70s).

AbeBooks (used books): (now through December 10th, 2009) Coupon code NVRV2 for 10% discount, maximum of $15.00 (USD) off the book price. Using the AbeBooks portal, you can also search BookFever.com which has discounted its prices by 20% plus free shipping, but you need to check their inventory for photobook deals, and BookFever discount ends December 31st, 2009.

University of Chicago Press: up to 85%  off, internet promo code AD9256, and includes two photobooks; Ashley Gilbertson’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Laura Letinsky’s Venus Inferred. From Alan Thomas; Gilbertson’s book deserves special notice because it is arguably the best photography book to come out of the Iraq war.

Fotovision: All books on their website are on sale at 10% off until Christmas (December 25, 2009); Fotovision nutures social documentary photographers and storytelling through education, dialogue and community.

Radius Books: (Publisher) (until December 25, 2009) 30% off on all of their books, including limited editions from their on-line store with their super secret check out discount code of  SALE09, which Radius publisher Darius Himes states, “It doesn’t get any better than that…”

photo-eye (book store) An alternative for some Holiday photo-book purchases is check-out the deep discount page at photo-eye’s deep discount website.

powerHouse (publisher) (Dec 4 – Jan 4, 2010) For those passing through the Dumbo district in Brooklyn or getting near NYC, powerHouse has books on sale at their Arena, a non-internet sales opportunity, but could find deals up to 95% off!

Pond Press (Publisher) (Dec 7 – 21) Holiday Sale with 20% off the Limited Editions and 50% off all of their other titles. So do not forget to check their backlist as well.

ROSEGALLERY (Gallery) (now through Dec 24th): Select titled discounted 20% and more!

And of course, if you become aware of a Holiday book sale and it is not on this list, shoot me a quick note with the link!

Happy Holidays & Warmest regards, Douglas

November 24, 2009

Swann Photo Literature auction – December 8th

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 2:27 am

I just recevied a brief overviewof the photographic literature that will be available at the Swann Auction Galleries December 8th, 2009 in NYC, which is in conjunction with their auction of photographic prints. Some of the photobook hightlights include:

Among the earliest examples of photographic literature in the sale are Francis Frith’s Egypt Nubia and Ethiopia, with 100 albumen stereo views, London, 1862 ($7,000 to $10,000);  and Camera Work #20, with 10 photogravures, three by Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1907 ($5,000 to $6,000).

From the 1920s and ’30s are August Sander’s Antlitz der Zeit,  Munich, 1929 ($2,000 to $3,000);  Roger Parry and Fabian Loris’s Banalité, signed by both, with 16 photogravures, Paris, 1930 ($3,000 to $4,500); Italia Imperiale, edited by Manilo Morgagni, Milan 1937 ($4,000 to $6,000);  Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit, Paris, 1933 ($2,500 to $3,500); and Walker Evans’s American Photographs, signed and with an original photograph, New York, 1938  ($4,000 to $6,000).

Later works of note are a signed copy of David Heath’s A Dialogue with Solitude, New York, 1965 ($3,000 to $4,500);  Robert Frank’s The Lines of My Hand, Tokyo, 1972, and Flower Is . . . , Tokyo, 1987  ($3,500 to $4,500 and $4,000 to $6,000 respectively); Edward Ruscha’s Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, 1967 ($2,200 to $2,800);   Lewis Baltz’s The Tract Houses, The Prototype Works, The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California, issued with a print, each volume signed by Baltz, New York and Germany, 2005 ($2,500 to $3,500);  Todd Hido’s One Picture Book #06: Taft Street, four volumes, Tucson, 2001 ($2,000 to $3,000); and Visionaire issue number 18, the Fashion Special, in a leather Louis Vuitton portfolio case, New York, 1996 ($1,400 to $1,800).

Japanese highlights include Yoshikazu Suzuki’s Ginza Kaiwai, Ginza Haccho, two volumes, Tokyo, 1954 ($4,000 to $6,000);  Shomei Tomatsu’s Nagasaki 11:02, Tokyo, 1966 ($3,000 to $4,500);  Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e [Towards the City], two volumes, Tokyo, 1974 ($3,000 to $4,000); and Hirsoshi Sugimoto’s Theaters, with a signed photogravure, New York, 2000 ($1,500 to $2,500).

The auction will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday,  December 8 with Photographic Literature, and will continue at 2:30 p.m. with Fine Photographs.

The photographs and books will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries Thursday, December 3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, December 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Monday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

An illustrated catalogue with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.

