The PhotoBook Journal

November 27, 2008

Robert Hansen – Yucatan Passages

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:21 am

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Yucatan Passages, copyright 2004 Robert Hansen

We have the opportunity to follow Robert Hansen as he travels, photographs and experiences Southern Mexico in his large hardbound book Yucatan Passages published by the Laguna Wilderness Press in 2004.

Hansen’s black and white photographs are beautifully conceived and executed. The landscape of the ancient Mayan landscape is well seen and balanced with the contemporary rural society. The photographer does not try to provide a documentary of the Mayan culture but more of one man’s written and photographic experience while journeying through this region.

I am taken by ethereal photographs of the people and the landscape shrouded in fog. These photographs provide a glimpse of an ancient culture that appears to still exist today. There are images that seem to tap into a cloak of mystery surrounding this culture and provides us with some visual clues to create a cultural connection.

This beautiful crafted book is now available in both a trade and limited edition from the Center Gallery.

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Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

November 22, 2008

Beth Dow – In The Garden

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:20 am

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In the Garden, Beth Dow, Blurb 2008

Beth Dow’s In The Garden, was the 2008 grand prize winner of the recent Blurb Photography.Book.Now juried book competition. Dow had developed her large format book based on the Plantium Palladium prints from her photographs made in formal English and Italian gardens. This book probably does represent some of the best in self-publishing book design utilizing print-on-demand (POD) templates which I will discuss in a moment.

It is easy to understand how one can be taken by both her photographs and her book.

My first impression is that this is a contemporary series which could be seen as evolving from the later photographic work of Eugene Atget. I find that the statement that John Szarkowski made about Atget’s photographs of the French gardens at Saint-Cloud to be equally applicable to Dow’s photographs:

When we attempt to discuss the life of pictures we allow ourselves to speak of real trees and reflected trees; we extend to ourselves sufferance to speak imprecisely, rather than repeat over and over again, tediously, that there are no real trees here or reflected trees either, that there is only aspect. Photographs are about aspect, the best of them make us half forget the fact.

Dow gives us a chance to roam these formal gardens, providing a glance there and glimpse over here. To perhaps walk along a lane or take a seat and meditate on what currently worries or delights us. She effectively uses her lens to create a slice of form in light to direct our vision and thus prod our thoughts.

Her photographs use the edges of the pictorial frames in conjunction with the control of the tonalities to provide a meditative and peaceful escape. Even when the weighting of subjects within the photograph are seeming out of balance the resulting photographs still seem complete.

In her introduction she stresses the hand held nature of image capture but the resulting photographs have all of the structure and formality of a larger format camera. We are provided with a clear vision and a wonderful description of line and mass within the context of these gardens.

Dow’s book design and layout does strive to take as much advantage as possible of the limitations of self-publishing limitations with print-on-demand. Usually the print-on-demand publishers provide limited design options in the form of premade templates but a skillful selection and implementation of these templates can allow someone to rise above the rest.

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As Dow did not return my email message regarding some questions about the design and production of this book, I am not sure that the slightly green hue of the photograph in her book was intentional. The photographs in the book do not have the same gray neutrality of the platinum palladium images on her web site.

While looking at her book under florescent light there were so some very slight magenta “bronzing” in the dark middle grays of the photographs. The POD publisher she has used does offer a color managed printer work flow but that is an extra premium and I was not able to confirm that Dow had purchased this color managed work-flow for her book.

Best regards,

Douglas Stockdale

November 20, 2008

Douglas Stockdale – In Passing

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In Passing, Second Edition, by Douglas Stockdale, self-published (Blurb) 2008

Yes, yours truely just published the second edition of In Passing the series of road side memorials that I photographed from late 2005 – 2007.  Twenty of the photographs from the series were published in LensWork Magazine (#74 Jan-Feb 2008). Earlier this year that I had self-published the First Edition in a smaller, softbound book that afterwards I determined that did not appear to provide the visual impact that I wanted.

This is a hardbound book with an Image-Wrap cover in the large 11 x 13″ format with 36 photographs on 80 pages and printed on the Blurb premium 100 lb luster paper.

I feel that in retrospect that I better understand my reason for the development of this series.  This new edition is an attempt to capture the elusive traces of emotion that deal with tragedy, grief, sorrow, and eventually acceptance with the passage of time.

