The PhotoBook Journal

June 25, 2010

Gina LeVay – Sandhogs

Copyright Gina LeVay 2009 courtesy powerHouse Books

You could say that Gina LeVay had to “get down and dirty” to photograph the miners who create the underground tunnels for New York City. This is a mash-up of those who are involved in the tunneling, affectionately called Sandhogs, and the environmental context of where their efforts take place. Also apparent as I study these photographs is that the construction of these underground labyrinths is also a dangerous place to work, least photograph.

 LeVay has captured the intense features of the Sandhogs in the midst of work, a series of environmental portraits, of men toiling at remove rock and debris, who are burrowing, digging, cutting, and blowing apart the bedrock. She also finds them in pensive moments during a break in the action, or at the end of a hard day of labor; dirty, grimy, probably very smelly and need of a long hot shower. The pride in their work and who they are is evident in their facial expressions, especially their intense eyes, direct and unflinching contact with her lens, as well as their posture and stance.

 LeVay’s documentary style photographs are similar in nature to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s industrial “anonyamous sculptures”, but in her case she is working the negative space created by the urban miners, a reverse sculpture, defined by what is removed and not by what was added.

 Her wonderful chiaroscuro lighting, created by taking advantage of the industrial illumination, is dramatic, with intense and saturated colors. The bold contrast that this lighting creates provides a sense of volume and depth to these photographs, as well as mystery and intrigue. The dark shadows hint of the ever-present danger of the mining working conditions, dangerous enough to have led to the death of twenty-four Sandhogs on this tunneling project.

 Due to the low light, frequently the figures are blurred due to the longer duration, while sometime the entire photograph is blurred due to hand holding of the camera. The resulting effect provides me with a visual equivalence to the underground vibration and noise created by the heavy construction and what it might be like to be in her mucking boots.

 Bonnie Yochelson in her assay adds “She began to refine her vision, capturing the phantasmagoric quality of the vast, glistening, stream-filled, rocky cavern littered with machinery. She often portrayed the sandhogs silhouetted against this dreamscape.”

 LeVay provides a fascinating and intricate industrial maze of man, machinery, equipment and fixtures. The fitting inside back cover photograph is of an 800 foot supply shaft to the tunnels, of which LeVay is literally capturing the light at the end of the tunnel as well as symbolic of hope, faith and potential redemption.

 This photobook includes quotations by the Sandhogs and all of the photographs are captioned at the conclusion of the book. The images are frequently full page bleeds, some spanning the book spread, with the binding not restricting any of the images. Pages of a Sandhog portrait are butted up to the environment landscape providing a surreal juxtaposition that is documentary in style The Foreword essay is by Thomas Kelly, a former Sandhog and author, with an Introductory essay by Bonnie Yochelson. The hardcover is paper on boards with perforations (a nice simulation of miner’s bore holes), which appears very durable but in fact is fragile, as the corners easily fray.

by Douglas Stockdale

June 24, 2010

2008 Critical Mass winner’s books published

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 4:38 am

Photolucida 2008 Critical Mass winners – published 2009

From the nice folks at Photolucida: Andy Freeberg’s Guardians, Céline Clanet’s Máze and Priya Kambli’s Color Falls Down…three rich visual perspectives from an American photographer in Russia, a French photographer in Lapland, and an American photographer with roots in India. All three gorgeous books, sure to make their mark in the photo book world!

Andy Freeberg – Guardians


 Clifford J. Levy, New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief, review:

The “Guardians” are former economists and dentists, engineers and singers, teachers and clerks — a corps of grandmothers perched on chairs throughout Russia’s finest museums, forming a kind of latter-day addition to artistic landscape. They are the guardians of the country’s masterpieces, but also of much more. This series of photographs reflects the singular role that these women play in both the Russian art world and society as a whole. These women occupy a significant place in Russia, purveyors of wisdom and keepers of cultural traditions. Grandmothers in some sense rule not only the museums, but also the streets.

One woman described how even on her day off, she comes to the museum to sit by a painting because it reminds her of the countryside during her childhood in Ukraine. “I’ve been working here for 10 years and it feels like one day, I love it so much,” she said.

The photographs that Freeberg took at four museums in Russia — the Hermitage and Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Tretyakov and Pushkin in Moscow — present a humanizing contrast. These guardians are not only visible, but exert a powerful hold over the viewer, in some sense helping to bring the art to life.

