The PhotoBook Journal

August 16, 2018

Michael Kolster – Take Me to the River

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Michael Kolster – Take Me to the River

Photographer: Michael Kolster (born Milwaukee, WI, resides Brunswick, ME, USA)

Publisher: George Thompson Publishing (USA) 2016

Essays: Michael Kolster, Alison Norström and Matthew Klingle

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, tri-tone (black & white) lithography, including 10 gatefolds, printed at ESB, Verona, Italy

Photobook designer: David Skolkin

Notes: Contemporary landscape photograph as an artistic genre sits on the edge of a delicate two edge sword; part objective documentary evidence and part artistic (subjective) personal interpretation. Perhaps vexing is that these two descriptive attributes usually co-exist in the same body of work. I think in an attempt to engage the potential subjective artistic aspects, Michael Kolster for this landscape project deferred to the use of making ambrotype (wet-plate photographic process characteristic of the mid-1800’s) photographs.

Unlike the digital photography, as well as the use of film, the ambrotype is a direct process that requires the preparation of the glass plates on-site immediately prior to exposure, then a rapid return to the chemicals required to fix the image. As evident in this body of work, the process has elements of chance and the inclusion of serendipity as to how the coating process was completed and the resulting visual effects; no two images are alike. To further complicate this process, the emulsion is very UV sensitive, requires long exposures and without any effective means to calculate the proper exposure in advance. The exposure is by educated guess and until the glass plate is developed, the artist does not know if they were successful in their attempt. The resulting glass plate is actually a negative that does not reveal its essence until layered on top of a black background, thus the reason for the black printed pages in the book (although not really required as the glass plates were scanned for this publication, while the black pages provides a symbolic background consistent with viewing a proper ambrotype).

Interestingly, an aspect that keeps me returning to these intriguing images, is the nature of the wet-plate photography process which introduces unanticipated swirls and flow marks that are wonderful visual metaphors consistent with his subjects; four rivers of the eastern coast of the United States. Likewise, the longer durations required for the glass plate exposure allows the things that will move, the water, tree limbs, grass blades or individuals in close proximity, to leave a ghostly blurred image. This blurring provides for me an inherent dynamic element to these images as a departure from a quick fraction of a second that could result in a very static appearance.

A really nice book to consider for the summer, as his subjects were all captured in the duration that spans spring, summer and into the fall. Although the ambrotype process results in black and white images, there is a perceived lushness within these landscapes photographs. His subjects capture not only the beauty of “nature” inherent in these river pathways, but includes a mash-up of the man-built urban landscape that is representative of the early settlements adjacent to most of these vital water ways.

Another subtle element in this project is that the four rivers featured, the Androscoggin, Schuylkill, James, and Savannah, were until the Clean Water Act of 1972, essentially extremely polluted chemical cesspools. The rivers are all in much better condition today, although still not pristine yet, but now potentially rivers that are in a state of renewal (or at least these were at the time of this publication in 2016, prior to the recent American elections). Nevertheless, this book is a story about environmental hope.

Cheers, Doug

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August 10, 2018

Judy Dater – Only Human

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 2:34 pm

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Photographer:  Judy Dater (born in Hollywood, CA; lives in Berkeley, CA)

Publisher:  Marymount Institute Press and TSEHAI Publishers, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA; © 2018

Essays:  Teresa de Vroom (Foreword); Judy Dater (“Only Human”); Marilyn Symmes (“The Portrait Within”); Gloria Williams Sander (“The Archaeology of a Photograph”); Donna Stein (“Looking Back”)

Text:  English

Linen-bound sewn hardback with illustrated dust cover; 9 ¾ x 12 ¼ inches; 200 pages, paginated; 100 monochrome images printed in the Sepiana process by Inner Workings/Artron Art, China

Photobook Designer: Chuck Byrne, Chuck Byrne Design

 

Notes:

The iconic portrait work of Judy Dater is marked by a tremendous depth as well as an indescribable mystery; these images represent a lifetime of astute perception and observation. Her work is  also marked by a courageous spirit and a multi-layered assertiveness and meaning that translates from the photographer to the subject and back to the viewer. Her image of Imogen Cunningham with Twinka is famous, and, yes, it is included in this book (see below). This volume is, in fact, a retrospective companion to the exhibition ONLY HUMAN, shown at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, whose store also sells this book; the show closes on September 16, 2018.

