The PhotoBook Journal

July 31, 2013

Thodoris Tzalavras – Nicosia in Dark and White

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Copyright Thodoris Tzalavras 2010 published by Book ex Machina

Thodoris Tzalavras’s photobook titled Nicosia in Dark and White is a haunting story about an abandoned place, a place that represents a victim. It is a place where time seems to have stopped, yet obvious that nature continues to takes its course reclaiming the man-built structures and reducing these slowly to dust. This desolate place is not a victim of economics, but of society due to cultures, religion and politics. The location is now the middle ground of a no-man’s land between two intense adversaries.

Tzalavras does not directly confront the adversarial situation that has created this place, but indirectly reveals the underlying tension in a subtle agenda using a documentary style. There is a strong undercurrent of pathos in these black and white photographs.

Likewise, the photographs are ambiguous as to the actually location of this place. Only in the reading of the book’s title or the accompanying essays, does the reader understand where to place this narrative.

I find this book to be similar in spirit as James Clancy’s Border Country, a narrative about a similar border from long ago, for which Clancy states “…as a phrase and as a title for this series of photographs, (it) is my name for an uneasy condition of heart and mind that periodically comes to possess me.” Likewise in Eugene Richards photobook The Blue Room; “As I slowly make my way through the collapsing rooms and begin sifting through what’s been left behind”, Richard writes, “the old places spawn what can only be called memories that come and go in the fragments of broken glass, in the convergence of shadows and light in the dust rising up from the floors.”  The back story for Nicosia’s Green Line has not occurred so long ago that the buildings and structures still resemble built structures, but noticeable the decay is gradually occurring, nature is taking its course.

In a number of photographs, Tzalavras captures a person moving past a window and intellectually we can read this blurr as his subject that is moving during a long exposure. Nevertheless, this reads of a ghost, spirit or memory that haunts this place, representing the melancholy that encircles this sad monument to what occurs with cultural differences.

As a book object, the black and white duotone plates are printed and bound very nicely, encased in a clothbound hardcover with dust jacket. The Introduction and short story is by Ioanna Mavrou, a poem by David Alan Harvey and with the text provided in both English and Greek.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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July 26, 2013

Klaus Pichler – Skeletons In The Closet

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:56 pm

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Copyright Klaus Pichler 2013 self-published

Over a period of years Klaus Pichler roamed the backrooms, hallways and storage lockers of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. He has created a series of absurd and humorous juxtapositions of found objects as well as those which border on haunting and the surreal.  Through serendipity, he observed those things which were not intended to grouped together, but yet behind the scenes in this Museum, it seems that anything might be possible. In the process, his documentary narrative reflects on our social norms.

Pichler states that only in a couple of instances did he stage the composition, as he was looking for the serendipity, irony and chance of the moment when an interesting composition unfolded in front of him. This would also mean that he was open to and seeing the possibilities as there is also an element of framing his subject to create a new and untended context. For me, whether these were found compositions or staged tableaux, it does not matter, as I find these mini theatrical stories to be very interesting and wonderful to read.

In the back-stage of a Natural Museum, there would be fewer individuals wondering about, but Pichler even eliminates this human aspect of these sterile conditions, his photographs are devoid of anyone expect for the dead animals. Nevertheless, indirect traces of mankind still abound, as someone has to bring the animal skins back to “life” once again. Overall, I found this to be a humorous read with surreal compositions, however fleeting these may have been at the time.

This book as an object; the front and back covers are unadorned boards with the hole in the front cover revealing the first interior photographic plate. The book does not have a cover on the spine, revealing the printed book block, which in conjunction with the boards, provides a symbolic rawness to this book. Indeed, this book is also a skeleton of a traditional hard-copy book. The binding allows a lay-flat design making the color plates of the book a pleasure to read. The two essays are by Herbert Justnik and Julia Edthofer.

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook

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July 24, 2013

James Clancy – Sudgelande

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Copyright James Clancy 2012 published by Bohland & Schremmer Verlag, Berlin

As in James Clancy previous photobook, Border Country, he investigates a man-built place that has been abandoned and subsequently being reclaimed. He documents those things which constitute traces of past memories to narrate a metaphoric story about change and preservation. His subject for Sudgelande is a part of the train switch-yard Templehof located in the German city of Berlin. Built structures can become obsolete over time for a variety of reasons and in this particular case, this section of switch-yard became obsolete and eventually decommissioned for political reasons known as the Berlin blockade following WWII.

Clancy is attempting to create a portrait of a place, while providing evidence that this place is not entirely forgotten, but still in transition during its return to nature. He documents the changes that are slowly occurring that may blot out the past memories of what this place once was. A bustling train yard is now overrun with trees, bushes, grass and weeds. Clancy has created lyrical landscape photographs of this space, documenting the large trees growing between the now quiet steel rails or the fixtures necessary for an active train yard now overrun by nature’s growth. This is a subject which could become a cliché if it were not objectively seen.

