The PhotoBook Journal

October 3, 2008

Simon Roberts on Editing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 7:45 pm

Another little gem that Jorg Colberg pointed me to, was the article that Simon Roberts had complied about editing, both about his recent book Motherland (Russia) and about the process of editing in general. A thoughtful & recommended read for those who are wrestling with the process of editing one’s larger body of work into something meaningful.

I had been following Roberts work as I like his writings about photographing the “social” landscape, but I had missed this article.

Best regards, Doug Stockdale

Gregory Crewdson – Beneath the Roses

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 7:31 pm

Jorg Colberg recently wrote (here) about Gregory Crewdson’s book, Beneath the Roses over on his blog Conscientious. I believe that Jorg is a bigger fan of Crewdson that I am, but I feel that Jorg gets the uneasy undercurrent I feel with Crewdson’s work, and Beneath the Roses in particular.

Best regards, Doug Stockdale

October 2, 2008

Robert Frank – Paris

Copyright of Robert Frank published 2008 by Steidl

After purchasing and reading Robert Frank’s Paris, published by Steidl in 2008, I have been hesitating to publish my book review. Part of my procrastination was purchasing a copy of Frank’s The Americans, published by Steidl as part of their “Robert Frank Project”, as a baseline for comparison. And I am happy that I did buy The Americans, as it does make even more apparent the designer hack-job done on Frank’s Paris.

As background, Paris is a re-edit of prior work for a newly conceived bookwork developed from Frank’s photographs made between 1949 and 1952 while he bounced between Europe (mostly Paris) and United States (mostly NYC). Two other newly conceived bookworks that Steidl has recently published of Frank’s early photographs are London/Wales and Peru, which I have not seen yet. I hope that they have fared better.

For me, it was of great interest to see the photographs that Frank was making up to creating The Americans. The biggest issue of course is that the body of work is edited some 50+ years after the fact, with all of the historical baggage and current thinking. If we were to step back in time, perhaps we could see what the context that Frank was developing prior to The Americans. But we can not, so we need to see what Frank has extracted now from what he had created then, and dig that data mind with him.

So with that, the bad news/good news and I need to get the bad news out of the way first, to give myself some space to discuss the photographic content within the covers. Simply that the book design suffers!

Okay, that felt good, but now why. Unlike the republished The Americans, in which Frank has a design say, this book was designed for design sake. Someone forgot to remind the designers that they are there to work for the photographer and his body of work, to place it in the best light. Unlike The Americans, every photograph in Paris is bleeding off the page, off every conceivable edge. The photographs are then further diminished by running many across the gutter and losing content in that same gutter. We get a glimpse of the potential and not the whole story.

We deserve better than this design crap, uber scheisse, and Frank does not need to have his work trashed. Shame on you Gerhard Steidl and Sarah Winter for putting your self first at the expense of the photographer, whom you say you are trying to tell his story. Let him fail on his own accord, don’t push him into the ditch. I guess this why publishers don’t like to have the photographer help with the book designs, might bring in some common sense and true design sensibility. Alright, I am done venting…

Now for the good news, when you can put together enough of the pieces and see the hints of the photographs left behind by the design team, you will find that same wit, even with my limited knowledge of the French language, iconic vision and delightful essence of The Americans. Such that we can see we are been seen. There are more atmospheric images in Paris, dealing with figures in the hazy fog, adding a different context of mystery. All of that unsettling vision of his is ever evident.

Is Paris now a controversial book for the Parisians as Frank’s The Americans was for the Americans in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. I don’t think so, as that cutting edge is gone, if not dulled, by time and the images are not that contemporary by today’s standards. The book does provide a broader insight into what Frank’s photography was developing into at the time, that The Americans was no fluke.

I just can not recommend this book, as good at the photographs are, the design flaws can not be overcome, they are too great a distraction, the content has been too hacked. Maybe there might be improvement in the second edition? I would not hold my breath.

If you want to have a great book about Robert Frank in your photographic book collection, I would rather recommend you purchase The Americans, and not waste your money on Paris. I think you would be much happier in the long run.

Best regards, Doug Stockdale

Hand made and Hand crafted

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 6:35 pm

(Originally posted in Singular Images, 10/01/07)

I am starting to come to the realization that I am going to be making my first limited edition book in conjunction with someone from The Photophers Exchange, who is a custom box binder. 

I have been reading with great interest the series of articles in Photo-eye Review about book publishing.  Especially this last issue on self publishing with the links to the other artists who are undertaking these project. I do not believe that my Bad Trip – Sad Trip series has a large audience (commercial) appeal, but there probably is a small audience that would both appreciate the series as well as a fine custom hand made book which will also function as a complete portfolio of the project.


October 1, 2008

Robert Frank – The Americans

The Americans – copyright of Robert Frank published by Steidl, 2008 special edition

How one thing sometimes leads to another, as I had recently purchased a new Robert Frank book Paris while I was in Philadelphia and I figured it would be easy to relate Paris to The Americans without owning a copy of The Americans. In the fifty years since The Americans was published, I think that between all of my other books, I must have every image that was published in his book

I also know that there was the big bash about Steidl re-publishing The Americans, but I also figured that this was some big splashy uber book from the Germans. Not so!

So when I came across a couple of copies at one of my favorite book stores, I was impressed with what a manageable size the book is, measuring about 8-1/2″ x 7-1/2 and about 1″ thick. Nice, hand holdable and very readable. So I walked out of the book store with my impulse purchase of the day in hand.

Yes, in retrospect, I probably do (not) have every image from The Americans spread out in my book stacks, but that is difficult if not impossible to access. And it is really nice to have a classic photographic book that makes it so easy to look at the images in the proper sequence that the photographer had designed and layed out.

One thing to consider  is that it is now hard to envision this book and the reaction to it with the late 1950’s mind set, even when you do find those late 1950’s and early 1960’s reviews. We now look at these photographs as a bit dated in terms of historical perspective, but can still marvel at the crispness of his vision that is articulated in this collection of photographs.

Now this is a book to be enjoyed and to help keep what we do today as photographers in perspective. Now, of course, I have my own personal benchmark for my future article about another Robert Frank book – Paris.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Updated 10-27-11: Turns out that I did not have all of the photographs from The Americans referenced elsewhere, more of the 80/20 rule: 80% of the photographs you find published from The Americans constitute only about 20% of the photographs of this body of work. So I choose to include some not as well known photographic pages to update my commentary.


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