The work shown here includes 100 significant images, mostly individual portraits of humans (in accordance with the title), and also some groupings of two or more, as well as five self-portraits of the photographer, a genre for which Judy Dater is deservedly admired. Her view of people is in itself very human, in that we are given glimpses of inner strength through their outer appearance as depicted in the images. The time period covered is 1964 to 2016; some of those portrayed were early colleagues and/or mentors or hers, such as Ansel Adams, depicted with a slightly dreamy blur – he who always wanted his own images to be razor-sharp! – while others who are not in the public limelight present interesting aspects of themselves as well.

We find an approximately equal number of women and men in the volume, both clothed and not, some displayed more boldly than others. We were pleased to note that the honesty that exudes from these images originates with Judy Dater herself; she was a delight to meet this spring in connection with the Classic Photographs exhibition at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Here is a photo taken by Doug Stockdale where Judy has this book open to one of her favorite photographs:

 

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Judy Dater, Classic Photographs Exhibition, Santa Monica, February 2018 / © Douglas Stockdale

 

Judy Dater’s depiction of humans is refreshing; she shows each of them as individuals in an honest fashion without pretense or fakery. The essays and the select bibliography give us further insights into the intentions and practices of the photographer, as well as the reception history as well as other perspectives of curators and art historians regarding Judy Dater’s work.

We salute Judy Dater for her long career of forthrightly interpreting the minds and souls of so many individuals and sharing them with us, and also thank the team that created this fascinating volume, a treasure to own.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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All black and white images © Judy Dater

 

July 22, 2018

Cat Gwynn – 10-Mile Radius

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 8:17 pm

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Photographer:  Cat Gwynn (born in Glendale, CA; lives in Los Angeles)

Publisher:  Red Bird Books, Los Angeles, CA; © 2017

Essays:  Notes by Cat Gwynn; Quotes

Text:  English

Hardcover, sewn; 136 pages, paginated; color photographs; 10 ¼ x 10 inches; printed in Canada

Photobook Designer:  Kathy Martens

Notes:

Occasionally I have written about the value of art as an important way of getting in touch with yourself and about its therapeutic value, for instance in my review of Rose Lynn Fisher’s The Topography of Tears. In the case of Cat Gwynn’s 10-Mile Radius, we are privileged to accompany a courageous photographer on her journey (that touches many emotions as well as the intellect), in which her visual explorations contributed strength during the tribulations of cancer treatments, leading to a successful outcome of full remission.

An avid devotee of meditation, Cat was diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer in 2013, and, as the therapy treatments progressed, found that her habit of photographing daily allowed her to strengthen both her resolve to succeed as well as to engage with the world out there, to notice objects that might previously have seemed peripheral, and also to make new friends that she encountered on the short walks her energy allowed. Cat Gwynn’s strength was the authenticity she aimed for – true to herself and with a vision to give the situation a substantial dose of optimism, regardless of momentary difficulties. I would like to quote at length from what she wrote to me, because the advice she gives contains important lessons for all of us:

My 10-mile radius creative process had many layers of meaning to it. Primarily it was one of the only things I had any control over – everything else in my life was so much out of my control and this daily photo making practice was my way of sitting with immense uncertainty and settling into the present moment of ‘what is’ and finding beauty despite everything else. It was also a brilliant ’seeing’ exercise. We tend to not look at the things in our life that scare us or make us uncomfortable so I discovered over time by looking closely at life around me without filtering what I saw it helped me look at the very thing that threatened me with more courage and in doing so it actually helped me be with this illness more fully which opened my heart to myself and helped me heal, and my oncologist and therapist both felt that was true also. As I say to other people I meet going through a serious life threatening illness – you don’t have to be positive, it’s much more important to be authentic. Some days you will be down and that’s okay, feel down. And other days you will feel great and be with that and appreciate it. The most important aspect of being with all of your feelings is you learn they will pass and there’s no need to stay attached to any of them or shame yourself for thinking if you’re not always positive this will bring back the cancer. It won’t. Just be authentic.

