The PhotoBook Journal

March 31, 2012

Wintergarten LTD – Chinese Bondage in Peru – Volumes I, II, III

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book Stores, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:44 pm

Copyright Wintergarten LTD 2012

Chinese Bondage in Peru is a trilogy of artists’ books featuring a mashed-up collection of found photographs, printed matter and accompanying text organized around the vague fictitious narrative of a North American journalist’s travels between the continents of Latin America andAsia.  

While the title of the series is taken from an academic publication on the exploitation of Chinese migrant laborers in Peruvian guano pits by 19th century colonists, in the context of these images it might just as easily refer to the Sendero Luminoso, a group of Maoist inspired revolutionaries organizing indigenous Peruvians to overthrow the country’s government, or to the questionable role currently played by Chinese investors in Peru’s mineral extraction sector.  While constructed from “real” ephemera of vernacular image production, the work is anything but documentary, taking its cues instead from sources such as Japanese “pink films” and the French photo-anthropology magazine “Zoom.”

Wintergarten Ltd. is a Los Angeles-based art collective whose work is generated by a growing collection of found photographs and printed ephemera.  They have exhibited their work at Night Gallery(Los Angeles) and been reviewed in ArtForum.

Ed Steck is a writer from Southwestern Pennsylvania. His work has most recently been published by West Galerie (Netherlands).  He currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA.

Publisher: Wintergarten Ltd.
Type: 3-zine set, zine trilogy
Number of pages: 108
Dimensions: 5.5″x8.5″, 14cm x 21.6cm

Filipe Casaca – A Minha Casa e Onde Estas

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 3:39 am

Copyright Filipe Casaca 2011, self-published

Filipe Casaca’s self published book, A Minha Casa e Onde Estas (My Home is Where You Are) provides in a documentary style, a very intimate and poignant study of Filipe Casaca’s muse, similar to Harry Callahan’s muse, who is his wife. Similar in style to Callahan’s photographs of Eleanor, Casaca investigates his subject using a black and white photographic medium. Unlike Callahan, Casaca’s photographs are dark and full of dense shadows, providing a moody undercurrent to his intimate subject.

There is a series of moments in which his subject reveals herself and then conceals herself, making for an interesting narrative. He investigates the dance between husband and wife, who are also photographer and model, a push-pull relationship consistent with the day-to-day lives of two individuals who share a common life together. Casaca reveals there is a time for desire and closeness, to bond and at other times the need to have space and private time.

Self Published in June 2011, in an edition of 300 signed copies. The clothbound hardcover book has the title in a silver stamping, printed in offset and a trim size of 24 x 31cm. There are 40 pages and an 8 page booklet. The book contains 15 photographic images and the text for the two essays, one by Francisco Feio and a conversation with Mingyu Wu, is provided in Portuguese and English.

March 23, 2012

Harvey Benge – Still Looking For It

Copyright Harvey Benge 2011 courtesy of the artist, self-published

I think that this book is best said by Benge:

These photographs follow my recent four part series AS IT IS? Here I continue to question the nature and substance of the things I see and the idea of ITness itself.

March 17, 2012

Rafal Milach – 7 Rooms

photographs copyright Rafal Milach 2011 courtesy of Kehrer Books

The seven short stories attempt to provide a collective insight into his subject’s existence in this region of the Soviet Union, with a heavy dose of reality clashing with hope. Accompanying each narrative are quotes by his subject to broaden the visual context.

I found the pathos to be unrelenting and that it darkly resonates throughout this beautiful book.

March 12, 2012

Larry Sultan – Katherine Avenue

Copyright the Estate of Larry Sultan 2010 courtesy Steidl

This book draws from the major photographic themes that preoccupied Larry Sultan over his life span.  By many accounts he was a photographer whose teaching and personal project has directly influenced a generation of photographers. His last project, a fictional narrative about migrant workers in Northern California, is infused with a wonderful mix of an air of reality with a subtle undercurrent of melancholy. It would have been very interesting to see how Sultan’s next major theme might have developed.

March 10, 2012

Max Pam – Ramadan in Yemen

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:12 am

Copyright Max Pam 2011 courtesy of Editions Bessard

This book has all of the appearances of photograph based diary complied by Max Pam during his journeys through the region of Yemen in 1993. Pam’s album is resplendent with a mash-up of photographs, marks, stamps and an interesting hand written travelogue.

The square black and white photographs appear to be from a much earlier period, but this was modern Yemen in 1993 and I suspect that probably little has changed in the subsequent twenty years. For the landscape subjects that beckon for a wide horizontal capture, Pam composed two adjoining photographs to create a panoramic viewpoint.  When these two photographs are laid adjacent across the interior book spread, the misalignment of the pair of photographs is slightly disorienting and creates a slight amount of tension to a static landscape image.

The photographs are in a documentary style that purports to capture the ebb and flow of the Yemen social fabric. As an outside foreigner, we realize that Pam is just bouncing off the surface of the public veneer. Pam does not look like a local, cannot speak the language and has only a crude semblance of the cultural rhythm.  As an outsider, he does bring the more objective and global perspective that is unique to this body of work and provides a Western perspective to this region.

Pam also utilizes an interesting focusing technique, with what might appear as being the subject in the forefront out of focus, and while in the edges around are actually where he has focused his lens. I initially thought that this was the interesting results of a “grab shot” of Pam coming across a rapidly evolving tableau of social theater, but he employs the same focusing methodology with a static landscape. The outcome creates an interesting visual push-pull effect as the viewer is not sure as to where to place their attention.