Best regards & happy bidding, Douglas Stockdale

November 20, 2009

Dorothea Lange – A Life Beyond Limits

Dorothy_Lange_cover

Copyright Linda Gordon & estate of Dorothea Lange, 2009, courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company

I had been aware of Dorothea Lange’s immense photographic body of work during the FSA (Farm Security Agency) in the 1930’s, primarily her iconic images of Migrant Mother, White Angel Breadline, which I thought was a FSA photograph (it is not) and Plantation Overseer. When I had an opportunity to quickly thumb through Linda Gordon’s recent biography of Lange at a bookstore, I realized that there was a lot more that I did not know about her and her body of work, thus I decided to acquire this book. And I am glad I did.

Linda Gordon had earlier written an account of Dorothea Lange’s previously unpublished photographs stemming from her government commissioned photographs to document the Japanese-American Interment at the beginning of World War II in 1942. Lange’s photographs were buried in government archives until Gordon with Gary Okihiro published their book Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (published by W.W. Norton) in 2006. Fortunately, Lange’s work from this project is summarized in one chapter of the current book, but it was Gordon’s work on Impounded which later evolved into this larger and more extensive biography. What resulted was an “unfamiliar story about a familiar person”.

Gordon is a social historian, not a biographer, and of the ten previous books she has published this is the first complete biography of a person. Gordon is neither a photographer nor a writer about photography, which provides her with a wonderful outside perspective on the world of documentary and fine art photography. As a historian, Gordon weaves a complex tapestry that results in a rich contextual framework that attempts to describe Lange’s cultural, sociological, economic, political and family relationships.

This book has a strong sense of objectivity, revealing sources that may have a bias, which Gordon freely discusses. Gordon recognizes that as an historian, she is also like most photographers and has a subjection point of view. I think that Lange’s social consciousness, environmental empathy, liberal attitude and what she accomplished as a woman in this time period appeals to Gordon are some of the underlying reasons that Gordon chose to write her first biography about Lange.

Lange has become revered for her stamina, environmentalism, democratic vision, balanced viewpoint of man-kind, high standard for what constitutes a documentary photographic endeavor, humanity, all in the face of social and cultural bias. Lange was also human and had her flaws and weaknesses, which Gordon reveals with balance and sensitivity. As to Lange, we begin to understand some of her physical hardships (polio at age seven that resulted in a bad leg), emotional hardships (thought that her father had abandoned her mother, resulting in Dorothea rejecting her last name of Nutzhorn and adopting her mothers maiden name of Lange), cultural hardships (male bias against women, perhaps even more so for an assertive professional woman; expected to be full time housewives and sole responsibility for caring for the children) and relationship hardships (could be very demanding, controlling and assertive).

And yet Lange had the tenacity and fortitude to create a professional career with a successful professional portrait studio in San Francisco for 15 years, government photographer from 1935 – 1945 whom in the process established a high standard for documentary work, and finally a freelance documentary photographer until her death in 1965 from cancer stemming from a polio relapse. Meanwhile she juggled a large and expanding family, two sons from her first marriage to the artist Maynard Dixon and three step children from her second marriage to the economist Paul Taylor. Lange created an immense body of photographic work while both of her husbands were seemingly totally deferential to her for the care and raising of the children as well as the maintenance of the household. A conflicted life for a self-professed bohemian in the late 1920’s, though in retrospect, may have been one of the original role model’s for the future super-mom syndrome.

Gordon provides vignettes of many well known photographers whose lives intersected Lange’s, including Arnold Genthe, Ansel Adams, Marion Post Wolcott, Margaret Bourke-White, John Collier, Alfred Stieglitz, Roger Sturtevant, Willard Van Dyke, Lewis Hine, Rondal Partridge, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Clarence White, Jack Delano, Paul Strand, and Walker Evans as well as few non-photographers who have had an impact on photography, such as Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Roy Styker, and John Steinbeck. Although Lange’s experience with the FSA is the most extensively described, there are also the other events in her life, including the famous S.F. Bay area f/64 group (but not a member), Life magazine assignments (two of the four were published), Guggenheim fellowship (interrupted by WW II and never completed), the suppression of her documentation of the Japanese American internment in 1942 and the MoMA solo exhibition that she helped design but passed away just prior to the exhibition opening in 1965.

As Gordon concludes;

Yet her photographs have had an extraordinary impact even in the most prosperous of times; they may well live forever. There will always be a need to be reminded that beauty can be found in unlikely places, that we must learn to see beyond the limits of the conventional and the expected. Such indelible images mean more, not less, if we understand how they came to exist. They were produced not by a faultless genius who could remain about the wounds, failings and sins that afflict the rest of us, but by a fallible and hardworking woman. They were produced also by historical times she lived in, times optimistic and pessimistic, times that honored generous, compassionate, and respectful impulses of Americans and time that encouraged the closed, fearful, and intolerant. Lange’s photographs will always evoke the best of American democracy.

