The PhotoBook

December 31, 2009

Riitta Paivalainen – Imaginary Meetings

Copyright Riitta Paivalainen, 2009 courtesy Kehrer Verlag

In Imaginary Meetings, the eight year retrospective of the young Finnish photographer  Riitta Paivalainen, I have found some very delightful and thoughtful conceptual photographs. This book is an accumulation of a number of projects that Paivalainen has created, building on a similar theme utilizing similar subjects, advancing her ideas and concepts.

She creates site-specific sculptures utilizing second-hand clothing from flea markets and thrift shops as found objects, and then records the fleeting sculptures with suburb color photographs. Her work is similar in emotion content to that of the British sculpture Andy Goldsworthy. In contrast to Goldsworthy’s utilization of the found natural materials of stone, rock and sticks, Paivalainen introduces a man-made element that speaks both directly and indirectly to the presence of humanity.

The used clothes are symbols and evidence of the past, unknown people and their stories, memories and dreams. These symbols are installed in the natural landscape, in which there is no other presence of mankind, creating an abstract interplay and dialog between mankind and nature. The clothing is arranged either in familiar shapes or abstract patterns within the landscape, although she will sometime extract these sculptures out of this natural context.

During her initial Ice project, occurring in the middle of a Finnish winter, she soaked and then formed the clothing as it quickly froze, animating the sculptured clothing. For this project she also utilized the flat overcast lighting to eliminate shadows, allowing the ghostly sculptures to float and hover over the landscape. During her Ice project, she encountered another unpredictable natural element, the wind, which led to yet another series of experimental clothing-site sculptures. This has in turn led to a continuing series of investigations into the interplay and conversations between nature and mankind.

In the essay provided by Andrea Holzherr, she states about Paivalainen’s work:

Each of her installations, with a “setting” (the landscapes), “actors” (clothing), and “atmosphere” (light), is carefully prepared. However, in working in natural elements, Paivalainen is also open to the accidental, the unforeseen, and surprise. By using photographs instead of the installation as the final work of art, Paivalainen is able to choose the exact frame and moment she is looking for and in so doing, maintains control over the decision as to what she includes and what she leaves out.

Another important component in Paivalainen’s photographic approach is the notion of evidence. She uses the viewer’s likely perception of photographic images – as copies, records, or documents of reality – in order to give substance to her “imaginary histories”.  In her pictures she creates worlds in which reality and authenticity are closely intertwined with her own fictions.

Her photographs capture a dream-like beauty that has both energy and space. The earth is usually still and grounded, sharply delineated, creating a strong and lasting presence. Meanwhile the clothing is light and fragile, transitory and fleeting, much like a good conversation or a memory of the past. I find a magical quality in her body of work.

Andy Goldsworthy, in discussing land-art scupltures in the natural landscape, has stated “Nature can be harsh – difficult and brutal, as well as beautiful”. I find that these words are equally applicable to the artistic work of Paivalainen and her imaginary tales, dialogs and stories about a “forgotten history”. 

 

by Douglas Stockdale

  

  

  

  

Jim Goldberg – Open See

Copyright Jim Goldberg 2009 courtesy Steidl

Reviewing Jim Goldberg’s photobook Open See, published this year by Steidl, it may be initially a stretch to think of this body of work coming from the Magnum photographic agency as a photojournalist project. In more than one way it is difficult to think of this body of work as a derivative of the other renowned members of this storied cooperative photographic agency, including such photographic luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour, Dennis Stock, Burk Uzzle, Sebastiao Salgado, Marc Riboud, Elliot Erwit, Bruce Davidson and Steve McCurry.

On the other hand it is necessary to understand how ground breaking these earlier photographers were in executing their photo journalistic projects. They experimented with new cameras, lens, compositions and other means to interpret their stories. That desire to experiment and attempt new processes to create a narrative between his viewer and the subject is perhaps more of where Goldberg is aligned with of the history of Magnum and now current Magnum photographers Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr and Alec Soth.

This collective book is composed of four independently bound softcover books that are assembled together with paperboard band. Three of the books are photo essays of the people from three different global regions who are seeking hope and a better place in Western Europe. Their hope is to reside in a safe, economic, religious and political promised land. The fourth books is the culmination of what they expected and what their reality became. The photographs often have text, marks, drawings, symbols and paintings created by Goldberg’s subjects.