The book Cat has created is full of authentic moments, and I also detect much optimism. The excellent fine-art images and well-chosen interspersed quotes allow us to share an astute observer’s inner and outer worlds and the connections between them. Tension, anxiety, calm contemplation, and moments of enlightenment and joy are all connected in such a journey. Some of the titles she gives to her images give you glimpses of her process as well:  “Hung Out to Dry” – “Hit the Wall” – “Connected” – “Belonging” – “At Peace with the Obvious.” We are also privileged to read several essays dealing with her experiences and with the significance of visualization and grounding. We are able to share many observations that we might otherwise not be able to find out about. For an artist, such “moments of creation” have a significant impact, in that the world out there and what is inside of you can merge to provide some meaningful bits of closure. We also are pleased to see and read about some of the Angelenos she met and befriended on her walks. Thus we not only are able to enjoy this photobook, but can also share in her profound journey.

An amazing experience to share this volume and its meanings on many levels!

Gerhard Clausing

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July 14, 2018

Cathy Immordino – Through The Looking Glass

Filed under: Artist Books, Book Reviews — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:52 am

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Artist: Cathy Immordino (born Eden Prairie, MN & resides Los Angeles, CA)

Self-Published, USA, 2017

Text: English

Soft cover, hand printed & PVA binding, leporello design, cyanotype printing, Edition 20

Artist book concept & designer: Cathy Immordino

Notes: In Lewis Carol’s fantasy novel Through the Looking Glass, the reader embarks on a curious journey that takes them to strange and wondrous events, as if in the Twilight Zone, into a mysterious parallel world. Likewise Cathy Immordino taps into another mysterious experience with the design and layout of her complex and layered artist book of the same title.

She states “The book explores the different uses of lenses in a steampunk manner. From space helmets and ships to submarines, robotic birds and fish, lens growing trees, robots and interior design and more. “Through the Looking Glass” further explores the possibilities of lenses in another reality”.

As observed in the top view of her book below, the book can be experienced by folding, refolding and examining the contents from various perspectives. In the process one finds some mysterious and wonderfully hidden content. Similar to Carol’s narrative, Immordino invites the reader to take a “trip” to consider how one experiences reality and the many possible alternatives to view one’s life perspective.

That the book contains a submarine and to find out the book was Cyanotype printed in her basement (yes, there a few of these in Southern California) is a delightful autobiographical twist. This artist book is very high on creative entertainment value.

Cheers!

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July 13, 2018

LES FotoBook Fair – NYC

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:00 pm

LES FotoBook Fair

LES (Lower East Side) Foto Book Fair

LOCATION
Foley Gallery
59 Orchard Street
New York, New York 10002

HOURS
July 21 | 11am – 7pm
July 22 | 12pm – 6pm

 

June 27, 2018

Yehlin Lee – Raw Soul

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 9:40 pm

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Photographer:  Yehlin Lee (born and lives in Taipei, Taiwan)

Publisher:  Akaaka Art Publishing, Kyoto, Japan; © 2017

Afterword:  Yehlin Lee

Text:  Japanese, Chinese, English

Hardback, sewn, with debossed illustrated cover; 118 unpaginated pages with 76 color photographs; 26 x 26 cm (10 ¼ x 10 ¼ inches); printed and bound in Japan by Live Art Books

Photobook Designers:  Yehlin Lee, Kimi Himeno, Hisaki Matsumoto

 

Notes:

Haven’t we all tried to make sense of our environment many times over? Lucky are those of us who can use our photography to help us provide access to how the rhythms of our environment flow. Those who also have a connection with and a touch for more than the visual mode, such as sound, music, film, to guide their instincts, have the good fortune to be inspired in more ways than one.

