The PhotoBook

July 28, 2010

Offprint – Paris Photo

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 4:33 pm

I just received the following photobook update for Paris Photo about a new venue, Offprint.

Offprint is being initiated by Yannick Bouillis in reaction to a preceived lack of meeting places for the diversity of practice in the field of photography. Offprint is a project space for contemporary photography and a book fair for independent publishers.

Yannick Bouillis, a former journaist, is the owner of Shashin.nl, a bookshop specializing in Dutch art publications.

Offprint will be open on: November 18-21 during Paris Photo, from 3pm – 9pm, except Sunday, then 11am – 5pm.

You will be able to find Offprint at: Espace Kiron, 10 rue de la Vac querie, 75011 (Paris, France)

There is already an impressive list of particpants, with booksignings and a portfolio review being scheduled. Best to check out the web site for all of the details.

best regards, Douglas

BTW, Bouillis is also working on an Artist book fair in Ams­ter­dam in 2011, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Smart Project Space Amsterdam.

July 27, 2010

Mathieu Lambert – Fake Tales of America

Copyright Mathieu Lambert  2010 published by French fourch (photographers co-op)

Mathieu Lambert in the title of his DIY photobook, Fake Tales of America, provides what seems to be a very straight forward way to read his book in that he is taking us on an imaginary journey.  That the photographs may appear that they were photographed in the various cities in America, but in fact they are not. As an America photobook reviewer, I find I read a lot more into this fictional travelogue.

I read this as representational of the stereotyping of societies and cultures portrayed as “factual” by the various modes of media; movies, print advertisements, television stories, the various news channels including newspapers, magazines, television and last of all, the great source of all “truth”, the internet. We obtain our impressions of what it might be like to actual visit and experience a far a-way destination by the photographs found in the various media. There are the glossy “everything looks perfect and we wish you were here” advertising photographs to lure you to a specific region which are off-set by the seemly dark underside stories frequently portrayed by the news and press about all that is wrong with a given region. In fact it may be very beneficial to know that when you travel to specific regions, within certain boundaries you can be safe, but beyond those boundaries you will be at much greater peril.

With the constant input of information received daily, if not hourly, individuals become both sponges and filters, accepting some information as truth and others discounted as not realistic, but most information once viewed becomes integral to our memory. Nevertheless, our active memory is similar to focusing a camera lens and framing a composition, we select what is within the frame and what is excluded. That can also be said about the symbols we chose to represent a given geographical region.

While Lambert has never been to America, which he explained in our discussion a couple of weeks ago, he does want to visit and take a tour of America. His girlfriend at the time did visit America and with Lambert having some documentation issues, he had to remain in France. So instead of joining his girlfriend and directly experiencing America, he created an imaginary tour of America as reconstructed from found place and symbolic situations.

There is a caustic irony in these photographs that hint at the dark side of what is perceived of America, perhaps not running as deep as Robert Frank in his seminal photobook The Americans, but enough.

That Texas can be represented by a wall of guns, seemingly for sale and a black & white tattoo on the back of a man of a firing handgun could represent perhaps someone from a gang in El Passo, New Mexico (actually El Paso, Texas), Lambert makes his point about the implied violence that is perceived to be present. That in contrast Little Falls, Minnesota, in what appears as the country landscape is simpler, brighter, open, rural and appears more upbeat if not plain and mundane.

I think in many ways, Lambert does get some essence of these areas correct enough to make me uncomfortable. That perhaps his symbolic photographs are not that far off from my perception and perhaps others within America. Most Americans have not traveled to all of the cities on Lambert’s tour and how many of us are also falling victim to the “fake” representation of that region by the media?

Another aspect of Lambert’s photobook I find fascinating is his attempt to investigate a distant place without ever going there. To envision what it might be like to experience a location by tapping into memory and perception, to study the available symbols and clues, yet not really walk the place, smell the air, feel the heaviness of the air of that place. It is to investigate the limits of imagination.

