The PhotoBook Journal

March 23, 2018

Laia Abril – On Abortion

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:09 am

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Artist: Laia Abril (born & resides Barcelona, Spain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2018

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color and duotone lithography, printed by Grafiche dell’Artiere, Bologna (IT)

Photobook designer: Laia Abril, Ramon Pez

Notes: The extended title of Laia Abril’s new book is A History of Misogyny, Chapter One, On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Access, which is a bit more informative as to her extended photojournalist investigation. The key word is repercussions, as she provides ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities.

Abril has not shy’d from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like subject. Abril and her co-designer Ramon Pez have incorporated this multi-layering theme into the design of the book which incorporates narrow interior pages that create overlapping pages. These narrow pages when turned  then reveal additional text and images to further inform the reader. The book design reinforces their narrative as to state; nothing is very easy or as straight forward as it might first appear.

In her earlier book The Epilogue, she weaved sharply delineated family archive photographs of her subject in with her own documentary style photographs, while in this book the archive photographs of her subject are frequently less defined. In many instances there is only a hint of a potential likeness of her subject, perhaps due to confidentiality.  Nevertheless I find the abstracted portraits to create more visually expansive images and allowing the reader to reflect on their own version of this story. Does it really change the impact of her narrative if we see the actual likeness of someone who has passed away as a result of some botched medical procedure or social/cultural taboo?

This book is a call to action and the subject is still extremely slippery, while she makes a strong case that we as a society need to reexamine many of our cultural and moral beliefs as to these difficult situations for women.

Other photobooks by Laia Abril featured on The PhotoBook Journal: The Epilogue and Thinspiration

Cheers

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March 18, 2018

Report on Photobook Day at LACP Open House, March 17

Filed under: Artist Books, Book Publications, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: — Gerhard Clausing @ 9:30 pm

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Yesterday was a very exciting day at the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) in Hollywood. During its Open House Weekend, March 17 emphasized photobooks.

The day started with a fascinating presentation by our own Douglas Stockdale. In covering the topic “Photobook Pre-Visualization,” he took the audience on a tour of his own book-publishing history, and shared some of the thoughts, trials, and tribulations behind each of several projects. Contrasting his commercially published volume Ciociaria with several projects in the self-publishing category (Bluewater Shore, Middle Ground), it was an apt demonstration how projects move from the conceptual stage to the finished product, and what all can happen in between. Doug especially emphasized the importance of the necessary haptic and visceral experience with physical “dummies” (maquettes), since you can change the format and sequence around as much as necessary until a satisfactory sample is arrived at. For his latest project, Middle Ground, he showed four stages of dummy preparation.

Dan Milnor, Creative Evangelist for Blurb, was next, with his presentation “Self-Publishing for Photographers: Blurb Books.” Here too the emphasis was on creativity and experimentation. Blurb provides a variety of tools and printing sizes and formats to fit any idea a photographer might have. Dan emphasized that potential photobook artists should dare to break out of the constraints of predictability and sameness. He encouraged each photographer to be “an interesting original human being” and to collaborate, especially with excellent designers.  He then presented a range of photobooks, published by himself over time, as well as by others, showing multiple format ideas, and discussed some cost issues as well.

The third major event was a panel discussion on “How to Get Your Book Published.” With Douglas Stockdale as moderator, experiences were shared by Stephen Schafer, Cat Gwynn (we will be reviewing her book here shortly), Sarah Hadley, Dan Milnor, and Mark Edward Harris. Projects covered included, among others,  photography in exotic locales, publishing offbeat projects, and the role of photography as a therapeutic experience.

