The PhotoBook Journal

June 26, 2013

Meme Bartels – monochrome

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Copyright 2012 Meme Bartels published by Sequence Publishers (Amsterdam)

When I received Meme Bartels first publication, mononchrome, it was difficult to sort out, is this presentation a book, a collection of booklets & bits or as Bartels has stated; an exhibition in a box? Each component of this collection is intended to provide a unique presentation, but collectively it creates a layered investigation about the routine aspects of living as well as the act of seeing.

The title of this publication, monochrome, means one color, or a single color, such as a green, yellow, black or red. Perhaps one color but she examines the variation and possibilities of a series of single colors. Bartels states “through the use of photography and colour the daily routine becomes a thing of intrigue”.

Her subjects are very close to home, or in the case of the bread slices, in her home as an aspect of her daily life (routine). She investigates the causal, perhaps the looking as described as non-looking, views of everyday life, versus a more focused and intense act of seeing, to observe all of the subtle and variations that occur about her from morning into the night.

Nevertheless, this publication is a collection of bits that are exhibited as single projects; Sesame whole wheatbread, Black Paradise, Non-chronological yellow tree and Shades of Green, etc. As a collection, it is a complex read as this contains a booklet, a reversible poster, a concertina folding and separate individual photographs, as well as being layered; as these are interrelated and intertwined around her general theme of the act of looking.

The one booklet of the Sesame whole wheatbread is interesting due to her selection of paper.  The paper is not entirely opaque, in that the printed image bleeds through the back of the paper. Thus while reading the photograph on the following page (on the right spread), there is a ghost image that lurks on the left page of the spread. It is as if one is looking so intensely, a latent image is imprinted on the retina that is still retained after one looks away.

Whereas she investigates the daily routine, this collection is anything but routine.

As a book object, the outer portfolio casing is a stiff-cover paperboard folding enclosure that is fastened with a loose ribbon. Inside this portfolio is a booklet (soft cover, Japanese stab binding), a  reversible poster printed on two sides, a concertina folding printed on two sides, six separate photographs with while margins on three sides, and a text insert (two sheets, folded, not bound) which in my copy was a text by Bartels printed in English.

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook

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June 25, 2013

Matias Costa – The Family Project

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:37 pm

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copyright Matias Costa 2012 published by LENS School of Visual Arts (Madrid)

Matias Costa’s The Family Project is the first of a series of Boken books published by LENS School of Visual Arts located in Madrid, Spain.  Costa is investigating personal memory and identity, and for his own story, framed within the context of immigration.

He opens his narrative with a graphic symbol that is a classic representation of a family heritage, a branched family tree. The reading of this family lineage has been made even richer with the inclusion of family photographs, mementos and talismans. Costa then follows on the next pages with an upward view-point into the canopy of a tree forest, another metaphoric symbol for a complex family heritage. As a result of this viewpoint, the photograph includes the sky, thus the reader is also looking up into heavens and that our past forefathers maybe looking down upon us.

A photograph of migrating birds in formation, suspended between two urban structures, is a fitting metaphor for Costa’s other subtext, immigration. I can sense the movement between two stationary objects, which can represent larger continents. In this photograph, the blue sky can also represent the sea, the means of travel for earlier generations.

Some of the photographs are fragmented, symbolic of incomplete memory and that has been modified over time, sometimes purposefully, other times altered by the passing of time. In one example white-out has been used as obvious indications that the photographic content has been altered, raising questions as to why the deletions of someone/something from a photograph? It raises more questions than answers; what is the story behind this act, what does it tell about the past and this family? As with most family history, those who were present are no longer with us, thus we can only speculate on the unanswerable questions of these stories.