The stiff-cover book is bound by saddle stitching, and the front cover has been die-cut to allow the insertion of an accompanying photograph. Nice.

July 26, 2010

Clement Kauter – Le Plac’ Art Photo Sarl

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 9:17 pm

Clement Kauter copyright Douglas Stockdale 2010

Sometimes things don’t always go as planned, but then when least expected, some unexpected and wonderful events unfold. Early this evening I thought I would walk down to the Seine, and since it was a little bit cool for a Paris late summer afternoon, I decided to bring my windbreaker, which thank goodness is also waterproof. I must have been half way down Bloulevard Saint Michel when I felt a few drops of the pending rain. And since I was without my umbrella, I quickly tucked my camera under my windbreaker and decided to ventured on. Then the drizzle and light rain started descending. Crap! So what to do, eh? So I figured the camera was dry and it did not appear that the drizzle would get much worse, I pressed on.

I had some nice luck; as soon the light rain stopped and the sky lightened up and now I was close to the Seine. But as a lark, I took a left turn and walked towards a photo-book store that Marc Feustel (blogger: Eye Curious) had pointed out to me a couple of weekends ago. And I caught Clement Kauter, the owner of Le Plac’ Art Photo Sarl, just as he was about to close for the evening. So after a quick introduction, carefully dropping Feustel’s name appropriately, Kauter kept the doors open a little longer for me to browse. Turns out he is also familiar with this blog as well.  I think that Clement has an excellent selection of carefully cared for pre-owned photobooks along with a good selection of Japanese photobooks. Seeing the Japanese photoboooks was my inspiration to find out if he had a copy of Feustel’s photobook about early Japanese photography that he had edited; japon: un autoportrait, photographies 1945-1964 published by Flammarion in 2004.

So that is how I came to photograph Clement in front of his Paris photobook store holding my recently purchased copy of japon: un autoportrait, photographies 1945-1964. nice. So if you are in the area of 5 rue de l’ancienne comedie in Paris, you should check it out, but wait till after 1pm and he closes at 8pm.

But I do need to mention that the challenge of Feustel’s photobook is that it is written entirely in French, and I don’t read or write a lick of French. So this could be fun!

Best regards, Doug

July 23, 2010

John Bartelstone – The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Copyright John Bartelstone 2009 courtesy powerHouse Books

The area known as The Brooklyn Navy Yard is a massive 300 acres located on the waterfront adjacent to New York City. The U.S. Navy acquired the first property in 1801, constructing the first dry dock in 1851 and eventually decommissioning the site in 1966. This property was subsequently acquired by New York City for commercial redevelopment. During the 150 years of U.S. Naval operation, the working population swelled to 70,000 during the height of World War II in the 1940’s. In the 1950’s, the construction of many of the Navy’s aircraft super-carriers was completed here. The Brooklyn Navy Yard has a storied history and is associated with the construction, commissioning and repair of a vast number of the Navy’s ships, which subsequently sailed on to military duty and eventual history. Although the site is actively involved in a rebirth of commercial activity, it was the historical Navy infrastructure that became the subject of John Bartelstone’s The Brooklyn Navy Yard.

This is the place where Bartelstone is investigating and where much of the antiquated equipment, facilities, structures and infrastructure appears idle, rusting, corroding, and falling down from lack of care and maintenance. Nevertheless, there is still a vibrant private ship repair business that has found a way to maintain and keep the dry docks operational in spite of their seeming obsolescence.

While prowling the Brooklyn Navy Yard over a number of years, Bartelstone was capturing images of impermanence, change, and memory, as symbolized by the decaying and deteriorating infrastructure of the this expansive location. During the process of completing this project, Bartelstone states that he witnessed the continued destruction or removal of equipment and structures. These photographs become documents of ghosts, some seemly visible, while others are gone with only the slightest spirit still remaining.

