The PhotoBook

March 2, 2014

W. Eugene Smith – The Big Book

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_slip-cover

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_slip-cover_end

Photographs copyright the estate of W. Eugene Smith 2013 co-published by University of Texas Press, Austin & Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

W. Eugene Smith’s The Big Book is a very interesting and unusual three volume set that includes a two volume facsimile of the maquette (book dummy)  developed by Smith in 1960 and a third volume with supporting essays, reference photographs and information about the maquette.

The Big Book maquette spans the majority of the late W. Eugene Smith’s oeuvre, an American photojournalist (b. 1918 – d. 1978 ) who developed the concept for the photo-essay. Smith was a perfectionist with a thorny personality, who set the standard for the photo-essay high for future generations of photographers.

The Center for Creative Photography (CfCP) at the University of Arizona has possession of the W. Eugene Smith archive. It is the location of the original The Big Book maquette and the photographic source for most of the content of this three volume set. The CfCP collaborated with the University of Texas Press to publish this extensive body of work. Smith had created this maquette between 1960 and 1961 to visually illustrate his concept for the various book publishers but regretfully The Big Book was not completed or published in Smith’s lifetime.

In the Notes of Volume 3 the materials of the two volume maquette are described as follows; the pages are heavyweight machine made paper, cream in color, with the images attached by means of a glossy yellow rubber-based adhesive. The images in the maquette appear to be made by means of the Afga Copyrapid reproductive process, essentially a very early office copy machine (photocopying). The fluctuations in the color, ranging from yellow to brown tints, of the maquette images reflect the instability of this photocopying process over time. Due to the deterioration of the images within the original maquette, the muddled and blocked images are difficult at places to clearly read, complicating an already messy state of affairs for this maquette.

As stated by William S. Johnson in his introduction to this set, “The book, like many of Smith’s endeavors, was impractical in is scope, unconventional it its format and uncompromising it its demands on the reader. Occasionally incomprehensible, often lyrical, always passionate, the book challenged traditional ideas about layout and design, and attempted to establish a new form or expression for the photographic essay.”

I agree with Johnson, the maquette is a real mash-up of images and it is difficult to view this as an elegant photo-essay that Smith had so frequently advocated during his life time. Stepping back, I find myself viewing this body of work as being more in sync with the current contemporary concepts of creating a visceral experience. In this context, Smith is well before his time, similar to the ground breaking photographic work of Eugene Atget, Robert Frank and Walker Evans.

There is an absence of text, captions and pagination within the two volume maquette as these details would probably have been included at the final publication stage of the ensuing photobook. What the reader will find included are Smith’s hand written notes that accompany specific photographs, as an example a note to check on the cropping of a specific image. Essentially a maquette was not created to be a permanent record, but temporal to communicate the essence of a book concept, as a visual aid to the publisher. Nevertheless, Smith’s maquette has become a semi-permanent record of one photographer’s endeavors, now taking a life of its own and being shared with a much wider audience.

As to the layout design of the maquette, it is said that Smith drew heavy inspiration from the Edward Steichen’s 1955 exhibition and subsequent book Family of Man, for which Smith has contributed five images, including the closing photograph titled The Walk to Paradise Garden. Smith chose this same photograph to open as well as close The Big Book.

As a book object, the three volume set is an embodiment of a time and place. Part historical, preserving the deteriorating remainders of a work of art in progress and a raw creative endeavor of a gifted photographer and artist, while providing a glimpse into the makings of what might have been a wonderful photobook. We are to remember that this maquette was not meant to be polished and luminous final object, more akin to a sketch pad for the photographer to privately share with a publisher, never meant to see the light of day. I think that reading the two volume maquette is similar in experience for a visit to Florence and viewing one of Michelangelo’s partially complete sculptures, a raw and incomplete work, gaining a glimpse into the working of a very creative mind.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook   This review was co-published in Emaho magazine.

