The PhotoBook

April 29, 2010

Kevin McCollister – East of West LA

Copyright Kevin McCollister, an ifpub book, courtesy the artist

Kevin McCollister is a poetic flaneur wandering the dimly lit streets of Los Angeles, with these visual poems assembled in his recent book East of West LA.

 In his Los Angeles walk-abouts, he subjects range from the many bridges, taco stands, hotels, buildings and details of architectural infrastructure to those who inhabit these same locations. He fares much better with the urban landscape than he does with his urban portraits.

 In the foreword by the publisher, Brooks Roddan, he writes; “It is the poet’s world then, the poet out walking – not one membrane separating the walker from the world he’s walking through – that McCollister lives in.”

 The city at dusk will eventually drift to a night-scape, becoming a surreal place. The few remaining lights create dark, haunting shadows with strange illuminated edges. These locations appear intimidating and scary, while yet still having an alluring feeling to them. McCollister appears to do his most aesthetically pleasing urban landscape work at dusk, with shapes and features looming out of the dim shadows. There is more of a playful and poetic combination of light and shadows during this brief period, which he appears to be the most comfortable with.

 Regretfully, his urban portraits are more than a weakness, as they border on being offensive. It is apparent that he is not connecting with most of his subjects, their eyes, facial features and stance portray a sense of intrusion and distrust. Almost as to say to us, “Why does this white guy want to photograph me??” It does not appear that any rapport has been created between the subject and the photographer. For me, what is made worse is when the subject is sitting on the ground and the photographer is standing over them, photographing downward from eye level, creating a strong sense of subjugating the (minority street-person) subject. These trophy portraits make me very uncomfortable.

 The book as a whole is as diverse as his subjects, running the gamut of black and white photographs, some with various amount of toning, and the color photographs range from saturated to desaturated to the point of becoming monochromatic. Most of the photographs appear unmanipulated while others show the effects of a Photoshop modification, such as of a slight Gaussian blur adjustment layer.

 My take is that this is a group of singular images around a general theme, specific to a place, nevertheless a confusing and odd mash-up.

 This small perfect bound book has stiff covers; the unvarnished pages are printed on a nice weight paper and reasonably priced. Strangely this book does not have a copyright indication or copyright date, nor information as to where the book was produced.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 14, 2010

Edward Burtynsky – Oil

Copyright of Edward Burtynsky, 2009 courtesy of Steidl and photo-eye

Edward Burtynsky’s impressive book Oil is exquisite with an environmentally difficult narrative, portrayed with mesmerizing details in sublimely beautiful photographs. Oil begins beautifully framing the oil production technology and immense supporting infrastructure with large, detailed and sweeping landscape photographs.

Burtynsky utilizes his saturated color landscape photographs to gain access to our inquiring minds. The photographs are too beautiful, elegant and mesmerizing to be rejected at first glance, thus enticing us into his visual narrative. The photographs are at first easily consumed and as the book progresses, the photographs become more ecologically explicit regarding the consequences of mankind’s suboptimal decisions making.

Burtynsky’s Oil  trilogy is composed of the industrial production, subsequent consumption and eventually the haunting debris that remains. A similar environmental call to action has recently been featured by photographers Mitch Epstein, Chris Jordan and David Maisel. Burtynsky’s photographs are also captured in a documentary style, whereas he creates a story that progresses from an aloof and abstract aerial viewpoint to eventually confronting us with a single person and a face.

In his introduction, Burtynsky writes:

When I first started photographing industry it was out of awe at what we as a species were up to. Our achievements became a source of infinite possibilities. But time goes on, and that flush of wonder began to turn. The car that I drove cross-country began to represent not only freedom, but something much more conflicted. I began to think about oil itself; as both the source of energy that makes everything possible, and as a source of dread, for its ongoing endangerment of our habitat.

In the first chapter, Extraction and Refinement, the industrial scale of the production of oil is almost overwhelming; a sea of oil derricks, pumps, pipes and buildings and related infrastructure. Predominantly the photographs are from an aerial perspective with a bird’s-eye viewpoint, as if hovering over the land, capturing the seemingly endless vistas from the elevated point of view. The aerial viewpoint abstracts the industrial sites to wonderful patterns of marks, lines and masses of color. The presence of mankind is either absent or has been minimized.