The photographs are haunting and filled with old memories, a bittersweet narrative about a place whose time has come and gone by. From the appearances of the large and outdated industrial equipment and facilities, it appears that at some point in the early 1960’s the facility was deemed to be too antiquated, difficult to maintain with obsolete equipment and inability to find repair components. More than likely the size of the dry docks were inadequate to handle the larger military vessels or the infrastructure too dated for the more sophisticated electronics that required support. The entire site became obsolete and appears to be abandoned in place, but not necessarily frozen in time, as nature relentless reclaims it’s own. The shell of these structures would seem to stand the test of time, but show evidence of withering in the sun, rain, snow and ice. In the abandoned operational offices and former living quarters, the decaying structures appear similar to the abandoned farms in the Western prairies documented by Eugene Richards in his photo book The Blue Room.

This site also seems to be a shout out about industrial design, where form follows function. Equipment was placed precisely for its intended use, the piping and electrical connections are efficiently routed and in the process, provide very clean and esthetic lines. Everything about the BNY facilities, equipment and infrastructure are overwhelming in scale, dwarfing the individuals who work here. A relative sense of size and scale is provided by the photograph below, where one of the dry docks seems to easily handle two freighter ships and the individuals working on the ground are dwarfed by the vessel’s hulls. When the workers are placed into a contextual scale to the vessels that they are working on, they appear to look like small insects crawling about the place, up and over the varied surfaces.

Investigating this site with a large format camera in a black and white medium using a documentary style, I sense that Bartelstone’s photographs are somewhere in a gray area between modern aesthetics and contemporary realism. The composition, lighting, framing, balance and full range tonalities of Bartelstone’s photographs have their roots in an earlier modern period, but yet these straight forward photographs appear objective without having a judgmental or romantic sentimentality.

The photobook has a classical design with each interior photograph framed with a narrow white margin, one photograph per page. The nice printing of this photobook really showcases these aesthetically composed photographs.

By Douglas Stockdale

July 20, 2010

Catherine Ledner – Glamour Dogs

Catherine Ledner – Glamour Dogs 2009 courtesy Chronicle Books

I had been anticipating Catherine Ledner’s latest photobook Glamour Dogs after having a glimpse of her earlier exhibition photographs of wild animals. For this photobook, Glamour Dogs, her subject is a large group of dog breeds using a similar stylistic portrait formula as her earlier wild animal photographs.

Ledner’s canine subjects are being provided with either a unique posing device or they occupy a central place on the floor. Each dog is framed by a unique wall paper that has been paired with the animal to complement some aspect of her subject. The lighting, focus and use of color are all provide with a similar treatment for each photograph. Her subjects are usually centered in the frame, with some of the dogs providing direct eye contact with the lens, others focused just off-center or preoccupied with something else, perhaps the animal’s trainer or owner.

What I found interesting in Ledner’s earlier photographs was the odd mix of a wild animal in a very domestic appearing context, appearing to pose inside of a home, as symbolized by an interesting background wall paper motif. The feeling of strangeness is very much missing in these photographs, as these beautifully manicured dogs look everything like a pet that would be pampered in these domesticated settings.

Ledner does have a sly sense of humor in some of her selections of props and posing of the dogs, just enough to be a wink and a node, without an over the top and in your face slapstick visual pun. Although there are no puppies hanging by their paws on a clothes line, she does come close.

It appears to me that Ledner has found a formula that is developing into a nice commercial niche and a trademark style but regretfully at the expense of becoming slick and repetitious boring. In an attempt to be open-minded and provide a contrarian viewpoint; the art world has been replete with artists who once found something of a narrow interest, (e.g. repetitively painting the same tea-pot) that they continued to work it almost seemly to death. I just do not sense that type of creative investigation in this body of work

This photobook will appeal to the canine aficionados who will take delight in the varied character studies.

