The PhotoBook Journal

December 12, 2018

Andreas Herzau – AM

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Photographer:  Andreas Herzau (born in Mainz, Germany; lives in Hamburg, Germany)

Publisher:  Nimbus. Kunst und Bücher, Wädenswil, Switzerland; © 2018

Stiff cover book (partial front cover) with French fold pages and “Blockbuch” binding; 108 pages with 55 monochrome images; 20.5 x 27.5 cm; printed and bound in Germany by Gulde Druck (Tübingen) and Josef Spinner (Ottersweier) respectively

Texts: Andreas Herzau; Baudrillard and Barthes quotes

Languages:  German and English

Photobook Designer:  Andreas Herzau

 

Notes:  Angela Merkel is certainly one of the wonders of the 21st century. As the first female German Chancellor, she wields her power in a rather unassuming and dutiful manner, without much of the pomp and swagger that marks other leaders. Photographs taken of her, for the most part, are marked by a certain predictable sameness that reflects that predictable style of leadership.

Andreas Herzau certainly has changed our view of her by providing a refreshingly innovative look at the wherewithal of the publicly visible leadership that characterizes this fascinating politician. With a distinguished record of photographic projects that shed new light on things and transgress traditional photojournalistic boundaries, in this photobook he is providing us with a creative new look at a subject we thought we already knew.

He observed and photographed Angela Merkel’s public appearances from 2009 to 2017. What makes the result of his labors particularly interesting is his astute observations that relate not only to the central figure, but especially also to the surroundings, the contexts with which the figure interacts in a continual public drama of appearances. We see partial shots of her, very many shots of hands in the process of building connections, and both limelight and shadow of events as they transpire. When have we ever seen a shot of her head from the back? Since politics lends itself to humor, there are quite a few amusing juxtapositions as well.

It wouldn’t be a Herzau project if this photobook did not also break new ground in its physical form. The images are all printed in what the publisher calls “duplex” fashion, on sheets folded inward (French fold), as shown in the sample illustrations below. This allows the reader to bend open sheets printed with a single image on such a folded-back sheet to experience an ongoing visual and physical narrative, even to play with the images by bending the opened fold to be amused by some distortion. The result is a certain 3D effect that makes the pages of the book come alive. This manner of presentation also gives the viewer a sense of surprise and adventure, since such a photobook allows some participation by the viewer. There are also a few flaming-red pages with quotes tying the photographs to philosophical thoughts. These inserted sheets are in the color of the SPD, the political party that has been both her opposition as well as her “Grand Coalition” partner at various times during her tenure as Chancellor.

An exciting photographic viewing adventure, sure to become a collector’s item. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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December 6, 2018

Ekaterina Vasilyeva – Shipwrecked

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Ekaterina VasilyevaShipwrecked, Copyright 2018

Artist; Ekaterina Vasilyeva (Екатерина Васильева)(born and residing in St. Petersburg, Russia)

Self-published, St Petersburg, Russia

Afterword: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Text: English

Stiff cover front with original archive photograph (First #1-30 book covers), board back-cover book, twine sewn binding, four-color lithography, Limited edition, hand-made, signed & numbered, of 50, size: 12 cm x 33 cm, printed in St. Petersburg, RU

Photobook designer: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Notes: This extremely wide (13 inch) book with the rough twine binding hints at the subject of Ekaterina Vasilyeva’s artist book; a mash of mid-century black and white photographs by an unknown young Sea Scout in conjunction with Vasilyeva’s reinterpretation of a similar current landscape in color. Likewise, her book title, Shipwrecked, provides additional clues to this boat-load of images that were once a drift and now have been found. The vernacular photographs of the 1940’s and 1950’s are literally intertwined with Vasilyeva’s color landscapes.

This is a wonderful treatise about the bittersweet aspect of nostalgia, the double-edge sword of memory. The forgotten album is filled with images of playful youth; boys who are seemingly unencumbered by the realities of life, although we know that in the early 1940’s there was a terrible war occurring that had a huge impact on the UK. Nevertheless, we now observe these photographs with the advantage of knowing that their age of youth has now long passed and the subjects of this archive are perhaps more concerned with their pending mortality.