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_volume_I_n_2-covers

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_1

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_2

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_3

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_4

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_5

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_6

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_Volume_3_1

February 25, 2014

Photobook reviewer for EMAHO magazine

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:00 pm

Emaho_magazine-photobook_reviews_American_covers_2

“America” photobooks

I had announced on my personal blog earlier this week that my photobook reviews will soon start being co-published in EMAHO magazine. Manik Katyal, the editior and publisher, has also asked me to be the “America” photobook specialist while Colin Pantall focuses more on the European photobooks. I thought that this was an interesting request and we are still defining this request. At the moment, as hopefully illustrated by the stack of books above, I am taking a very broad and liberal viewpoint on what constitutes an America photobook. I think I have always had a global perspective on contemporary photobooks, so I will not preclude discussing photobooks that don’t fit into this America category.  Should be interesting.

The readers of this blog will probably notice some changes. First, since EMAHO is an on-line magazine for photography, fine art and music, I do need to format the size of my images to be consistent with their layout. All supporting photographs will have a wide frame and slightly larger than I have been using to date. I had standardized a long time ago on a 800 pixel width which will not change to a 868 pixel width. You might like the larger photographs, eh?

Another change is the background that the photobooks are resting on, which has been the flooring of my work area. This background has at times created a bit of inconsistency in the color management of my supporting photographs effecting the color of the books and their interiors. This color drift issue has been bugging me for some time so in conjunction with a recent rearrangement of my studio, I have created a new space to photograph the books. I am still tweaking this a little, but I am evaluating at a couple of different white backgrounds.

So the first book that I plan to publish on EMAHO magazine is the late W. Eugene Smith opus The Big Book published by the University of Texas Press (Austin, TX) last year. This book is a facsimile of a maquette (book dummy) that Smith created in 1960 but the final book was never published in his lifetime. Below are a couple of my test images with the new format and background. I still notice a very slight color shift of the backgrounds in the two images (same background), but an improvement over my earlier process. Still a little bit more work to do.

Oh yes, I did not realize until I published this book photo that I had inadvertently inverted Andreas Oekter-Kast  photobook Looking for Wonderland, a German photographer’s road trip through America.

Cheers!

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_dummy_interior_1

W_Eugene_Smith-The_Big_Book_slip-cover

February 9, 2014

Clint Woodside – Undercover Cars

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_cover

Copyright Clint Woodside 2013 published by Deadbeat Club press (#07)

Woodside’s subject is cars found in Southern California which have some protective cover placed over them. The car cover has a dual role, protect the car from the natural elements, in Southern California that is predominately the sun, as well as being a deterrent to car thieves.

Woodside reveals a whimsical and satirical side in his documentary of the effectiveness of the car covers. He photographs covers that barely conceal a vehicle, covers that are providing an ineffective concealment, or a car that is in such a deplorable state of condition that the reader wonders why this car needs any protection whatsoever. His secondary narratives include the mystery that surrounds these concealed cars and calls into question the car culture of Southern California.

This type of stiffcover book publication is commonly referred to as a Zine, which utilizes the saddle stitch (staples) binding common of many early magazines. Interestingly, many large circulation and popular magazines today have stiff covers and due to the quantity of pages, are perfect bound (hot glue) and have an actual spine. Zines usually do not have a spine as a hardcover book might and by nature of their binding, usually lay very flat.

The book does not include pagination, captions or text.

FYI, the second image below includes Woodside’s signature which I acquired during the recent LA Art Book Fair.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_1

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_2

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_3

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_4

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_5

Clint_Woodside-Undercover_Cars_6

February 8, 2014

Paul Seawright – Volunteer

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_cover

Copyright Paul Seawright 2013 published by Artist Photo Books

Paul Seawright’s earlier photographic work provides the conceptual foundation for this photobook. In his Sectarian Murder, 1988 he photographed the sites of sectarian murders around Belfast and removed reference to the victim’s religion. By depoliticizing the violence, Seawright focuses on the extensive civilian losses that occurred during this conflict. In his 2002 Afghanistan photographs, Seawright photographs artifacts that remain after a conflict again attempting to depoliticize the events that led to the violence.

In Volunteer, Seawright investigates the locations and sites adjacent to where the US military recruits. His narrative provides an examination of location of the US military recruitment centers sprinkled around the country and thus investigates the US Military recruit practices. His bleak viewpoint is focused away from the actual recruitment centers and out toward the surrounding urban landscape. It is his attempt to describe where, thus indirectly who, are the individuals that the US military is seeking to recruit.

