The PhotoBook Journal

September 29, 2009

New York Art Book Fair

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 12:59 am

I should probably mention that the New York Art Book Fair is quickly coming upon us. Here are some details:

2009 NY Art Book Fair

Presented by Printed Matter, the Fair hosts over 200 international presses, booksellers, antiquarian dealers, and independent artist/publishers presenting a diverse range of the best in contemporary art publications

The Fair opens for preview October 1, 6-8 PM at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.

Friday/Saturday, October 2 & 3, 2009, 11am – 7pm
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 11am – 5pm

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
22-25 Jackson Ave at the intersection of 46th Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101 (map)

The NY Art Book Fair is FREE and open to the public.

I wish I was in the vicinity for this event, perhaps another time, eh?

Best regards, Douglas

September 28, 2009

Sebastiao Salgado

EE ltd + inc

Copyright Sebastiao Salgado 2006 courtesy Thames & Hudson

Sebastiao Salgado has been frequently labeled a humanist photographer with the documentary story telling capability of W. Eugene Smith. This Thames and Hudson book Sebastiao Salgado helps to support these attributes. It is a nice compact book that covers a sampling of Salgado’s photographs made during his tenure with Magnum photographic agency, spanning from 1980 to 1991. It includes many of his better known images from this period.

To understand Salgado’s photographic style is to understand his intent, which is to tell a difficult story about people and have that story circulated in the largest mass media possible, which is usually the newspaper, not a magazine. To obtain the widest newspaper distribution also means photographing in a black & white medium. Additionally, a black & white photograph allows the reader to become more introspection and contemplative of the events featured.

Salgado also believes in spending more time developing a story, thus running into odds with Photo Editors who are looking for the quick “photo bite” to a rapidly developing “News” story. Thus his stories are more about the difficulties of making a meaningful living in the face of daunting hardships, and survival.

The introduction is delightful and informative written by Christain Caujolle, who states;

Reports…were only possible because the images were eager to bear witness; they refused to remain complacent and exceeded the bounds of photojournalism in its strictest form. They had a different tone; their lyricism imposed respect and rejected simple pity. Like much of Salgado’s subsequent work, these images traveled the world, were printed and exhibited and turned into symbols. These symbols in turn made their creator into a symbol of a particular attitude to photojournalism.

There is a very modern look to Salgado’s images, creating interesting form, structural dynamics, and deft tonalities to pull the readers attention into the image and follow through to make his point. In the India photograph below, there is an interesting balance between the lone woman on the left, gracefully holding out what appears as a wide cloth, but looking away from the ensuing activity to her right. The other workers create a flow that seem to move your attention into what you think is normal a rail car, until you notice that it is just suspended above the ground, sans wheels.

In his goldmine project, the open pits in Brazil has a huge amount of human activity, which takes on the appearance of a flow of ants, until you fully realize that this is a flow of very hard working men. Salgado being ever the Economist (PhD in Paris), reflects that when this intense manual labor is replaced by machines, what does happen to all of the people who depended on this job for a living? Where do they go, what do they do then? These are the difficult questions that Salgado strives for us to consider.

This is a wonderful book that does not purport to tell the entire story of Salgado’s photographic career, but illustrates his stories that includes the goldmines of Brazil, the boat wreckers of Bangladesh, steelworkers of Ukraine, refugees of Ethiopia & Sudan, landmine victims of Cambodia and oil fires in Kuwait after the Gulf War.

To Thames and Hudson credit, this compact and handsome book is printed in duotone that benefits the printing of Salgado’s images. It has a stiff cover, but does not lay flat, thus the photographs that span the entire spread sometimes lose a little content in the gutter. The book is creatively laid out, but does require some twisting and turning to see all the images, but not a bad compromise to maximize the image within the available space. This book about Salgado is in PHOTOFILE series from Thames and Hudson that includes the photographers Henri Carter-Bresson, Man Ray and Helmut Newton.




Other Americas 1977-1984

by Douglas Stockdale

September 21, 2009

Imogen Cunningham – Capturing Spirit


Imogen Cunningham, Self portrait 1913, copyright of the Imogen Cunningham Trust,  courtesy of Cavallo Point Lodge

In 2008 Cavallo Point Lodge published their photobook on Imogen Cunningham (b. 1883 – d. 1976), titled Capturing Spirit in conjunction with their exhibition of her photographs, titled Celebrating Imogen. I was not aware of any Cunningham books that had been published recently, and subsequently found out that the last one was the Taschen’s publication of Imogen Cunningham in 2001, with 176 photographic plates, edited by Heiting with another essay by Richard Lorenz. I have not seen the Traschen book, but from what I have heard from others, it’s a huge and beautifully printed book.

