The PhotoBook Journal

February 14, 2019

Ute and Werner Mahler – Kleinstadt

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Ute and Werner Mahler, Kleinstadt, 2018

Photographers: Ute Mahler born 1949, former GDR and Werner Mahler born 1950, former GDR, both reside in Hamburg, Germany

Publisher; Hartmann Projects, Stuttgart, Germany

Hard Cover, linen with foil-stamped lettering, thread-sewn, 144 pp., 69 Duotone black-white images, Width: 26 cm, Length: 32 cm

Language(s): German/English

Book Designer: Florian Lamm

Notes: “The places where life works – that is not where we photographed,” comments Ute and Werner Mahler, one of the most famous living artist photographer couple in Germany. Over a period of three years, they travelled to more than 100 small towns to take portraits of young people, architecture, and still life. The result is this wonderful photo book, which was sold out after only six months, and is already out in its second edition.

In the same way Robert Frank traveled across America in the 1950s, the Mahlers drove across Germany these days to find small towns that are not listed in any guidebooks and where the last waves of redevelopment already occurred more than 50 years ago. In these small towns, they found neither sights nor attractions, only vacant shops, grazing horses in derelict greenhouses, barking dogs behind shop windows, or simply empty lots overgrown with ferns.

The rhythm of the book has an impressive effect on the viewer. It alternates between portraits, architectural images, and some wondrous still life’s. The black and white portraits, taken with a large-format camera, focus exclusively on young people who were born into these dreary small towns and who must ask themselves upon finishing school: should I stay or should I go?

The group portraits of young people reveals a particular beauty. The photographer couple make a reference here to their previous photo book, Suburban Mona Lisas, which shows young women, who have grown up in dreary prefab housing projects, on their way to becoming adults. From the very beginning, the book took on a cult status, especially among young readers in Germany, and was already out of print shortly after its publication.

Their new long-term project, Kleinstadt, can be read as a very subjective, biographical work by the two German photographers, as they also grew up in small towns, like the protagonists of their pictures. After studying photography in the GDR at the Academy of Fine Arts, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, they founded the Ostkreuz Agency for photographers, as well as the Ostkreuz School, which still attracts young people from all over the world who want to study journalistic reportage.

Why should you buy this book? The book, with its linen cover and red embossing was very elaborately designed and printed in duotones. The book did not require any text. In a very laid-back and sometimes somewhat melancholy, but never boring, manner, the pictures tell their story about forgotten yet still-existent areas all over Germany.

Review – Kristin Dittrich, Director Shift School for contemporary Photography, Dresden, Germany

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Fotografie/ Ute Mahler & Werner Mahler: Kleinstadt

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Fotografie/ Ute Mahler & Werner Mahler: Kleinstadt

 

February 12, 2019

Peggy Levison Nolan – REAL PICTURES

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Peggy Levison Nolan, REAL PICTURES: Tales of a Badass Grandma

Photographer: Peggy Levison Nolan, born Albany, NY currently resides in Hollywood, Florida

Publisher: Daylight Books, Durham, North Carolina, c. 2018

Essays by Abner Nolan, Suzanne Opton, Bonnie Clearwater

Language: English

Hardcover, Clothbound, 130 pages, 85 color photographs, 10 x8 inches, printed by Artron, China

Notes: Having recently attended a panel discussion on the topic of Photo-books, this reviewer was reminded of the value of having access to a photographer’s work within reach, available to visit and revisit whenever the mood occurs. To hold a book in one’s hands, to turn the pages at the pace of our own choosing, to enjoy the tactile experience of a real object, perhaps in the comfort of a favorite chair, or as a way to nourish the creative spirits while living through challenging times…all these pleasures come together in REAL PICTURES the new photo-book by Peggy Levison Nolan.