This book is elegantly written, barely bordering on scholarly, sometimes slightly obscure, but still easily read and moves at a nice pace. The book is a chronological description of the Lange’s life, career, relationships, with snippets that glace forward to provide clarity and maintain a line of thinking to a conclusive point.

The interior photographic plates provide a nice representation of her photographs, while the remaining illustrative photographs within the text printed on the standard pages are marginal. The photographic selection is a broad mix of the classic iconic photographs with those that are not as well known. As a extensive biographical book, it contains Lange’s photographic captions, footnotes and references, listing of photographic sources and a detailed index.

If you enjoy a good biography, photographer or not, you will probably appreciate Gordon’s retelling of Lange’s life.

by Douglas Stockdale

Nursing_w_family

Woman_behind_vines

Plantation_owner

Revival

Farmers_Bunratty_Ireland_1954

November 18, 2009

Deanna Templeton – 17 Days

17 Days

Copyright Deanna Templeton 2008, self-published, courtesy photo-eye

There is something amiss with Deanna Templeton’s self published book, 17 Days, the photo documentary she created while accompanying a product promotional tour through Europe in 2008. I am bedeviled by all that bothers me, and I think that it is best described as an overall unevenness in the body of work, maybe best described as a Flickr download of vacation snapshots. And that may be its best appeal

The book has the appearance of being carefully designed, from the selection, sequencing and pairing of the photographs. There are some truly delightful and humorous pairings across the page spreads. An example is a photograph of an old woman sleeping on the window sill, while on the facing page, two girls appear to be holding back their laughter, perhaps as much as interacting with Templeton as they appear to be reacting to the sleeping old woman they share the page spread with. The book is a canopy of page design and layouts, although at times it is not apparent why, the effect creates a sense of constant motion and energy.

Because of the nature of the products being promoted on this tour, Deanne has access to the youth who were attracted by and participated in the promotional activities, such as using markers to quickly create temporary tattoos. She could observe them on the edges as they interacted amongst them selves, playing spin the bottle, popping gum, hanging out with their skateboards, sharing secrets and sharing intimate moments. Many of her subjects are photographed up close, aware of Templeton’s presence, and providing direct eye contact. Frequently she catches them acting out their youthful innocence, whether flashing a finger sign, showing off a tongue piercing, or exposing them selves for the camera.

Templeton is at her best when taking candid street photographs of the youth. When she documents the urban culture that she was moving through and subsequently attempts to create a context within the book, it lacks the same energy and insight. Her urban photographs, although with some wonderfully amusing exceptions, appears too forced and unsettlingly in their inclusion, which subsequently dilutes the books overall impact.

by Douglas Stockdale

UK_spin_bottle_scream UK_spin_bottle_2_girls

st_petersburg_3_people_on_bench st_petersburg_2_girls_elf_hat

moscow_lady_sleeps_on_ledge moscow_2_girls_peace_sign

November 10, 2009

Recent Photobook auction results

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

For those who enjoy photobooks and have acquired a few of them over the years, one benefit is that they may also increase in value. A potentially nice counterpoint to the argument that you are spending too much for these wonderful books. Ah, yes, a mighty fine investment, indeed!

Thus of potential interest was the recent October Swann Galleries auction of Photographs and Photobooks. So here are a few of the photobook highlights:

MAN RAY. Photographs 1920-1934 Paris.
With a portrait by Picasso.  Texts by André Breton, Paul Eluard, Rrose Sélavy, and Tristan Tzara.  Illustrated with gravures of Man Ray’s photographs, rayographs, and portraits.  4to, spiral-bound photo-pictorial wrappers, rear cover lightly soiled, diagonal crease lower left corner of front wrapper; ex-libris.  Roth 80; Auer 210.
Hartford, Connecticut & New York City: James Thrall Soby & Random House, (1934)
ESTIMATE: $2500/3500 > Sold for $3,840

NEWTON, HELMUT. SUMO.
Edited by June Newton.  Illustrated with over 400 full-page reproductions of Newton’s striking photographs.  Oversize folio, photo-pictorial boards, photo-pictorial dust jacket; with the original custom chrome stand.  First edition, boldly signed by Newton. Taschen, 1999
ESTIMATE: $5000/7500 > sold for $6,480

Camera Work Nos. 13 and 15.  Sold for $6,960
Camera Work #27.  Sold for $$4,560

So something to keep in mind, eh? FYI, the next Swann Galleries Photobook auction is scheduled for Dec. 8, and it will have a much larger number of books available.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Gerhard Steidl inteview – Photography Now

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

Joerg Coberg, publisher of the blog Conscientious,  is now providing English translations of the original German articles that have been published in the German photography magazine Photography Now.  One of the first translations is an interview of Gerhard Steidl, who is the publisher of the well-known Steidl photobooks, and this delightful interview can be found here.