Thus I was really interested in what the Cavallo Point Lodge was going create about her in their on-going series of photobooks. The resulting book was developed by Anne Veh, the Cavallo Point Lodge curator, in conjunction with the Imogen Cunningham Trust, led by Meg Partridge, Imogen’s granddaughter and with Linda Connor.

The book is a delightful mix of her iconic photographs and images that you may have not seen before. Her early photographic work included Pictorialism in the 1910’s, becoming a founder member in 1932 of the f/64 group, a staff photographer for Vanity Fair in NYC and finally back in San Francisco in 1945 working on her own photographs while on the faculty of the California School of Fine Arts, initially with Adams, Weston, White and Lange.

The book progresses more or less chronologically through her career, but occasionally pairs up images that were of a similar style, such as a print in the negative or a multiple exposure made in the 1920’s with a similar stylistic image made in the 1950’s or 1960’s. These combinations provide some insight about her on-going technical processing experimentation to explore the capabilities of this medium. Regardless of her theme, she was interested in studying form, shape and space. She is sometimes unjustly pigeon-holed with the label of a straight photographer due to her association with the f/64 group.

There were early themes that she had repeatedly returned to over the years of her career; the nude and human form, botany and portraits. As a young woman, Imogen Cunningham’s nude photograph of her husband Roi Partridge became one of the earliest known photographs of a nude male made by a woman, circa 1915 in the history of the photographic medium.

Included in the book are the iconic photograph of her grandfather sitting on a pile of cut wood, the portrait of Edward Weston with his many cats, portrait of Alfred Stieglitz from 1934 in his NYC gallery, the portrait of Frida Kahlo as a young woman in 1931, the image Phoenix Recumbent made in 1968, the Unmade Bed in 1957 and her Magnolia Blooms in the 1920’s that for me rival the paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe.

As noted by Anne Veh, the Cavallo Point Lodge curator for this exhibit:

Imogen’s book is a selection of very special images rather than a retrospective, as the images were carefully chosen by the Imogen Cunningham Trust with input from our dear friend Linda Connor.  Some of the images have rarely been seen or published.  There hasn’t been a book published on Imogen for many years and I believe all of Imogen’s books written by Richard Lorenz are out of print.  This makes the Cavallo Point book very special.

This little book is a delightful collection of Cunningham photographs, an iconic San Francisco Bay photographer.

Note: The Imogen Cunningham photographic exhibition dates for “Celebrating Imogen” at the Cavallo Point Lodge are May, 2008 – January 2011, curated by Anne Veh and in conjunction with the Imogen Cunningham Trust.

Magnolia_Blossom_Tower_of_Jewels_1925 Magnolia_Blossom_1925

Phoenix_Recumbent_1968 The_Unmade_Bed_1957

Edward_Weston_with_His_Cats_1945 Frida_Kahlo_Rivera_1931

My_Father_at_Ninety_1936 Aikos_Hands_1971

By Douglas Stockdale

September 20, 2009

Noorderlicht publishing – Stichting Aurora Borelais

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:02 pm


A collection of PhotoBooks from Noorderlicht 16 Photofestival 2009 in Groningen, NL

It was a nice opportunity to attend Noorderlicht 16 Photofestival in Groningen yesterday with Martin Doonan, a fellow photo/blogger from The Hauge, who took the train up to join me. We did the whole thing in a day, as well as meet with Djana Eminovic who is with Noorderlicht’s publishing group, Stichting Aurora Borelais.

And might be expected, I acquired a small folder of photobooks, with an emphasis on a group that could still be lugged around with me for the rest of my assignment and eventually back to California. nice.

Two were from local bookstores, as I had not seen the Sebastiano Salgado from Thames & Hudson, a nice reference book from their Photofile series. And finally acquired a copy of Rob Hornstra’s 101 Billonaires at the Boekhandel Godert Walter which had a small exhibition of Hornstra’s photographs.

From the Nooderlicht publishing group, probably best described a photobook publishing boutique, I acquired four titles that encompass the last eight years. The photographers are mostly Goningen-ecentric, probably due to their financial support from Gemeente Groningen, with the amazing exception of the wonderful exhibition catalog Kiyoshi Suzuki; Sight and Soul 1969-1999.