The full title of this collection of personal imagery is REAL PICTURES: Tales of a Badass Grandma; however the subject of Nolan’s 85 color photographs seems more intimate and gentle than the name suggests. Nolan may in fact be a Badass Grandma, but she is also a keen observer of light, color, joy, and quiet moments. By focusing her lens in the direction of her grandchildren and their parents, Nolan goes beyond the mode of typical family snapshots. REAL PICTURES is an Ode to life’s simple gifts in the fine art tradition of William Eggelston, Robert Frank, and Harry Callahan.

Rarely does the cover of a book warrant as much touch: this hardbound book is covered in a muted orange material reminiscent of sun faded upholstery, immediately evoking feelings of being in someone’s living room. Perhaps Nolan’s, perhaps your own. The first 3 images directly address perception of focus, shadow and reflection as seen through windows, gradually drawing us in to the homes of her adult children while signaling these images have an emotional point of view.

Its hard not to feel Nolan’s love of her subjects, and in turn theirs through willingness to be photographed in toy strewn houses, rumpled bed sheets, sleepy morning kitchens. Infants cry, kids make messes, family members embrace.

Nearly every image is infused with appreciation for color found in natural light, be it the simple blue line of a plastic shower curtain or the tiny pink foot of a napping child. The de-saturated tones of a nursing mother and child are echoed in the wide-angle view of two generations standing at the edge of a shore. Babies are born, stray hairs are left on the side of the bathroom sink; in Nolan’s work we understand why all of this is beautiful.

Though Nan Goldin’s color work is sited as having influenced Nolan to move beyond her initial use of Black and White, REAL PICTURES is less confrontational, and other than a shadow on the wall and a final image of feet in need of a pedicure, Nolan does not visually represent herself. Rather her work feels more in line with the early work of another female photographer Sally Mann, who also turned her lens in the direction of family; both women photographing those she knows best and loves most. In an era saturated with celebrity worship and instagram selfies, Nolan’s work is refreshingly sincere, selling nothing, offering us the richness of deeply invested relationships and the spaces in which they grow..

Upon learning that Nolan’s own mother died tragically when she was a girl and her father burned all the family photos in an attempt to spare further pain, the choice to become not only a mother and grandmother but a photographer herself, adds poignancy to revisiting Peggy Nolan’s beautiful work. Born of a self-made tradition giving her offspring handmade books documenting their own journeys into the wonders of parenthood, to now share these celebratory images with the rest of us, does indeed confirm that Peggy Nolan is in the best sense of the word, Badass.

Put on the kettle, turn off your media, curl up on a comfy couch and allow REAL PICTURES to soothe your eyes and your mind.

Enjoy! –  Melanie Chapman

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February 8, 2019

Katherine Longly – To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit

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To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit, Katherine Longly, Copyright 2018

Artist/Photographer; Katherine Longly, born Arlon, Belgium, resides Brussels, Belgium

Self-published artist book, 280 pages, many, many gate-folds, edition of 61 hand-made copies, signed and numbered

Essays and found text: Katherine Longly with essays and correspondence by Luca, Ren, Yuki, Martijn, Marina, Kenichi, R.P.K., Mina, Tomoko and Rika.

Text: English, with some French & Japanese

Stiff-cover book, hand-sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by PREFILM in Ixelles, Belgium.

Photobook designer: Katherine Longly with Welmer Keesmaat

Concept, edit and art-direction developed by Katherine Longly in the 2018 Atlas lab photo book making workshop by Alex Bacchetto and Yumi Goto, in collaboration with AKINA and Reminders Photography Stronghold.

Notes: Food. For some a real love – hate relationship. For others it’s just basic fuel to keep the carbon bio-mass moving that day. It’s a complex subject with volumes written about it each year; from describing the preparation of complex epicurean delights to the many ways to manage a diet and hopefully inspire someone to become a slimmer new person. For Katherine Longly, her past issues related to food created some emotion baggage and the reason behind the concept for her artist book. Essentially poking the food boogie-man right in the eye.