I note an interesting dichotomy in viewing Clancy’s photographs, whereas the exterior grounds are in a state of natural reclamation, the interior of the switch-yard buildings appear clean and in a current state of use. Perhaps unlike the ruins of other cities and their abandoned structures, Detroit regretfully coming to mind, when these switch-yard facilities were decommissioned, there were those who must have had the foresight as to the potential utility of these structures, perhaps a lesson in structural recycling.

As a book object, this is book is very similar in design to Border Country, an image-wrap Hardcover book, printed and bound in Germany. The binding allows an almost lay-flat presentation, thus making the interior photographic plates very accessible. The book is a thin and what I would term a nice European size, just right for holding and reading.

Other James Clancy photobooks reviewed on The Photobook: Border Country

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook

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July 20, 2013

Feature #275 & some changes

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 11:11 pm

With the publication of my commentary on Gina Genis’s photobook, I have reached an interesting milestone. This is the 275th photobook commentary I have published on this blog. I think if I knew that I would be reaching this goal when I stated this blog in 2008, that could have been intimidating enough that I would not have started. Nevertheless, I strive to feature between three to six contemporary photobooks per month and it is very much like eating an elephant, one bite at a time it eventually adds up.

Meanwhile, I continue to work on my photographic projects and develop my own photobooks, thus the photobooks featured here are not consistently posted. I have to admit, when I get really interested in my own projects, my photobook commentaries usually get deferred for a short duration. Additionally, some of the photobooks I acquire are very complex and interesting, thus take me a while to think about. Since I have enough deadlines for my day job, I am not about to commit on a publication schedule for my personal interests. Thus, the photobook features will remain irregularly and randomly posted as always.

Last, looking at the analytics for this blog, I am noticing that rarely do the links in the various sidebars (Bookstores, Publishers, Blogs) get clicked, so for a little housekeeping for this blog, I am going to move all of these links to three different Resource pages. Meanwhile, the number of small photobook publishers continues to grow on a daily basis and it bugs me that this list is almost obsolete the day after I update it. These links were to initially established to help with the photobook community, but much has happened since 2008 and to keep these links in the front page sidebar does not appear to be as necessary.

So the first migration has been completed with the movement of the Bookstores to its Resource page. The remainder of the migrations will follow over the next couple of weeks.

Cheers!

Doug

July 17, 2013

Gina Genis – Everybody and Their Mother

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Gina Genis copyright 2013 self-published

Gina Genis has decided to take on a photographic odyssey, to photograph everyone in the small village of Idyllwild which is perched up in the mountains overlooking the Los Angeles basin. She has determined that to be entirely inclusive of this community, it will take her perhaps 14 years and as many volumes to complete this project. As environmental portraits, I think even August Sander, the German photographer who had similar goals of capturing the essence of a community, realized that the photographer is standing on the shifting sands of time.

Genis has labeled this project as a collection of “Environmental Portraits” from a specific area, but in reading her photographs, it raises for me a question as to what constitutes an “environmental” portrait. Firstly, this is a collection of portraits of individuals. Her subjects are placed in a recognizable place associated with her subject or holding a prop that is associated to the subject’s identity. Genis has reduced the ambiguity as to who this person might be and provided a context as to the individual and their place in this creative community, with a few but very interesting exceptions.

It is these exceptions which interest me the most and hold my attention. At the top of my list is the portrait of Robert “Auto” Adolph, top image below. His gaze into the camera lens is direct, with a mild appearance of resignation compared to the other smiling faces.  The way he is holding his hands together as he leans into the boulder for support is intriguing. He is situated in the forest, but from the appearance of his boots and jacket, it appears to me that this may indeed be his environment, as he may be out wandering through the woods often.

The second is the nude (okay, apparently she is wearing her cowgirl boots) portrait of Windean Dahleen situated in a house she once owned. Like that of Auto Adolph, her demeanor is ambiguous and in relationship to the other environmental portraits raises questions as to why here and why undressed (the only exception in the book)?  Her gaze, similar to Auto Adoplp is directed straight into the lens, thus creating an unflinching contact with the viewer.

The third portrait of interest to me is that of Chris Tota, the guy balancing on a cord, last photograph below. Similar to the other two photographs discussed above, why is this considered an environmental portrait? I can assume that the cord is a prop associated with Tota as the others, but there is more ambiguity in this setting. Unlike the other subject, Tota does not face the camera, which seems to make this portrait all of the more interesting in comparison to me.

The book as an object is a case-bound hardcover, which is well printed with a solid binding. The photographs have ample white margins and the book opens to easily display the entirety of each image. The portraits are on one page of the spread and on the opposing page is the question and answer text that accompanies each portrait. The introductory essay is provided by Peter Frank.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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