Photographing in the morning or evening light, the industrial oil fields have a deceiving warm glow. Occasionally he captures the industrial aerial vista with a pastel skyline, but more frequently with a dark and looming sky.

When confronting Consumption, the lead-in photographs are similar to the earlier oil production, now with sweeping urban vistas of city skylines, tangled freeway exchanges and a sea of suburban rooftops. There is still a sense of detachment. His perspective then shifts to an elevated middle ground, documenting large groups of individual participating in motorized events, much like the social events documented by Simon Roberts in We English. It is here that Burtynsky’s ironic vision is subtly revealed, such as capturing a car preparing for the Bonneville Time Trials, decorated by their sponsor, Lucas Oil Products.

Consumption is the driver, which economically encourages and drives the enormous investments and subsequent construction of the industrial infrastructure. If there was not a demand for the resource, then all of the exploitation of the environment would not be occurring. It is also in Consumption that Burtynsky attempts to initiate a personal connection, as there is individual delineation within the larger groups.

Paul Laster, in reviewing this book, states “..the result makes the roadway look like a river and the surrounding streets like irrigation canals in a rural area—but of course, L.A. isn’t farmland. Once your mind readjusts, you see the city for what it is: a massive, energy-consuming metropolis. Ironically, while depicting the world going to hell, Burtynsky captures our descent with extraordinary aesthetic skill.”

In the final chapter, End of Oil, we are confronted with the details of debris and waste, abandoned infrastructure, oil caked and oil soaked, nasty, repulsive, a barren and unusable landscape, a sad and spoiled environment. The view-point and framing is becoming tight, up-close and as we say, personal. The vistas now start with the middle ground view of tire heaps, junk cars and aircraft, engine blocks and recycled parts. These are haunting documents of what remainders of consumption and oil production.

With the details of mothballed military aircraft or piles of junked cars being salvaged for spare parts, we can also further delineate the various components that also owe their existence to the production of oil; fuel, lubrication, tires, plastic components, gaskets, hoses and tubing. Recycling is very good, but not everything can be recycled, such as the growing issue of discarded tires.

Burtynsky concludes with the shipbreaking of the oil freighters in Bangladesh, deconstruction of ships which have outlasted their economic usefulness. In conjunction with the grandeur of these mammoth ships being literally torn apart, he finally introduces a human element. He documents those who toil in this dreadful condition, creating individual environmental portraits of the workers. Burtynsky attempts to create a one on one relationship with an individual person to further humanize the story of Oil, a person we might be able to relate to and who symbolically represents us.

Again, in conclusion from Burtynsky: “These images can be seen as notations by one artist contemplating the world as it is made possible through this vital energy resource and the cumulative effects of industrial evolution.” Though Burtynsky prefers to leave his images open to interpretation, the urgency of the subject of oil pushes him toward advocacy; “We need to pay attention, this is now, and if our head’s in the sand and we don’t think that we have a problem, we better get it out of the sand quick.”

This large-scale book is befitting Burtynsky’s utilization of a large format camera, the epic scale of his project and his even larger scale exhibition prints. The pages almost glow with the deeply saturated colors, with each photograph surrounded by a nice white classical margin. The photographs are crisp, clean and developed with a full color scale. Essays in the afterward are written by Michael Mitchell, William E. Rees and Paul Roth.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 12, 2010

Lay Flat 02 – Meta

Copyright the artists, 2010, courtesy Shane Lavalette and Lay Flat

The second edition of Lay Flat, edited and published by Shane Lavalette, is titled Meta, with Guest Editor Michael Buhler-Rose. The intent, as stated by Shane, brings together a selection of contemporary artists whose photographs are conceptually engaged with the history, conventions and materiality of the medium itself.

Written essays are provided by Adam Bell, Lesley A. Martin, Alex Klein, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen and Arthur Ou, and a discussion between Lyle Rexer and James Welling.

From Martin, a thoughtful observation; “…artists using other people’s images have a staggeringly diverse range of motions and methods for putting existing images to work for them, each with its own nuanced term and subtle philosophical affiliation – bricolage, montage, collage, and the comparatively straight-edged appropriation. Even so, there are some basic commonalities, including an inherent critique of or commentary on the culture from which the images are drawn.”

And her question for us to consider and further reflect upon: “Is this just a secondary phase of “Pictures Generation” thinking, or are there characteristics that distinguish this most-contemporary iteration of secondary images use as a building block for one’s own artistic practice?”