By Douglas Stockdale

July 18, 2010

Harvey Benge – Against Forgetting

copyright Harvey Benge 2010 courtesy the artist

Memory is a very tricky thing. Sometimes it just seems that the things that you want to forget are somehow stuck between your eyebrows regardless of what you attempt to do to forget them. Other times, there are those memories you cherish and never want to lose, and the more you attempt to hold on to them, it seems the more transit they become.  This is the subject that Havey Benge is investigating in his recent DIY photobook, Against Forgetting.

Our brains are utterly fascinating as the suck up all of our life experiences and tuck them all away in our bio-memory cells. Over time, we have trouble finding them in that big soft gray mass between our ears, but on occasion, something triggers them to shout out, we are still here! That emotion trigger can be a smell, a touch, or a sound but for a lot of us, that trigger is a photograph. This is not lost on Kodak, Fuji, Canon and Nikon to name but a few, as millions and millions in cash has been spent on the attempt to capture a precious moment for prosperity.

Benge’s photobook is a record of personal memories, very autobiographical but embodied with symbolism about memories, as well as a narrative about change, loss, grief, pain, celebration and life. When attempting to recall the past, sometime the flood waters of memory can also carry with it some debris, that memories can be delightful or saddening or both, bittersweet.

Benge utilizes a wonderful narrative device; the past is represented with black and white photographs, while the current “reality” is in glorious Technicolor. Perhaps in reality, there were only a few events photographed in color due to the additional expense and color prints had a notorious habit of fading over time. Nevertheless, it is an effective tool in Benge’s hands.

The category of bittersweet is the feeling that I take away from Benge’s photographic story. I sense the naivety of youth and enjoying the moment, not knowing about the complexities of the world. The house he lives in probably seems huge, the yard expansive and the neighborhood a delight to play in and the parents are there forever and probably taken for granted. The black and white photograph of a young couple, as if photographed from a child’s perspective, are immortalized with dark hair, easy smiles, standing tall, and timeless. They do not show the ravages of time.

We are provided with the compare and contrast of the house that Benge’s father build in the 1940’s, in the context of the surrounding neighborhood. The boxy house is blurred in the black and white photograph, as indistinct and out of focus as all of the memories that are shrouded around it. The memories are not as sharp and delineated as the original experience that occurred in the moment. Yes the photograph does capture the outline of the house, the placement of the bushes and the flow of the front walk. But hazy and indistinct, similar to the blurry photograph of the house, are the faded memories of the sounds and noises, the smell of the air, the feel of the breeze or heat and humidity.

A photograph is a two-dimensional object, but we hope that this object triggers all of the other tactile memories as well.

By Douglas Stockdale

July 17, 2010

Gauthier Sibillat – Strasbourg, Fin de Ville, Paysages Ordinaires

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 6:24 pm

Copyright Gautheir Sibillat, courtesy Poursuite Editions

In its earliest conception, a book was an assembly of sheets, usually in a packet, folder or other device that could hold them together. Subsequently the practice of publishing a book was to bind the sheets together to improve storage conditions, maintain an orderly progression of the pages and provide coherence. A year ago, Lay Flat’s first book harkened back to the days of loose individual sheets which were assembled together and now likewise the photobook of Gauthier Sibillat, Strasbourg, Fin de Ville, Paysages Ordinaries (Strasbourg, End of the City, Ordinary Landscapes) is individual sheets gathered within a poly sleeve.

In his photobook, I am not sure if Sibillat appears to be investigating what constitutes the “end of a city” or a providing a subtle criticism of the endless growth of cities. I think that I can argue both which adds an interesting complexity to his twelve color landscape photographs.