First, this is a complex artist book, in part using curated photographs created by Longly’s subjects as they use an inexpensive disposable camera to document their food and eating experiences. The twist is that that their camera use analog film, not an instant feed-back digital capture; first the camera’s are used by her subjects in Japan, then mailed to Longly for processing in Belgium. No careful visual editing by her subjects, thus many of these photographs have that rawness in composition and framing we think of when viewing vernacular photographs. In our current camera-phone or digital capture cameras age it seems we have become very conditioned to view the immediate visual results and then make some instant on-the-fly compositional adjustments for the next exposure.

Next, her subject’s photographs are then mashed up with some contextual photographs made by Longly who then creates a visual juxtaposition by the inclusion of magazine and newspaper articles and clipping that are overlaid with Longly’s diagrams and charts as a visual collage. She then added some more emphasis with yellow highlighters on some text, as though this was a school assignment or to provide quick notes to study by. Much of the additional context is hidden behind small gatefolds (second and third photographs below) of her subject’s photographs that creates another layer as to how to read the top level photograph while revealing additional information about the environmental conditions facing her subjects in Japan.

One quickly realizes that in Japan, as in many developed cultures, there are social norms related to one’s physical appearance, which can create food problems and perceived eating disorders. Each of her subjects photograph and write about their on-going experience with food and eating, creating chapters for each of her subjects; Healthfulness, Shelter, Emptiness, Obsession, Silence, Strength, Judgement, Heritage, Inspiration, and Empathy.

Longly’s artist book confronts some of many aspects of eating food. Eating may not always be a simple act, but potentially loaded with emotional baggage or helping to create a sense of freedom and joy. She provides a symbolic voice to the angst that many individuals have with the complex culture issues surrounding food, as it is not just a Japanese issue. By investigating how food issues haunt those of a different culture, perhaps this project provides Longly with the emotional distance to deal with her own past, and maybe still lurking, food issues, as well as a path forward for others to walk with her.

The folding and unfolding of this complex and layered artist book is a visual and visceral delight.

Cheers! Doug

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February 4, 2019

Photobook Roundtable at Focus/PhotoLA, February 3, 2019

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The Panel: Khodr Cherri, Aline Smithson, Douglas Stockdale, Dotan Saguy, and Richard S. Chow – Photo © Gerhard Clausing

 

In spite of inclement weather (Southern California is experiencing an above-average wet winter), there was a full house at this very useful photobook panel discussion moderated by Richard S. Chow during the Focus programming this year at PhotoLA 2019.

The participants were all published authors, photographers, and a printer, sharing many years of practical experience: Aline Smithson, well-known Lenscratch Editor and mentor/teacher; Dotan Saguy, who just successfully launched his Venice Beach photobook, which we reviewed here; Douglas Stockdale, who has published/self-published a number of books and reviewed hundreds as Editor of The PhotoBook Journal, who is also a mentor and teaches workshops on the subject; and Khodr Cherri from A&I, a master printer who guides photographers through many technical aspects of producing a book.

All I can do here is highlight some of the main points that I found especially important:

  1. The photobook is an excellent platform to display your art, and it is more permanent than exhibits, and less expensive for your audience to collect than prints. It is also an effective way to disseminate photographs to a wider audience.
  2. Studying other photographers’ books and reading book reviews, such as the ones this journal publishes, can not only provide you with ideas, but also provide you with information as to what the trends are at any particular time. Also a source for book designers and book printers.
  3. There are many ways to publish your work, from inexpensive to the sky’s the limit. Artists can also assemble and produce their own work (hand-made photo art is very collectible), to “zines” that can be produced and distributed.
  4. 90% of the time the financing will come from the photographer and/or his friends; the top publishing houses require substantial advances. Exceptions are projects by well-known photographers with a strong following or featuring those who are no longer with us.
  5. Crowd-funding and pre-selling to your support groups can be effective ways to get your book published.
  6. The selections made in regard to technical details such as paper choice, printing method, binding techniques will substantially add to the success of a book project, and need to be consistent with the size of the edition as well as the book’s affordability.
  7. Distribution channels are often limited to those who self-publish, but you can manage on the basis of your own initiative (your followers, local bookstores, etc.).
  8. Mentors, consultants, designers and PR persons are the people who can take your photobook projects to much higher levels of sophistication and success­­­ than you might be able to do on your own. Some of the panelists also function in such roles or can put you in touch with such specialists that you may need.