Book one opens with a blurred road, soft focus, low contrast, which provides the feeling that we are on the move to some unknown and mysterious destination. This is the story of those who are residing in Eastern Europe, Russian and ex-soviet block nations and dream of the possibilities that are to the West. Likewise, book two is about those who reside in India, Bangladesh, Far East with similar dreams and hopes. Book three documents those in Africa who reside in refugee camps and living in sordid conditions by Western standards, again dreaming and thinking of Europe as the place of renewal and hope. The people are documented in transit, on the move, attempting to obtain their dreams that they have painted on their walls as a constant reminder. In book four they have obtained their dream of living in Europe, and now face the reality of their situation, which is not always what they had expected.

The book is a wondering and jumbled narrative without captions and pagation. The photographs are not always sharply focused or “properly” exposed with a full tonal range, creating a sense of discomfort, as these could well be the photographs of someone new to the photographic process. The subjects who have been photographed have been given the opportunity to work on the surface and verso of the photographic print to divulge something personal about themselves.

The interior photographs appear to be affixed to the pages as though it is a picture album in the making, a raw record of thoughts, emotions and memories. The photographs are not created in a consistent manner, as there are some with sharp focus, soft focus & blurry, shallow depth of field, large depth of field, tight framing, wide framing, low contrast, high contrast, Polaroids, decorated photos, straight photos, spread across pages, wrapped around the same sheet, continuation as you turn the page, in either black & white or color.

The photographs are not always well composed, properly exposed & focused or laid out within the book in an orderly way. Many are in some way flawed and not perfect. A wonderful analogy is created for the flaws of mankind. Mistakes and difficult decisions are made which results in errors, sadness, misery, anguish, trouble, and sadness to occur. Life is never perfect, thus Goldberg is asserting that the photographs of life should not be perfect either.

The chaotic page lay-outs portray a sense of chaos, variability and randomness of mankind’s existence. Sometimes people try to do the right thing for themselves and the greater society and still fail. Sometimes people are concerned about the right thing for only oneself and just screw the others.

Goldberg invites his subjects to become part of the dialog. He and his assistants must carry a bundle of various pens and markers capable of writing on his photographic prints that he offers up.Goldberg’s empathy with his subjects and their social situation is such that they open themselves to him and his photographic interactive process.

His subjects reveal their bruises, scars, situations, hurts, problems, desires, regrets, disappointments, appreciations, hopes, despairs and dreams for the future. Sometime his subjects identify themselves by name, age, country of origin, and sometime they attempt to conceal their faces and for what ever reason do not want to be identifiable. There are testimonials of hope, pleas, outpouring of despair, statements of where they are now in life, or other relevant personal facts and information. I sense that Goldberg intends to create a visual connection with a real person who is not a statistic number, but a human being.

Goldberg attempts to capture their decisions to improve themselves by exiling to Western Europe. Some of his subjects lament how they maybe worse off for making the decision to leave their native home. They are illegal, without papers, in poverty, needing to choose or perhaps pushed into an unlawful life to survive. This speaks to their inaccessibility to complete and accurate information and making decisions on sub marginal and untrue facts. Goldberg documents that for a great many, there is an underlying sense of hope and desire for something better.

The text of Armara Lakhouse’s essay is in both English and French and the book design was completed by Jim Goldberg.

By Douglas Stockdale

December 29, 2009

Harry Cock – Omstreken

Copyright Harry Cock 2006, courtesy Stichting Fotografie Noorderlicht

Omstreken (Environs) is the title for the twenty-five year retrospective of Dutch photojournalist Harry Cock. The Dutch word is used to indicate the area and localities that are surrounding you, a fitting description of the territory for Cock’s focus. Similar to Gunnar Smoliansky who photographed his local Swedish surroundings for the majority of his photographic career, Cock has been primarily interested in the everyday of his local Northern Netherlands region.

Cock’s day job is photojournalist for magazines and newspapers in The Netherlands, but he maintains an eye for the normal, especially in his own rural agricultural region. I share this description of Cock’s body of work by the publisher;

The ways in which people try to keep their bearings in changing situations is a recurrent theme in Cock’s work. What is striking about this is his often nimble, humorous approach. Certainly when he turns his camera on the ups and downs of (and in) the urbanizing landscape, his visual language is extremely recognizable. In both black and white and color he has an almost poetic eye for the small things in life…. Collectively they offer an overview of Cock’s development as a photographer, and, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground, they also reflect something of the changes that have taken place in Dutch society over the course of time.