The end of a city perhaps can be a boundary, between what is the city and what is not, artificial such as a fence, wall, road or naturally occurring such as a river, ocean, or mountain side. Many times the boundary is very artificial, a line drawn on a map of which some coordinates have been established. When the boundaries are artificial, the city boundary may be difficult to identify, perhaps gradually the spacing between buildings and structure gradually widening until and while walking I might suddenly realize, I must not be in the city any longer. In Southern California where I live, I can move from one city into another without realizing that I have made the transition, as the suburban cities are mashed up against each other in one continuous flow of streets, houses and roads, almost without end. There are few if any naturally occurring boundaries that would delineate a city where I live.

Likewise, it is difficult to observe what could be Strasbourg’s “boundaries” in Sibillat’s photographs. He uses a documentary style to photograph structures situated in a mix of urban and rural location that are in vary states of development. As if the end of the city seems to be slowly moving and expanding based on some perceived needs or someone’s economic interests. He appears to be investigating the slow expansion of a city’s boundary as defined by the location of these new structures and that the new structures are now pushing the city’s edge.

There is a stylistic design element that is consistent within Sibillat’s photographs. Each of the photographs has a detailed foreground of earthly terrain, with structures occupying the middle ground and above all filling in the top of the frame is the sky.

The earthen foreground is the raw land in various states of development. In one photograph, wild weeds and a barren tree seem to be waiting for the bulldozers blade, with a new structure sitting ominously in the middle ground foretelling of the pending urban development. In one photograph the ground has been completely covered with concrete, symbolizing an attempt to keep the earth subservient to mankind’s needs and control. In many of Sibillat’s photographs the details of the earthy foreground predominate over the structures in the middle ground, which are photographed in a manner to make the structures appear smaller, as to reduce the structures importance as compared to the terrain.

The middle ground of Sibillat’s photographs is occupied by either a building, house or looming structures that are in a state of flux between just complete or in the various stages of development. The structures seem to be imbued with a feeling of pathos, they do not appear to be enlightening, upbeat or happy places. The structures denote the presence of mankind, but there are not any people included within the photographs. Hence the photographs leave me with a feeling that there is no life in these sterile places. These landscape scenes are serene but appear lonely and sad.

Finally there is the sky, either blue and clear, clouded and overcast or obscured by an almost tangible dense fog. Mankind’s structures attempt to dominate the earth, but the sky prevails above all, symbolizing that mankind might be attempted to dominate nature, but in the end, nature will prevail.

The loose prints allow you to curate the book and determine which sequence that they will be experienced, or individually framed or with a little handiwork, complied into a post card format to be shared with someone who is at a distance.

The photographs are lithographic printed card stock, varnished, captions on the reverse, assembled in a printed poly sleeve, accompanied by an index card printed with the introduction in French by Sibillat printed on the opposite side. An English excerpt from the introduction is provided by on a separate sheet.

by Douglas Stockdale

July 13, 2010

FotoBuch Festival – Catalogs

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 5:27 pm

Copyright FotoBuch Festival and photographers

Earlier I had written about the 3rd International FotoBuch Festival in Kassel, Germany and I have subsequently acquired the three catalogs for the three annual events.

The photobooks that are highlighted in each year’s catalog were nominated by prominent international (photography) professionals and shown in an exhibition. The books are presented in the catalog, including their cover images and selected content pages, as well as bibliographical details and personal statements by the expert who nominated it. The personal statements are not by any means an in-depth essay, but more of a very brief note on why the book was of interest to them.

What I noted was that the first year was a heavy pan-European jury of experts, with a broader International range of experts the second year, and subsequently an even broader International group this last year. From the 2009-2010 catalog, my surprise find was Stanley Greene’s Black Passport (first page spread below) which was nominated by JH Engstrom, Gosta Flemming, and Guy Tillim. Black Passport was not even on my radar for 2009. It was nice to acquire a little more information about Shannon Ebner’s The Sun as Error (second page spread, below), which has two nominations, by Lesley Martin and David CampanyJim Goldberg’s Open See was nominated by Philip Block, which I reviewed and can found here. Interestingly, Robert Adams received nominations for two different titles, what could probably be classified as reprints, What we Bought (1970 – 1974), and Summer Nights, Walking (1976  – 1982), with the Summer Nights, Walking already on my short list to acquire, probably more so now.