In the vendor area, it was possible to check out products and services presented by ASMP-Los Angeles, Blurb, Canon, Dual Graphics, Fabrik Projects, Freestyle, Hahnemühle, and The Artist Corner. A portfolio and book walk by LACP members and presenters (shown above), as well as raffle prize drawings, rounded out the afternoon. The day was also enhanced by food and refreshments facilitated by the one and only Julia Dean (Executive Director), Brandon Gannon, and other dedicated staff members and assistants. Thank you to all — it was a lovely and productive day!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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Douglas Stockdale, explaining one of the dummy stages of Middle Ground

 

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Dan Milnor, Blurb Creative Evangelist

 

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Panel Discussion: D. Stockdale with Stephen Schafer, Cat Gwynn discussing Ten-Mile Radius, and Sarah Hadley

 

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Sarah Hadley discussing her project about Venice, with Dan Milnor

 

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Dan Milnor listening to Mark Edward Harris

 

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Photography is about sharing!
All photographs © Gerhard Clausing 2018

March 1, 2018

Rodrigo Ramos – Ex Corde (From the Heart; De todo corazón)

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: — Gerhard Clausing @ 6:38 am

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Photographer:  Rodrigo Ramos (born and lives in Mexico City, Mexico)

Publisher:  Self-published; © 2015

Illustrated folder (29.5×40 cm) containing 8 sheets (76×27.5 cm), folded in half, yielding 32 pages; color offset printing by Offset Santiago in Mexico City; edition of 500

Photobook design:  Alejandra Magdaleno, Emiliano Molina, Rodrigo Ramos

Notes: I selected this book as an excellent example for how a project can evolve from an idea through the maquette (dummy) stage to the final published product, garnering awards along the way. Rodrigo Ramos has had an interest in photographing boxers to show the struggles they endure, ranging from career hopes and ambitions, physical and mental training and stamina, to the actual encounters in sports events with the potential and actual injuries of various levels of severity.

As the project progressed, the metaphorical importance of the boxers’ struggles as a representation of strength, masculinity, and, at the same time, vulnerability became evident, and the artistic implications of his work were strengthened. This metaphor allows us to apply those struggles to those we experience ourselves, our own hopes, ambitions, fears, hurts, and the overall meaning of life, subject to many emotions, “from the heart.” The inspiration for this work, the martyr San Sebastian, is fitting: the fight for what you believe in can require extreme hardships.

The photographs in this volume are very dynamic, well-chosen shots of the training sessions and fight events, both portraits and action shots—overall, a very body-focused approach. The sheets, when folded in half, measure 11×15 inches, and are presented in a slightly larger folder, well printed (some are printed flush across the entire size, i.e., 22×15 inches), while others are diptychs, resembling a well-thought-out professional portfolio; the juxtaposition of the images flows well, by subject, shape, gesture, and color. Since the sheets are loose, not bound, they can be arranged differently by the viewer.

I highly value the fact that this loose-leaf structure empowers the viewer/owner of the book. You can study the narrative sequence as designed by the makers of the book. Or, like a puzzle, you can reassemble the images and juxtapose them in any order and in any combination you desire. Thus the viewer/owner is elevated to the role of full participant, both regarding the curating of the art, as well as the personal impact particular pairings may have. You can mount your own exhibition, to match the ideas you may have as to what images best go together in your own mind.

The possibilities of such a book model and its particular personal reinvention are almost endless. A couple of examples of new juxtapositions are shown below. We see this model of narrative presentation seldom enough; prime examples are David Alan Harvey’s based on a true story (contemporary Rio) and Douglas Stockdale’s Bluewater Shore (women on vacation, based on family photographs), which I reviewed here.

Ex Corde by Rodrigo Ramos was included in CLAP! – Contemporary Latin American Photobooks, discussed in The PhotoBook Journal  here.

This volume of photographs is not only fascinating to view, but also gives the viewers the opportunity to get in touch with their own struggles and outcomes. A superb challenge!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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February 24, 2018

Photobook Day March 17 With Douglas Stockdale & Special Guests – LACP Open House (March 16-18, 2018)

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Photo courtesy of Douglas Stockdale, Founder/Editor of  The PhotoBook Journal

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Join LACP for our Sixth Annual
Spring Open House


Featuring workshops, panel discussions, portfolio & photo book walk, raffle prizes, vendors, food, drink and much more!!

March 16th – 18th, 10 am – 5 pm

 

On Friday, March 16, 10 am – 5 pm, bring your old, used camera equipmentand turn it into cash! 