Needless to say, the points summarized here merely scratch the surface. There is really no substitute for learning from those who have already created similar projects as to what you might want to accomplish, so seek their advice and/or attend their workshops or mentoring sessions. You can click on the links above that are superimposed on the participants’ names and find them if you wish to use their help.

Gerhard Clausing

January 28, 2019

Dotan Saguy – VENICE BEACH

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Dotan Saguy, VENICE BEACH: The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise

Photographer: Dotan Saguy , born Kibbutz Yehiam, Northern Israel, currently resides in Los Angeles, California

Publisher: Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin, Germany – copyright 2018

Forword by Jamie Rose

Language: English

Hardcover, Cloth bound, 127 pages, 67 black and white images, printed by Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, Germany

Photobook Design: Kehrer Design Heidelberg (Anja Aronska) and Dotan Saguy

Notes:  For anyone who has ever visited Venice Beach in Southern California, comparisons to New York City’s Coney Island might not seem much of a conceptual stretch. Both are famous urban beachscapes that have been luring tourists from around the world for decades, both are celebrated more for the colorful locals than their glistening shores. But as a viewer first encounters Dotan Saguy’s fine new book, VENICE BEACH: The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise, thoughts of Santa Claus might seem antithetical to the fun and funky images of sundrenched beach life. Yet the more time one spends looking through this dynamic body of work, the more it is possible to understand how appropriate the reference is. Please dear reader, hear me out:

Starting with the cover image, repeated as the first photograph in the book, we are introduced to a fit, sundrenched blonde woman in revealing bathing attire, framed by sand and palm trees. Yet it is a boa constrictor wrapped around exercise bars that demands our attention the most. Saguy’s inclusion of sunflare and low angle POV immediately let us know this place is HOT, Wild, and perhaps a bit dangerous. In other words, this is beach is a playground, and we are invited to kick off our shoes and join in.

With the attentive eye of a skilled Street photographer, Saguy show us a world in which unattended children play on the sand; a loose band of musicians are joined by a person wearing a fuzzy bunny head; dudes smoke out; kids peek around corners to see what the grown ups are up to; old guys are playful; young guys climb poles to demonstrate inherent strength; sandy surfers teach eager students new moves; chiseled muscle men and women prepare for yet another competition; skateboarders defy gravity as they shred; working class people dance and laugh and shake their thangs during a weekend drum circle… Saguy’s vision of Venice beach is accurately a little lewd, a lot of fun.

Shooting exclusively with a 35mm prime lens, Saguy is not afraid to get up close. There is an intimacy and exuberance in all of his images; you can hear the music, feel the sea breezes, smell the garbage and a reefer, taste the sweat. His Venice beach is contrasty and dirty, full of action and interesting detail. Local characters are well framed by his camera, be it in doorways, handball courts, or stepping out in the tiniest of speedos to face an excited crowd. But such is Saguy’s skill as an observer that in that particular image, we are drawn as much to the young man holding open the door as to the well oiled silhouette of the man walking through. Every image contains dynamic tension; of line, of gaze, of sumptuous black and white tones. Earth bound men leap towards flying seagulls, children buried in sand observe police cars in the background. Tattoos in the foreground compete with macho acrobatics in the background, a zaftig street woman’s natural gifts are echoed in the mural behind her, revelers frolic in the powerful surf, freak-show denizens sit peacefully on storefront steps. No one seems to be selling anything, other than the guy with the sign for $1.99 pizza. Sure, if you want to throw some coins in the rag tag band of gypsies knit hat, that’d be cool, but they are going to sing no matter what.

This kind of freedom cannot be commoditized. And this, my friends, is where the concept of Santa Claus comes in. Not visually represented in Dotan’s images, but found in the ethos he shares with the inhabitants of his Venice Beach.

