The PhotoBook

March 30, 2011

Camille Hervouet – Geographie Intime

Copyright Camille Hervouet 2010 courtesy Poursuite Editions

What does happen when you go home again? There are usually the lingering memories of youth, but how do these memories mesh with the realities of the present day? In Geographie Intime (English translation: Intimate Geography), Camille Hervouet, who now lives in Nantes, returns to explore and investigate the geography of Vendee, the area in which she was a child and young adult. Hervouet states that in working on this photographic project, she had “the urge to explore deeper into the idea of home, of living in a territory”.

To chose for her subject a personal region, that of her childhood, can be either fraught with emotional danger or perhaps bring immense personal pleasure. A place that has strong emotional ties will no doubt, perhaps at a very subliminal level, lead to a stronger autobiographical narrative. It can be argued that all photographs are really about the photographer, with the sleight of hand illusion that what is in front of the lens might be the subject. Thus it can be said that all photographs are autobiographical, but some are more autobiographical than others.

Hervouet continues in her introduction to state her intent “to capture the way the landscape and the building talk about those who inhabit them, to see how they revel the structure, working pattern, the development as well as the contradictions of the territory…its intimate and collective history.” I find that Hervoutet elegantly lays out her conceptual foundation for this photography project and equally important, then delivers on it.

The photographs are without captions, but from her introduction, I suspect that the portraits of individuals are those who she knows personally, probably family, neighbors and friends. She has a shared history and memory with them.

Her landscape and portrait photographs appear to start in the hills and upper elevations of Vendee and as her photobook progress, we steady approach a seacoast. The final photograph in this series, which is spanning a two page spread and printed full bleed, provides a great expansive body of troubled water. Is this dark and turbulent seacoast symbolic of her emotional condition after this exploration? Has the emotional ride of this project left in troubled turmoil, much as the troubled, overcast and dark sea? The dark sea, much like memory, can be cold, dark and deep, hiding rocks and fissures, concealing wonders and dangers alike.

But yet there is one last small color photograph hiding behind the final Remerciements, much like providing a last kiss after taking a brief pause at the end of a long conversation, a beautiful evening seascape. It could be easily missed, but lingers after the conclusion and for me implies that there is still is hope, perhaps a hope that Hervouet still has, even if troubling memories come tumbling down upon her

The book is printed in four-color, with stiff covers and stitched binding. The text is in French, and with my copy, I received an English translation insert.

By Douglas Stockdale

March 23, 2011

Valeria Cherchi – 3centro34

Copyright 2010 Valeria Cherchi courtesy AAlphabet Libri

Valeria Cherchi is providing a short and relatively dark narrative about a house that is inhabited by two individuals who do not appear to be connecting with each other.  Her two subjects for this photobook are a young man and a young woman and the building tension between the two of them.

The man is photographed alone, either sitting or standing with a vacant expression and in one photograph has his bowed down. The woman in turn is also photographed alone, alternating between an upwards glace or with her bowed.  Both individuals appear to be waiting, in contemplation as though anticipating for the other’s initiating advance. The woman appears in a dreamlike state, as though embracing and in a dance with her lover, with someone who is not there. The bed is entirely hers, whether by default or plan, nevertheless, creating a sense of loneliness and sadness. 

The last photograph of the book spans the two page spread and is printed full bleed. The man continues to stands alone, now in a three-quarter profile, shrouded in the semi-darkness, his profile lost the in deep shadows. It is a stark, graphic, haunting, and eerie photograph. There is an illuminating window pane just behind him and it appears to be part of a door.  This dark image of the shirtless man creates an ominous and foreboding feeling of an implied threat to who may be just beyond the other side of this door. What I might call an Alfred Hitchcock moment.

Cherchi’s black and white photographs are stark, tightly framed and border on being minimalistic. With a minimum of content, it can allow the reader more freedom to fill in the unanswered spaces. The minimal clothing of both individuals implies the appearance of vulnerability and accessibility that perhaps they have nothing to hide between themselves. Yet they do not appear together in any of the photographs and at best, are in separate photographs on facing pages, with the implied dialog crossing the binding of the book, as though the binding is a silent and imaginary barrier between the two.

Situated between the photographs are graphic symbols, the meaning of which is codified and ambiguous to the reader. The layout of the photographs mixed with the graphic elements is a bit confusing. After a number of readings, I am still not sure if the graphic elements and symbols are helping or distracting this narrative. These graphic elements are printed a very solid and dense black relative to the photographs and they seem to act as anchors that pull the focus away from the photographs. The graphics create a sense of tension that somehow then resonates in the photographs.

I found Cherchi’s cinematic narrative to be fragmented, erratic and difficult to follow, but with a captivating ending. Nevertheless, Cherchi and her publisher should be lauded for investigating an experimental layout with the inclusion of different graphic elements (alternatives to text) to structure a different photobook concept.