Who was this young unknown photographer whose images reveal a certain maturity in these carefully balanced compositions? Perhaps this found British archive that comprises part of Vasilyeva’s artist book is not fully elevated to the level of photographs by Vivian Maier, nevertheless under the careful editing of Vasilyeva, we can sense this young photographer’s developing photographic skills.

Likewise, I come to wonder how this photographic archive came to rest at a British flea-market; what has happened to this now aging Sea Scout that he was willing to part ways with his past? Why does he or his family no longer have a need to retain this wonderful archive of memories? This book is a collection of mysteries; is the portrait of a young lady a family member of the unknown photographer or perhaps his lover in later years and maybe eventually his spouse? There are clues to this mysterious photographer, such as the school badges on the coats of the young men mugging for this photographer, as to where these events may have occurred so many years ago.

Vasilyeva’s contemporary landscape photographs ground us to the current reality and in juxtaposition with the archive images creates a messy give and take dialog with the past. The vexing and unanswerable question remains; Will you Forget Us? What of this group of boys, who are now aging men who may be grandfathers if not great grandfathers, what has become their fate and stories since their young likenesses was permanently captured?

I find a book design’s that echoes the artistic intent to really amplify the narrative; in this case the rough twine binding is similar in nature to what one might expect a young Sea Scout in the early 1940’s to use if he were to create his photobook. We observe similar hand-made contraptions such as the float lashed together using old oil cans that are utilized for a sea and river adventures. This is a British equivalent to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a story of American youth, which was actually first published in the UK in 1884 before coming to the US in 1885. In reflection, perhaps Huckleberry Finn was an inspiration for Robert Baden- Powell, the founder of Scouting, who in turn inspired the unknown Sea Scout whose delightful photographs we enjoy here.

A very enjoyable read.

Cheers, Doug

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December 3, 2018

MAGNUM China

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Magnum China, Edited by Colin Pantall and Zheng Ziyu

Published by Thames & Hudson, copyright 2018

Essays; Colin Pantal, Zheng Ziyu, and Jonathan Fenby

Text: English

Hardcover with dust jacket, 376 pages, 350+ photographs and illustrations, printed and bound by Pacom, South Korea

Notes: As a child raised on her American grandmother’s stories of moving to China in the early 1920s who then followed in those footsteps with a post-college English teaching job, to say this reviewer was eager to get her hands on a copy of MAGNUM China would be a major understatement. Having arrived just a few months prior to what became the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, I left abruptly on the first passenger flight out in early June 1989 and have not returned since.  China has remained, in my mind and in my dreams, an unresolved puzzle, left yet to be finished on the kitchen table, as if one got up to answer the phone and never came back. Thus I turn the pages of MAGNUM China with hopes of finding all the missing pieces

Like the country itself, the photobook MAGNUM China, is an impressive thing to behold, one that will demand revisiting time and time again in order to take in the full scope of its riches. Featuring the high caliber of imagery that one can reasonably expect for any Magnum publication, this 376 page book includes work of more than 25 of the world’s best photographers, spanning 80 years, from 1938 to 2017.

In fact, as is noted in the section featuring Robert Capa’s 1938 documentary work in Hankou, the language barriers and surveillance challenges he faced provided Capa the time to contemplate not only his own work as a photographer, but to develop the idea of a collective of photographers that would become Magnum. This became the premiere photo agency founded by Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, among others, in 1947. Thus the argument could be made that without China there might not have been a Magnum, and without Magnum, there would be a less historically significant and culturally influential record by which the world can understand China, and China can understand itself.

The introductory “conversation” between China based photo Editor and Curator Zheng Ziyu and the English writer and photographer Colin Pantall offers insight not only to the selection of images that follow, but also to the shifting perception of China. Once considered an exotic/closed off society rarely seen by Westerners, today’s understanding of China is a more nuanced portrayal in which Chinese photographers, writers, and historians have more authorship over their own story.

MAGNUM China is divided into four sections: A Time of War 1938-1949; The Mao Zedong Years 1950-1976; The Deng Xiaoping Years 1977-1992; and The Era of a Global Superpower 1993- present.  Each section begins with an informative multi-page introduction by Jonathan Fenby which provide context to the images that follow; a timeline of significant political and cultural events during that period, and a list of in country travels for the photographers, a sampling of whose work is then presented.