Hardbound, 64 pages, 37 photographs, cloth/embossed image on cover, text in English and Russian

Céline Clanet  –  Máze

review by Awen Jones, Curator/Writer:

The subject and outline of the pictures in the book concentrate on the Sámi people. They spread out over an immense area, from the extreme north-west of Scandinavia as far as the Kola peninsula, in Russia. These people survived for thousands of years in extreme climatic conditions. Their existence is often precarious, as they have lived through periods of colonization, and the gradual erosion of their culture. The “Máze” series of photographs touch upon the environmental, political and economic aspects of the Sámi, but the pictures are also concerned with vital contemporary issues such as IT globalization, the preservation of individual identity, as well as broader issues.

The pictures of Céline Clanet seem to share a documentary vision and a conceptual approach. This juxtaposition translates into one of her main concerns: the importance of time present. For her, life consists of a succession of moments set firmly in the present, not events which occur or have occurred after a lapse of time, highlighted by some seminal event…she shows that action and contemplation, daydream and objective observation are all one, and go together as an integral part of life. They can also, thankfully, generate sensations of wonderful serenity despite a sometimes hostile background.

Hardbound, 80 pages, 52 photographs


Priya Kambli  –  Color Falls Down

Review by George Slade, Independent Curator:

Priya Kambli’s works introduce us to an unfamiliar language. These elegant statements force us to pause, to learn and utilize at least one new mode of translation. The reading requires effort; there are several distances to cross to unveil their full meanings. She applies her translation skills to images that derive meaning from cultural, inter-generational, and trans-global sources. She is making viewers — not from her family, not Indian, not first-generation immigrant — confront a set of symbols and relationships that do not fully reveal themselves on first encounter. The success of her work, however, lies in its eloquent capacity for fascination. It employs many devices; pattern, texture, screens, color, and mysterious deletions and exclusions weave a tale of vulnerability, transience, inheritance, and transformation. And the photograph as an evanescent container of memory has a vital role.

Kambli discovers her heritage in herself and her surroundings, employing a photographic strategy of longing as a means of translation. Her longing is both retrospective and anticipatory — longing for a future in which the past makes sense, in which a fragmented sense of self is made whole.

Softbound, 64 pages, 32 photographs

best regards, Douglas

June 23, 2010

OPEN CALL: Zine and Self-Published Photo Book Fair

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 4:20 am

Just in:

Open Call for Entries: Zine and Self-Published Photo Book Fair


Within the past decade, zines and self-published books have established a significant presence in the contemporary art world, with many artists and independent publishers primarily focused on this medium.

The Camera Club of New York’s Conversations Series will present a Zine and Self-Published Photo Book Fair on Saturday, July 31st from 1-6pm in its gallery space at 336 West 37th Street, Suite 206, (between 8th and 9th Aves) in New York City.

Artists are invited to submit up to 4 different books and zines (limited to 3 copies of each). The public will be invited to come, browse, purchase, and meet the burgeoning zine and self-published world. Submit your book or zine and be a part of the conversation.

To submit your zine or self-published book please mail or drop off your book during our gallery hours Monday-Saturday, 12-6pm:
The Camera Club of New York
The Arts Building
Attn: Zine Fair
336 West 37th Street, Suite 206
New York, NY 10018-4212

Make sure to include:
•Your Name
•Title of your book/zine
•Edition (if any)
•Price of book (if selling)
•A Self-Addressed and Stamped envelope

•••If you do not include a self-addressed and stamped envelope for the return of your materials, your zine or books and any money received for any or all sales will be donated to The Camera Club of New York.

The postmarked deadline for submission is July 23rd, 2010.

If you have any questions please contact curator Lindsey Castillo at

CCNY is celebrating over 125 years serving the photographic and art community through this and upcoming exhibitions, lectures, and special events. For more information, contact John Stanley at or by phone at 212-260-9927.

Please visit us at

best regards, Douglas

June 21, 2010

Susan Anderson – High Glitz

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:03 pm

Copyright Suan Anderson 2009, courtesy powerHouse books

Susan Anderson’s photobook High Glitz, The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants is a series of formal portraits of young girls who participate in beauty pageants that have been exclusively tailored for them. These pageants are unique to the United States. Anderson chooses to focus her lens on the resulting “confectionary” effects rather than a broader investigation of this mini-industry. She has also chosen to exclude the young boys who also compete, but have a minor presence in these pageants.