The selected body of work depicts urban locations commonly found on the fringes of society. Many of the store fronts are vacant, structures are abandoned and the parking lots are virtually empty. This body of work is meant to be another series of depoliticizing photographs. Nevertheless these images are other than coldly objective, providing a subtle criticism of violence and war. Most of the photographic form is somber, featuring forlorn man-built landscapes predominantly captured during overcast days to create dreary feeling landscapes.

This is an image wrap hardcover book, without pagination or captions. The Introductory essay is by Seawright. The book’s binding is Smyth sewn which allows for a wonderful lay-flat read and was printed in four-color by Cassochrome in Belgium.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_1

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_2

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_3

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_4

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_5

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_6

Paul_Seawright-Volunteer_7

February 4, 2014

Ed Templeton – Random & Pointless

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_cover

copyright Ed Templeton 2014 published by Deadbeat Club (#19)

Ed Templeton’s recent photobook Random & Pointless is a intriguing narrative about youth,  just hanging out and experiencing life as it rolls by.

The mash-up of black & white and color street photographs appear Random, as evidenced by the inclusion of various contact sheets, as the free association of street photography is frequently practiced. This is a visceral read that may appear on the surface as being Pointless, or at least irreverent, raising questions as to the underlying context of this photobook and perhaps questions about the act of photographing.

The photographs are printed to include the surrounding negative substrate that can be read to indicate 1) the photographs are uncropped images, 2) these are two-dimensional photographic images and 3) to document that the photographs were made from film and are not digital images.

This photobook is a layered and complex read. The photobook literally becomes more intimate as the many layers unfold. The random unseen events becoming visible, asking the reader the unanswered question as to what is the point?

The book has a stiff covers with a saddle-stitch binding and a double-sided printed belly band that wraps the covers. The belly band incorporates two rows of color negatives on one side and two rows of black and white negatives on the opposite side. The color variations of the Black & White photographs in the images below do closely reflect the book’s actual print colors.  This is essentially an artist book with the inclusion of the six various hand-made folds incorporated into the book’s design.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_1

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_2

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_3

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_4

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_5

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_6

Ed_Templeton-Random_&_Pointless_7

January 31, 2014

Hiroshi Watanabe – Veiled Observations and Reflections

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_cover

Copyright Hiroshi Watanabe 2002, self-published

This is another in my series of reviews of Limited Edition photobooks. This limited edition book and print set was self-published by Hiroshi Watanabe using early Print-on-Demand (POD) services available at that time in Japan. The title of the book coincided with his L.A. photographic exhibition of the same name held in 2002. Many of the images in the book were later submitted to Photolucida’s Critical Mass, which Watanabe garnered a book prize and the subsequent publication of Findings by Photolucida.

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_book_slip-cover_print

Book, slipcover and print

Watanabe created two versions of the limited edition book and print set, both in an edition of 200. The POD book publisher in Japan provided a translucent poly slipcase with each book, thus enabling Watanabe to create a silver gelatin print in a matching size. He designed his print to fit within a poly sleeve, which subsequently fit into the outer translucent slipcover with the accompanying photobook. Fortunately the book was square as are Watanabe’s photographic format and prints.

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_book_in_slipcover

Book within the translucent slip cover

The hardcover book is actually a very nice presentation. The interior signature, along with the end papers, is bound with a sewn binding while the end papers are glued to the interior book boards to hold the covers. It is a minimalistic and clean book design that nicely complements Watanabe’s body of work. Together the book and accompanying print make for a nice presentation.

Previous Watanabe books reviewed on The PhotoBook include: Findings, Ideology in Paradise and Love Point.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_1

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_2

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_3

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_4

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_5

Hiroshi_Watanabe-Veiled_Observations_and_Reflections_6

January 27, 2014

Patrick Hogan – Still

Patrick_Hogan-still_cover

Copyright 2012 Patrick Hogan, self-published

Still is a splendid, intriguing photobook, which has been photographed and designed by Patrick Hogan as more of an emotional read. Perhaps similar in experience as listening to a song with a repetition of the melodies.

As the title implies, quiet and intimate moments are captured while creating a place that can best be described as ambivalence. The book has an interesting cadence and inclusion of difficult to read interior plates, at times there is the faintest hint of a photographic image and other times on the extreme of darkness, both bordering on illegibility that beguiles me. The repeating of the faint images is a symbolic read of a memory, the original subject, once clearly seen; now taking on a ghostly and incomplete presence.

