The PhotoBook

June 7, 2014

Sarah Malakoff – Second Nature

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Copyright Sarah Malakoff 2013 published by CHARTA

Sarah Malakoff (b. 1972 Wellesley, MA and resides in Boston, MA) chose to photograph a subject that she knows well, the interior living spaces found in the greater Boston area where she was born and raised.

Her pensive photographs are characterized by a warmth and intimacy. These are not the staged interior photographs found in advertisements or glossy interior decorating magazines so common in America. The beds are ruffled and unmade, a box of clothing lies haphazard under a bed, a board game is askew on top of a table, and there are particles of soot lying on top of the carpet in front of the blazing fire, leaves and debris on the kitchen floor adjacent to the sliding door and the many lounging animals, both real and inanimate. Nevertheless her interiors are still a bit too clean and tidy, bordering on sterile, perhaps more indicative of the person who resides there than the photographer.

These are homes, not houses, a place where people reside as evidenced by the interiors. We are only indirectly introduced to the home owners by what and how they have chosen to decorate their residences. One might suspect that these homes are owned by cats and dogs, as these are the only ones present in Malakoff’s photographs. The inclusion of the cats and dogs are a subtle reminder that their owners, although out of sight, are not far away.

Malakoff has chosen to photograph her interiors with a middle ground composition, not focusing on details or grand views. It may perhaps be a practical matter, as many of the older New England homes have smaller rooms, tight quarters to use the nautical term, as compared to the mini-mansions now being built today across America. New England borders the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and many of the founders of this region worked the boats and sea, thus the nautical theme a popular motif, such as a basement bar made out to resemble the prow of a boat.

As such, this body of work is a study of identity, which in this case has a strong New England flavor. I recognize that these photographs are instilled with much of this regional essence and the interior home photographs would appear much different if compared to those found in the South, Midwest, Southwest or Pacific Coast of the United States.

Malakoff provides us with an opportunity to make a leisurely tour while visiting these diverse residences and wonder about who has chosen these places to nest, what interesting places might lurk just outside the windows and what events may have transpired in these wonderful warm and inviting places.

The hardcover book is nicely printed and bound in a way that allows the book to be opened fully without any image contest lost in the gutters. The interior photographs are either graced with a classic white margin, or a single image printed across a two page spread, with an edge bleed of three of the four sides and both image formats allows these photographs a pleasure to read.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook & co-published in Emaho magazine.

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June 1, 2014

Robin Maddock – III

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Photographs copyright 2014 of Robin Maddock, published by Trolley Books

The British photographer Robin Maddock (b. 1972 Leicester, UK, resides in Los Angeles USA & the UK) has taken an interesting departure from the his previous color documentary style, evidenced in his prior two books, with a more conceptual theme photographed in black and white. His subjects included three objects that Maddock introduces into the pictorial frame; sheets of white paper, ping pong balls and milk. This is a project photographed in California (San Francisco and Los Angeles) over a span of a couple of years with black and white film. As Maddock has stated “It is a product of California, not about it”.

Maddock has stated elsewhere that this book-project was a result of wanting to work on a change-up, a completely different project. His previous photographic work has garnered him some nice accolades and was developing a stylistic look. For some photographer/artist, developing a recognizable visual trademark is something that is sought after, while for others, like Maddock, it is akin to an artistic kiss of death.

For this project, he chooses to include three white objects which were found, positioned, tossed or flowed (spilled per Maddock) somewhere within the frame. As to why these three different objects, perhaps why not, but they each have unique physical characteristics and unified by sharing the same color. Another possibility is the sexual attributes that can be attributed to these objects with the ping pong balls have maleness, the milk is both male and femaleness and the flat white paper seemingly neutral.

Three is also one of those magical numbers. A good presenter knows that making three points in a presentation will have the most potential effect. One of something which is often repeated can become boring and repetitious. Two different subjects’ will add diversity to a message while three subjects add complexity as well as diversity. With four subjects the message begins to become overwhelming and losing too much focus. A photographer only has to look at his tripod to understand the concept.

Maddock’s ensuring photographs are a madcap range of the absurdity to the playful and witty, such as the tongue-in-cheek rubber band filled with milk or the ping pong ball sitting on top of the end of the rain spout. Maddock incorporates his own shadow into many of the photographs perhaps indicating a potential autobiographical nature of this project.

His photographs are a little higher in contrast with the shadows frequently become dark masses to push into a stronger graphic appearance. This also serves to push the whiteness of his introduced objects to a flatter and almost abstract quality. Maddock frequently uses a vertical format and tightly composes his photographs. As a conceptual project, I do wonder if this book might have received as much critical attention if it was Maddock’ s first book.

This book object is a bound hardcover book with a tipped-in image and embossed linen boards. Another well printed book by Grafiche Antiga (Italy), the go-to printer for Trolley Books, and the black and white photographs were printed on Tatami Ivory paper. The book does not contain an essay, pagination or captions leaving the reader entirely to their own interpretations. I did notice that the dark linen cover is a dust magnet and regretfully I did not get my book into a protective poly cover quick enough.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook and co-published in Emaho magazine

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