It is tempting to gorge on all the finely printed photographs in one sitting. However, like an all you can eat image buffet, a bit of pacing and restraint is advised. There is much to satisfy the hungry viewer’s appetite, such as the late 1940s work of Henri Cartier Bresson, the gorgeous color work of Eve Arnold’s sympathetic portraits of the late 1970s, and the confection of Martin Parr’s commissioned portraits of the nouveau riche of 21stCentury Hong Kong. However, it is well worth pausing between courses, to digest the work of each photographer, and read the text for an understanding of their unique relationships to this vast and complicated country. Learning when they first visited China, how often they went, what their impressions were, which publications (if any) they were shooting for, enriches one’s appreciation for the subjects these world class photographers chose (and did not choose) to focus on.

The first section “A Time of War” has the most limited range of work, just that of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier Bresson, due to difficulty of travel and access in the pre-communist era of the late 1930’s-40’s. Here you will see Capa’s work for LIFE magazine, depicting a China still battling Japanese invasion, and Cartier-Bresson’s late 1940’s documentation of the fall of the ruling Kuomintang and the subsequent victory of Mao Zedong’s invading army. Especially moving is the image of “A bewildered old man searching for his son…” as the new recruits are called up and marched off to a certain defeat. The worried man in his black hooded robe tugs on his long white beard, his shadow stretching out behind him to the young soldiers who smile in the background, both the old and new era unaware they will soon be obliviated by the advance of the Communists.

One of the joys of this book is the inclusion of layouts from magazines that first published these images. The reader is able to thus experience how Western audiences first saw what this historically closed society looked like.

The second section “China, 1950-1970” includes not only the fine work of Werner Bischof’s Hong Kong series of shanty towns and growing skyline from the early 1950s, the observation of humanity in Marc Riboud’s first trip to China in 1956 at the dawn of the Cultural Revolution, and the early years of China’s re-engagement with the outside world as shown in the 1973 photographs of Bruno Barbey, among others. Also included is ephemera such as Riboud’s press pass and Bischof’s wrinkled caption list for his series The End of the Road. One can feel the impact of the typewriter keys hitting the page before being sent off to the Magnum office in Paris, giving the viewer the sense of being not only in the midst of China’s momentous changes, but in the mind of the photographer as they documented them. Pity there was no way to include the short 16mm films shot by Swiss photographer Rene Burri, though his early work (his was a 30 year “love affair” with China) is nicely represented with his photographs of young pioneers marching in the snow, and dead lotus flowers reflected on a lake that evokes the modernist line drawings of Picasso.

Of particular interest to this reviewer are the photographs in the third section, “The Deng Xiaoping Years, 1977-1992” as they include glimpses of the China familiar to visitors of the post cultural revolution/pre Tiananmen era, a vast society on the cusp of great, though not always comfortable, change. Of equal interest is the inclusion (at last!) of the work of two female photographers, Inge Morath and Eve Arnold, hinting that it was not only China that was opening itself up, albeit ever so cautiously, to the outside world. Perhaps Magnum too was expanding itself to welcome new perspectives; however limited the opportunities, they were long overdue.

Inge Morath’s work from the late 1970s offers fresh, “optimistic” view of everyday life, be it the 6:30am bicycle commuters passing through the dappled light of a roadside tree, or soldiers seated on the mountainside carving of a laughing Buddha, or her husband Arthur Miller directing a 1983 production of his play Death of a Salesman.  Immediately following Ms. Morath’s black and white images comes the saturated tones of reds and greens in Eve Arnold’s well traveled portraits of communes, factory and domestic workers, and farmers on the plains of Mongolia. The text describes the difficulty that Arnold had in photographing common people not yet accustomed to the sight of an independent Western woman, but she “came out of the country with fresh, original and life affirming images” symbolizing the end of tragedies and “changed the way the world viewed China.”