Cock is a photographer-flaneur of the Northern Dutch landscape, observing the subtle social and environmental changes of this rural region which have slowly become more urban over time. His Photographs are amusing, wry, humorous, poignant, and subjective. He captures the Dutch foggy landscapes, mysterious and looming, yet documents that in the midst of this calm beauty, everyday life still continues on.

There is a calmness in his photographs, the capture of the normal day-to-day activities that can become invisible and taken for granted, which he extracts to reveal our humanity. There are the Henri Cartier-Bresson moments of the children playing in the shed, hide and seek or the moment before setting a boat to sail the adjacent and seemingly ever-present waterways. He is a sensitive witness who captures the small details of life.

Even though he is a subjective photographer-flaneur, I am bothered by a retrospective that does not place the photographs in some chronological order. Thus it can be difficult to notice his transition to include color occurred in 2001 and how his vision may have changed over time. I realize that the pairing and sequencing of the images are provided a stronger emphasis, consistent with the design of Smoliansky’s book, that the photographs of a flaneur is about the singular images, randomly found and captured.

Since this is my nick-picking section, I will add that I am less of a fan of the small and diminutive images with large margins within an already small book. These small images are difficult to see the details, lessen the impact of the image and dilutes the image, a disservice to the photographer.

Cock sees his environment like an outsider might. A yellow caterpillar tractor sitting on a sea of white rocks has become an unusual garden decoration. An artist is sitting alone in a field patiently drawing a dairy cow, while even the cow appears to be amused by the situation. What appears to be a judging panel of sitting men, with the lone man who is interacting with the photograph is bathed in a shaft of white light, while in the background stands a row of plastic cows. A building has plastic cows grazing on its well manicured lawn, as though they should be real.

He has a respect for work and labor, showing with dignity those who labor on the farms and in the fields to harvest the crops. Straight forward portraits of those who work the fields, bail the hay and straw, dig the holes, watch over the cows, drive the tractors and trucks, trim the hedge atop the tractor’s roof, or enjoy a night singing songs together. He notices the humor of a man kneeling and vacuuming the rock garden in front of probably his home, or an older man on a rider-mower, massive over-kill, mowing in a tight circle due to the small size of his yard.

But Cock reveals that he is urban enough to recognize the composition of canvas, rope, wood and a tire intended as counterbalance takes on the appearance of Robert Rauschenberg collage painting. Likewise with a small patio with a ladder balanced on the roof and the hose snaking around and the flatness of the remaining composition of constructed rectangles in contrast to the organic soft shapes of the background trees. What you might expect of a museum composition, with a sea of varying textures, range of grays, with repeating patterns of the floor, walls, roofs. A tree towering over a hedge creates a resemblance to Beth Dow’s and Eugene Atget’s gardens.

The essays are in Dutch by Eddie Marsman and Marcel Moring. An accompanying English translation, even as an insert, might benefit Cock’s work and provide a larger international audience for this body of work. From what I can understand, Marsman appears to discuss the development of Cock’s photographic work, while Moring appears to discuss how the work is in essence a self-portrait of the artist.

By Douglas Stockdale

   

  

December 26, 2009

Stefan Heyne – The Noise

Photographs copyright of Stefan Heyne 2009, courtesy of Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg

The title of Stefan Heyne’s recent photobook “The Noise; The Exposure of the Uncertain” is perplexing. The three accompanying essays that have translated from the original German to English only provide a little assistance. In an attempt to understand the accompanying photographs, I am digressing on his title to help with framing the body work.

I think of a noise as it compares to a musical tune or song. Noise is a random sound, perhaps like the jumbled background sounds that are occurring out the window or in a restaurant, of which I pay very little attention to. A tune or song is a series of tones that have a defined cadence and reflects some organizational structure that could be labeled a melody. Random noise is in a sense very “uncertain” with many unknowns; not knowing the source of the noise, the reason it occurred, the duration or if there is a meaning to it.

So what are the things that are the visual noise of life, seen but not become engaged? As example I think of this as driving to a destination and during that drive I am very intent upon what I needed to accomplish when I arrive. After getting there I can not tell you what I saw on the way, what signals I stopped at and if the last one was even green. I was looking enough to survive the drive, but not actually seeing, fully engaged or experiencing the passing environment. I was Zombie driving, and Heyne wants to investigate Zombie looking. I suspect that Heyne’s intent is in exploring the visual equivalence of noise, seeing the unseen, the visual noise of life.