Yehlin Lee from Taipei is one of these lucky people who are guided by more than one modality. Having an artistic connection with sound, with a career as a sound artist (check out some soundscapes on his website), he is guided toward special moments where sounds give him cues for locating and interpreting the visual moments that he chooses to share with us. As he states in his latest artist statement, “My way of looking is deeply influenced by my past experience in listening – unconditional acceptance. Like a submarine, I try to feel without bearing any intention and dive into the collective consciousness of Taiwanese as well as mine. When sound is heard from within, I click the shutter.” Lee’s goal is, as he states, to capture “a certain suppressed force of life, a spiritual intensity …”

And indeed, the photographer has produced a very special and sensitive journey into the heart and soul of a very complex metropolitan region. Raw Soul reminded me a bit of the film Into the Night (1985), in which the character played by Jeff Goldblum searches the night for meanings and encounters various cultural layers. Taiwan, with many customs and belief systems that have a history going back many centuries, is a multifaceted conglomeration of cultures and backgrounds. To capture its spirit and flow in a mere 76 images is quite a feat.

We see many hidden places and mysterious juxtapositions of nature and man, such as a sharp plant leaf and a culturally interesting knife. We get glimpses of ancient remnants and current practices and combinations of these; we see a variety of age groups, old and young, and some interaction. Many of the folks shown are not readily identifiable or are shown as a small portion of a larger universe; thus we are able to project ourselves into this world in which the photographer immerses us. Mysterious figures behind glass, young folks in various roles, subject to influences of old and new, East and West, spiritual and mundane … a respectful look by an artist that understands the layers and the sublayers as well. Yehlin Lee also makes excellent use of selective focusing and unfocusing and blurring/longer exposures to add mystery. The layout and sequencing keep us in suspense from beginning to end. We, the observers, share in the artist’s resonating moments that let us in on a very special metropolitan area.

A complex work, attractively presented – highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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June 20, 2018

David Lynch – Nudes

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 6:03 pm

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Photographer:  David Lynch (born in Missoula, Montana; lives in Los Angeles, California)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY in association with Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris; © 2017; published in the United States in June 2018

Cloth-bound hardback with transparent printed dust cover; 240 unpaginated pages with 125 black-and-white and color photographs; 10¼ x 13¾ inches (26 x 35 cm); printed and bound by Grafiche Antiga, Treviso, Italy

Text:  English and French

Photobook Designer:  Atelier Dyakova, London

 

Notes:

David Lynch, multi-talented storyteller of mysteries and well-received artist working in several media, has applied his keen eye to observing and photographing women’s bodies, culminating in this interesting project. In this sumptuously printed large-format volume he presents 125 images, most in black and white, with a color section in the center portion.

Unlike some predecessors whose work is marked by in-your-face grit (Araki, Moriyama) or distorted representations of the female body (Brandt, Fellig, Kertész, among others), Lynch presents a more mysterious, cinematically influenced celebration of forms, lines, and juxtapositions to entice the viewer. The black and white photographs at times seem semi-abstract, to the point where the viewer might not recognize what portions of the body are gazed upon, which encourages guessing; the color section, on the other hand, emphasizes red and reddish tones – lips, skin – and seems to make a more direct, erotically charged presentation. While the volume is entitled NUDES, the project includes all kinds of body forms and body locations, including faces – a landscape approach to the body that keeps the viewer marveling from beginning to end of the entire sequence.

This volume also intrigues the viewers with interruptions and detours in the progression of curves and lines. The light areas are pointers to the sections in darkness whose continuation can often only be imagined. In addition to being a superb master of light and shadow,  Lynch also uses focus to great effect in order to increase suspense and tension in his compositions; out-of-focus curves and areas imply parts unknown or out of reach of the viewer, and are teasingly left to the imagination. The work in color has a dreamy, mysterious quality to it, possibly best described as free-flowing portraiture mixed with ethereal eroticism. There is a playful mix of semi-abstract representation and lively realism in the flow of the work. The images speak for themselves; there is no preface or other essay.