Perhaps likewise you might find your self with similar surprises and interests. Not sure how long these will be available, as they did limit the production to 1,000 each.

All three catalogs share the same design layout, excellent printing, simple sewn sitch binding and these make a smart set.

July 11, 2010

Marc Feustel – a conversation

Filed under: Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 3:59 pm

Marc Feustel, copyright Douglas Stockdale 2010

This is the second in my series of my conversations with PhotoBook enthusiast during my lay-over in Paris. Marc Feustel is a very interesting guy and a delightful conversationist, and I highly recommend his thoughtful reviews of photobooks that are available on his blog, Eye Curious.

Although my intent was to obtain his insight on Kiyoshi Suzuki’s Soul and Soul, a photobook review that I having a little trouble finishing, our discussion went far and wide about the Japanese photographers who preceded the Provoke period as well as what is happening with photobooks in Japan since. It is Feustel’s interest and speciality in Japanese photographers and their photobooks which really ignited my interest in having this meeting. And Marc did provide just the insights that I had hoped to hear, as he advised to look for the symbolic power of the detail and notice the focus on texture and the use of space.

That then led to discussions about the influence of William Kline and Robert Frank on Japanese photographers and subsequently to the early work of Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira. Marc’s lament was the lack of distribution of Japanese photobooks outside of Japan. At best, both in Europe and US, we only see the tip of the iceberg of the large diversity and volume of photobooks that are published each year in Japan.

Marc and I had hoped to visit and go exploring in a couple of photo galleries and book stores that were on this side of the Seine. Regretfully, all were closed for the day (Sunday), but at least I now have some coordinates to find them on my next visit.

Here is a short list of photobook places in Paris for your future consideration (a couple from my conversation with Mathieu Lambert yesterday); Galerie Yvon Lambert, LazyDog, le Monte en L’Ain (entrance photo, below), Plac ‘Art Photo, and Comptoir de l ‘Image. Comptoir is in the general area that Eugene Aget photographed and Marc stated that some of the same ornaments that Aget photographed are still present.

It was a beautiful Paris afternoon to walk, talk, enjoy a coffee and then walk and talk some more. It was too bad that my feet were not accustomed to the higher humidity and I developed blisters from the extended walking in my sandals. I just required a pint of therapeutic beer to make things right again and gingerly walk back to my hotel.

Best regards, Douglas

July 10, 2010

Mathieu Lambert – a conversation

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Doug Stockdale @ 8:07 pm

Mathieu Lambert, copyright Douglas Stockdale 2010

I had a nice opportunity to discuss photobooks, personal projects and life with Mathieu Lambert this afternoon. The light Paris rain did drive us indoors for a couple of hours, but that was fine as we quickly found a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. Afterwards we moved out to the nice cushions along the boulevard to enjoy the early evening.

The occasion was to discuss Lambert’s recent DIY photobook Fake Tales of America, which he published with the small photographic co-0p french fourch that he is a member of. It is not usually my practice to discuss a photobook with a photographer until I have prepared my review. That just happens to be my process, as I want to be able to extract my direct impressions versus reacting to a photographers stated intent. But then again, I am not frequently in Paris and it allowed me to take the opportunity to investigate DIY photobooks from an European perspective. And drink some nice French wine on a warm and balmy day, very nice.

My take-away is that DIY in Europe does not seem much different from elsewhere and that we have a very global photographic self-publishing community. Lambert did make a comment about printing his photobook project that did underline one salient point; the ability to have an interaction between photographer and printer. As he was tweaking his design and layout, he needed to perform some printing trials on the printing equipment before he wanted to commit his finances to the small print run.

And now I shall continue reading and enjoying Lambert’s photobook with my review to be published later this month. Merci Mathieu!

Best regards, Douglas

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