I found this to be an interesting interview; if you enjoy the photobooks that Steidl publishes, interested in the background on high quality photobooks or an interest in having your photographs published by his publishing house.

Thanks Joerg!

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

November 6, 2009

Doug Keyes – Collective Memory

Doug_Keys-Collective-Memory-cover

Copyright Doug Keyes 2008 Courtesy DECODE Books

In Doug Keyes photobook, Collective Memory, he utilizes the multiple images of book pages to create complex visual metaphors for memory, and indirectly the duration of time, providing a conceptual product that can only be approximated with photography. An overview of his process is nicely stated in the accompanying essay by Sheryl Conkelton, who writes;

As a photographer, Keyes is also a maker of books, though in a very different way. His photographs of books – art books, works of fiction, popular science paperbacks, works of poetry, textbooks, books on scientific theories – do not describe; instead they are evocative transformations of specific objects. Each photograph shows an open book against a black background; each is sized to echo the actual size of the book being photographed, and Keyes chooses the pages that he thinks will invoke the essence of that particular volume. But semblance ends there and Keyes further elaborates this conceit using multiple exposures so that the book is translated from an object held in the hand to one that vibrates visually, from a utilitarian thing to provocative matter.

Through the use of multiple exposures, Keyes makes the opaque pages of a book transparent, a phenomenon similar to the long exposures by Debra Bloomfield, rendering transparent water opaque, or Chris McCaw, Mark Klett and Michael Lundgren creating a sky with multiple and streaking suns, moons and stars. We can now visualize the difficult and somewhat unfathomable effects of extended time. The duration of time also indirectly speaks to the current moment of visualizing an event now, such as you are reading these WORDS and what becomes of that memory of what you just read?

The mind can store a tremendous amount of information, but usually as discreet visual images. Looking at a series of Watertower photographs by Bernd & Hilla Beacher we may recall the design, texture and mass of an individual Watertower, but not a composite of those images into an overall collective fusion, similar to Keyes’s image below. Paging through the Beacher Watertower book may create a cognitive blurring of the repetitive details, but the finite memory is unlike any that Keyes constructs, thus a new conceptual “reality” and product.

The fascination with memories can be traced to the artistic lineage of investigating the hidden consciousness; turn of the 20th century ideas by Freud and the Dada-ist, subsequently the allegorical Surrealist abstractions and Man Ray, Somnambulist inquires of dreams and dream-walking by Duane Michals, Ralph Gibson and Jerry Uelsmann and Deja-vu, the openness to past lives and altered existences, also by Ralph Gibson. Regretfully, the homage to memories is seemingly becoming a cliché, as many current contemporary photographers allude to the investigation of memories in their conceptual projects, with the concept becoming redundant.

Delightfully though, Keyes provocative images seem to transcend beyond the common memory allegories and engage in a discourse about inner thoughts and dreams. His  photographs provide an interesting spectrum, capturing a faint trace of a book’s content to providing a heavy intricate canopy of multicolored mass and textures, not unlike the Abstract Expressionist painting.

The photographs of the Chuck Close book, below, hints of the act of stereotyping, the blurring of physical attributes to generalize personal characteristics, such as a nationality, into a bland non-specific grouping, e.g. “I can’t distinguish one Irishman from another, and they all look alike to me”. But the resulting blurring of the Close images does not represent a “typical blueprint” of anyone in particular, an essential element of the stereotyping process. The features are not well defined, we can not extract the sullen red hair, round soft face, sagging jowls, a sea of freckles, deep creases extending across the forehead, or sunken eye sockets. Thus Keyes layered photograph of Close’s book does not generalize a specific person or group of individuals. The blurring of the features does allude to the loss of specifics over time, which sharp features seem to become soft and faded as our memory betrays us.

Keyes is asking what is remembered, retained and able to be recalled as each pages passes, how dim does the proceeding page become with focus on the current page? How does the memory of the images begin to fade, what details remain sharp, while others are enveloped in a cloud of fog? These images are linked to memory of past events, persons, things seen, felt, experienced but quickly becoming layered, replaced with new images, feelings and experiences; the memories becoming stacked, blurred, and slowly softened

The human capacity to remember clearly defined events, and how the event stack and become layered, will slowly diffuse the fact from the soft memory of what might have been. Not unlike the childhood memories of grandmother’s huge and palatial house and returning later as an adult and realizing how diminutive the house really was. As humans, our inexact memories provide but a distant approximation to reality. If you think not, recall a book you read at least a month ago and see if you can correctly recall all the content that was on page 14 or page 86 or the second to the last page.