The diverse range of photographs within this context are provided by Claudia Angelmaier, Semâ Bekirovic, Charles Benton, Walead Beshty, Lucas Blalock, Talia Chetrit, Anne Collier, Natalie Czech, Jessica Eaton, Roe Ethridge, Sam Falls, Stephen Gill, Daniel Gordon, David Haxton, Matt Keegan, Elad Lassry, Katja Mater, Laurel Nakadate, Lisa Oppenheim, Torbjørn Rødland, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Joachim Schmid, Penelope Umbrico, Useful Photography, Charlie White, Ann Woo (also cover photograph) and Mark Wyse.

This edition is a stiff cover perfect-bound book, while the first edition was published with loose prints. Asking Shane about this, he responded;

“To answer your question about the shift from loose prints to the more traditional magazine/book format; Each edition of Lay Flat is assembled in collaboration with a ‘Guest Editor’, a process that helps to push the publication in a new direction every time. For Lay Flat 02: Meta a more traditional format was decided upon, though we included some of the most non-traditional work out there (perhaps this is why). As the publication evolves, I hope to experiment and explore more unique/unusual formats, some of which may not resemble books at all.”

by Douglas Stockdale

April 11, 2010

New Topographics

Copyright of the artists, George Eastman House and Center for Creative Photograph 2009 courtesy Steidl

In 1975 at the George Eastman House an exhibition was curated by William Jenkins, assisted by Joe Deal, on what was then evolving as the new (urban) landscape photograph, titled New Topographics; Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape. You could argue that what now remains is history. Okay, but why?

The 1975 exhibition was in Rochester, NY, which would seem off the beaten photographic path to have become such an influential exhibition. But it could be argued that thirty-five years ago, fine art photography was a much different place, with very few venues for exhibition, and just as few schools which taught fine art photography. The world of fine art photography was a much smaller place, as elegantly explained by Britt Salvesen in this retrospective book’s forward. Salvesen provides a wonderful external content and historical perspective to this landmark exhibition. Likewise Alison Nordstrom provides a forward looking context to today’s present urban landscape photographic practice.

I am guilty of thinking that I fully understood the background and context of this exhibition, which turns out that I may have been close, but this book is a real eye-opener for me. The book includes the two assays mentioned above, all of the photographs that were exhibited, a reproduction of the original 1975 catalog and photographic credits for the exhibited photographs. Very inclusive and nice.

This was an exhibition that was curated by William Jenkins. Assistant Curator at GEH and assisted by one of the participating photographers, Joe Deal, the exhibition manager.

Interesting to note that the exhibition was not attended by all of the exhibition photographers, most of the photographs included in the exhibition were self-selected by the photographers, the exhibition was not well attended and the exhibition traveled to only two other venues. Yet it seemingly had a large impact on the photographic community.

Of the photographers who exhibited, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and Henry Wessel, I noted some interesting trivia; only one exhibited in color (Stephen Shore), two used 35mm film (Baltz and Wessel), three utilized medium format cameras (Adams, Deal, and Gohlke), and five utilized large format cameras (Bernd and Hilla Becher, Nixon, Schott, and Shore). I think that today, most photographers would guess that a view camera was used by all of the New Topographic photographers. All the photographers were working independent of each other, not affiliated as a group, but many knew of each other.

Geographically, the photographs were made through out the United States, although there is a perception is that the photographs were predominately made in the Western United States (Wessel, Schott, Gohlke, Deal, Baltz, Adams photographed in the West and one of Shore’s Texas photographs was included).

The artistic influences for the New Topographic photographers varied, but predominately cited are Walker Evan, Ed Ruscha, and to a lesser extent, Robert Smithson. Evans, who had just prior been repositioned in his historical photographic context by John Szarkowski, who along with Eugene Atget was known for his “documentary style” by utilizing a detached stance.  Ruscha was influential for his conceptualism, personal ironic vision and the seriality found in his many photobooks. Robert Smithson for his satire and melancholy, pointing up tragicomic aspects, while investigating the idea of monumentality, attempting to duplicate the individual experience, while yet lacking ego.

Many of the exhibiting photographers had concerns with the exhibitions main title, New Topographics, but found appealing the exhibitions subtitle, Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, which at the time, the use of the term Man-Altered was still politically correct. Nevertheless, the exhibition’s main title seems to be indelibility attached to the exhibiting photographers.