In the introduction, Anderson describes her photographic process; “I have set up some parameters for myself when shooting portraits at these pageants. Rule number one is never to direct the girls other than making minor adjustments of their chosen pose. Frequently I ask to see the back of a dress, or a hairstyle in profile. I make sure they catch the key light just right, or may ask them to adjust a hand, or tit a chin, but never give a type of creative direction that could be constructed as manipulative. My job is to record what I see. The subjects have a self-awareness beyond their years, and have been coached and trained for moments like this one, in front of the camera.”

Anderson’s portraits have a broader selection of poses than Martin Schoeller’s Female Bodybuilders, but they have a shared commonality of formally documenting an American sub-culture. These pageants have involved into an economic mini-industry of consultants, coaches, couture designers, hair dressers and stylists. Of course at the very heart of this are the young girls, the pageant contestants, and unseen but with their indirect presence felt, the parents and grandparents of the girls. Similar to Schoeller’s bodybuilders, Anderson is documenting a controversial subject without introducing any judgments.

At the risk of being flamed for not being PC, I think that this is a Chick-photobook. There are some underlying feminist issues subtly at play that may be better understood by women than men. Why is it acceptable that young boys can act out some very aggressive behavior while there seems to be a controversial issue for young girls playing out their young feminine fantasies? The questions regarding the pros and cons of child pageants are succinctly discussed in Robert Greene’s introduction Artifice and Transformation: The Imaginary Lives of Little Girls. I recommend reading Green’s essay before jumping to any conclusions regarding the relevance of these child pageants.

The book is segmented into formal portraits by the pageant even categories; Beauty/Formal Wear, Modeling, Western Wear/Pro-Am and Crowning. The book concludes with a delightful High Glitz Style Guide, providing essential pointers for those who do not have a clue to the pageant requirements. Provides some of those important rules, such as when “bling” is permitted or not, and the correct time to use the “oohs and aahs” or incorporate a “rip off”. There are pointers on the use of flippers (teeth), hairstyles that include the Barbie, Up-do, Falls, Ringlets, Swept Up, and Add-ons which include wiglets, wigs, falls & braids. The girls need to be aware of when they might want to incorporate a “full southern” as apposed to a basic “cupcake”. It is apparent that like any subculture, the pageants have their own internal jargon, but that jargon is not directly communicated by Anderson’s photographs.

One excerpt from Anderson;

 “Sunday’s main event is Beauty/Formal Wear, my favorite aspect of these pageants, and what I feel epitomizes the visual aesthetic of High Glitz. For this part of the pageant, the girls, primarily between the ages of two and ten, don their most elaborated couture costumes, hair and makeup. The custom outfits are encrusted with rhinestones, pearls, ribbons and bows. From their white-satin Mary Jane shoes and lace-trimmed anklets to their spectacular costumes and towering bejeweled hairstyles, the effect is confectionary.”

Simon Doonan’s introduction “In Defense of Child Beauty Pageants” written by a man who wishes he had these same pageant opportunities is really funny, with the following except to provide a hint, because you have to read it in the entirely: “If only somebody in our house were to have figured out that all I ever wanted was to parade about – like Madame Alexander doll come to life- in front of a cheering crowd, bathed in adoration and soft pink light.”

Regretfully for me, what is also present in these photographs, beyond the shiny and frilly surfaces, are the manufactured and coached smiles on these precious young girls, which hints at an honest attempt to please, but I wonder at what cost?

by Douglas Stockdale

June 17, 2010

Olaf Otto Becker – Above Zero

copyright Olaf Otto Becker, 2009 courtesy Hatje Cantz Verlag

Olaf Otto Becker’s Above Zero is a beautiful documentary style narrative about the melt water of Greenland’s ice cap. Becker investigates the annual melt water that occurs each summer. It might seem that finding the presence of running water on top of snow and ice to be indicative of environment changes, but in fact the running melt water is an annual occurrence. During periods of the midnight sun when the daily temperature rises just above the freezing point of zero degrees Celsius, snow and ice will melt and small runs of melt water eventually converge, creating streams, rivers and shallow pools resembling lakes.

 Looking at these photographs in an environmental context, what can not be discerned from Becker’s photographs is the relative change of the amount of melt water that occurs each year. That is left to the scientific analysis, such as at the Swiss Camp that Becker documents in the concluding photographs of the book. There are no indications that allow these photographs to advance issues of global warming or global cooling, but only that some melt water does occur.

 Similar to most investigations of natural occurring events, what is missing is a fuller sense of the actual conditions; the smell, sounds, and the feeling that occur while being present. What can only be hinted at is what occurs in real time. In this regard, Becker recounts: “Halfway along the river, a steep gradient turned in into a thundering torrent with white-water rapids. After another four kilometers, and now twelve meters wide, it crashed down into a moulin, displacing the air trapped deep inside the glacier and sending up a fountain of spray several meters high, like an exhalation from the blowhole of a surfacing whale.”