  • KEH Camera will be at LACP all day buying used photo equipment
    On Saturday, March 17th, 10 am – 5 pm, celebrate the Photo Book with workshops, panel discussions, portfolio walks and more!

 

Saturday, March 17, 10 am – 5 pm

On Saturday, March 17th, 10 am – 5 pm, celebrate the Photo Book with workshops, panel discussions, portfolio walks and more!

10:15-11:00 am – “Photo Book Pre-Visualization” taught by  Douglas Stockdale, Founder/Editor, The PhotoBook Journal
$20 for Members; $40 for Non-Members

11:15 am-12:00 pm – “Self-Publishing for Photographers: Blurb Books” with Dan Milnor,
$20 for Members; $40 for Non-Members

12:30-1:30 pm – Free Panel Discussion, “How to Get Your Photo Book Published,
moderated by Douglas Stockdale, Founder/Editor, The PhotoBook Journal
Panelists include Dan Milnor, Cat Gwynn, and more (TBA).

2:30-4:30 pm – Free Portfolio and Photo Book Walk featuring the work of LACP Members  (contact info@lacphoto.org to sign up for a table space)

Throughout the day:
• There will be various organizations and vendors present including ASMP Los Angeles, Hahnemühle, Freestyle, Blurb, The Artist Corner, and more!
• Raffle tickets available and prize drawings!
• Complimentary lunch (served from 1:30 – 2:30 pm)
• Complimentary wine and beer (served from 1:30-4:30 pm)

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Sunday, March 18, 10 am – 5 pm

  • Come take part in one of several of our 17 “mini” classes and seminars.  A full day pass is only $100!!

10:00 am:
1) “Portraiture: An Artistic Journey” with Ken Merfeld
2) “Understanding Your Camera’s Features” with Peter Bennett

11:00 am:
1) “Introduction to the Documentary World” with Kevin Weinstein
2) “Let’s Talk Lenses” with Peter Bennett
3) “Creating Worlds and Stories with Photomontage” with Ry Sangalang

12:00 pm:
1) “Portrait Studio Lighting” with Jennifer Emery
2) “The Singular Vision” with Andrew Southam
3) “Optimizing Your Images in Camera Raw Before using Photoshop” with Ed Freeman

2:00 pm:
1) “Street Photography Essentials” with Ibarionex Perello
2) “Moving Your Career Forward: Steps to Success for Photographers” with Sherrie Berger
3) “Black & White Conversion using Lightroom” with Rollence Patugan

3:00 pm:
1) “Crash Flash” with Julia Dean
2) “Best Practices Using Social Media for Photographers” with Paul-Michael Carr, TBA
3) “Monitor Calibration” with Eric Joseph

4:00 pm:
1) “How to Teach Photography” with Julia Dean
2) TBA
3) “Digital Printmaking Primer” with Eric Joseph

  • Click HERE to sign up for the classes.  (Please note not all classes are posted yet.)
    • Individual classes are $20 for Members; $40 for Non-Members. Sign up now! Seating is limited.
    A one-day Sunday pass is $100 for Members; $200 for Non-Members.

The Open House is all about community. It’s a time and place for all those interested in photography and the arts to come together and meet, socialize, learn, laugh and grow. Network with other artists, try your luck at some terrific raffle prizes, sell your used camera equipment, meet organizational vendors, take some classes and more! Whatever your pleasure may be, we encourage you to spend a weekend with us, invite your family and friends, and enjoy some good camaraderie, fellowship and fun!

