The PhotoBook

January 27, 2015

Printed Matter’s 2015 LA Art Book Fair

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Printed Matter’s (2015) LA Art Book Fair

This coming weekend on the Left Coast is what is becoming an annual event; Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair which will take place again at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

As I have written about the past (2014) LA Art Book Fairs taking place at MOCA, this building is a maze of rooms, small hidden rooms, medium size display areas and a huge room usually reserved for the Zine world. A ton of books, magazines, zines that are new and old (“collectibles”) that can overwhelm the senses. Fortunately the food trucks out the front doors can provide sustenance to help you endure. In past years there was a section reserved for photobooks up on the mezzanine, but guessing there will be spot somewhere.

Schedule:

Preview Thursday 29th January, 6-9pm
Friday January 30th, 12–7pm
Saturday January 31st, 11-7pm
Sunday February 1st, 11-6pm

Also nice about this event: FREE Admission!

Cheers!

January 16, 2015

Michelle Frankfurter – Destino

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Copyright Michelle Frankfurter 2014 published by FotoEvidence

This is my first review of the photobook series published by Svetlana Bachevonaova and FotoEvidence, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on the global issues of Social Justice.

Michelle Frankfurter (b. April 1961, Jerusalem, Israel – living in the US since 1967 and currently resides near Washington DC) is using a classic black and white photographic medium (film) in a documentary style to investigate the illegal influx into southern United States. Frankfurter sequences her photographs to allow us to follow the progress of a journey, laden with boredom and interspersed with moments of sheer terror, from Central America to the various Mexican borders of the United States.

Her subjects, single individuals to entire multi-generational families, have meager economic means thus they leverage the available Central America commercial transportation infrastructure, primary riding atop freight trains. To further understand what lengths these individuals were willing to undertake, Frankfurter similarly hopped onto one of these same freight trains to ride alongside her subjects. In so doing she shared a part of their perilous journey while enduring the same risks and become an insider, not a casual and emotionally distant observer.

Since I live in Southern California I interact on an almost daily basis with Latinos, and many due to their difficultly with English are most likely a product, directly or indirectly, of a similar journey. In discussions with them about their heritage, they will eventually open up to the circumstances of their arrival and current situation. For those who are “undocumented”, the Politically Correct term for illegal, their lives which although are much better now than where they originated is still fraught with great danger. Nevertheless the enormous efforts and risks undertaken to arrive in the United States are seldom discussed and for the most part unknown to me and most others who live here. Usually discussed in the local news are the events around a terribly failed attempt at a border crossing, perhaps a family who has passed away attempting the trek through the arid desert that lurks in the midst of the U.S. and Mexico borders.

The photographs are very sensitively composed with her subjects photographed from a close and intimate distance. These portraits are intermingled with the passing landscape photographs, slightly larger in scope and providing a context to her subject’s journey. As an example the photobook’s cover image is a subtle story. The man in the right side within the frame has his eyes focused slightly to his right. Then I realize that he is not shifting his gaze away from the photographer, but to whom is probably his family, a woman and small child who are covered with a black plastic cover to protect them from the natural elements on top of the freight car. This photograph provides a poignant narrative as to what this man is actually risking, not just himself, but his entire family. The photograph also asks the reader to consider the uneasy question as why would someone take such a huge risk? These are the unanswered questions that Frankfurter elegantly raises throughout this photobook.

The resulting openness of her subjects comes through in her photographs, perhaps as Frankfurter shares in her introduction, she and her family are also immigrants into the United States, be by much different circumstances. I found that her visual narrative reminds me of the Freedom Train, the illegal movement of the African-Americans preceding the United States Civil War in the 1860’s, a much earlier era of the American history, pursuing similar dreams of freedom.

Her black and white photographs alternate between a full bleed images to a classic border with paper white margins. The images alternate between a single photograph on a double page spread, which provides singular emphasis, to pairs of photographs facing across the book’s gutter. Most of the paired images one image is full frame while the facing image is smaller encircled with large white paper margins, which creates an interesting interaction between the two photographs.

As a book object, this is an Image-wrap hardcover book, while the interior Black & White photographs beautiful printed and bound by the printer in Istanbul, Turkey. The Forward text is provided by Susan Terrio with an Introduction by Frankfurter and the book design is by Mark Weinberg. The photobook includes pagination and the captions are summarized within the end notes as well as an extensive listing of the backers for this publication. This is a book that I also selected for my blog as an Interesting Photobook for 2014.

Cheers!