 Becker appears to be attuned to the characteristics of the melt water, with an aesthetic sensitivity to the changes, curves, merges, flows and drops. He attempts to avoid a purely scientific viewpoint of what he calls uninteresting melt water. Becker’s photographs are also limited in tonality, bordering on monotony, with consistent grey skies, white snow and ice, gray and black soot, with crystal clear turquoise, green and cobalt blue bodies of water. The graphic abstract qualities of the environmental conditions are further enhanced by the flat overcast light which collapses the pictorial space. The modeling of most of the edges and planes result from a build up of black soot that clings to the surface when the melt water rises each day.

 In Becker’s photographs, it is difficult for me to decipher a sense scale, observing what appears as water, unable to determine width or depth of the channel or velocity of the flow. Becker has attempted to hint at a sense of scale by including the horizon in most of his photographs but that does not seem sufficient.

 The presence of large amounts of gray particles on the white snow appears surreal, as you might visualize in the currant rash of HDR photographs that accentuate the shadow details. The soot could be natural contamination from the regions volcanoes, or the result of pollution from either North America, Europe or due to Polar winds, Asia and Eastern Europe. For those who travel between Europe and North America, most of the air travel transitions over Southern Greenland, thus another potential source of potential contamination. The contamination results are gray, not brown, yellow or other tonality.

 The transitional melt water appears very clear, as though staring into the dizzying blue abyss of the super clean water of a nuclear reactor. The width and depth of crystal clear water can be deceiving, and without a reference point, even more so. I can recall landing our canoe on a river bank in the Rockies, thinking that the river depth was only a foot or two at most, I jumped over the side only to become completely submerged and I was still unable to contact the river bottom.

 This is a lot of discussions about global warming, but I did not know of one of the effects of air pollution; that on the snow, these small particulate sites are focal points for absorbing light and act as radiant bodies, creating holes and accelerating the melting. The effects can be visualized where they have pock marked the surface, but his photographs are insufficient to explain why the pock mark holes are present.

 Konrad Steffen’s Afterword is a scientific oriented essay on what is being observed at Swiss Camp on the Greenland ice cap. Freddy Langer provides the introductory essay. The photographs are captioned with the longitudinal, latitudinal and altitudinal coordinates. The horizontal book, with the fine color printing and binding, complements Becker’s photographs very well.

by Douglas Stockdale

June 14, 2010

3rd FotoBuch Festival – book competition results

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:24 pm

The results are now in and being announced for the two competitions at the 3rd International FotoBuch (PhotoBook) Festival recently held in Kassel, Germany.

Here are the judges comments for three photobook Dummy Prize winners:

The first prize was awarded to the Berliner Werner Amann for his book design American. Using light and also intensely expressive images, the photographer achieved to capture a piece of American soul, composed into a fluid essay of documentation and poetry. Amann convinced also through his design. He succeeded brilliantly in creating a book as a medium with its special material and style qualities.

The second prize went to the American Chad States for his book Cruising which captures the unusual characteristics and secrets of small woodlands near parking lots. The jury was convinced by the photographic quality, the unique page design and narrative structure of the book.

The German photographer Axel Beyer won the third prize for Bebra Curiosa, a subtle-surreal portrait of the North Hessian town Bebra. The jury was impressed by the specific pictorial language and unusual assembly style of the book, which enabled the author to charge his mundane subject matter with humour and suspense.

All of the displayed 56 dummies of the Dummy Prize competition can be seen in page browsing view. Yes, in this case, being a prize winning dummy could be a good thing;- )

And the three Reviewer Prize winners were selected.

The following individuals provided portfolios or book dummies that received additional recognition: David Adams, Murray Ballard and Andreas Frei.

Best regards, Douglas

June 11, 2010

Alamo & Costello – The Globe

Copyright Alamo & Costello 2010, courtesy Dark Lark Press

The 2010 World Cup has just started in South Africa and there will be many pubs, sports bars, taverns, and assorted watering holes where fans will be hoisting a few brews and cheering their favorite team and players on to victory. The fan support at The Globe, one sports pub located in Chicago’s Northcenter neighbor is the subject of Alamo and Costello’s photobook, The Globe.