Frequently the subjects are aware of Pam’s presence and professional camera equipment, facing the camera and providing a prerequisite smile to be recorded.  This exotic region probably attracts many tourist, thus the social order is familiar with the “smile please” requests. We are not aware of the photographers demeanor, perhaps through his assistant asking them to face the camera or possibility indicating that he is about to take their image. Likewise, we do not know if his antics of photographing his subjects is thought to be humorous, thus the resultant smiles. That is part of the ambiguity and fiction of photography; we do not know what is really occurring outside the captured image for this one brief moment of time and space.

Pam’s handwritten journal is interestingly disjointed. He employs to format his text into a squared design, thus creating a visual textual block. As he hand writes his travelogue and extends his thoughts across the width of the page, at the end of a line he will arbitrarily break-up the words creating an arbitrary wrap-around of the letters as he sees fit to maintain his graphic structure. As a result of this stylistic writing, the punctuation in his sentence does not mesh with any rules of the traditional rules grammar. The results can be at times challenging to read and comprehend, but I found as I progress through the book, this weird manner of writing becomes familiar as I learn to read his broken word structure, perhaps a lesson in adaptions.

As a book object, the hardcover book is nestled within a beautiful clamshell and the book is wonderfully printed (the second time, for the first attempt at printing the book was a disaster and a story for another time) book and resplendent with a silk page-marker.

Comment by Max: Yemen attracts few tourists, even fewer in 93 and then even less in ramadan. Its a very old school orthodox Arab culture where kidnapping and ransoming tourists by some of the wilder bedouin tribes is a light industry, this activity alone reduced tourism to a trickle yrs ago. So the response of the Yemenis is one of curiosity, they are drawn to my otherness as much as I was to theirs. The smile thing is a default position of most Arabs who will give a camera wielding infidel the time of day , its my default pozzy as well, anywhere, so its a serve and return thing, a silent agreement. You can do that with a 66, the waistlevel viewfinder is a thing of beauty, you are never hiding behind some offensive apparatus held in front of you face. I don’t do a winogrand performance, but I do take a bit of time over the process, I genuinely admire my subjects, want to connect with them. An assistant, in 40 years in the field I’ve never had an assistant

March 9, 2012

Pogo Books – Sampler

Copyright 2010 the photographers courtesy Pogo Books

Sometimes with minimalist photobooks, it may be best that they speak for themselves. Here is a small sampler of photobooks published by Pogo Books (Berlin, Germany) with Jeff Luker, Hasis Park, Ting Cheng and Mark Peckmezian.

The books all share a similar diminutive size, stiff covers with saddle stick binding, and minimalistic in that they are without captions, text, or pagination. Otherwise, these are very diverse in content and layout.

#009 Jeff Luker’s Not Many Kingdoms Left








#005 Ting Cheng’s one and two and up and down


#002 Hasisi Park‘s Photographs


#001 Mark Peckmezian’s Photographs & Pictures

March 7, 2012

Roberto Schena – SP 67

Photographs copyright 2012 Roberto Schena courtesy Edizioni Punctum

Road Trip is what immediately comes to mind when reading Roberto Schena’s recent photobook SP 67. In the U.S., the words Road Trip creates a vision of traveling on the famous US roadway Route 66 that stretches across the United States, starting in Chicago, Illinois and ending at the ocean front of Santa Monica, California. While those idealistic images were forever tainted with Robert Franks’ dark travelogue of The Americans, Roberto Schena now takes the viewer on an even mysterious journey.

The one digit difference between these two roadways is significant, as SP67 is a diminutive 13 kilometers in length, known as La Strada Della Tramontana Scura (The Road of the Dark Wind). SP 67 snakes through the upper reaches of a mountain and has a nasty reputation for some unpleasant weather conditions, creating an opportunity for Schena to investigate a dark and troubled narrative.

The subject of Schena’s lens is the atmospheric conditions found when the dark wind blows through this region, when low clouds obscures much of the landscape in a dense shroud of fog. To increase the ambiguity and increase the moodiness of this place, Schena frequently returns at dusk that in turn, recedes into a pitch black night. He follows this short road on a metaphysical journey, in which the landscape oscillates between the moody and the lyrical with brief glimpses of mysterious creatures that appear to dart in and out.

As an allegory for life’s journey, this narrative explores when life’s events do not go as planned. The road way is obscured in most instances, thus a difficult journey in which one needs to literally feel their way forward, unsure if they are making progress or losing ground. In such conditions it can be difficult to discern landmarks and signposts, which leave the viewer with few clues and very disoriented. What remains of the visible terrain is not well-defined and appears eerie and spooky, as if the woods are haunted by wild beasts, which in fact are roaming just beyond the edge of reason. 

The photograph of a car wreck is a not so subtle allegory for a damaged and wrecked relationship, an experience that became a personal tragedy or has gone very wrong and awry. The abandoned carnage of this wreck is now beside the road, overgrown, the metal rusting and deteriorating with time. The road (way) as representing the future is not certain, which is lost in the shadows (troubles) & midst (angst).

I will give Schena his due to journey out into to these nasty conditions to create this moody narrative. As of late I am personally becoming less of a fan of foggy driving conditions, least those entailing a curvy and dangerous venture up into the mountains.

This hardbound book as an object is interesting, while the printing is really gorgeous; the binding is a little perplexing. The book binding is tight such that the full bleed photographs that span the two spread become a bit disjointed as the photographic content seems to become lost inside the gutter. Interestingly, this adds an interesting aspect to this mysterious book; the slightly disjointed images create an almost physical tension and seem to work with this project. What is not as apparent is that this visual effect was created by design, nevertheless like all works of art; serendipity, when viewed properly, can sometimes work to advantage.

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