A Time and Place for the
Photo Community to Come Together

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February 21, 2018

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet – Le Naufrage

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Photographer:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet (born in Chicoutimi; lives in Québec City, Canada)

Publisher:  Les Éditions du renard, Montréal, Canada; © 2017

Text:  Poem “Dompter le naufrage” by Fabien Cloutier

Language:  French

Illustration:  Frédérik Lévesque

Hardback, sewn; 108 pages with 55 images, paginated; 9 x 10.5″; printed in Canada by Deschamps Impression; edition of 500 and special edition of 30

Photobook Design:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet and CRITERIUM

 

Notes:

I recently reviewed a book by Gerald Boyer from Catalonia, in which the main emphasis was childhood recollections and family connections around the rugged terrain along the northeastern coast of Spain. Part of those recollections concerned the camaraderie of going fishing in “the cove.” In the present work, things get much rougher.  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet has been documenting the very traditional work of the fishermen of the Quebec/St. Lawrence River area and its connected bodies of water, men who earn their livelihood by braving rough waters and other natural turmoil to bring home their catch; they follow in the path of ancient traditions.

The title of this volume is Le Naufrage (The Shipwreck), and that title certainly makes us wonder if the specter of tragedy and unforeseen events are in the minds of such men pursuing their rugged trade. And sure enough, in the back of the volume there is a fitting poem by Fabien Cloutier entitled, “Dompter le naufrage” (“Dodging the Shipwreck,” perhaps with the implication, “Against all odds”), which lets us in on the images floating about in the fishermen’s minds: separated from their people, they will brave the storm, overcome their fear of disaster, and get back safely to the land and their loved ones again…

This narrative of fishermen is well photographed and handsomely presented. Ouellet rode along on the boats for several years and got to know the men well, pitched in when needed, and was subject to the same adverse conditions as they were. Thus they fully accepted him; he was able to obtain honest views of both calm and rough moments. There is some effect of pictorialism to the work, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. The overall feeling of nostalgia, survival, and temporality is generalized through choices of light and composition that nudge the work toward the abstract and support its strong graphic impact. The longing for the safety of the land exists along with the urge for excitement; the romantic veneer has been removed and the images show the best photojournalistic vision that is enveloped in an artistic presentation. The segment of images taken on the water is surrounded by an initial and a final portion that show terra firma and recollections of nature as a kind of “before”and “after,” which complete the contexts these men experience. The use of small Leica film-based rangefinder cameras on the water, and large-format film cameras for the landscapes and clouds, was a very effective strategy that provided Ouellet with technical ruggedness when needed and an overall artistic look. We are put in the midst of the action in well-composed images and nicely sequenced scenic views. The ever-changing weather conditions certainly also provide a strong background for this narrative. Paisley endpapers, a very pleasing matte paper stock for the printed pages (both ivory and gray), a bound bookmark, and a painting showing rough waves also support the elegant appearance of this book.

A most enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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February 20, 2018

Workshop on Photobook Editing with Valentina Abenavoli – Kassel, Germany, May 28-30, 2018

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: — Gerhard Clausing @ 8:55 am

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The Tenth Photobook Festival in Kassel, Germany, will feature an interesting collaborative workshop on editing photographs in preparation for photobook publication, “From the Theory to the Book.” It will be led by Valentina Abenavoli, who is also a successful publisher of photobooks (AKINA Books).

The description of this English-language workshop states in part:

FROM THE THEORY TO THE BOOK  is a collaborative workshop aimed to analyse how to read an image, understanding the endless possibilities of the editing process and its meaningful limitations, as well as exploring and developing a method both creative and practical, with a hand-on approach for the sequence. The workshop will attempt to cover all the theoretical tools useful to build up a visual narrative in the book form: shifting the reading of a single image to a sequence of images, editing according to the concept and the intentions of the work, questioning the visual representation and the messages conveyed in the images, when placed in a sequence. Collective feedback and trials will lead to discover possible pairs and sequences of photographs, understanding the potential of a photographic project and re-imagine it in a book form. Every photobook is a self-contained universe with its own set of rules. A series of photographs can be a starting point for the process of creating a story, within two covers. During the genesis of a photobook, ambiguities and clashes, unexpected juxtapositions and riddles will emerge, revealing the pleasure and pain of visual language. Every picture will gain a different meaning when placed in a broader perspective of the book as a whole.

More information can be found on their website.