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January 11, 2015

Julia Borissova – Running to the Edge

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Copyright Julia Borissova 2014, self-published (with Limited Edition slip cover)

I am intrigued by Julia Borissova’ s (b. Tallinn, Estonia and lives in St. Petersburg, Russia) recent concept that led to her self-published photobook Running to the Edge, with the way that history and memory is perceived through images. Using found Black & White photographs, some dating back to the Russian Revolution, over which she juxtaposes a collage of objects, flowers and petals that anchor these images to the present. She attempts to create a visual analogy of the idea of memory slipping away over time with the archival photographs married with the fragile flowers, which the reader knows will decay all too quickly.

Borissova states “I saw a diary of 1917-20’s in an antique shop and I could not but buy it. I realized that this diary gives me a chance to show another layer of time to which I refer in my projects, to show it not like a text, as some additional information, but rather through the beauty of the script, through the sense of a touching hand that wrote these letters almost 100 years ago. Besides, this diary was made in a wooden cover with a painted bird on it. And it all together just captivated me.”

“Since the book contains texts in Russian, I decided to make a translation into English, by placing it on a separate insert, so as not to distort the impression of the book as of the found object. I wanted the color of the paper for the insert to be in contrast with the main book block, but at the same time, it should be understood that it is an integral part of the book, so I chose the designer paper to match the cover.”

The resulting photographs are whimsical, humorous while yet having an undercurrent of melancholy. A young girl’s eyes have become over-sized pink flowers, signifying the wide-eyed amazement of youth and the pink color almost universal of young girls. In another image, a young child is wearing a flower and petals while an older man adjacent to the child has a disturbing brown stem covering his eyes which metaphorically would block his vision. In yet another, a young woman lies prone on the ground, her apparel is now a layer of red petals in stark contrast to the original black and white photograph. Borissova creates beautiful new contexts with her collages and offers few clues as to their meaning, of which fully captivates me.

This book and the concept to alter found photographs have really touched me and it resonates with my parallel interest investigating the various aspects of memory and the attempts to preserve it. That in conjunction with a brilliant design and beautiful construction made this photobook an easy choice for Interesting Photobook of 2014, both for my blog and my selection for Emaho magazine.

As a book object, the hardcover book has an embossed cover and an overall elegant feel created by a careful selection of the interior papers and is accompanied by two inserts, one of which is the English translation of the hand written text, the other is an introduction by Borissova. The hand written text is not in English, assuming Russian, and the ensuing marks on the paper are as abstract as the photographs.  Borissova incorporates tracing paper as a means to signify a break between the beginning of the first and second sections of this photobook. Borissova has indeed ““attach(ed) importance to every detail and there can’t be any minor things.”

Cheers

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January 7, 2015

Kate Nolan – Neither

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Copyright Kate Nolan 2014, self-published

Neither is a three year project by Kate Nolan (b. 1979 Dublin, Ireland, where she currently resides) that takes place in Kalingrad, formerly called Königsberg (German), a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. This place was formed following World War II with the displacement of the native Germans with those who relocated from the interior regions of Russia. What results is a multi-dimensional photobook that is a mashup of written narratives and visual poetry that attempts to investigate feminist identity in the context of a memory of an ambiguous place.

Nolan’s photographs the women of Kalingrad, a mix of portraits, those who directly confront the photographer, thus the viewer, and those who look pensively away. Inter-woven are urban landscapes of a place that shift from the lyrical, a beautiful tree in colorful bloom, to terrifying landscape, a field ablaze in flames. The latter photograph (below) is adjacent to and faces a photograph of a women with a child playing on a ride, while a child faces away unaware of the “approaching” danger.

The smaller stiff-cover booklet contains narratives and is bisected by the larger stiff-cover book containing the full bleed photographs with a floating and separate narrative as a physical sub-text. The front booklet acts as a Forward with hand-written short stories to describe current conditions .The book’s Afterward, formed by the other half of the smaller booklet, contains stories that describe events occurring in 1946 during the formation of Kalingrad, written by the women who were involved in this transition.

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Her photographs are printed full bleed, so the photographs are physically joined at the seamless gutter, one photograph slamming into the other, creating interesting diptychs, that can be read singularly or as a panoramic whole.

This project appears autobiographical as Nolan is investigating the subject of the identity of young women within society with perhaps some similarities to her own circumstances.

As a book object, this is a crazy and complex design with a lot of moving parts that include three distinct sections; one smaller stiff-cover book that is bisected by the larger stiff-cover volume, held together by a sewn binding and a clear poly band. Within the larger volume is another narrative on separate pages, essentially a mini-booklet within a book and can be read independent of the pages above.

Due to the design and sewn binding of the larger volume, the interior narrative pages slightly brush and physically interact with the photographic pages, creating a subtle tension between the two. The book is a lay-flat book design that makes it a joy to read.

This photobook was designed and developed in collaboration with the creative Dutch photobook designer -SYB- (Sybren Kuiper). The publication of her book was supported by a successful Indiegogo fund raising campaign and I have selected this photobook as one of the Interesting Photobooks for 2014.

Cheers

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