When this reviewer’s son was in elementary school, he one day said “If I ask you a question, will you tell me the truth?” Ok, yes, I promise, go ahead. He then asked what most parents know will come sooner or later, and yet it fills us with existential dread. “Is there really such a thing as Santa Claus?” And there it is. Do we answer honestly and break the illusion we have so diligently constructed over many years? We want to preserve the joy of believing; that people are Free and so too can be Fun, that a group of strangers can come together to dance, laugh, get high, make out; that races and classes are united at the edge of an ocean and all warmed by the same blazing sun. We don’t want to know that the Grinch can steal Christmas, and by that I mean the gobbling up of buildings and boardwalk by the corporate juggernaut known as SnapChat. We want to hold back the tide of gentrification, yet Saguy’s Venice is not one of wealth. Despite the mighty muscles and passionate protests, the greatest tension of all is enjoying his found moments, all the while knowing how this is going to play out.

Thus VENICE BEACH is like believing in Santa Claus, as we go back to the sand we become again like a child. The most powerful image in a book full of great photos, is that of the cover-girl’s young son, shot from behind. A spitting image of the late rule-breaking skate legend Jay Adams, his handmade sign asks as they face eviction “Why are you doing this?” Why beautiful boy, why indeed.

Light it up, pump it up, open it up, and enjoy. Dotan Saguy’s VENICE BEACH is a heartbreakingly fun book.

Enjoy! – Melanie Chapman

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January 25, 2019

Dawoud Bey – Seeing Deeply

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 2:48 pm

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Photographer:  Dawoud Bey (born in Queens, New York City; lives in Chicago, Illinois)

Publisher:  University of Texas Press, Austin, TX; © 2018

Essays:  Sarah Lewis, Deborah Willis, David Travis, Hilton Als, Jacqueline Terrassa, Rebecca Walker, Maurice Berger, and Leigh Raiford

Language:  English

Clothbound hardcover with illustrated dust jacket; 400 pages, paginated, with 129 color and 136 black-and-white photographs; 11 ½  x 12 ¼ inches; printed in Germany by Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Medien GmbH

 

Notes:   This photobook is a 40-year retrospective of the work of the distinguished photographer Dawoud Bey, who is also a well-received Professor of Art at Columbia College in Chicago. Others before him have contributed perspectives on some of the same US communities, especially James Van Der Zee, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Roy DeCarava; some of these predecessors of his left us with interesting insights into individuals and their surroundings, especially Harlem and other NYC neighborhoods. Over time there has been a significant shift, from a “social documentary” point of view (perhaps as previously expected peering in from the outside) to a more late 20th century and contemporary perspective, a more egalitarian position, that treats the individuals photographed as persons whose lives and creative contributions are to be shared on an equal level.

Bey is certainly a master of peering into the individual’s psyche, while also a master of light and shadow as he crafts his portraits with artistic acumen and compassion. Page after page in this photobook delights us with portraits that are forthright, direct, and honest. We feel we can almost touch the individuals shown; most of them make direct eye contact and share their pride and hope – it is clear that the rapport between the photographer and the individuals photographed was very strong, and this directness also creates a bond between those shown and the viewer.

This large and beautifully printed photobook is divided into nine major sections, with excellent introductory essays that shed light on each particular phase of Bey’s work, as well as illuminating commentary about various related contexts:

1  Harlem

2  Small camera work

3  Polaroid street work

4  Large-size Polaroid portraits (20 x24 inch)

5  Class pictures

6  Character project

7  Stranger / Community

8  The Birmingham Project

9  Harlem redux

Bey’s work features all those photographed as distinct individuals belonging to interesting groups, across various strata of society. There are also some landscapes and cityscapes to present the character of communities. The care this photographer shows with his students is demonstrated in section 5; each of the portraits is accompanied by a brief text that gives us further insights about the individual and his or her connections to others. Section 7 is also quite intriguing – Bey created staged portraits of sets of two different strangers from the same environment that might otherwise not have met, and thus raises a very crucial issue of our time: how united or how divided do we feel or are we really, and most important, what are we moving toward (see image 7 below)?