Another reason to enjoy this book is that the original published catalog with the exhibition, although now rare and expensive, is thin with regard to illustrating the photographs exhibited. The 48 page catalogue (edition of 2,500, original price $7.00) illustrated three photographs per exhibitor, a total of 27 photographs, if you don’t count the multiples within the Brend and Hilla Becher’s three plates versus the entire 168 works exhibited, which are included in this book. Since the majority of the prints were created on 8 x 10” paper, most of the images within this book are at actual exhibition scale.

As to the dissemination of the ideas behind New Topographics, the most ardent supporters of this documentary style have been historically traced to Bernd and Hilla Becher at Kunstakadamie in Dusseldorf. This style can then be traced through the Becher’s to their students Thomas Ruff, Candida Hofer, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky.

Also interesting to note, most of the exhibiting photographers went on to photographic academic teaching posts; Deal, Jenkins, Gohlke, Nixon, Schott, Shore, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Wessel. We need to remember that in the late 1970’s there were very few photographic galleries and options for fine art photographers outside of academia teaching.

 As identified by Salvesen, the diversity of New Topographics can be found in the work of James Welling, Paul Graham, Stephane Courturier, Sione Nieweg and Sze Tsung Leong, “points toward a more intricate circulation and synthesis of ideas, continuing to the present.”

In conclusion, Salvesen admonishes:

Bringing that rare moment forward to the present, we see New Topographics deployed rhetorically as if it were a universal standard rather than a setoff proposals that loosely linked a group of individuals at a particular time. Speaking in the early 1970’s Walker Evans rejected the sentimental idea that his photographs embodied an era (the 1930s) for later generations. The artist in New Topographics took this warning to heart in dealing with their own time. They drew on the photographic medium, the ideas around them, their personal experiences, anxieties, and hopes – all of which led to the pictures Jenkins and others saw as neutral, uninflected, and objective. These photographs on man-altered landscapes forestalled nostalgia and prevented an escape into the past – instead, they forced viewers to remain in the present and think about the future. New Topographics had redemptive aspects in its renovation of landscape photography, attention to culture landscape, and depiction of heedless land use. Its key message is not revelation but responsibility. Now, we must guard against nostalgia in our evaluations of this work made in the mid-1970’s and keep its real lessons in mind as we look at our environment and the forces threatening it today.

This hardcover book is beautifully printed and bound, and I recommended it, to both enjoy and as Salvesen recommends, to learn from.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 8, 2010

Pierre Bessard – Wuhan Boiler Company Workers

Copyright Pierre Bessard 2009 courtesy of the artist

When I received the note from Pierre Bessard regarding his “Corporate” photobook, I was intrigued that his subject was an industrial landscape of a specific facility in China. I was even more impressed with this photobook after I unwrapped it. This was not only a very handsome linen wrapped hardcover book, but elegantly presented in an accompanying linen clamshell box, with a tipped-on image on both the book and clamshell front covers. Not what usually comes to my mind regarding a corporate photobook.

This is more of a commemorative book, in which Bessard was commissioned by the company to document both the workers as well as the facility as the production operation was being relocated to a new facility across the city. The new plant, in the words of the company, was built in order to reduce pollutive emissions and improve efficiency. Thus the old plant was not efficient, but a catacomb of offices and huge amd well-used work spaces.

Bessard was at first concerned about this commission, as he states, “We’ve seen so much work on Chinese factories and their workers where the western conscience wants to portray the subject as alien. What is the point of adding yet another page to a story that has been written so many times before?”

Subsequently upon visiting the site, his perspective changed; “I was immediately taken aback by a setting of cinematic grander. A rigorous geometric composition traced by immense beams, tentacle-like piping and shafts of light pouring through high perched windows.”

The color studies, interspersed with the many head-shot portraits of the workers, create an interesting and wonderful dialog. Are the portraits that face the industrial equipment, in fact those who operated this equipment? Are the women’s portraits facing the photograph of the sea of paperwork, those who cared and tended this flow of documents?

The seriality of the portraits appeals to me, to look at the differences and attempt to discern the similarities. The portraits also appear like those found in a high school yearbook, straight forward, alert and expectant.