By employing an out of focus photographic process, Heyne moves one big step further away from what we might expect of normal vision, a sharply focused capability of discernment. In using a soft focus, he both abstracts the environment while introducing a subtle and uncomfortable tension, as we can not be absolutely sure of the subject. The resulting photographs are symbolic of Zombie looking, recognizing only basic objects, shapes and colors. I do not normal walk around with my glasses off, experiencing a dreamlike soft and blurry world of shapes and colors. I could, but I don’t.

The photographs are reminiscent of the non-figurative and softer edge paintings from the Abstract Expressionist period of Color Field paintings, starting in the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s and 1960’s. From Wikipedia, “Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas; creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process.” In the case of Heyne, less emphasis is placed on a detailed and full delineated subjects in favor of a soft focus with glowing edges and shapes pulled out of the receding darkness.

Heyne’s abstract photographs provide more organization and structure than is implied in his title and my understanding of his intent. The objects within the frame have not been so abstracted as to prevent some general identification of what was photographed, nevertheless there is still intrigue and mystery as these subjects defy specific identification. As a result I am left ungrounded and off-balance, uncomfortable and yet still with some sibilance of familiarity as I able to connect with the basic essence of the subject. But I am not sure that I am experiencing “noise” per se through these photographs, but there is an unknown quality to them.

While thinking about how to photograph noise, I am not sure what would be such a photograph that represents one of our basic senses, so the issue may be more of my own regarding this body of work. I do feel that his photographs are poetic and lyrical, perhaps more of soft Jazz or New Age melody that is more meditative and less definitive.

These photographs are indicative of how a memory evolves after an occurrence which is very strongly felt, accurately seen and fully experienced. Over time many of the details are progressively fading. That which constitutes the surrounding events that led up to this memory, details of what actually occurred and the events afterward are steadily more difficult to recall. The hard edges of the event over time slowly become soft, blurry and indistinct.

The essays are written by Klaus Honnef, Raimar Stange and Georgory Knight, with the texts provided in Deustch (German) with an English translation. The book is case-bound and nicely printed.

By Douglas Stockdale

December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays & very best for the New Year

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 8:47 pm

copyright Douglas Stockdale

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, a wonderful Holiday and the very best for the New Year!

Douglas Stockdale

Recommended PhotoBooks in 2009

Filed under: Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:17 pm

I have been thinking about my list of Best PhotoBooks for 2009, and I am in sort of a quandary. The implication is that this list would be for the books that were published in 2009, but the fact is that many interesting books published in 2008 took a while before I could acquire them. And I have not seen or read all of the books published in 2009, not by a long shot. So I am going with what I would “recommend” instead, not presented in any order as to ranking of the best of those recmmended, but I think that these are the photobooks worth further consideration.

Lukas Feltzmann, Waters in Between

Roger Ballen, Boarding House

Bertrand Fleuret, Landmassess and Railways

Mark Klett, Time Studies

Zoe Strauss, America

Sarah Stolfa, The Regulars

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, counterpoint

Linda Connor, Odyssey

Doug Keys, Collective Memory

Ritta Paivalainen, Imaginary Meetings

Jim Goldberg, Open See

Lee Friedlander, New Mexico

Biography; Dorothea Lange by Linda Gordon

Best regards for the Holidays and New Year, Douglas Stockdale

December 23, 2009

Innovative photobook designs this year

Filed under: Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:40 pm

Copyright Todd Oldham, Bedrock City, 2008, courtesy AMMO books

I have been thinking about Joerg Colberg’s post about a lack of “cutting edge” photobooks, while I am working on my list of best photobooks in 2009. Joerg states “…there isn’t much of a variety in photo books…the format itself is so conservative”. I think that for a mass-produced book, that is for a run of 500 books or more, that there are some innovatively designed books, not necessarily “cutting edge” designed photobooks. Of course, “cutting edge” is also a pretty subjective qualification, as is innovative. In this case, I am considering the photobook design to be inclusive of the layout, materials of construction, printing, binding and presentation.

In my opinion, if you are truly seeking some “cutting edge” book designs, I think you will find them in the category of an artist photobook, which are usually hand-made, and very limited in the quantity produced, ranging from one to perhaps ten. These can be very amazing and brilliant. But they are not (currently) the focus of this blog.