An interesting mash-up of portraiture (identity), landscapes (place) and documentary style moments, which are interwoven just as events unfold.  Images and themes reoccur.  Hogan provides an intimate look at his subjects, events, places and the environment that envelops that place. I find this to be a very poetic narrative. It is a photobook that I keep returning to as I enjoy each reading; more questions with few answers.

Linen hard cover book, embossed text with a color tipped-in photograph and a numbered edition of 500 books (number 206/500 was reviewed for this commentary). Bound with a Smyth sewn & glued binding that permits a relatively lay-flat read. The introduction is provided by Colin Graham and a poem by Dermot Healy. To further underscore the introspective nature of the book, it is without captions or pagination.

Although published in 2012, this book was not widely available until the beginning of 2013, and I have included this photobook by Patrick Hogan in my interesting photobooks of 2013, and you can see my entire selection here.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Patrick_Hogan-still_1

Patrick_Hogan-still_2

Patrick_Hogan-still_3

Patrick_Hogan-still_4

 

Patrick_Hogan-still_6

January 23, 2014

Matej Sitar – America My Way; collector’s edition

Matej_Sitar-America_My_Way_LE_cover

copyright Matej Sitar 2013 self-published by Sitar’s imprint The Angry Bat

When developing a photobook, there are always many decisions to make and one of those to consider is whether to create a limited edition photobook. Some photobooks, such as an artist photobook, are handmade in a very limited quantity. The downside to publishing only an artist photobook is that the small quantity does not allow many, if any, to be available to book reviews, bloggers and magazines. Thus a great many photographers who like the concept of a limited edition book will consider how to develop such a photobook in conjunction with the publication of their general (trade) photobook. The limited edition book may be lurking in the background while the photographer gauges the reception to the trade book or he/she may concurrently release a limited edition version on faith & trust with the trade photobook.

Matej Sitar published both a trade book for America, My Way, reviewed here, as well as a limited edition collector’s edition at the end of 2012, which I would like to discuss today.

The major changes to the collector’s edition is the linen covered solid box case (hinged clam shell with interior pocket) in lieu of the folded stiff-board cover of the trade photobook and the inclusion of an original SX-70 Polaroid print from this project.

The hinged clam shell is a classic design with a slight twist, one interior side is open and the three stiff-covered books slide into an interior pocket. The design retains the interior books while providing easy access for the reader. A really slick & well executed book design by 3ideje, d.o.o.

The SX-70 Polaroid photograph is held in place with classic corner stays, in this case made with the same linen material as those to wrap the clam shell boards. A subtle detail is that each clam shell outer cover has a laser printed image of the corresponding interior Polaroid print. The collector’s edition is limited to the number of SX-70 Polaroid prints, which is an edition of 39, while each book is virtually a 1/1 due to the uniqueness of the SX-70 Polaroid.

All in all, this makes for a very nice presentation. recommended.

The complete review of the trade edition of Sitar’s America,My Way, which includes the interior photographs, can be found here.

Sitar’s America, My Way was selected as one of my interesting photobooks for 2013 with my full selection here.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Matej_Sitar-America_My_Way_LE_clam-shell_interior_with_Polaroid_print

January 17, 2014

Brassaii – Paris Nocturne

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_cover

Copyright the estate of Brassaii, 2013 published by Thanes & Hudson Ltd London

As a photobook collector as well as a photographer, I am drawn to certain photobooks. Perhaps it’s the subject, such that photographs that investigated the built landscapes, although in this case with Brassaii’s nocturne photographs, predominantly created in the 1930’s (and the majority on glass plates no less), is an interesting combination of a well-known body of work for a couple of photobooks that I do not have in conjunction with a photographic process that bedeviled me for years, night time photography. This is not a how-to photographic book although providing technical background on Brassaii’s technique is provided sparingly. The main focus of this book is on his body of work in context with this time period of Paris in the 1930’s.