Most of the four Nooderlicht text’s are English & Dutch or entirely Dutch as it is for Harry Cock’s Omstreken, Foto’s 1980-2006. Martin come to my aid to provide a quick overview interpretation, to understand that the title (Omstreken) refers to the area around you, or a little broader to mean Environment.

Well this provides ample reading material for me over the duration of this assignment and I expect to provide my photobook reviews later in the Fall.

Best regards, Douglas

September 16, 2009

Chris Shaw – Life as a Night Porter


Copyright Chris Shaw, 2006 courtesy Twin Palms Publishers

Over a ten period that Chris Shaw worked the night shift at a number of hotels, he also carried his camera and created a photographic notebook of his experiences. He photographed those he worked with and those who came to frequent the hotels, especially those who also “worked” the night. For me, this places Shaw’s photobok “Life as a Night Porter” within the context of Solomon-Godeau’s “insiders”, a person with a deep personal involvement of the subject matter. His project shares the insider’s perspective similar to the work of Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Zoe Strauss, Sarah Stolfa and Richard Billingham.

This is a gritty story about those who live, work and exist in the time between daylight, especially those whose existence is defined by the workings inside a large hotel. On the direct service side, there are the reception clerks, night porters, housekeeping, and some stray administrators who look like they have no where else to go. On the other side of the counter are the “guests”, some disoriented, or confused or just too drunk and have passed out in the hallway short of the goal of their room. And finally there are the indirect or very temporary guests, the women who briefly pause at the hotel to ply their trade (Walkie-Talkie Girls), as well as the uniforms who are hunched over a refreshment counter en mass for a cup of joe. They all have been caught in the harsh glare of Shaw’s light.

This is not quite an after hours documentary, as the monotone photographs are very contrastey and provide a feeling of a nightmarish existence. We are shown desolate hallways, empty staircases and lurking survelliance cameras watching silently all that goes on. Meanwhile Shaw is direct and confrontational, with most of those mugging their portraits for him, but perhaps not the couple whose amour or sexual fantesy has led them to have their trist out in the open hallway. Even the naked man, who parading down the hallway to who knows where and realizes that he just pranced out of his room without his room key, seems unabashed in his unusual predicament and beams a smile before he continues on his cheeky way. Okay, maybe we did not need to see that, but nevertheless, it did exist for that moment and it is a part of Shaw’s voyeurism experience.

The harshness and high contrast of his black and white images is indicative of the difficulty of working the night shift, and symbolic for many similar existence level jobs. That the only reason you would endure these working conditions was for the money. And the money probably is not that good either and many of those working the night shift at this hotel appear to have more than just this job, catching forty winks when those long durations in the middle of the night with no activity allow some needed rest.

Another aspect of this book is the textual information that Shaw provides, such as a copy of a medical notice, a customer complaint, a recreation of a prostitute’s recent liason, or his hand written captions that accompany each photograph. The rawness of the work is reflected in his personal documentation, with his cross-outs and other plainly visible alterations to his text,  reminding me of the contextural layering of Duane Michaels and Mark Klett. The difficult to read penmanship style of Shaw, with all of these alternations, runs counter to the normal (Modernist) print and book’s caption esthetics, that of a legible type face and tidy-up cleanlyness from a final edit.

As Shaw writes about his book…

The sum of the book is really a hotel of my own imagination constructed from several hotels I have worked in and some I’ve stayed in as a paying guest. In reality these hotels bear little or no resemblance to my actual pictures. It just depends on how you look at things. In my experience heaven and hell are places right here on earth, and you can stay in either one.

This oversize book puts my emotions on edge, rattles my nerves and makes me uncomfortable, moving me away from complacency. This book is not going to appeal to the neat freaks but perhaps to those who like a mystery with a crude and uneasy storyline or without a well defined ending.

NightPorter_0004   NightPorter_0005

NightPorter_0006   NightPorter_0007


by Douglas Stockdale

September 12, 2009

William Eggleston – Paris


William Eggleston, Paris, copyright 2009 courtesy Steidl,

William Eggleston’s recent book Paris, published by Steidl and commissioned by Foundation Cartier, is a collective body of work that comprises his oeuvre of color drawings and recent Paris photographs. Similar to Ben Shahn, Charles Scheeler, Diego Rivera, Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha, Eggleston has reached out beyond photography to express his creative talents.