As Lynch has stated in his book Catching the Big Fish, the greatest ideas are in the deepest water, and some daring is required to delve into them and do a thorough exploration. This volume is a creative and appealing presentation of female bodyscapes, sure to become a classic. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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June 16, 2018

Simon Roberts – Merrie Albion

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Photographer: Simon Roberts (born & resides Great Britain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2017

Text: English

Introduction by David Chandler and essays by A L Kennedy, Alex Vasudevan, Carol Ann Duffy, David Matless, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Ian Jeffrey, Irenosen Okojie, Nikesh Shukla and Tristram Hunt.

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography, detailed captions, pagination, printed by Petit S.K. Lublin, Poland

Photobook designer: Ben Weaver

Notes: Urban and cultural landscape photographer Simon Roberts photobook Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island is another visual investigation of his homeland, the encompassing urban landscape of the United Kingdom. That he chose a title which in old English would mean Merry Britain might imply that he is investigating the heritage of this country, perhaps with a nod towards the evil spirits of Nationalism. Happily it is anything but.

This book also draws on the time of his earlier investigating English rituals in 2007 that resulted in We English, subsequently the outer edges of the British urban landscape in Pierdom, as well as his time when he was commissioned to photograph the U.K elections of 2010. The book contains only photographs that until now have been unpublished. This is a compilation body of work that attempts to take a straight forward pulse on the many social changes that create the current fabric of this island nation. The on-going flux of those coming to this country from other places, a process which can trace its roots to the early colonial age of this nation, thus creating a melting pot of cultures. The pending political and economic changes of its disassociation from the European Union (E.U.).

Suffice to say, what might constitute current Britain is mash-up of the old with the new. As has been noted in the accompanying essays, Roberts landscape photography has attained a subtle trademark look; using a large format camera, non-romantic (aka factual, dead-pan) framing and frequently a viewpoint from a higher elevation that creates an interesting depth to his landscapes. The later due mostly in part to his use of the top of his motor-home as a camera platform. This camera position provides a pictorial framing that is broader in scope, but conversely, such as the Download Festival at Castle Donington, can also make him the center of attention.

The resulting photobook is complex and visually layered, much as his subject Merry Britain, and a delight to read. Recommended.

Other photobooks by Simon Roberts featured on The PhotoBook Journal: Pierdom, and We English.

Cheers!

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June 9, 2018

Ellen Korth – Fabric of Time

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Artist: Ellen Korth (b. The Hague, Netherlands – resides Deventer (Netherlands) & Nordhorn (Germany)

Self-Published 2018 and developed in collaboration with Castle (Kasteel) Twickel (Netherlands) (see exhibition photo below), signed and numbered Edition of 50

Text: English

Poetry: Pablo Nerudo

Stiff cover, rolled, artist printed on 14-gram Japanese Awagami double-layered paper, and then bottom layer removed, Japanese binding by Fopma Wier/Wytze Fopma

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Photobook designer: -SYB- (Sybren Kuiper)

Notes: Family mysteries and family secrets, how does one investigate these and then subsequently report their findings? What if there is no collaboration; those who could speak to what occurred are no longer among us, then how does one know really with certainty what the “truth”, a slippery slope at best, might be?

Ellen Korth is continuing to investigate into what might be her family history. With this latest work, a layered translucent artist book, she provides a wonderful metaphor for memory while attempting to deal with her mother’s desire to keep her own past a secret.

Her subject are garments that are from a wardrobe collection at the Castle (Kasteel) Twickel, which are reminiscent of her mother’s under clothes that constitute very personal feminine items. It is by looking closely at these personal items similar to those her mother choose to spend much time in cleaning and preparing, Korth might find some understanding or make a connection with the secrets of her late mother’s past that she was reluctant to share.