Some of the other portraits make use of a collage technique, which makes us curious about a particular individual’s other moments and moods, and hints at the individual as more multi-faceted than a single image can show. It is a great testament to Bey that even the Acknowledgments section in the back makes for interesting reading, as it allows us to see his method of collaboration with all who were involved.

This retrospective is much more than that: it is a magnificent testament to what  can be shown about people’s pride and hope, and in an exemplary yet subtle manner seems to posit the idea that all us individuals, no matter what our background and heritage may be, are interested in building a better future and would benefit from collaboration. This photobook is destined to become a classic!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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January 22, 2019

Seiichi Furuya – Warum Dresden

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Seiichi Furuya – Warum Dresden (Why Dresden), copyright 2017

Photographer: Seiichi Furuya (born Izu, Shizuoka Japan, lives in Graz, Austria)

Published by Spector Books Leipzig, Germany

Stiff Cover, thread-sewn, 192 pages,  black-white and color photographs, 18cm x 24cm.

Text: German

Esssay: Manfred Wiemer

Designer: Helmut Völter

Notes:  The Japanese photographer Seiichi Furuya arrived in Dresden in 1984 with his wife and then three-year-old son. Today Furuya could be considered as one of the rare authors bringing up a coherent photographical work about the life during the 1980’s in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).  At the end of 2017 Furuya published this photography book, Warum Dresden (English: Why Dresden), which can also be read as a narrative about Dresden at this current time.

Three narrative threads are delicately interwoven one after the other. In the first one, Furuya has photographed everything in Dresden that seemed striking to his Japanese eye: bridges, squares, parks, the Elbe – which flows through the city and significantly shapes the its identity through its width and distinctive hue.

A second narrative thread captures all the various constellations of Dresden people in their everyday lives: walking, going to work, with their families, as citizens of Dresden, who are at home in an almost impossibly beautiful landscape. In a third thread, Furuya documents his wife and son as a small unit of a family in a foreign location.

The book title, Warum Dresden, invokes a deeper reflection into its meaning.  When Furuya revisited Dresden after more than 30 years in 2015, Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) was founded as a right-wing citizens’ alliance in the city, which opposed the often xenophobic slogans of the national politics at the time. Furuya photographed this Pegida alliance and has added these images at the end of the book. Furuya is wondering why this alliance continues to flourish in Dresden? He has always praised the city as an idyllic landscape – a city that, in its individual beauty, faces an uncertain future influenced by so many external forces, both from the past with the World War II, communism, reunification and now the present.

Review – Kristin Dittrich, Director, Shift School for contemporary Photography, Dresden, Germany

Note: this book was selected for Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2018 by The PhotoBook Journal. Read the full list.

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January 18, 2019

Tema Stauffer – UPSTATE

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Photographer: Tema Stauffer

Born: Durham North Carolina, currently resides in Tennessee

Publisher: Daylight Books, Chapel Hill, NC, copyright 2018

Foreword by Xhenet Aliu and essay by Alison Nordstrom

Language: English

Hardcover, Cloth bound sewn, 84 pages, 33 color photographs, printed by OFSET YAPIMEVI, Turkey

Photobook Designer: Ursula Damm

Notes: Upon opening UPSTATE for the first time, this reviewer was immediately taken back to her own years spent living in the Hudson Valley while attending Bard College. Not only because the subject of Tema Stauffer’s new work is the nearby city of Hudson and the surrounding landscape, but because Stauffer’s visual approach is in comfortable alignment with the work of seminal photographer Stephen Shore and the photography department he has directed at Bard since 1982. Thus while some photo books offer a glimpse into worlds we can never ourselves experience, the landscape and palette of UPSTATE felt so familiar that it has taken a bit of time to put into words the pleasure of this fine body of work.