The photographs and drawings are intertwined throughout the book, creating an interesting visual cadence. The page spreads illustrate various layout designs, including a single image of either a photograph or drawing on a spread, pairs of drawings and photographs and pairs of drawing facing a photograph. All of the drawings and photographs are contained within the boundaries of the page. I chose to illustrate this article with the combination of a photograph and a drawing, to illustrate the equivalence of the two mediums in Eggleston’s hands.

We know mostly of Eggleston’s photographs, but from the dating on one of the drawings included in this book, we can determine that Eggleston has been working with the drawing medium since 1968. It is interesting to speculate as to how one medium may have influenced the other for Eggleston. As an example, the earlier photographs by Shahn and Scheeler seem to have had an influence on how these two artists subsequently worked their framing, pictorial space, mass & line quality in their subsequent paintings.

The Paris photographs that Eggleston made of graffiti or his tight framing in conjunction with a longer lens to compress the pictorial space are visually similar in style to his drawings. The subjects he photographs are framed to create similar vibrant color masses and lines as his drawing, abstracting reality into basic graphic components.

Eggleston’s colored drawing and watercolor paintings are very abstract, without any direct connotation to a discernable subject. These small works are similar to the paintings of the Abstract Expressionist period, most notably Jackson Pollack. They have an emotional content derived by the bright transparent hues, which are very saturated.  These works are principally colored drawings, with a few composed of transparent washes of watercolor paint. His marks are direct strokes of color without any visible use of an under drawing to create structure. It appears that he initially frames his space with a few strokes of color and then proceeds to build the subsequent internal space with layers of thin washes of vibrant color.

To create these small gems, he utilizes a broad spectrum of portable drawing tools that include transparent markers, ink pens, pencil, crayons, translucent watercolor and colored pencils. Some are his drawings are loaded with dense color, while others, notable his earlier drawings, have marks and strokes that are sparsely placed across the page, almost delicate, with large masses of open space to allow the medium to come through. Predominately, his drawings are constructed on either a white or creamy medium; Eggleston will also draw on top of previously printed material with his markers and pens, such as layer them over a newspaper advertisement.

Looking at these abstract works, I was not completely surprised to learn that Eggleston has been composing music, as these abstract works have a musical quality. I would not be surprised to learn that Eggleston was humming some tune while creating these, due to the calligraphic quality of the lines and strokes.

His abstract drawings can be read as poems, as the subject matter lends itself to an indirect correlation to the physical world. Similar to the earlier Abstract Expressionist period, these drawings have a quality of spontaneity, an emotional response to an unconscious feeling that is acted on the flat surface of the paper. Both his drawings and photographs share this similar quality of intensity.

With the pairing of the drawings and photographs, I note how they build on the same complementary color palate. Photographers work with the predetermined color palate of the urban landscape, using framing to careful cull out the result image. Or perhaps allow a new element, such as including the pattern or color of clothing of a passing person, to complete the color composition. Painters on the other hand can control their color pallets, needing to careful select their color schemes to convey their intent.

Thus I wonder, much like what came first, the chicken or the egg, on the interrlationship of his drawings and photographs.  Are the drawings a response to specific photographs? Or did a recent drawing increase his awareness, such that while moving through the urban landscape, a spontaneous photographic response was triggered to a visually related scene? Or did the drawing stimulate the search for a photographic equivalent?

Eggleston’s photographs are constructed like spontaneous glances; partial views of what might be consider a traditional subject, creating color abstractions of lines, patterns and mass. Trees, pipes, people, walls, garbage, décor, wall paper, display windows are bisected and truncated, with edges and lines following out of the photographs borders. These images seem to be created by a restless and nervous energy.

With these drawings, paintings and photographs, Eggleston shows a interesting handling of these mediums and offers an insight as to how influential the period of Abstract Expressionism is to his photographic process.

I also want to note that is a beautiful book. It has a black linen hardcover with an inlaid photograph on the front cover. The paper has a nice weight and heft to it and it is a delight to hold and read.





by Douglas Stockdale

Photography.Book.Now winners announced

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:03 pm


Black Sea of Concrete by Rafal Milach, Photograhy.Book.Now grand prize winner

Blurb has just announced the winners of their 2009 Photography.Book.Now book competetion, with all of the winners and honorable mentions found here. The grand prize winner is a professional photographer from Warsaw,  Rafa Milach and his book Black Sea of Concrete.  Milach edited the work and worked with graphic and book designer Ania Nalecka, with whom he has collaborated on two other book projects.