I am drawn in by the sculptural shapes and mass of the industrial equipment, building construction and operational infrastructure, reflecting the years of use. The equipment ages much like us, with its individual character becoming more apparent with each passing year. Much as Bill Kouwenhoven writes about Henrik Saxgren’s photographs in Unintended Sculptures;

“..alludes to the readymade, the object trouve, all the art that has flowed forth from Duchamp’s Fountain…his trained eye sizes on the details of our landscapes, on the everyday absurdities or our abandon things and our constructions….an everyday surrealism that delights in the play of light on a man-made structure..”

 The result is a unique and collaborative project between a discerning photographer and a corporate sponsor.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 5, 2010

Ed Ruscha – Photographer

Copyright Ed Ruscha 2008 published by Steidl

I have been aware of Ed Rucha’s self-published photographic books for many, many years, but due to very small production runs and subsequent rarity, these books have been very elusive. It was a pleasure to find this retrospective catalog providing a broad selection of the interior images from his sixteen photobooks published between 1963 and 1972 and his last collaborative book published in 1978.

 It is difficult to be artistically creative in Southern California without hearing about Ed Ruscha, whose studio is in, as well as primary subject is Los Angeles. Over the years, his photobooks sometimes took on mythical proportions, as they were actively discussed and referenced, recalling lectures in the early 1980’s at CalArts (Ruscha attended in 1956), but rarely seen in their entirety.

 Although primarily known for his lithographic prints and paintings, his oeuvre also includes these seventeen photographic books, although the interior photographs were rarely, if ever, exhibited as singular photographs. If Ruscha found an appealing graphic element in photographs, it was synthesized into a lithograph print or painting. For Ruscha, the individual photograph was something required to create another object, the photobook.  It is remarkable that an artist who’s photographic books have influenced so many photographers, especially urban landscapers, has only until recently had his photographs from his “hobby” collectively published in a retrospective. What creates even more interest is the marked up contact sheets and his unpublished but related photographs.

 This book provides a wonderful sampling form the various Ruscha photobook projects, including; Twentysix Gasoline Stations, Sunset Strip, Some Los Angles Apartments, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Nine Swimming Pools, Babycakes, Real Estate Opportunities, Dutch Details, Records and Colored People.

 As noted in Rowell’s introduction, “Ruscha produced sixteen photographic books, publishing most of them himself, twelve devoted to landscape or still live motifs, and the remaining four may be loosely described as records of events. Each book in the former group was conceived as a repertory of prosaic subjects; gasoline stations, apartment homes, parking lots, cakes or palm trees. The majority (although not all) of the photographs were taken by Ruscha, in, according to him, the most neutral or “factual” manner possible.”

 Ruscha has remarked, “Actually what I was after was no-style or a statement with a no-style” and “My interest in facts is central to my work, not that you’ll find factual information in my work”.

 Ruscha was attempting to make non-esthetic documentary photographs and whose photographic books are an acknowledged historical influence on many of the exhibiting photographers in New Topographics exhibition at the George Eastman House in the 1975. Interestingly, Ruscha was not included in that pivotal exhibition. The “New Topographics” German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher later assimilated the “Ruscha no-style” into what has become a Düsseldorf style, not only for themselves, but Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff,  Andreas Gurksy, Thomas Demand, Candida Hofer and others who themselves fell under the Becher’s influence at Kunstakademie. They were influenced by Ruscha’s enigmatic pictorial potential and cool aesthetic of the book’s urban landscapes.

 In the introduction to the recent Steidl photobook New Topograhics, Britt Salvesen writes of Ruscha’s influence:

 Bypassing traditions of singularity, fine printing and expressive layout in his deadpan inventories of everyday buildings and structures, Ruscha presented particular challenges (and opportunities) to those working in the context of fine-art photography. For the New Topographics artists, he became a polarizing figure with regard to the related issues of craft and irony. For some, his work affirmed their own instincts. (Lewis) Balz remembers discovering “photography degree zero” when he located Twentysix Gasoline Stations, Some Los Angeles Apartments and Sunset Strip at the SF Art Institute library in 1967.

 (Steven) Shore likewise acknowledges that “Rushca’s work may have caused irritation in some parts of the art world, but for me and my friends his books were a delight.” (Robert) Adams and (Nicholas) Nixon, considering the question now, take a middle ground position; for Adams, Ruscha is “clever, sometimes funny”, while for Nixon, the work seemed like a “better idea than a thing”.  John Scott reached a similar conclusion, and he provided (William) Jenkins with the assertion, quoted in the catalog, that Ruschas’s pictures “are not statements about the world through art, they are statements about art though the world.”

