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 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 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 obtain a slice of form in light to direct our vision and thus prod our thoughts.
The framing of the images, the use of the edges and frames, the control of the tonalities, all 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 mounted on a tripod. 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 pre-made templates, but it is a skillful selection and implementation of these templates that will allow someone to rise above the rest.
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, Doug Stockdale