In the early 1980s photographs of Patrick Zachmann, one can begin to feel the presence of the outsider’s gaze and China’s gradual courtship with long forbidden Western influence. Close up faces of average Chinese citizens smile with curiosity back at the camera, actors prepare for film-shoots, young couples waltz in private apartments, and somewhat disturbingly, a bare breasted prostitute sits on a rumpled bedspread, staring directly at the lens, or perhaps the man behind the camera. Subsequent images of modern Chinese culture flaunting their newly acquired bling carry the same troubling impact as this photograph. The prostitute, unlike the old man in Cartier-Bresson’s 1948 image of the old man searching for his son, seems very much aware of the bleakness of her position, and has resigned herself, like her country, to a reality in which the pursuit of money is the new game in town, and everyone is a potential whore.

Despite the quantity and caliber of photographers that covered the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and the brutal crackdown in which “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of peaceful demonstrators, a majority of which were idealistic University students, were killed, MAGNUM China offers surprisingly few pages devoted to this world event. Thankfully included is an image by photographer Abbas which shows the early student gatherings mourning the death of beloved Communist party official Hu Yaobang. For those who know that these gatherings were the start of what became the Tiananmen demonstrations in the weeks preceding the official state visit of Mikail Gorbachev, (thus the world press arrived in Beijing and broadcast an embarrassing political moment that highlighted internal power struggles), this image is an important inclusion in the Portfolio. (Full disclosure, this reviewer had the honor of meeting Abbas on the day this image was taken, and his comment “This feels just like Iran”, referencing the start of the Iranian revolution, sent chills down my spine). The significance of this gathering is not fully conveyed by the placement of Abbas’ image opposite Patrick Zachmann photo of a theatrical student writhing on the ground as she “performs the pain of the Chinese people”. Real people died, brutally, and it was well covered. The avoidance of those images is, to this viewer, the only disappointment of this otherwise magnificent book, and despite the inclusion of Stuart Franklin’s view of the famous “Tank Man” on the wide boulevard leading away from the bloodied square, causes one to reflect on the compromise that countries and cultural entities alike have made in order to continue to do business with and in the economic powerhouse that is now China.

However, in the final section “The Era of a Global Superpower, 1993-present” there are hints that it is not only the photographers (Ian Berry, Stuart Franklin, Jim Goldberg, Chris Steele Perkins, among others) who are conscious of the price China’s citizens have paid for its ascent to the top of the global ladder. So too the editors of MAGNUM China, in their choice of image sequence, make the subtle point that while some Chinese now enjoy luxuries such as fancy cars and amusement parks, others have lost their homes to the development of the Three Gorges Dam.

In a particularly moving series, Taiwanese photographer Chien-Chi Chang documents mental patients who are literally chained together, forcing a level of cooperation that may neither be sincere nor lasting. These haunting black and white images immediately follow Martin Parr’s bold color work focusing on rapacious consumption, which with all Parr’s work, are very strong on their own merit. But taken in as the editors intend, one senses that not everything about China’s great success has been without great cost. Chien-Chi Chang also documents North Korean defectors who must hide their identities from the authorities as well as the camera while traveling through mainland China en route to what they hope is freedom in South Korea. China may have many riches, as beautifully demonstrated throughout this book, but freedom is not yet one of them.

Highly recommend.

Enjoy!  Melanie Chapman

Editor’s note: This photobook was selected as one of the “Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2018” by The PhotoBook Journal editorial team.

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December 1, 2018

Simon Brugner – The Arsenic Eaters

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Photographer and Concept: Simon Brugner (born in Hartberg, Austria, lives in Vienna, Austria)

Publisher:  The Eriskay Connection, Breda, Netherlands; © 2018

Essays and illustration selections:  Simon Brugner

Text:  English

Stiff covers with yellow vinyl sleeve, bound with the Otabind method; four-color lithography, printed by Wilco Art Books, bound by Patist; 144 pages, with pagination and some captions in Part 2; 21 x 30 cm (8 ¼  x 12 inches); edition of 1250

Photobook Designers/Editors:  Rob van Hoesel, Simon Brugner

 

Notes:  The southeastern Austrian region known in English as Styria, and in German as Steiermark, is a mostly rural area that has the city of Graz as its center of culture and population density. Little has been known about the area’s mostly rural practice of consuming arsenic, which goes back several centuries, and lasted into the last part of the 20th century.