Especially after reading the excellent essays that bookend Stauffer’s beautiful images. Novelist Xhenet Aliu does an outstanding job of providing context for the recent changes in Hudson, a once mighty industrial city which has become the weekend darling destination of monied Manhattanites. Photo historian Alison Nordstom’s essay references Stauffer’s work in the context of Hudson River painters, the New Topographics “school” of photography, Edward Hopper, and even the Japanese concept of Natsukashii, which loosely translated means nostalgia for something that no longer exists. The quality of writing in these essays complements the quality of Stauffer’s images and thus there is little one can add, other than to share an individual experience of spending time with this must-have book.

For those who are familiar with the work of photographer Gregory Crewdson one might find some similarity in the settings of UPSTATE. However, this reviewer prefers Stauffer’s approach, which is non-fictional, honoring the truth of a real place rather than using it as backdrop for expensive cinematic narratives.

The design of UPSTATE also differs significantly from another recently published (and potential companion piece) photo-book, UPSTATE GIRLS by Brenda Ann Kenneally, which focuses on the chaotic lives of low income inhabitants of nearby Troy New York, and is thus presented in collage-like journalistic manner.  In UPSTATE, Stauffer concentrates more on the architecture of a beautiful yet changing landscape, focusing on fields, winter light, abandoned buildings, and further evidence of blue-collar lives in which the hardware store is more important than the newest knitting store serving six dollar lattes. Thankfully, nothing found in UPSTATE, be they interiors or streetscapes, feels artificial.

There are many pleasures to this book of 33 color images, particularly if one appreciates fine printing and singular 8×10 images with clean white borders filling an entire page, complemented with blank white pages that allow Stauffer’s formal images to breathe, as if on a gallery wall.

However, experiencing these images presented in book form offers the viewer a chance to appreciate not only Stauffer’s eye for detail and active frame lines, but also her meditation on the subtle power of color. The opening image “River’s Edge” offers complementary tones of blues and yellow via steel grey buildings and farming equipment, and is then answered by a distant red door in the following image “Furgary Shacks.” Picking up on the musicality of Stauffer’s color sense makes UPSTATE a fun book to spend time with. As with themes which rise and diminish throughout a musical suite, UPSTATE offers the viewer a delightful dance between cool tones of winter and exciting pops of warmth; some found in nature, some created by man.

A minuet of red returns in the collar of “Reggie” (a portrait of a distinguished yet paint splattered gentleman), crescendos in the following image aptly titled “Red House”, finally diminishing yet still heard in the geometric lines of houses on “Cross Street.” Stauffer’s melodic images return to blues and yellows of “Rear Bedroom” and continues through the next four photographs, then red chimes back in with the appearance of Sumac trees, reaching a masterful pitch with the vinyl seats and ketchup bottle in the Elizaville “Diner”. The passepied of this passage can be found in the blue eyes and pinkish flesh of the bare-chested “Mike”, one of only three portraits contained in the book. The polonaise of “Allen Street” and “White Car” evoke the architectural work of Walker Evans and the time-stamping inclusion of vehicles found throughout Stephen Shore’s UNCOMMON PLACES. These two elements are successfully united with the inclusion of “Brown Dodge”.

Though these gorgeous 8×10 images can be appreciated formally, there are also traces of humor, best seen in “Interior, Furgary Shack #6.” For those who study the very edges of the frame, a game we lovers of large format photography can’t help but play, pay attention to the wall art in the background. Rarely does a photograph make you laugh out loud. This one did.

Throughout UPSTATE, Tema Stauffer shares her gift of seeing the inherent beauty of what is, and what was.

A subtle symphony of images, UPSTATE is a gorgeous collection of work. Highly Recommend.