 Ruscha’s photographs were the first to seriality document a subject, such that a singular image may not hold you attention, but a series of veru like subjects draws your interest, at a minimum to compare and to contrast, searching for similarities and differences. Ruscha has acknowledged his interest in breaking up his painting process into stages, thus the seriality of his photographic books reflects a similar systematic approach to photographing his subjects.

 Ruscha has also acknowledged Marcel Duchamp as a strong influence with regard to “found objects,” that word’s “like a found object, (it) can be an unimportant word that becomes important when he repeats it to himself. Similarly, his photographic books entered his consciousness as catchphrases that gave him titles to turn into books.” That the “title came first, then to find or collect his subject matter”.

Ruscha influence extends to his selection of subjects, that as Rowell notes they would be “mundane, consisting of commercial or industrial architecture or commonplace objects, chosen for their inherent lack of artistic value” and that the “photography would be quick, casual and unprofessional”. For a skilled artist to attempt to create an “unprofessional” appearing photograph is to incorporate a carefully conceived and executed design element that would hopefully appear that it was created unprofessionally.

 Meanwhile, his photobooks are noted to be rigorously designed, laid out and printed, reflecting more thought and deliberation. Such that Various Small Fires has “every photograph is reproduced in the same square format and placed on a right hand page”.  Again, what can be argued as to Duchampian like contradictions, as in the previous mentioned book has fifteen images of something related to fire, but the last photograph is a place setting with a glass of milk, for which Ruscha states, “Milk seemed to make the book more interesting and gave it some cohesion.”

Roscha, in developing his conceptual framework, could also develop his photobooks in collaborations with writers, artists and other photographers (Art Alanis, Patrick Blackwell), who may in fact take the photographs. He subsequently would hire photographers to complete his projects, taking of the role of director, somewhat akin to the practice of Wall or Crewdson today.

 As Rowell’s essay details, Roscha has influenced many artists, including Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, Cindy Sherman by his commonplace subject matter, neutral presentation, nonexpressive content and casual framing. Mel Bochner, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, and Sol LeWitt for his serial logic, as the photobooks true subject more so than the images.

 From a photographic historical perspective, this is a book worth considering. It is the published catalog from Ed Ruscha’s 2006 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 1, 2010

Robert Kalman – No Difference Between Them

Copyright Robert Kalman, 2009 self-published, courtesy of the artist

The legality of who can marry or co-habitat with whom is an ongoing issue that can find its roots in China’s Tang dynasty in 836 AD and at one time or another in India, France, Israel, Malaysia, Spain, Germany and the United States . The issue of ethnic or religious bias as expressed as anti-miscegenation has both formal and informal cultural consequences are played out in Romeo and Juliet and contemporized with West Side Story. This is also the external context for Robert Kalman’s No Difference Between Them, illustrating Brian Andreas poem:

There was a boy

with skin as dark

as the earth

 

& a girl with eyes

as blue

as the deep

 

& they loved each other

so well that people could

not tell them apart,

for in their hearts,

there was

no difference

between them.

 No Difference, Copyright Brian Andreas 2009

 Kalman has photographed these couples in their found element in the streets of New York City, Provincetown or during his journeys to Europe. The couples are photographed in Black and White (an interesting choice of medium for this specific project, which is also the subtitle of the book, The Black & White Portraits) with a view camera and natural light.

 Each couple appears to strike a pose of their own choosing; to embrace, hold hands, lean into each other or perhaps stand just close enough, with arms folded or in their pants pocket, with the near proximity hinting at their intimacy. Most of his subjects gaze directly into the lens, with some choosing to look at their loved one. Likewise, there is both a guarded appearance, perhaps due to previous circumstances, as well as an openness and acceptance of each other and the viewer.

 Hinted at are the stories of what prejudice that they may have already endured or stoic as realizing that there may be more to endure as a result of their choices.

 Beyond this background story, this book is a series of portraits of couples that hints at love, care, and intimacy between two individuals. The only disconcerting aspect of some photographs is the occasional use of a close, tight and distracting background, although speaks to an environmental portrait, does not seem to resonate with the subject of the photograph.

 The forward is provided by Heidi W. Durrow. This book is available in hardback with a dust cover; the black and white photographs are printed on black pages with captions and without page numbers.

by Douglas Stockdale

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