Perhaps fitting that Korth is investigating undergarments in a quest to further understand here own mother, as these items are things that a woman would keep secret, as these are concealed under her clothing. Metaphorically clothing is a facade, meant to hide what resides underneath, while the undergarments create both exterior form as well as concealing the person’s full identity. A facade is a false front, projecting something that one might want others to think they know and with Korth’s own mother, not allowing others to know the true person who lurks within.

Likewise utilizing the thin translucent Japanese Awagami paper to print her book, Korth layers her subjects, allowing one to see thru the ghostly layers.  Nevertheless these layered pages, without providing a clear and sharp definition, are visually representing various attributes of a murky and unknown memory.

Other photobook by Ellen Korth featured on The PhotoBook Journal: CHARKOW 

Cheers

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May 31, 2018

Douglas Stockdale – Middle Ground / En Medio Tierra

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Photographer:  Douglas Stockdale (born in Butler, PA; living in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Self-published artist book of 31 images hand-bound by the artist in an accordion (leporello) presentation, yielding 66 pages (blank verso), attached to stiff covers with flip-over French fold; 8.5×6.75 inches; printed in four-color lithography by Dual Graphics, Brea, California; edition of 99 plus 5 artist proofs; © 2018

Text:  English and Spanish

Photobook Designer:  Douglas Stockdale

Notes:  This innovative artist book by Douglas Stockdale brings to mind the parable “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka, in which a man is confronted by what seems to be an overwhelming obstacle and fails to overcome it, even though he could have, as we who are the readers readily understand. How often in life are we confronted by small barriers that can easily become seemingly overwhelming …

Here is a volume of innovatively presented and artfully sequenced freeway observations. The 31 photographs that Douglas Stockdale has arranged in leporello (accordion) fashion constitute a panorama of barriers. We sense the static moments of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic, repeated moments sufficient to take photographs of dividers put up for traffic purposes, with ‘beautification’ planters placed behind them. There is the aggravation of heavy traffic along the Interstate 5 route toward the border in San Diego; there is the annoyance and challenge of being separated from that which lies beyond the barriers. And we observe details: some houses, some palm trees, the national flag almost beyond reach, and other structures to which we can’t immediately relate. And yet there must be other people there … who and where might they be? And some of the barriers are much less than perfect, they show damage or are surrounded by debris. It is a less than perfect, seemingly endless constructed landscape.

So we can consider this project, which is a typology of barriers, a metaphor for the barriers and separators of all kinds that people wish to throw between and among us. Especially in our current moment in time there are many whose main task is to foment social, racial, and/or economic anger and pin it on the “others,” whether we are talking about ethnic, social, economic, or other groups.

Can we overcome these barriers? Of course we can. Look at Stockdale’s images: there are gaps one can squeeze through, there are small boards or a bit of sand to help us take the first step beyond, to let the middle ground lead us toward reaching a better understanding of those that may be different, yet almost within reach. In every country there are many ethnic, economic,  religious groups or segments of the population with somewhat different belief systems, individual preferences, or somewhat different shades of skin color that some wish to marginalize or not give the full respect they deserve. It is important to overcome such barriers and to take the all-important steps toward others. Truly united societies require respectful collaboration rather than splintering into subgroups, and Stockdale’s visual compendium can be an impetus toward overcoming barriers and obstacles.

This project invites each viewer to engage with the presentation and to find individual meanings. It is my guess that this volume, which has been given a bilingual slant but no artist admonition as to its interpretation, will become quite a collector’s item. I would advise you to get your copy while you can, as the edition is very small. For those of you who can make it to L.A. this weekend, Stockdale will give an artist presentation about this work at the closing reception of the exhibition on Saturday, June 2, at 4-7 p.m., Fabrik Projects Gallery, 2636 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA (near Culver City).

The PhotoBook Journal has previously featured or reviewed the following other books by Douglas Stockdale:  Ciociaria, In Passing, Pine Lake, Bluewater Shore, and Guide to Self-Publishing an Indie Artist Book.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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