The book object is a stiff cover publication with small reverse folded edge flaps.  The binding appears to be a combination of sewn and gluing, which slightly impedes the reading of the book, as the book does not open fully and some of the photograph content appears lost inside the gutter. Nevertheless, for me this is not such a bad thing in this case, as a book which is about incomplete memory, losing (or concealing) some of the photographic content can be construed as using the book object as a subtle metaphor for his theme.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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June 21, 2013

Nicolas Hosteing – MATADOR

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Copyright Nicolas Hosting 2012 Published by Etudes Books; number 3 in a series.

Nicolas Hosteing has assembled a complex photobook to explore the concept of fiction and as a result, raised essential similar questions as to what is reality. The book’s title, Matador, immediate creates images of the Spanish bullfighter killing a bull. The bullfighter also uses subterfuge, hiding his deadly sword within the flowing cape, similar to Hosteing’s metaphors of smoke and fog, concealing and revealing fictional stories.

Hosteing creates an interesting transition from motorcycle and car drivers “spinning rubber” and “smoking their tires” in the first half of this book to a double page and full bleed landscape photograph in which fog (smoke?) conceals the details. If Hosteing is exploring fiction and reality, then this photograph investigates the world of “half-truths” and a transitional place between reality and fiction.

What I find jarring is the last section of the book that is sequenced with double page and full bleed landscape photographs interceded with a series of motorcycle helmets studies in various orientations. Regretfully for me, this conceptual project progresses into a little too much complexity, and while the story by Julien Perez seems to hold together with a somewhat similar narrative flow, Hosteing’s photographic sequence is not entirely as elegant.

About the physical photobook; this is a case bound book with a tipped-in image on the front cover. For the series, Etrudes Books has chosen to maintain the same book size, outer cover and similar cover graphics. The publishers have chosen a publishing strategy to provide a soft-cover, saddle stitched insert to resolve the international language issue for the accompanying text. This insert handles and reads well. The entire first edition production of 300 copies is numbered, a growing trend for short run photobooks.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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June 11, 2013

Michal Chelbin – Sailboats and Swans

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Copyright 2012 Michal Chelbin, published by Twin Palms Publishers

This book is a collection of portraits of inmates who are being held in various prisons located in the Soviet Union, six in the Ukraine, one in Russia. The three kinds of prisons Chelbin photographed for this project were for men, women and boys. As such, this is a photobook that investigates identity within a narrowly defined culture.

Stylistically, the pictorial framing and posing of the subjects remind me of her earlier photobook projects; The Black Eye, her portraits of wrestlers from this same region and her first photobook, a mashup of portraits, Strangely Familiar.

Her subjects take a static pose within the square format, formalistic, as though in a studio, but within an environmental context of where her subjects must now reside. They appear to be very aware of the photographer and her camera, as they are directed to face and gaze into the lens. The portraits are a mix of head and shoulders, half-portraits and full standing portraits. Chelbin’s choice in how to capture the person’s likeness, thus the spirit of the individual in front of her lens, is not a rigid, inflexible and heavily structured formalistic methodology. I sense we are provided a little insight into the individual who stands before her lens, creating a richer and more engaging read.

She focuses only on the prisoners as her subjects, not introducing the guards or “management” of these prisons. She maintains a tighter context, going deep, rather than wide.

Chelbin states in her book interview that she inquired as to the reason for the individual to be in this prison only after the photography sessions had ended. This was her attempt to preclude bringing in a potential bias to the interaction with her subject, even though she knew she was photographing prisoners.

As a book object, this is case bound book with dust jacket, wonderfully printed and bound in a nice enough size to appreciate the photographs within, while the book is still manageable to hold.  Michal Chelbin and Oded Plotnizki interviewed by A. M. Homes, as well as a short essay by A. M. Homes.

Other Michal Chelbin photobooks that have featured: The Black Eye

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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June 1, 2013

Douglas Stockdale – In Passing

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Copyright Douglas Stockdale 2008, self published.

This aftermath project explores my on-going series; memory and its preservation.

Hardcover book with dust jacket, one photograph plate per page spread with captions on the facing page. This book is out of print and now sold out.

Best regards

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