February 16, 2018

Todd Webb – I See a City: Todd Webb’s New York

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 8:04 pm

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Photographer:  Todd Webb (1905-2000; born in Detroit, Michigan)

Editor:  Betsy Evans Hunt

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY; © 2017

Essays:  Sean Corcoran, Daniel Okrent, Betsy Evans Hunt

Language:  English

Sewn hardback with illustrated dust cover; 10 x 12 inches; 150 black-and-white images; 176 pages, paginated throughout; printed and bound in China

Photobook Designer:  BTD/NYC

 

Notes:

New York City has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of the world. The New York of the mid-1940s through the 1950s had its own unique atmosphere. One of the busiest metropolitan areas, it was characterized by neighborhoods with distinct characteristics and a somewhat more leisurely pace, somewhat apart from the hustle and bustle of the commercial areas, which also were more individually distinct than they are today. The troops had come home from World War II and were welcomed warmly by the citizenry; the charm of the past was still to be seen as the future was peeking over the horizon. For the photography world, this was the time of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe (whom Webb later photographed in New Mexico), the Callahans, the Newhalls, Minor White, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Gordon Parks, and others with whom Todd Webb was well connected.

Todd Webb had a knack for finding the unusual in ordinary subjects. The New York shown in his work is distinguished by the loving depiction of the vestiges of times gone by within the context of the moment; the emphasis is on neighborhoods such as Harlem and the lower East Side, all with their distinct buildings and signage. Often the humans depicted recede into the background, dwarfed by the enormity of the city, buildings of old and other structures such as the “El” (elevated city rail transportation), many of which have since been replaced. In fact, many times Webb would leave out people and merely photograph evidence of their activities or concerns, such as signs welcoming soldiers home or shop windows with their personally or culturally unique visual and verbal messages. There is an appealing timelessness and slower pace to the city as depicted here, mostly from a street-level perspective, a historic window into the many details making the mosaic that was the NYC of that time, a portrait that also gives a certain amount of dignity to subjects not members of the more upscale part of society, as Daniel Corcoran points out in his essay.

This sumptuously printed oversized volume presents the best of Todd Webb’s New York City work, collected in an appealing sequence edited by Betsy Evans Hunt, the Executive Director of the Todd Webb Archive, who also details her connections to Webb in the appendix. There are also two illuminating essays, by Sean Corcoran and Daniel Okrent, that supply details about the background of the photographer and his time. The images are accompanied by captions that provide the place and year for each; the sequencing is well paced to suit the variety of subjects and moods. This publication follows a Fall 2017 exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York; prints of this work of Todd Webb, as well as Africa 1958, will be at AIPAD 2018, The Photography Show, April 2018.

A historical volume of great documentary and artistic significance!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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February 14, 2018

Lynn Alleva Lilley – Tender Mint

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Photographer: Lynn Alleva Lilley (born Silver Spring, MD & resides Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Published by Eriskay Connection, 2017, the Netherlands

Text: English

Poems: Samih al Qasim, Jane Hirshfield

Stiff cover fine canvas, sewn & glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Jos Morree (Fine Books)

Photobook designer: Rob van Hoesel

Lithography: Sebastiaan Hanekroot (Colour & Books)

Notes: I have to admit that I feel some aspects of disassociation when I embark on long transcontinental flights for an international assignment and then various degrees during the trip, usually when alone in the evening with only my thoughts. Thus Lilley’s recently released photobook, Tender Mint, which explores similar feelings that resulted from her families long term relocation from Maryland to the country of Jordan emotionally resonates with me. I understand how these personal feelings of displacement can become further acute when the written and spoken word do not resemble your native language, in my case it was the written Mandarin characters of China, while she became suddenly immersed in the Arabic script of Jordan, neither resemble the written English of America.

There are other radical cultural changes for her family to adapt to as well: social norms and policies, housing, infrastructure, shopping, food, aromas, scents and for the Arabic world, the religious customs. For Lilley even the new landscape was foreign; moving from the lush Northeast American costal area to an arid and hot desert region. She also reveals the personal loss that occurred with the passing of her father while she was in this distant location.