So I have come up with my short list of innovative photobooks that were produced in quantities of more than 500 that I have seen this last year, although they have not have all been published in 2009. Regretfully, and maybe to Joerg’s point, it is a short list of three; Todd Oldham’s Bedrock City, Lee Friedlander’s New Mexico and Jim Goldberg’s Open See. I have published reviews of two, and I have a pending review of Goldberg’s photobook, which I may still complete before the end of the year. BTW, I also believe that an innovative book design can not be accomplished at the expense of the photographs and the photographer, that the book design should complement and enhance the photographs and your experience.

Number one on my list: Todd Oldham’s Bedrock City. Perhaps this book benefits from the whimsical design style of Oldham, who is probably better known as a designer than a photographer. The outer wrap, which incorporates a belly band by how it is folded, is very unusually for a book cover, incorporating a map of Bedrock City. The interior photographs are all printed without borders, but the photobook has bound in the back four perforated cardstock postcards that you can actually mail to friends. These two elements enhance the experience of “visiting” Bedrock City. I have not reviewed the other Oldham books published by AMMO, but I suspect that they also have similar innovative elements.

Number two on my list: Lee Friedlander’s New Mexico. The interesting element to this book is the photobook’s binding. This creative element was deigned to incorporate the theme of Friedlanders project, as interrupted by the Radius Book design team of Skolin + Chickey, who are also principles of Radius Books, along with Darius Himes. Since I almost applied some book binding glue to “fix” this book, is a testament as to how unusual this book’s binding was, which does complement the interior photographs.

Number three on my list: Jim Goldberg’s Open See. Although I have not finished my review of this book (numerous unanswered requests to Magnum for interior images has left me a little frustrated – UPDATE now resolved by creating my own illustrative images), I found that the binding of multiple books within a book, is an innovative process to compartmentalized and differentiate the subjects within his larger project. You have to physically move from book to book, which interrupts the flow mentally and visually, to understand the context of this body of work.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Copyright Lee Freidlander, New Mexico, 2008, courtesy Radius Books

Copyright Jim Goldberg, Open See, 2009 courtesy Steidl

December 21, 2009

Swann Photobook auction results

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:43 pm

Update on the results from the Swann Galleries Photographic print and literature auction of December 8 (2009):

Highlights of the Photographic Literature portion of the sale included:

 Early works:

 Francis Frith’s Egypt Nubia and Ethiopia, 100 albumen stereoviews, London, 1862, $10,200

Camera Work Number 20, featuring three images by Stieglitz, New York, 1907, $6,000

Classic modern books:

Deluxe limited edition of Berenice Abbott’s American Photographer, one of 420 signed by Abbott and issued with a signed silver print, New York, 1982, $4,560

Signed copy of David Heath’s A Dialogue with Solitude, New York, 1965, $4,560

Robert Frank’s The Lines of My Hand, Tokyo, 1972, $4,800.

Japanese books of note:

Kazuo Kenmochi’s Narcotic Photographic Document, Tokyo, 1963, $4,560

Shomei Tomatsu’s Nagasaki 11:02, Tokyo, 1966, $4,560

Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e [Towards the City]. 2 volumes, Tokyo, 1974, $4,080

by Douglas

December 19, 2009

Hisashi Shimizu – Portraits of Silence

Shimizu_Portraits_of_Silence_cover2

Copyright Hisashi Shimizu 2009, courtesy photo-eye & Kodansha

On the surface, the subjects of Hisashi Shimizu’s book Portraits of Silence are soldiers who perished during the Iraq conflict, indirect portraits developed from the perspective of the soldier’s parents. But Portraits of Silence is also about the desire to maintain the memory of a beloved, and the fight to keep a tangible presence of who they were while dealing with the grief of their loss.

After speaking to the soldier’s parents, Shimizu photographed the places and things described in the interviews. These places and things have become symbolic of the “missing” person and are maintained by the parents to preserve their memories. The book first provides color plates with only a caption to identify the soldier’s name. The last section of the book, ‘Profile,’ explains the importance of each photograph as it relates to the solider, in the words of their parents. I find that the captions in the ‘Profile,’ using the descriptive language of the parents, create a larger emotional context than the photographs alone. The text in the ‘Profile’ is provided in both Japanese and English.

This book is imbued with a sense of sadness. Perhaps it is because we know in advance that the outcome was not a good one, and the loss of a child is extremely tragic for a parent. That said, I think the photographs appear to be compassionate, intimate, and sensitive, treating what is shared – the things, places, thoughts and feelings – with reverence and respect.