Darius Himes, the lead judge had this to say about Milach’s book;

“Rafal Milach’s ‘Black Sea of Concrete’ stood apart as this year’s Grand Prize winner, his work is a wonderful embodiment of the judges’ criteria: strong photography, important subject matter, vigorous edit and intelligent sequencing, combined with a thoughtful attention to those elements that are specifically book-centric, including type treatment, page-layout and cover design. By enlisting the assistance of a designer and an editor, Mr. Milach exhibited care and attention to the book as a whole; it was truly teamwork that led to a better end result. As lead judge, I’m proud to award the Grand Prize to a relatively young photographer and book artist, and I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Milach in the future.”

The other catagory winners include

 Category Winner, Fine Art:  Joshua Deaner, I Sell Fish, Category Winner, Editorial: Kurt Tong, People’s Park, Category Winner, Commercial: Dennis Kleiman, Volume One, First Runner-up, Fine Art: Susan Worsham, Some Fox Trails in Virginia, First Runner-up, Editorial: Andrea Stultiens, Pose, First Runner-up, Commercial: Michael Creagh, Editorial Stories,  Second Runner-up, Fine Art: Hermann Zschiegner, +walker evans +sherrie levine, Second Runner-up, Editorial: Kurt Tong, In Case it Rains in Heaven, Second Runner-up, Commercial: Sara Lando, Portfolio, People’s Choice, Fine Art: Lewis Kemper, Capturing the Light, People’s Choice, Editorial: Duwayno Robertson, F Ampersand, People’s Choice, Commercial: Jason Joseph Cappozalo, Jason Joseph Photography.

Congratulations to all, and be sure to check out the many Honorable Mentions as well.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

September 8, 2009

Kevin Bubriski – Pilgrimage


from Pilgrimage, Photographs by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books, copyright 2002

A pilgrimage is a journey made by individuals to either a special place that has moral significance or a holy place. I think of the photo documentation of scared sites by Linda Connor in her photobook Odyssey, with its emphasis on the sacred sites, for which the Odyssey was a destination to, as well as she found a balance and inclusion within those sites by those who are participating. Thus a pilgrimage is made by some-one to some-place for a specific reason.

Kevin Bubriski found himself compelled to take a similar journey from Vermont to New York City to witness the aftermath and destruction immediately following the 9/11 (2001) attack on the twin towers. While there, he was attracted by the reactions of those who like him came to witness what had occurred at this place. For Bubriski, it was the reactions of others on a similar pilgrimage that told his story about the emotional impact of this specific event has on our collective psyche. He found himself drawn to their experiences and reactions, subsequently retuning on multiple trips to document these intense, personal and outward expressions.

Over time, we have come to read the facial and physical contours of those around us to comprehend non-verbal messages. Early in our evolution, this was necessary for our survival. We still practice reading faces for clues, now for our personal social and economic stability. Thus, reading the faces and expressions captured by Bubriski, in his book Pilgrimage, Looking at Ground Zero, published in 2002 by powerHouse Books, there is a stong sense that something is wrong. From their features, we can sense that something has occurred and it does not appear to be good. These are different from the joyful and expectant faces of the Obama supports that Lauren Burke photographed during his election campaign.

As we continue to page through the book, studying and accumulating these collective portraits in our memory, we start to assimilate that something very terrible has occurred. I understand that Bubriski does not need to show us what is being looked at, as the images of the destruction at Ground Zero have become seared in our minds.

For those who do not live in NYC or had not been to the Twin Towers prior to this attack, it is difficult to comprehend the enormous size of this site. From my own experience of visiting Ground Zero some years later after much of the structural damage had been removed, I found the size and breath of the physical location difficult to comprehend. To provide some perspective, each floor of the twin towers was the size of an American football field. Most photographers who came to Ground Zero shortly after the event have concentrated on the smoking, tangled & twisted debris. Bubriski is capturing the expressions of those who came, like him, to try to understand and make sense of what has happened.

We can sense in his photographs that these people are experiencing a traumatic event, even though we do not see the extent of the catastrophe. We have the surface contours of their features and we attempt to read into them the feelings that they are visibly expressing. There is the blank and stark look in their eyes, or perhaps the manner that they close of their eyes and hold their head aloft. Perhaps what stands before them is too great to bear witness to and they need to bury their faces and avert their eyes away. The pain and suffering appears to be too great.