As an object, the content within these photographs take on a soft patina, with indistinct edges, fuzzy lines, soft spaces, shapes and mass not well defined. Two dimensional space is difficult to read other than the subject is itself is a book, but with ambiguous content. Keyes allows a particular layer to illuminate though, providing a hint as to what the book itself may be about, but allowing conjecture as to the reason for the book and what the photograph may mean.

By Douglas Stockdale

BECHER

CLOSE

HAWKING

HIRST

November 3, 2009

Bill Jacobson – A Series of Human Decisions

Jacobson-Human-Decisions_cover

Copyright Bill Jacobson 2009 courtesy DECODE Books

The title of Bill Jacobson’s recent book, A Series of Human Decisions, has an interesting double meaning. Jacobson is photographing those things that can represent the artifacts of decisions we as human’s make, and the process of photographing reflects the decisions that Jacobson is making, thus hinting at an autobiographic body of work.

I am not familiar with Jacobson’s earlier work, but it is neatly described in the interview between Jacobson and Ian Berry, with some examples in the afterward. Suffice to say, Jacobson has been earlier exploring the concept of memories by creating out of focus images for about fifteen years until 2002. This current book is composed of sharply focused images, all in a square format, although Jacobson states that he is using a 4x 5” view camera, we can deduce that there is some cropping involved in his creative process. So this leads to one of Jacobson’s decisions, why the square pictorial format when in his interview, he states that he is drawn to rectangular shapes?

Jacobson’s credence in his interview can probably be seriously questioned as he states that he had to re-learn to photograph in sharp focus, meanwhile he states that his day job of photographing art work for museums and galleries requires him to do just that; create sharply focused photographs. Sheeeese. I hope that he was not referring to the mechanics of photography, because that appears to me as to what he is talking about.

Befitting his book title, the subject of his photographs are those things that are man-made, but without the presence of man within them. This has more of the feeling of a Candida Hofer than a Bernd and Hiller Becher body of photographs, about the work of mankind, but without the direct presence of mankind. Jacobson investigates a wide range of manmade objects, furniture, office and home interiors, material patterns and remnants, that reflect many layers of decisions that have occurred over time. Most of his compositions are at close quarters and usually tightly framed, with objects and lines flowing out the pictorial edges.

The book has an odd cadence, with the paired images occasionally working off each other and the content reinforcing an underlying emotional feeling, and other times creating a non-harmonious tension. When this pairing works, such as the window and the painted over wall, below, the rectangular shapes and color scheme play off each other well. Deconstructing this pair of photographs, questions arise about each decision that had been made, such as why the color and texture of the building, paint, wood trim, concrete, and for each and every nuance. You might understand how a rectangular window could architecturally occur, but when painting over a wall, why use rectangular patterns?

Overall, I found that this book has a disconcerting unevenness to it. Perhaps as though Jacobson was trying too hard to make his concept work, which on occasion I feel it does work, but not consistently. There are some great images that invite a multitude of questions as to what was the thinking when the underlying decisions were made to create the resulting objects and situations. There are other photographs of subjects that the theme appears to be forced and have no harmony with the remaining body of work. These photographs, although capturing the work of mankind, are also the decisions of the photographer who isolates these subjects out of their external context.

The book is beautifully printed, with a binding that allows it to lay flat while open, making it a delight to page through and read. There is also a list of plates, but do not expect any additional contextual information about the photographs.

By Douglas Stockdale

Updated note from John Jenkins, publisher: I should probably clarify a couple things about Bill’s book and work. You are correct that he crops his images from the original negatives but they are cropped to be nearly square – they are reproduced 7 x 7.25 inches in the book. I know that this was a conscious decision on Bill’s part for this body of work. The rectangular shapes he is drawn to are within the photographs and you can see it time and time again in the photographs.

I believe when Bill said he had to “re-learn” to photograph in focus he meant that he had to learn how to see in focus photographically for his personal work. In his day work for the museums and galleries he is reproducing the paintings and drawings on film and, yes, it is in focus. But he is not adding his personal vision to the work – only his technical ability to capture the artwork accurately on film. When you are presenting work that is out of focus you are dealing with generalized shapes, tones, and colored areas. In this body of work everything is in focus and so everything has to be paid attention to.

John, Thanks!

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