I had already sent my book files to the printer and was in the middle of finalizing the publication when I had received a comment back from Ben Roberts about his book One More Night. He had stated that after reviewing his published Blurb book that he was already considering a second edition to change some of his photographs for some stronger images. Essentially that was one of the prime drivers behind my second edition, to eliminate some weaker images and get to the essence of my series. Thus I reduced the amount of photographs from 48 to 36 in the Second Edition.

Second concern were the changes that I have made to about 25% of the photographs. After evaluating a new paper, Harman FB Mp, I was able to create photographs that I felt were were more in line with the spirit of the image. There were aspects of some of my photographs when printed on this new Harman media made my earlier photographs appear chunky and overworked. Not so good. After tweaking these images the revised photographs were so much better that the first Edition of my book no longer represented this series. Much of this I have detailed on my personal journal Singular Images.

The last reason for this new edition of the book is too take advantage of a new 100 lb luster paper option by Blurb. After reviewing Ben’s book One More Night which was published on this paper I don’t think any photographer who is self-publishing a POD series would want to print on any other media.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Note: This book is now out of print.

November 18, 2008

Ben Roberts – One More Night

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:56 pm

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Ben Roberts, One More Night, Self-published, Blurb 2008

This book review is one part photograph project published by Ben Roberts, One More Night, and another part an assessment of self-publishing and Blurb’s new 100 lb paper. The bottom like I like both parts! But first the London club scene of Ben Roberts.

This small, tight hardcover book with the images running off most of the edges is the club scene in London. I may not have been there recently but the overall experience of reading the book provides what might be similar emotional reactions; tight cramped spaces, a blur of activity, light when you have it and a flow of colors that assault your senses. But without the din of the music.

Roberts photographs have the “subjects” falling out of the edges and almost included as an after thought again reinforcing the visual chaos of the club life in London. Not exactly a documentary in the traditional sense but a documentary nevertheless that provides you with more of the experience that extends beyond the boundaries of both the printed page and photographs.

The photographs are well sequenced which build on each other as you proceed through the book. I find that the book has a strong Gestalt essence: where the whole is defined by the elements so that the elements are transcended by the whole.  That is the holistic feeling that I am left with as I finish the read through the book. In fact rapidly fanning the book pages and getting a brief glimpse of an image as it is quickly replaced by the next is another wonderful way to experience this book.

Another design element of the book is the selection of a corresponding color margins that complement the photograph, bringing out and emphasing essential details within the photographs. As a self published book this design element is used in a consistent and effect manner. Such that the additional strongly saturated hues continues to reinforce the theme of the book. Well done!

And so to the next part of this review and the opportunity to experiment with photographs and book design when self-publishing with Blurb. When a self-published book such as this one is done with fore-thought and with an application of consistent design elements is a true delight.

One design risk that Roberts faced is the photographs running through the gutter into the facing page. A great way to deal with horizontal images in a square book but the potential of losing some of the essence of a photograph in the “gutter”, which is the area where this hardcover book is bound. This was the principal gripe that I had with the design of the recent Frank book Paris. To Roberts credit he gave himself an out with the ability to choose which side of the spread to place the full bleed image.

I feel that this book also greatly benefits from the use of the Blurb’s new 100 lb luster paper. The additional gloss factor compared to the Blurb standard 80 lb allows the colors to really POP almost to the point of appearing like the book was printed with traditional off-set printers. This provides that needed vibrancy to further convey the essence of the London club scene. The 100 lb paper also has a greater degree of opacity, or less transparency, meaning that you don’t see the images through the pages as with the Blurb 80 lb paper. nice.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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November 17, 2008

Book Dummies at ICP

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 8:48 pm

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If you are in NYC, an interesting exhibit about Book Dummies is taking place at the ICP (International Center of Photography) through December 27th, 2008.

From the exhibit: Book Dummies is an exhibition that gives insight into the process of making a photo book. It reveals the many layers of the process, and gives a step-by-step view of the approach used by each of the photographers whose book dummies make up the exhibition.