Bubriski is not photographing large masses of on-lookers, but instead selects individuals, pairs and at the most, small groups. This body of work has an intimacy, as we can see individuals who are visibly and outwardly expressing their pain, disbelief, sorrow and sadness. He captures the details of the features on their faces, how they hold their hands, how they are interacting with each other. These are not the expressions of those who actually experienced at events when this occurred, but of those who came to try to come to terms, document, and experience second hand, to bear witness to these events. There is an extensive range of feeling captured, including outrage, amazement, horror, incredulousness, disbelief, regret, shock, sorrow, sadness, and what appears to be a reluctance to accept what it is they are viewing.

Bubriski appears to be invisible, as he does not have direct eye contact with his subject. Something far greater and more important seems to capture and be mesmerizing the bystanders and viewers. The camera’s perspective is low, probably using his Hasselblad with the simple viewfinder at chest height. The camera is not held at eye level, not necessarily concealed, but subtle and not obvious and thus not interfering with the other’s experience. The resulting effect is to create towering individuals, perhaps representing these pilgrims as the new towers of NYC, who are standing tall and not humbled by the catastrophic events.

Unlike Burkes photographs of expressions of elation photographed in color, the somber brown tinted monotone photographs of Bubriski seem to further emphasize the sadness of the moment. The brown monotone photographs also simulate the look and feel of ash strewn air, as indicated by many of his subjects who are holding masks before their faces.

Unlike the earlier attack on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor in the early 1940’s, in which the events played out only later in the newspaper photographs and news reels, this event was occurring live in our living rooms. Bubriski has indirectly photographed many of us, mirroring our own feelings as we found ourselves reacting to this emotionally tragedy continuously unfolded before us. Likewise, Bubriski seems to find a strong connection within this emotional context, thus the raw feelings we view being expressed are indirectly his own.


13[1]. New York City   3[1]. New York City

20[1]. New York City   19[1]. New York City

9[1]. New York City   18[1]. New York City

by Douglas Stockdale

September 4, 2009

Sarah Stolfa – The Regulars


The Regulars copyright Sarah Stolfa 2009, courtesy of Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing

When the subject of “regulars” comes up, I think of folks who visit a given place in a habitual way. After reading Sarah Stolfa’s photobook The Regulars, perhaps the immediate context is of a favorite club, tavern or bar. That probably arises from the series of photographs she made while running the bar at a downtown joint in Philadelphia. But on reflecting how we spend our lives, there are haunts that we continually find ourselves returning to, otherwise why would there be those who discuss things with you as though it was part of a continuous conversation?

You become e a “regular” when you frequent the same bar (they pour your drink before you even ask), as well as the same grocery store, tavern, pizza joint, hair salon or perhaps even a cosmetic counter at the one of the mall boutiques. From the other side of the counter they seem to know about your kids, your recent vacation, problems you had with the car and what your likes and dislikes are for their particular shop. They seem to know you want your pizza with extra black olives, or at least the Italian restaurant down the street from us seems to remember that for me. Regulars start to build personal relationships that are not so much deep friendships, but become closer than being outright strangers. This is what Stolfa seems to have tapped into.

In a technical photographic sense, Stolfa’s project reminds me of the style of Diane Arbus, that of a direct frontal photograph of an individual using direct flash. The lighting is somewhat harsh and flat, with Stolfa’s images captured in color rather than Arbus’s black and white images. Arbus became known more for photographing a segment of society’s called “freaks”, but I really don’t want to try and venture how to characterize a group of individuals who repeatable frequent a bar with a reputation for cheap booze.

Perhaps a segment of Susan Sontag’s essay on Arbus’s body of work is equally fitting for Stolfa’s Regulars…”In the normal rhetoric of the photographic portrait, facing the camera signifies solemnity, frankness, the disclosure of the subject’s essence. That is why frontality seems right for ceremonial pictures (like weddings, graduation) but less apt for photographs used on billboards to advertise political candidates….What makes Arbus’s use of the frontal pose so arresting is that her subjects are often people one would not expect to surrender themselves so amiably and ingenuously to the camera”.

Stolfa lives on the other side of the counter from the “regulars”, she sees them from a unique vantage point as she tends the bar. In many of these portraits, there seems to be a quite resignation in their features and domineer, that maybe this is not the first time that Stolfa has photographed them. They seem to show no shock or aversion to the camera and flash, perhaps this has become a “regular” event, in an addition to their “regular” attendance. The patrons seen to have an acceptance that this photographic event is but one more thing to accept (tolerate?) in the evening along with a drink or two.