Arsenic was known as “the poor man’s cocaine” – reputed to be a stimulant that had the effects of physical and sexual enhancement, a beauty treatment for women, and even an effective method to temporarily enhance the physical appearance and strength of horses as they were about to be sold. Needless to say, there were also long-term side effects, especially when used to excess, as is the case with many such drugs and substances.

When we first see the cover of this fascinating book, we are not quite sure what we are looking at. Is it a scientific treatise? Is it an investigation with historical significance? Or perhaps a medical reference work? We are certainly curious! Well, it is a little bit of all of these, but most significantly a brilliantly photographed and edited photobook of visuals that tells this story, with a contemporary photographic interpretation by Simon Brugner, along with some insertions of historical material that he collected, in such a way as to retrace the mysteries of the old practice through very creative juxtaposition and sequencing.

This photobook is divided into two parts. The first and major portion is a well-edited visual narrative, of primary interest for purposes of this journal. The images are well sequenced to span the range of mysteries, fables, rumors, and anxieties about the often clandestine use and abuse of this mysterious substance, and to connect the old tales with the environment as it now exists. It seems that a certain tolerance and dependence on arsenic could be built up in some individuals, and thus also a sense of invincibility and anxiety, both for the users as well as for those around them.

Brugner has done a most effective job of photographing contextual connections – geography, mining locations, and contemporary objects and detail, including deterioration and decay – and mixing them with images of individuals from the area, both portraits and parts of the anatomy, as to keep the mystery of the story going. Particularly noteworthy is his use of colors, especially green and brown for the calming background of forests and nature above ground, dark orange-brown as the color of the caves and rocks from which arsenic is extracted, red as the color of blood and sensuality, as well as a harbinger of danger (check out those mushrooms), and, or course, stark monochrome for the historical images.

The second part of the book, consisting of some 30 pages, presents the contextual detail and explanations for the use of arsenic in this region. Brugner provides a number of historical illustrations, abstracts from scientific discussions, as well as other insights gained during the three-year period that it took to prepare this project. This is a highly useful section that sheds a bit of light on the mysteries that were visually presented in the first part.

I consider this photobook a new classic, recommended both as a well-designed narrative that deals with an issue that concerns us in different forms even today – from the fine art perspective, as well as for the presentation of this subject within a context of social and scientific understanding, against a historical perspective.

We have selected this photobook as one of our choices for “Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2018.”

Gerhard Clausing

 

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November 29, 2018

Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2018

As in years past TPBJ has been providing a short list of artistbooks and photobooks we have found to be very Interesting. These are books that we continue to return to in order to enjoy again. Our selection derives from books with intriguing photographic content, brilliant project concepts, excellent book designs that support the artist/photographer’s intent in conjunction with spot-on production qualities; and the books that are the most Interesting have a delightful combination of all of these creative, if not critical, elements.

For our editorial team’s selection we have limited ourselves to the artistbooks and photobooks that we received with time to really evaluate the book object in its entirety. I have readily admitted in the past we do not have access to every photobook that was published during the year, thus our list is not meant to be in any way inclusive. Our list is also not meant be the “Best” photobooks of 2018, but rather we have selected some of our more Interesting photobooks that might warrant your consideration and time.

Our list includes; Laia Abril, Julia Borissova, Simon Brugner, Seiichi Furuya, Tobias Kruse, Melissa Lazuka, Yehlin Lee, David Lynch, Ute & Werner Mahler, Nuno Moreira, Colin Pantall & Zheng Ziyu (Editors) & Antonio Perez Rio.

Some artist and photographers are list repeats and others have published their First book. One of these books is massive in breath, scale and size and some are petite poetic treasures. This list represents a truly internationals group of artists, photographers, designers, printers and publishers; Congratulations to all!

We have published commentaries for most of these books, which are linked-up below. It is our intent to finish publishing reviews for all of these artistbooks and photobooks shortly. We hope you enjoy these as much as we have.