Brassaii/Brassai/ Brassaï was the pseudonym of Gyula (Julius) Halasz, a Hungarian photographer, in which he frequently signed his pseudonym name with one “i” at the end of his name, but with a two dotes on top (Brassaï), more of what we might today think of a stylistic logo. As a result, since the double dotted “i” is not a common font, his name is usually spelled out as Brassaii or sometimes truncated to Brassai. This is an investigation of the three photobooks that created Brassii’s photographic reputation, which is where my interest lay in reviewing this book.

Brassaii’s first photobook was Paris de nuit (Paris After Dark) published to grain acclaim, an instant “hit”, which was published in 1932. His second photobook Voluptes de Paris (Pleasures of Paris) published in 1935 was to receive much less acclaim and Brassaii was to later drop this book title from his resume. This book provides some insights as to why Brassaii might not have been thrilled with the second book publication. Brassaii’s third Paris photobook that placed him and his nighttime photographs firmly on the photographic map was Le Paris secret des annes 30 (The Secret Paris of the 30’s) published in 1976.

For me, this book, part biography, part photobook, is a mission accomplished to further appreciate this fascinating part of Brassaii’s oeuvre and further understand his relationship with the Paris Surrealism movement in the 30’s.

This dense hardcover book is edited as well as providing essays by Sylvie Aubenas and Quentin Bajac. The book also includes a bibliography, captions, notated references and profuse notes and appears very well researched.  I am reviewing the English edition of this title. The original first edition of Brassaii – Paris Nocturne is copyright 2012 by editions Gallimard, Paris. The book is very nicely printed and bound in Spain by T.F. Graficas as the very deep blacks of the plates provide what appears as great reproductions of Brassaii’s night time photographs. Overall, very well done.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_1

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_2

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_3

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_4

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_5

Brassaii- Paris-Nocturne_6

January 9, 2014

10 x 10 American Photobooks exhibition catalog

10x10_American_Photobooks_cover_n_belly-band

copyright the various photographers & writers, 2013, Published by 10 x 10 American Photobooks & bookdummypress

Exhibition and catalog was also in association with the International Center of Photography Library, Photobook Facebook Group & Tokyo Institute of Photography

This is an exhibition catalog for a photobook exhibition that was organized by Matthew Carson, Russet Lederman & Olga Yatskevich and who edited this catalog as a part of 10 x 10 Photobook Projects.

The catalog is a compilation of essays by 17 photobook writers, features the photobooks that were included in the reading rooms at three exhibition locations as provided by 10 contemporary photobook luminaries, the on-line photobook selection by 10 American contemporary photobook luminaries (including mine, thus revealing that I might have a slight bias towards this catalog), and an insert with the American photobook selection by 10 Japanese contemporary photobook luminaries.

There are 100 photobooks included in the reading room, in which the physical book could be picked-up and read. There are 100 photobooks that were included in the virtual on-line by the American photobook bloggers as well as another 100 photobooks by the on-line Japanese photobook bloggers.

This is the second 10 x 10 Photobook projects exhibition and reading room while the previous 2012 project did not have an exhibition catalog published.

In choosing the photobooks for inclusion in the 2013 American Photobooks, we as curators were provided the following guidance; books should be made by (US) Americans, published between 1987 and the present and perhaps photobooks that have been “under the radar”.

The stiff-cover catalog has an added element with the use of three elastic bands in the symbolic colors of the American flag, red, white and blue to bind the insert booklet to the catalog. The main catalog is saddle stitched as is the smaller interior insert containing the American photobook selection by 10 Japanese contemporary photobook writers. A belly band wraps the outer book cover. The text for the entire catalog is provided in both English and Japanese. The catalog was designed by Victor Sira and Shiori Kawasaki, with the printing and binding occurring in Iceland with the Newsprint insert printed and bound in New York and designed by Tuomas Korpijaakko and Pierre Le Hors.

All in all, the 10 x 10 American Photobooks exhibition and subsequent catalog was a huge effort that resulted in an excellent series of exhibitions and I am honored to be amongst those participating.

This catalog was included in my selection of Interesting photobooks for 2013, which you can view my entire selection here. My selection of 10 x10 American Photobooks can be found here.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

10x10_American_Photobooks_1

10x10_American_Photobooks_2

10x10_American_Photobooks_3

10x10_American_Photobooks_Douglas_Stockdale_4

10x10_American_Photobooks_5

10x10_American_Photobooks_6

10x10_American_Photobooks_7

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,741 other followers