This photobook is printed in one color with the text in Italian, but my copy came with an insert that contained both the original Italian and an English Translation. I am not very sure (as my Italian is very limited), but appears that the English translation is a bit on the rough side.

by Douglas Stockdale

March 6, 2011

Fantom magazine – Issue 06 Winter 2011

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 5:47 am

Copyright the various artist courtesy Boiler Corportation

From Milano, Italy, via the Boiler corporation, aka Fantom Editions, comes a very smart photography magazine. It has the heft and feel of a stiff cover photobook and beautiful printed in Italy (Frafiche Antiga). What I had not realized is that Fantom Editions was also publishing photobooks, one of which, Charolette Dumas’s Al Lavoro!  which I expect to review later this year.

Unlike a photobook, this like other magazines of its kind, provide either a board retrospective sampling of a photographers work, such as the Joel Meyerowitz interview by Giorgio Barrera, an interview with a photographer regarding a recent project, such as the Marc Feustel interview (conversation) with Hans-Christian Schink or perhaps a portfolio sampling, as in this case, the portfolios of Jessica Labatte, Ra di Martino and Irina Polin.

The magazine has an interesting cadence, moving from portfolio to discussion while photographs form another portfolio (Pop-Up) suddenly appear. The photographic work that is brought into the pages has a very broad breath and aesthetic feel, with a myriad of conceptual challenges for the reader. nice.

There is a minimum of advertising, which in this case is all relegated to the back of the magazine, resulting in some very dense content. The magazine is published entirely in English and I hope that you can find in on a news stand (art photography magazine rack) near you.

By Douglas Stockdale

March 5, 2011

Kin Subscription Series Number Two – Hido – Mueller – Soth – Nolan

Copyright Todd Hido, Marianne MuellerAlec Soth, Abner Nolan 2008 (2009) courtesy TBW Books and photo-eye

TBW Books is providing selected photographers with a unifying theme for an annual publication of four books co-published as a set. For the Subscription Series #2, the four photographic artists, Marianne Mueller, Noon, Todd Hido, Ohio, Alec Soth, Sheep, and Abner Nolan, Away, were invited to present a personal exploration of their work. Each photographer was provided with complete design control of the resulting book, with the only stipulation that their photobook follows the overarching book size, printing and binding format of the series.

Abner Nolan utilizes found photographs to construct his narrative, which for Away, is the remnants of a memory that might affectionately be call a road trip. For Nolan, the road trip is disjointed; a mash-up of fleeting experiences and encompasses fuzzy, fading and inconsistent content. The lead-in photograph of a convertible car with the top down hints at unlimited potential opportunities for the ensuring journey, but the faded and poor condition of this photograph has darker undertones. The subsequent photographs narrate the ups and down realities of such road trips. The narrative is ambiguous without a defined starting or ending point, which provides many opportunities to make this our own journey. Nolan’s narrative tugs at my own memory and triggers recollection of my parent’s road trips with my younger brother and sister, and similar to his faded photographs, likewise my memories are becoming more indistinct with time. The family road trip was a seemingly endless journey to visit some majestic destination while intermittently stopping at the homes of relatives or family friends. My recall of visiting my older relatives is as vague as Nolan’s photographs, an indistinct face, a faint recall of a room, or snippet of an experience. I sense that for Nolan, his memory of road trips are now increasing melancholic experiences.

In his photobook Ohio, Todd Hido investigates his experience growing up in the Midwest and coming of age. His narrative is intertwined with his early photographs and recent photographs made with the same camera. Although the book has a documentary look, we have been provided clues that the photographed events are not what they appear to be. Much like the masks we don and façades we erect to conceal our inner most feelings in order to protect ourselves. On the surface Hido’s photographs appear to document an ordinary household, but there are present dark edges and an uneasy undercurrent. The older photographs are mottled and deteriorated. In one photograph a wall is plainly visible to have been damaged by blunt force trauma, and in another, a man holds up a boy in one hand and a mini-keg of beer in the other, while the boy reaches towards the mini-keg, not the man. The narrative later evolves into the passing of adolescence into sexual awareness in the opposite sex, from a state of guarded anticipation to finally confident and unabashed liberation.

 

For Marianne Mueller, her photobook Noon is a narrative that could also be titled “Nooner”, another word aptly designating a mid-day romance. Her photographs sequential narrate the ensuring emotions of a sexually charged romantic fling. The rumpled clothes on a floor, although abstract, imply a wild abandon, with people wearing progressively less clothes until everything goes dark, but illuminated by the sparks of intense emotion. Although I find the photographs to be very metaphoric, they are not entice an overly romantic feeling, but elicits coldness and distance, with her photobook perhaps saved by the mysterious undertones and unanswered questions.

In his book Sheep, Alec Soth is only photographer of the four to introduce text with his narrative, which I find to be a humorous running essay that accompanies each progressive photograph in this delightful story. The constructed storyline is about serial experiences, how one event can be tangentially related to another and that due to circumstances many times beyond our control, we can find ourselves in a full circle haunted by out past experiences. Soth’s photographs are created as well as culled from previous projects, such as Sleeping by the Mississippi, to create this amusing and personal narrative. Although Soth’s photobook has the lighter narrative of the four, it is by no means the lesser of the four and equally profound and rich in context.

The four photobooks have stiff cover with dust wraps, which have a nice repetitious repeat of the book’s title, but due to the glued and stapled binding, these books are very difficult to open and read.

Although the books have printed a 2008 copyright, the publisher has stated that the copyright was meant to state 2009.

by Douglas Stockdale

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