Best regards, Doug Stockdale

November 14, 2008

David Plowden – Vanishing Point

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:34 am

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East of Las Vegas, New Mexico, 1971 copyright David Plowden

Last year in 2007 a retrospective book was published about David Plowden’s photographs Vanishing Point: Fifty Years of Photograph with an introduction by Steve Edwards and published by W. W. Norton.

Initially I thought that this book by Plowden was going to be easy to review. It is beautifully printed and bound and a real joy to read. I have followed Plowden’s photographic landscape series for probably thirty years and I have a copy of his book Commonplace published in 1974 by Chatham book which is an imprint of E.P. Dutton & Co.

Rereading the Edwards introduction I remembered Plowden’s early relationship with Walker Evans who was a friend of his first wife’s family. And I think that this what has been troubling me.

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Hostler, Canadian National Railways, Hamilton, Ontario, 1959

As you look at the photographs made over Plowden’s long career I can sense the similarities between Plowden and Walker. In fact Plowden quotes Walker for the reason he composes many of his photographs “give me a corner to walk around so that I can use my imagination. Don’t tell me everything“. As a result many of Plowden’s photographs do not include people because Plowden wants the viewer to inhabit the scene and make it their own.

But why then is Plowden then not recognized as continuing the photographic tradition of Evans? When we think of the evolution of Atget to Walker we usually think next of Robert Frank and then Gary Winogrand? If Plowden spent so much time discussing photography and printing with the older Walker then what is the disconnect?

I now believe as evident in this book that Plowden probably did not fully embrace all of the reasons behind Walker’s vision and purpose. One clue may be that although Plowden was accepted as a student of Minor White he bailed out to photograph steam trains which Plowden understood that these days were probably numbered. Plowden wanted to photograph the landscape literally as more of a passive and not a critical social observer.

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Outer Depot, Reading Company, Reading, PA, 1963

I think that by the time Walker met Plowden that Plowden was already entrenched in his purpose and photographic style. That style just became more finely honed with Evans assistance. Plowden’s work does seem like a more contemporary Atget and Evans as it just did not evolve forward from there.

That is not to detract from Plowden’s body of work which I find quite beautiful and still. He follows more in the line of the documentary style of the FSA photographs. To capture what is now knowing very soon that this will be what was. His early fascination is with steam trains, steam tug boats and failing bridges. He does that with clarity and this shows through very well in this book. In comparison to my 1974 Commonplace, which looks clunky with the blacks blocked up. Regretfully, there are no images from Commonplace in this book as there are many earlier photographs that I would like to have seen printed with more clarity.

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The Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, OR, 1968

All in all Plowden’s photographs investigate the American landscape beautifully seen. A transitional time captured and documented with grace and style. Who could ask for more?

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

BTW, on the nightstand is Robert Hansen’s Yucatan Passages and Beth Dow’s In The Garden.

November 6, 2008

2008 Lucie Awards – Books

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 9:49 pm

On October 20th, 2008, the Lucie Awards were presented in NYC.

And of course the catagory of interest to us was the Book Publisher catagory. And the results are (drum roll, please):

BOOK PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR – And the winner is 21st Editions | Jamie Baldridge – The Everywhere Chronicles Presented by Amy Arbus, Photographer

Other nominees were:

Aperture | – Richard Misrach – On The Beach
Chronicle Books | Manuel Alvarez Bravo – Photopoetry
Nazraeli Press | Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao – Habitat 7
Powerhouse Books | Helen Levitt – Helen Levitt
Steidl & The Robert Frank Project | Robert Frank – The Americans

We do get some internal kudos for reviewing the Robert Frank – The Americans earlier this year. So now to see what I can do about finding some review copies of the remainder of this short list.

Best regards, Doug Stockdale

Photo+Book – Self publishing juried exhibition

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 12:27 am

pb-logo-200-wSimilar to the recent Blurb juried POD book on-line exhibition, the 23 Sandy Gallery Portland, OR is now having a call to photographers for a self publishing print on demand (POD) book exhibition. This exhibition is not limited to just Burb printed books. This exhibition is being co-juried by Christopher Rauschenberg and Laura Russell, the galleries owner and director.

Rauschenberg has recently published Paris Changing: Revising Eugene Atget’s Paris, published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2007. Laura has also self-published numerous limited edition books and has used print on demand for her open edition books.

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