Enjoy! – Melanie Chapman

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January 16, 2019

Ikuru Kuwajima – Tundra Kids

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Photographer:  Ikuru Kuwajima (born in Japan; lives in Moscow, Russia)

Publisher:  Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna, Austria; © 2015

Texts:  Introduction; folktale “How the mighty eagle returned the sun to the Nenets people”

Languages:  Nenets, English, German

Stiff covers leporello (accordion) foldout; 83 pages with 58 color images; 16 x 16 cm; printed in Austria by Rema Print Wien (Vienna)

Photobook Design:  Ikuru Kuwajima, Dorothea Brunialti

 

Notes:  Every once in a while we see a photobook that hits all the right spots. In Tundra Kids, Ikuru Kuwajima, a multicultural photographer – born in Japan, studied in the United States, and now lives in Russia – has successfully created a book that shows us a minority at the edge of “civilization” through the eyes of their children. They pose for portraits in their schoolrooms and in their rugged northern arctic Russian environment, and show us their perceptions through everyday objects, toys, and drawings, as well as with a native folk tale with a nod to Soviet influence.

It is a real pleasure to handle this photobook of 83 pages of color work, presented in leporello* (accordion) foldout style, printed on both sides. The effect is to create a continuity of images and subjects which, while linear, is more flexible than a conventionally bound book. You can pick up the whole sequence of images, turn them, look at both sides, and view many more than a couple of images at the same time. We get a feeling of interconnectedness as we view the enthusiasm and cooperation of the children who are learning about the big world out there, against the backdrop of their Nomad home areas, in which they spend the rest of their year when school is out.

Images include portraits of the kids joyfully posing in a studio setting created in their classroom; they show us such things as their tents and reindeer antlers, glimpses of their native environment to which they seem proudly connected as they are gaining a global understanding. It is the artwork they share with us that also lets us wonder about how they may maintain their identity in a faster-moving larger context so dominated by helicopters and planes and other forms of intrusion, in contrast to their natural home settings.

A wonderful book that lets us share a different world. Kudos to the Nenets kids and Ikuru Kuwajima!

*The leporello folding of paper, in an accordion-like fashion as shown below, is derived from the character Leporello in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, who, for comic effect, customarily is performed displaying a long list of his employer’s conquests on a long piece of paper folded in that manner. Note another effective use of this method of photobook presentation in Douglas Stockdale’s Middle Ground, which I reviewed in The PhotoBook Journal previously.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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January 15, 2019

PhotoLA and Medium Festival – panel discussion and workshop events

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book-dummy, Guide to Self-publishing an Indie Artist Book, 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

I am very excited to announce my participation at two up coming photobook events; a photobook panel discussion at PhotoLA on February 3rd and a book design workshop with the Medium Festival on March 23 and 24th in San Diego.

PhotoLA – Photobook Roundtable: From Gallery Walls to Printed Pages; 11:30 – 1:30pm

I will be joining Richard Chow (moderator), Aline Smithson, Dotan Saguy and Khodr Cherri for a photobook panel discussion. Collectively we have a broad and diverse set of photobook experiences, as authors, self-publishers, book designers and printing.

Panel Discussion: 11:30 – 1:30pm, Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

PhotoLA event location: Barker Hanger, 3021 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405

PhotoLA Information for registration and more: here.

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Medium Festival – Developing a Creative Photo Book

I will be leading a two-day book design workshop in San Diego with the Medium Festival:

This two-day Workshop is an opportunity for artists and photographers currently working on or planning to start a project that will result in a book publication. Whether you plan to make book submissions to a publisher or self-publish your artist book, this workshop is meant to help you create a book that meets your vision.

The goal of this workshop is to discuss each photographer’s vision, mission and objectives for the publication of a photographic project and then to gain an understanding of how these conceptual aspects translate into a book object. Fundamental to the book development process is learning aspects of the editing, sequencing of the body of photographs and in the context of a book design to shape and narrate a story. The purpose of this workshop is to provide photographers with the building blocks to move from a complex unorganized mass of images into a refined edit and subsequently sequence to create a pre-visualization of their book concept.

Space is limited. Time to register is now.

Workshop: March 23 – 24, 2019, 9am – 4pm

Location: Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club

Address: 2223 El Cajon Blvd. San Diego, CA 92104

Let me know if you have any questions about either of these two events.

Cheers!

Douglas

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