The photographs of Alamo & Costello are similar in nature to those of Joseph Szabo and his body of work at Jones Beach, “engaged observer, with a particular interest in the fleeting pleasures and pains of the young… attuned to body language, both subtle and blatant”. I have the sense The Globe may not be a large pub, as the photographs are tightly framed and as they say, frequently “up close and personal”.

A full range of human emotions for a sporting event are captured; pensive, excited, disappointed, jubilant, exhausted, buoyant and enraptured. Someone comes out the winner, someone does not, which makes for future animated conversations and another good reason to share one more pint. There is also an emotional universality to these photographs with the common thread of a shared sporting event irrespective of the sporting event, whether it is soccer, baseball, basketball, or tennis.

The book’s essays are related to past football experiences, so this gives me a chance to share one of mine. I had been a youth soccer (AYSO) referee for 10 years when my son, nephew and I attended the 1984 LA Olympic soccer games in the Pasadena Rose Bowl. We were sitting near the end zone for the USA versus Columbia Colombia match, when the Columbian Colombia goal tender inadvertently passed the ball into his own net. The immediate chilling hush of the until then boisterous Columbia Colombia fans sitting directly across from us was an ominous silence. USA just went 2-1 over Columbia Colombia, and eventually win the match. I remember immediately telling my son after that goal that their goal tender probably should not be returning home to Columbia Colombia Regretfully, he did.

The “red eye” found in many of the photographs made by the camera flash creates an amateur look and snap-shot feel. There is a lack of a sophisticated polish to the composition and framing, which makes me feel that I am looking at a stack of personal photographs from a fun party. These photographs seem to be something very personal that is being shared with a minimal of editing, thus the book has an unusual rawness and immediacy for a published body of work.

The book’s horizontal format complements this photographic body of work.

by Douglas Stockdale

June 9, 2010

Michael Light – Bringham Mine / Garfield Stack

Copyright Michael Light, 2009 courtesy Radius Books and photo-eye

The aerial perspective and tight framing of Michael Light’s Bingham Mine / Garfield Stack introduces a vertigo similar to what I feel when riding the ski lifts in the Rockies. As I am carried over a ridge and momentarily suspended mid-air crossing a deep canyon to an apposing ridge, looking down I feel slightly unhinged and vertigo induced terror.  Similarly, the wide angle perspective obtained from Light’s flying perch that is situated close enough to discern the details of buildings, trucks, roads, trees and boulders. But Light has tilted his lens up slightly enough to include a larger environmental context of rugged mountain terrain in which the activities are situated. The juxtaposition of the near ground with the far distance is a little unsettlingly, creating a vertigo effect.

Light takes us on a narrative journey from the Interstate Highway that cuts through the state of Utah, ascending into the mountains at the mammoth Bingham mine and then descending to the industrial processing facility and the location of the Garfield Stack. This copper mine is so extensive that it can be discerned from an orbit around our planet, but is also considered an example of how such endeavors can be managed in an attempt to find a balance between commerce and environment.

 It is easy to become awed by the photographs of Light’s subject as it is to become alarmed at how a mine is causing the slow dwindling of a mountain for the sake of economics. Nevertheless, Light does not blatantly press an environmental agenda as he attempts to present his facts in a documentary style.

 The large-scale images seemingly attempt to emulate the vast scale of Light’s subject.  With the full bleed photographs spanning the two page spread resulting in the enormous size of the 16 ¼” x 20 ½” (410 x 520 mm) interior images, these sharply defined photographs are mesmerizing. The hardbound book has a lay-flat binding that provides easy viewing of some very impressive size images, and the fine duotone printing is a true delight to read and enjoy. 


by Douglas Stockdale









June 8, 2010

Guy Tillim – Roma, Citta di Mezzo

Copyright Guy Tillim 2009 courtesy of Punctum Editions

When Guy Tillim, a South African photographer, had an opportunity to investigate the inner city of Rome over a series of winter days, he seems to have found a somber and melancholic period of time in this hustle and bustle city. For me his book Roma, Citta di Mezzo (Rome, Middle City) is but a narrow glimpse in time during the daily cycle of this city’s normal activities.

I spent the last nine months intermittently on assignment near Rome and have come to understand a little of its pulse of late dinners, late morning starts, with periods of tranquility that momentarily exists from dawn until the middle of the morning, when sleepy eyes finally awake. It is this introspective period that Tillim has wandered through the side streets and boulevards of Rome’s middle city.