In alphabetic order by last name:

 

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Laia Abril, On Abortion

 

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Julia Borissova, Let Me Fall Again

 

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Simon Brugner, The Arsenic Eaters

 

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Seiichi Furuya, Warum Dresden (Why Dresden) (review pending)

 

Tobias Kruse, Material (review pending)

 

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Melissa Lazuka, Song of the Cicadas

 

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Yehlin Lee, Raw Soul

 

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David Lynch, Nudes

 

Ute and Werner Mahler, Kleinstadt (review pending)

 

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Nuno Moreira, She Looks Into Me

 

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Colin Pantall and Zheng Ziyu (Editors), Magnum China

 

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Antonio Perez Rio, Masterpieces – Obras Maestras (review pending)

 

Cheers!

The PhotoBook Journal Editorial team: Douglas Stockdale, Gerhard Clausing, Kristin Dittrich, Melanie Chapman, Dan Johns

 

November 26, 2018

Manfred Heiting photobook collection – Woolsey Fire 2018

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Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, 1882, 1st edition, English, cloth cover

As some of you know, Manfred Heiting’s extensive photobook collection was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) in 2012 and was destined for their Hirsch Library. His photobook collection was approximately 22,000 volumes, of which 5,828 photobooks were relocated to the museum while the remainder resided at Heiting’s residence in Malibu, California.

The recently Woolsey fire in Southern California swept through parts of Malibu and recent reports are that Heiting’s residence and the remaining collection was impacted.

This is the statement from MFAH (issued 11-21-18)

On Friday, November 16, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow received a message from collector Manfred Heiting. Mr. Heiting reported that he had learned that his Malibu house and collections had been destroyed in the Woolsey fire, including most likely books, photographs and ceramics that were destined for the Museum. Thankfully Mr. Heiting and his wife, Hanna, were not on the property and are safe. Neither of them has been able to see the property to verify the extent of damage.

In 2012, the Museum had committed to the acquisition of these collections, still in formation, with an agreement that they would ultimately be transferred to Houston by 2023. These include 22,000 books related to the history of photography, and approximately 100 photographs. Since 2012, Mr. Heiting has been in the process of cataloguing and photographing each volume that was destined for the Museum. This has been a years-long process that has already yielded authoritative scholarly publications on Soviet, Japanese, German and Czech photobooks. While 5,828 volumes have already been relocated to the Museum, the remainder are presumed destroyed.  All of us at the Museum are profoundly saddened by this devastating loss to the field and to history. Until the extent of the damage has been determined, we will have no further comment.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that the results are not as bad as feared.

Note, the two titles included in this article are safely located at the MFAH Hirsch Library. Photo credits; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Best regards,

Doug

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Man Ray, Photographs by Man Ray, 1979, 1st edition, English, cloth cover, paper dust jacket

 

November 21, 2018

Rose Steinmetz – Techenie (течение)

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 4:41 pm

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Photographer:  Rose Steinmetz (born in the country of Georgia; lives in São Paulo, Brazil)

Self-published, edition of 30; © 2017

Text:  Notes inserted into an envelope, in English and Portuguese

Soft covers, loose-leaf, held by central elastic band with an envelope containing a message, 5.5 x 7.5 inches; 80 pages, unpaginated in black and white

Notes:  I asked to review this project because it struck me as a challenging enigma. The photographer, Rose Steinmetz, who originally hails from the country of Georgia and now lives in Brazil, herself has a background that shares several cultural streams and influences. So it only seems fitting that this photographic project would have an effect that resembles a stream of consciousness of evocative imagery.

20 sheets, printed on both sides and folded in half, constitute 80 pages, of which a few are intentionally left blank to create pauses; they are loosely held together by an elastic string to which an envelope is attached containing some key words that relate to the term techenie, which is meant to imply current, flow, [uncontrolled] movement.

What further makes this interesting is that the viewer of this photobook can first study the flow of the original sequence (participating in the author’s journey), and then reassemble the pages to create different juxtapositions, creating a flow of his or her own, even subtracting some images if desired. I have praised this format before, most recently in my reviews of Douglas Stockdale’s Bluewater Shore and of Rodrigo Ramos’ Ex Corde (From the Heart; De todo corazón). Since there is no flowchart of the original arrangement of the pages, it would be necessary to view the video on the photographer’s website to reassemble the book in its original sequence, or else to decide to keep it in your own arrangement as your very own personal book inspired by the original.