An emotional rawness can still be detected on the features of many of the parents’ faces. That some chose not to face the camera and look beyond it is perhaps an indication of their current state of acceptance, how they are continuing to deal with their loss.  Of the others that confront the photographers lens, I sense anger, sadness, despair and sometimes what appears as an emotional deadness. Perhaps the presence of the photographer, his questions and dialog, re-opened the soul’s wounds.

by Douglas Stockdale

Shimizu_Portraits_of_Silence_Castro Shimizu_Portraits_of_Silence_Geurin

Shimizu_Portraits_of_Silence_McCaffery Shimizu_Portraits_of_Silence_Navarro-Arellano

December 14, 2009

Christopher Thomas – New York Sleeps

Copyright Christopher Thomas 2009, courtesy of Prestel Verlag

When I recently shared my thoughts about the future of photobooks when looking out another 10 years, I can not imagine at the moment an electronic version that would be capable of simulating the feel of a wonderful photobook lying in my hands. Christopher Thomas’s recent book New York Sleeps published by Prestel Verlag is perhaps an excellent example. The tactile weight of the page, the way the ink absorbs into the paper and floats the image on the page, the resulting dynamic range of the tonalities, the size and heft of the book and even the smell of ink on paper and the glued and sewn binding. This is an object that will be hard to duplicate by another medium

Thomas has chosen to take on a frequently photographed subject, the city of New York, a place that this Munich based photographer lives part time in conjunction with his professional photographic career. Because of New York’s long history related to photography and art, it is in of itself a potential cliché and a daunting urban landscape subject. To look at New York anew, Thomas choose to work in black and white, specifically using the Polaroid type 55 positive/negative film with a medium-size view camera, with extended exposure durations. He chooses to photography during the late evening and early morning hours, completing this project over a couple of years. His photographs are subsequently organized thematically; the city, bridges, riverside piers, parks, and the neighborhoods.

Part of the esthetics of his photographs is to include the raw transitional edges that result from the Polaroid positive/negative process. I can see how this transitional edge is another design element, perhaps to show the process, much like Atget’s glass plates edges, and add another element to the photographs. The edges contribute to a one-of-a-kind quality to these photographs that indicate these are singular objects. Including the transitional edges is making a statement to me that these photographs have not been cropped, but are taken directly from the camera just as the photographer has envisioned them, which harkens back to an Edward Weston modernist and purist viewpoint.

Choosing to photograph at these usually dormant hours and in conjunction with the extended exposure durations was consistent with his desire to essentially remove the human element from consideration. It is easy for me to see the parallels to the earlier photographs of Eugene Atget, (here and here) who photographed a vanishing Paris at the turn of the twentieth century at a similar time of day using long exposures. Much later Bernd & Hilla Becher and Candida Hofer have eliminated people from their photographs to distill social architecture down to its essential structure. The stilled water found within Thomas’s waterfront and bridge photographs are similar to the work of Joesf Hoflehner, Michael Kenna and Michael Levin, where with enough time, water becomes a plasticized element.

Thomas’s photographs remind me of an archeological documentation of a forgotten civilization, capturing the exposed bones of the architecture and related infrastructure. I find a sense of wonder and beauty in these photographs, that Thomas makes evident the design, line, texture and mass of these structures.

The photographs are devoid of mankind that might provide a warm social link to these edifices. Even without the people present, their presences still can be felt by the parked cars, lights still glowing in windows, parked delivery trucks with their loads now positioned on the street pending the final delivery, and footprints left in the new snow. This creates a little tension for me, as it is odd to see this city without the swarm of people who seem ever present, traversing the sidewalks, streets, bridges and parks. I expect any moment for someone to appear, which reminds me that these photographs are a very brief slice in time.

For me these photographs are also dreamlike and haunting, representing a barren and desolate place without the people who usually provide the energy and vibrancy of this city. It is an unusual sight. I find Thomas’s inner city photographs unique, but his winter park and waterfront subjects have not revealed anything new, although they are beautifully made images.

The book was edited by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and Ira Stehmann with essays by Ulrich Pohlmann and Bob Shamis. The linen wrapped hardcover has a tipped-in image, and the interior is printed in Passau, Germany on a creamy tone acid free paper, which further enhances the warm tone black and white photographs. Each image has a classic amount of surrounding margin space to allow adequate breathing room, such that the photographs can be fully envisioned and evaluated on its own merits.

By Douglas Stockdale

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