Lilley’s photographic project appears to rise out of trying to make sense of this mysterious land, to find a way to ground her family and herself in this strange culture while dealing with aspects of the changes to their lives that probably seemed beyond their control. That she was also concerned about how she as an American woman might be perceived in this new environment strikes me as a potential feminine quality of this visual project.

Choosing to document and visually investigate the animals within a confined landscape of a local zoo as a part of this project appears to provide metaphoric potential to reveal her feelings. The most striking photograph in that regard is the first image below, that of the small group of monkeys who appear to be cowering in the back edges of their cage. The sense of confinement is made palpable by the slightly out of focus barrier fencing in the foreground that extends over the entire frame. A younger animal appearing to be tightly clinging to an older animal, which we might deduct as one of the animals parents. The two appear to be holding each other in such a way as to provide physical if not emotional comfort. In the foreground at the edge of the frame is a larger animal whose dark features are difficult to discern. Symbolically I read that this could be Lilley’s father, who is distant and although in the same location, metaphorically these two individuals could be in their own confinement in their respective locations, hers in Jordan and his in America.

Lilley has grappled with the daunting and difficult task of not only documenting a new environment but attempting to place this experience in the context of her own feelings that result from the turbulent changes to her and her families lives.

Cheers

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February 8, 2018

Classic Photographs at Bergamot Station

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Judy Dater, Only Human, Santa Monica, February 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

This past weekend Gerry Clausing and I took a small road trip from Orange County to Santa Monica for the Classic Photographs exhibition event. It is appearing that this will one of the few photographic exhibition events in Southern California with Photo l.a. and LA Art Book Fair not occurring this year. Gerry writes in more detail about Classic Photographs from a photographic viewpoint on SoCal PhotoExchange, while I am going to briefly discuss the photobook opportunities that we found.

In years past, there were a number of small exhibition booths for “classic” prints (predominately black & white, silver halide prints) and essentially no photobooks were present at Classic Photographs. But this time we were noting that Nazraeli Press was going to be present this year in conjunction with a couple of books signings gave me some hope. Thus it was nice to have some time to chat up photobooks and photobook designs with Chris Pichler of Nazraeli Press early in the morning before the area became more crowded. Yes, my take-away was the recently published photobook by the husband and wife team of Deanna and Ed Templeton Contemporary Suburbium, an interesting leporello design book (second image below of Chris holding this book open).

One of the high points was an opportunity to talk with Judy Dater while her signing booth was being set up. Dater’s new book, Only Human, was just published this year (hot off the press!) by Loyola Marymount Press, which is associated with the University of the same name that is located in Los Angeles. My request was for Dater to display one of her favorite photographs in the book, seen above. I think that is also my signed copy that she is holding and now sitting near by me.

The third photobook to feature is the recently released photobook by Cat Gwynn, 10-Mile Radius, (directly below) an autobiographic photographic project that she developed while going through extensive breast cancer treatments. Her book is a combination of her writing, photographs and found inspirational text. Gwynn is local to Los Angeles and there is a very good chance that we will be on a photobook discussion panel together hosted by LACP next month. Yes, I acquired her book as well.

There were also two dealers, Michael Dawson Gallery (LA) and Stephen Daiter Gallery (Chicago) that brought some collectible and rare photobooks that regretfully remained hidden behind glass cases, unless you were actively engaged in purchasing one of these beautiful (and for some, rather expensive) gems.

Thus I am not sure how the Classic Photographs event will evolve over the next few years, but there is now some hope that it might be more inclusive of photobooks as art objects. Stay tuned!