The image sequence is stream-of-consciousness or dream-like, almost like a psychology test; the viewer is clearly transported into a world that resembles a bit of a twilight zone, sequences which challenge you to participate in the interpretation. What is your own flow, what is your own imagination of how things assemble and how life continues? Where do your own cultural influences come to bear, what small details about everyday life do you observe and focus on? And what are you able to ignore?

The images include a range, from tangible everyday objects and a few portraits, bodyscapes, animals, and landscapes, all the way to semi-abstract and abstract compositions. The printing is simple, in glorious copy-machine-like monochrome, which has been practiced by other photographers before, most prominently by Nobuyoshi Araki, and might encourage others to attempt similar photobooks. A delightful project!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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November 18, 2018

Ekaterina Solovieva – The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero

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Ekaterina Solovieva, The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero, 2018

Photographer: Ekaterina Solovieva, (Born Moscow, lives in Hamburg, Germany)

Publisher: Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, copyright 2018

Essay: Ekaterina Solovieva

Text: English, Translation by Diego Benning Wang

Softcover, Swiss Binding, 141 pages, 68 images B&W, 7 1/4 ” x 9 1/2″ x 2 inches, printed in Stuttgart by Offizin Scheufele

Art Direction and Design: Konstantin Eremenko, Moscow

Notes: The cover image of this intriguing photo book is of a bearded man with long hair blowing in the winter wind, looking back over his shoulder with fences of a small village dividing the landscape behind him. Thus we begin to know the subject of this book, a “punk” Moscow seminary graduate who traveled to this remote Russian village with friends searching for the meaning of life, ultimately rebuilding the local church that burned down 40 years previous, in the process revitalizing the spiritual community and binding him to the villagers and to the land.

The photographer, Ekaterina Solovieva, whose work primarily focuses on country folk-life in the former Soviet Union with a special emphasis on religious customs, also provides text to accompany her poetic black and white imagery.  This book takes a bit of time to absorb and fully appreciate. On first viewing, the presentation of the images is compelling: some pages filled entirely with a borderless single image, some images printed on black pages, the next on white. The book is divided into nine segments with titles such as “Easter”, “Fall- Grape of the North”, and “The Interlude to Winter”.

Solovieva’s images convey the essence of this small rural community: bundled up children, older women wearing traditional scarfs inside to keep warm, small shacks barely visible through the brush, abandoned fishing boats swallowed up by the weeds, simple log homes illuminated by window light and candles, some heated with the consumption of strong vodka and late-night conversation, wet mud roads, the metallic shine of cooking pots, the unadorned beauty of apples spilled onto a wooden table.

Solovieva photographs a place and people without pretense, a digital free environment unpolluted with branding on clothes or advertisements dominating the streets. Kolodozero the village seems to exist beyond the reach of commercialism or the creep of digital technology, the villagers lacking in the self-consciousness of modernity. Solovieva photographs the details and intimate moments that give the viewer an understanding of why a young Muscovite seminarian transformed into the village priest and why, unlike friends “who came here and left their hearts and souls” yet “found the strength to return to normal life”, he says of himself “I am the weak one, as I am unable to leave.”  These final lines of text, written in white on a black page like snow falling into a black night, compel the reader to reverse course and view the images of this remote village and the priest who fell in love with its landscape and inhabitants, from back to front, and then front to back again, each time slowing the pace, like the spiritual journey of Father Arkady himself, absorbing the beauty of this chosen life more deeply.

Best regards! Melanie Chapman

Postscript from Ekaterina Solovieva:  Several days after the book was published, on February 12th 2018, I have got sad news from Kolodozero. Priest Arkady Shlykov suddenly died after a heart attack. He was 45 years old. All the years he lived in Kolodozero he took all the problems and sorrows of the people of the village very personally, helped them selflessly. He used to spend hours hitchhiking to the remote communities to baptize, read the funeral service or just serve in the temple. And at some moment his heart gave up. A new priest has been already appointed to the church in Kolodozero. But he won’t be able to serve regularly, and people are yet to get used to him. – Ekaterina

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November 10, 2018

500 photobook reviews and counting!