It is tantalizing to try to categorize those who continually return to a favorite watering hole and perchance we notice a little of us as well. We see similarities amongst the patrons of this bar, most of course with a glass or two. We see the cash on the counter top and summarize that there will probably be at least one more drink served. The cash is within easy reach, and an indication to the bar-keep that they should keep an eye on their glass to ensure that it will be quickly refilled.

Likewise, many of the patrons have on the counter their cigarettes, matches and ash trays. They have the appearance that it took awhile for them to make it through the day and that they are not in a hurry to be heading out the door to their final destination. They appear to be comfortable in their own skin and take what comes their way, including a pain the ass bar-keep who wants to take their picture. It appears that they are trying to say, “just try remember to keep my glasses filled”

We see David Scott Smith, keeping his chin propped up with his hand, his elbow securely grounded on the counter top. He continues to wear his top coat and hat, maybe he plans to leave soon after momentary refreshment, or does he realizes there is not suitable place to hang them in this joint? I sense that he does not take off his coat and hat often when he plops down for his regular drink. Like many of the others, David feels no compunction to strike a smiling pose, but has a look of quite resignation. Almost as to be thinking, “Just take the damn picture”.

Georgia Russell appears to be really too tired from a long day of doing what ever it is she does. Her shoulders are slightly stooped, her eyes have an appearance of fatigue and a look of passive acceptance to being photographed. Is she mellowing out after just having finished her “regular” glass of wine? Her purse is perched on the counter top, maybe she is preparing to leave, or maybe ready to buy another round. We don’t know. Another story in the making.

Robert Fleeger on the hand appears alert, prepared for something yet unknown to happen. His eyes are bright and alert, his jaw firmly set, although it appears that he has already consumed the shot to back his beer. His cloths are well arranged, the tie has yet to become unknotted and loose, he does not appear ready to relax just yet. Maybe this is his regular stop during lunch or is he between appointments? We see the cash still perched on the counter top, so this may not be his only beer before heading to where ever he needs to be next.

The camera is positioned at the subject’s eye level and we don’t know if Stolfa is a short woman, but she has photographed the sitting subjects in such a direct way as to create a feeling of equality. If she had photographed them from a higher camera position, it would have implied that she is looking down on them as a person or if from a lower camera position it would have distorted their features. As a result, from Stolfa’s framing of her subject, I feel an increased intimacy, and believe that Stolfa has created a sense of trust between herself and her subjects.

Stolfa began this project while re-starting her photography degree and in the process she states that she also re-established her own humanity. The bar’s “patrons”, a kind of non-person terminology, soon became acquaintances because she wanted to know more about them. As they became more human, so in turn did she.




by Douglas Stockdale

September 1, 2009

Linda Connors – Odyssey – update

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:17 pm

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Copyright of Linda Connors 2008 courtesy Chronicle Books

I just acquired the September issue of B&W magazine, mostly on the basis of them featuring the Linda Connor’s photobook Odyssey, published last year by Chronicle Books, which I reviewed earlier this year. And perhaps I was very interested in reading Stephen Vincent’s review of her work. Because as a photobook reviewer, I appreciate reading what others have to say about the same body of work, especially for photobook that I have enjoyed.

Bottom line, I think that Vincent’s review is excellent and provides some different insights for reflecting on Conner’s photographs.

That alone may have been a good reason to post this, but what disappointed me were the quality of the images that B&W magazine printed. Where as her images in the book are rich and with a long full tonality, the B&W images are thin, washed out with the contast too high. Her images deserve better than that, so hopefully you will not judge her photographs based on these poor quality images.

The second quibble is with the way her images were shown. I think one of the strengths of her book is the careful pairing of the photographs. The pairing is complementary and provides more opportunities for interputation and mental places to wander.  There is only one pairing in this article on pages 28-29 from the book that illustrates the greater potential.

This may be a quibble, because the editors can interpret the work as well and change the order of presentation. Likewise, I find that I do this as well with my reviews, I edit my choices to make a point, and where I do pair images, such as my recent review of Mark Klett’s Time Studies, I did alter the pairing to what I thought provided additional insights. My point is that Linda did careful chose her pairings and to not use more of them did might be a weakness in the review. My opinion, eh?

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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