Cheers

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February 3, 2018

Donald Weber – War Sand

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Photographer: Donald Weber (Toronto, Canada & resides in Amsterdam, The Nederland’s) http://donaldweber.com/

Microscopy: Donald Weber and Kevin Robbie

Published by Polygon, Nederland, copyright 2018 https://shop.donaldweber.com/products/war-sand

Essay by Larry Frolick, Kevin Robbie and Donald Weber

Text: English, French, German

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Stiff covers, map insert, perfect bound (sewn & glued), block trim, four-color lithography, D-day Glossary, printed by Fine Books in Nederland’s

Photobook designer: Teun van der Heijden, Heijdens Karwel

Color management & Lithography, Sebastiaan Hannekroot, Colour & Books

Notes: War. As I have stated before; I don’t understand it and fortunately I have not had to experience it, although my house is built on an old WWII bombing range. I think Donald Weber’s War Sand is a similar multi-medic type of publication that has much in common with Louie Palu’s Front Towards Enemy beyond the fact that both are investigating an aspect of war; Weber looking at the traces of World War II’s D-day invasion on the coast of France and Palu is grounded in the present in Afghanistan. Whereas Palu utilizes multiple types of publications for his collective narrative, Weber provides his multi-media story within one set of covers.

Weber’s book is a series of sections in which his investigation changes formats, styles and viewpoints to explore the complexity of his subject; the D-day landing zones. The “introduction” is a lyrical study of the sky, clouds and into the heavens above and then the viewpoint progresses to include the landing beaches (code names: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) until drilling down (literally) and then into the sand itself. The attributes of sand of these beaches was in of itself a secret commando mission that Weber’s grandfather had partaken in 1943.

A scientific section on microarcheology of current sand samples from the various D-day beaches reveals in minute detail the finding of what was expected as well as some things not expected, while disturbingly some very small shrapnel debris that is no doubt related to this intense battle that began on June 6th.

Weber has created a number of very intriguing set of dioramas to tell the story of his grandfather’s commando raid to get beach samples. The book concludes with a visual storyboard that is a combination of D-day movie stills and archive WWII photographs. Although the latter is an interesting read, it may be the weakest aspect of this multi-layered book, nevertheless for a visual book investigating a complex subject I applaud Weber for taking an artistic risk by including this last section.

The clever book design includes a sleight-of-hand with the utilization of a few Japanese folds that are printed on the concealed interior pages referring to the secret codes names created for the D-day invasion. The cross-word puzzle printed on the interior page of the fold provides a ghostly image with the thinner paper stock, barely discernable of the outer pages in this section of his photobook. The books little secret visually hints at all of the many secrets surrounding this WWII event and indirectly the reason for the book’s creation.

The higher key lyrical coastal photographs provides an alternative viewpoint and belies the horrors that had occurred at these same locations on that stormy June 6th day in 1944. The casualties for the Allied landing forces on D-day alone include 2,700 British, 946 Canadians and 6,603 Americans. For Germany, the number of casualties are still unknown, but is estimated between 4,000 and 6,000. The Battle of Normandy that resulted from the invasion incurred 425,000 Allied and German troops that were either killed, wounded or went missing. Perhaps not often mentioned are the number of French citizens caught in the middle of this battle which has been estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 casualties. Some of the many statistics of war that this narrative only hints at. That my father landed on D-day plus 3 with the U.S. Second Armor on Omaha beach and at the war’s end came home is something I am grateful for as otherwise I would not be here to delight you with this review. It was also a dark event that my dad refused to talk about, so indirectly I think of this book as being part of his story.

What really intrigues me about this photobook is that as a visual object it is similar to my thought processes and the way I think about a subject; a constant jumble of ideas mixed with various kinds of facts, different memories and recollections that seem to oddly cross-paths. In turn this process creates ideas about things that I want to dig into and tangential thoughts that then result. It makes book development challenging in trying to decide what the narrative should be and how to present it. I enjoy how Weber’s multi-faceted investigated of this complex subject resulted is a photobook that is an visual interesting, nicely organized and a delightfully layered narrative.

Weber states “The war-relics presented here create an immersive experience on the theme of collective memory. They include WWII spy-craft and old Hollywood movies, dioramas and drone-mounted cameras, private post-war memoirs and wistful seaside photographs. These artifacts reveal war’s quantum traces. And they expose our civilization’s longing for a final victory over death.”

Other book by Donald Weber that is reviewed on TPBJ: Bastard Eden, Our Chernobly.

Cheers!

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