Filed under: Artist Books, Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 4:27 pm

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Paul Kranzler & Andrew Phelps, The Drake Equation

Late last month when we published our review of Paul Kranzler & Andrew Phelps photobook The Drake Equation, we also officially published our 500th photobook review. Wowzier!!

I had started this book review blog in 2008 and little did I know that it would continue onward for another 10 years and that during this time we would review 500 contemporary photobooks.  And of course we have reviewed two photobook since this milestone, so we are now at 502 photobook reviews.

I am continued to be amazed almost daily by the quality and ingenuity of the photographers, artists, publishers, printers and book designers that continue to create these wonderful book objects.

Since starting this blog I have been joined by Gerhard “Gerry” Clausing for the past two years and shortly we have two more book reviewers joining our team; Melanie Chapman who will be focusing on the photo-documentary and street photography photobooks and Dan Johns whose museum curatorial background will be focusing on the more abstract subject matter. This will allow us to engage with and write about more photobooks as these become available, as the quantity of photobooks being published can be overwhelming. There is nothing worse for me than at the end of the year when I realize that there are still a bunch of titles and a stack of books that I meant to review from the prior two (or three) years.

I must admit that there are the interesting “publishing” stats for this journal that I am proud of; over a million eyeballs and counting, various awards and recognition from our peers, in conjunction with the profound improvement in my writing skills over the years (please, not too many comments to contrary and as this would be a personal concept that I would like to dearly hold on to).

More importantly has been the wonderful discussions and exchanges with extremely creative artist, photographers and designers who in turn have developed some wonderful relations with caring publishers and daring printers who have been willing to take creative chances. Bravo!!

Which in turn all of these beautiful and billiantly designed books are very inspirational in my own artist book practice. Likewise, I hope that you have found our reviews of photobooks and photo-based artist books to be equally inspirational; whether  you are a book collector, bookstore, artist, photographer, designer, publisher or printer.

We are equally indebted to the many photographers and artist in conjunction with their publishers who have provided us with the review copies to work from as holding wonderful these book objects is really a critical part of our review process. So a very big Thank You for your support.

Cheers!!

The PhotoBook Journal team: Doug, Gerry, Melanie and Dan

November 9, 2018

Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne

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Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne, 2018

Photographer: Dave Jordano (born Detroit, MI, USA resides Chicago IL, USA)

Publisher: powerHouse Books

Essay, Foreword by Karen Irvine

Text: English with captions and pagination

Hardcover book with illustrated dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed and binding in China

Photobook designer: Sam Silvio

Notes: The investigation of an urban man-built landscape can be a sociological study of those who live in it as part of a photo-documentary practice. Dave Jordano adds another couple of more layers to the study of his subject, the city of Detroit.  His visual framing of this urban landscape is from the adjacent byways of this city, a version of street photography which in this case only a few individuals are observed. Second is the time of day he creates this urban investigation, or perhaps more succinctly, a project created in the wee hours between sunset and when the sun rises again. A time when things might go bump in the night.

For the most part of this study Jordano focuses on the aging structures of Detroit that are illuminated by a variety of lighting, both the natural moon lite sky as well as the various industrial, commercial neon, residential and street lights. The combination of lighting sources creates interesting color palette to an already colorful city and the occasional sharply delineated shadows make for an overall strangeness to his photographs. The night time lighting creates graphic shapes of this urban setting as the structures appear to flatten and visually break down to basic shapes, masses, blocks of color and lines. The overall effect might be best characterized as being surreal.

The capture of these lonely night-lite structures as a documentary practice attempts to reveal the underlying social order of this area. I am struck by a combination of visual humor mixed with moments of melancholy, as many of these photographs seem to reveal an underlying sadness about what is occurring in this region. Like Jordano, I grew up near these same locations many years ago, so viewing these mostly dated, sometimes seriously deteriorating, structures remind me of my own aging and mortality.

Dave Jordano has been previously featured on TPBJ: Detroit Unbroken Down

Cheers, Doug

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