Tillim’s documentary style records the Roman urban landscape during winter, a time of year of intermittent rain showers and much cooler temperatures. The light of day is diffused by the cloud cover from a recent rain, and his choice of exposure accentuates the shadows, low contrast and slightly monochromatic tonalities, providing me with a feeling of melancholy.

This grayish time of year keeps many of the citizens at bay, patiently waiting inside for dryer, warmer and more radiant days. We see in Tillim’s photographs only a few individuals walking the streets, the cities vast population is indirectly made known by the vast quantity of cars and the wall to wall dwellings. It is difficult to move around the entire city of Rome, least the area of greatest density, without coming into visual contact with the remnants of its ancient past. By minimizing the human intervention, Tillman investigates the infrastructure of the inner city, the intersection of antiquity with contemporary life.

Tillman’s photographs are captured from a walking perspective of the photographer-flaneur, framing his compositions at eye level. The view-point is of someone who is navigating the side streets, with occasional glimpses of antiquity, ancient structures, slow restorations, some stilled in mid-rebuilding, while the modern city grows and pushes on its boundaries.

Before him are the roads, sidewalks, intersections, crossings, and pathways of the middle city. He walks adjacent to the main river that intersects Rome, near a main thoroughfare, as well as side streets, which are adjacent to the ancient Roman Wall, and across bridges adorned with old statuary. He captures the winter light, slightly over cast sky, shadows without the density of summer, leafless trees that open up the visual spaces, noting restoration in progress, construction sheds and orange plastic web barriers. Empty foregrounds with few people populate these photographs, new structures adjacent to ancient ruins, decaying ruins, and new construction rising up and layered like it always has on top of the past. Colorful Graffiti is now sprayed on the walls of the new construction, but respectfully missing on ancient stones and statuary.

Tillim provides a somber narrative through the city, observing what is; perhaps the framing is purposefully attempting to include the un-beautiful, the normal and plain, non-romantic version of what is considered one of the more romantic European cities. These are photographs of experiences, normally considered un-worthy of an extended gaze, instead of moving on in search of the more aesthetic pleasing photographic viewpoint.

Perhaps in conclusion, Nicola-Louise Brandt from the Afterword provides the last thoughts, “Tillim captures the dual effects of corrosion and proliferation in the Roman cityscape. He conveys a sense of transient power, in images of ghostly constructions both in the archeological core of Rome and those tucked away in the city’s marginal landscape. His works underscore the organic and provincial nature of the city, in which everyday life is dominated by the tension of an incomplete and incoherent urban landscape still bound to its past.”

This beautifully printed book has a very unique concertina fold, in which the entire contents of the book are linked in a continuous accordion like gatefold, which I wrote about previously, here. The color photographs span the two page spread, a continuous sweep of the photographic image.

by Douglas Stockdale

June 7, 2010

Andrew Bush – Drive

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 8:28 pm

Copyright Andrew Bush 2008 courtesy Yale University Press

The concept of photographing those who co-exist with us on the crowded and packed Freeways, Highways and Expressways in the urban centers of the United States is intriguing and the subject of Andrew Bush’s photobook Drive.

 In particular, Bush is photographing his own locale area of Southern California, probably the most densely packed Freeways in America. Yes, they are called Freeways because there are not any paid tolls, but are not called Expressways because they so crowded, you cannot drive fast. A fact that I observed when I moved here from the MidWest many, many years ago, and which still goes unchanged today.

 The obvious direct flash reminds me of the early NYC photographs by Weegee. It flatness the pictorial plane, but opens shadows, yet casts unique shadows of its own making. As a note, to be driving on the Freeways in Southern California, lost in your thoughts, and then to have a flash go off suddenly to your left can be very disconcerting, especially if you are near some dubious neighborhoods.

 Indirectly, this book is about self-identity, as many choose the car they drive as they might select their ward robe. Likewise, the condition of the exterior and interior probably is biographical regarding how well a person cares for the cleanliness and condition of what they drive. My neighbor rigorously hand-washes his cars every weekend, while I wait until I have accumulated the proper amount of dust and debris before going down to the local car wash for a quick once-through.

 Looking at these photographs, you might suspect that those living in Southern California either drive run-down wrecks or old model vintage sports cars, but this is more of a selection of cars that appeals to Bush. New cars lack character, without dents, scratches and appearing homogenized, missing the character imbued in those cars driven by those who on the fringe.

 This book is also about investigating sanctuaries, places where you might feel that you are alone, in seclusion, even while rolling through highly public space. In the car, individuals can roll up the windows, perhaps turn on the radio and exist in a private place of their own making.

by Douglas Stockdale

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