The PhotoBook Journal

May 18, 2018

Richard S. Chow – Distant Memories

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:11 pm

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Photographer: Richard S. Chow (born Hong Kong & resides Los Angeles, CA)

Self-published 2016, Edition of 50

Text: English

Stiff covers, perfect bound, black and white, printed by MagCloud (div. Blurb)

Photobook designer: Richard S. Chow

Notes: Richard S. Chow came to Southern California as a sixteen year old when his family emigrated from Hong Kong, which is a difficult transitional age in of itself for a teenager, least being thrown into a completely different culture.

This project and self-published book, Distant Memories, originates from a desire to “capture the childhood that I could have experienced, those weekend forays to museums, outings to the waters edge with family, friends and a picnic basket filled with ingredients for a perfect day. Like finding shells on the shore, I am collecting memories.”

Memories are equally fragile and critical to a person’s identity. Thus sometimes we may not have the wonderful memories we would like and similar to a dreamer, we can try to recreate new memories that are more aligned to one’s hopes and desires. Chow’s project is an investigation of memories that are not perfect and are a bit slightly skewed, reflecting on the imperfect nature of memory or perhaps how a memory could be reimagined.

I had an opportunity to talk with Chow about his project and is experimental/play as to how this project came about. He was randomly playing with some tourist pay-for-use telescopes found on the public piers of Southern California and he was finding the resulting photographs to be very interesting. These non-professional scopes created indistinct and truncated images that had an immediate personal appeal. One photograph lead to another and the idea developed of how these ambiguous images resonated with Chow as a potential metaphor for memories.

These are imperfect images of individuals, groups and other beach scenes that avoids the typical lyrical qualities usually associated with the Southern California beach photography. Similar to other street photography, there is also a bit of an uncomfortable voyeur aspect to his use of a very long lens to capture individuals in the midst of their beach activities.

That these photographs are created in a graphic black and white further abstracts his beach landscapes and provides more opportunities for the viewer to re-imagine their own memories of playful times and summer holidays.

Cheers,

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May 5, 2018

Nuno Moreira – She Looks Into Me

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 4:56 pm

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Photographer:  Nuno Moreira (born and lives in Lisbon, Portugal)

Texts:  Poem by Paul Éluard; prose by Adolfo Luxúria Canibal; foreword by M. F. Sullivan; afterword by Jesse Freeman

Languages:  English and Portuguese

Self-published softcover with flaps; naked-bound and glued to the rear board; 22×28 cm (8.7×11 inches); 84 unnumbered pages with 42 black-and-white photographs; first limited edition of 200 copies, printed in Portugal by Guide; © 2018

Photobook designer:  NM Design

 

Notes:

This photographic project by Nuno Moreira, as presented in this volume, creates a very puzzling and potentially moving experience for the viewer. Relationships and all that they engender – genesis, growth, possibly also decline, and the specter of cessation – are ever-present themes in this book, which provides both visual depth and tactile pleasure. This is a volume that can have a strong effect on the viewer: it is a journey to the interior via the exterior.

The images are presented in three sections:  I. Being; II. Becoming; III. Unbecoming. This choice of headings suggests a process, and, indeed, the sections show a progression of  dreamlike appearances of figures oscillating and interacting between light and shadow. This is definitely the work of a photographer’s photographer. Canibal in the prose piece writes: “She knows that time swallows life and drains the light away, leaving the faces with the infinite sadness of primordial grief.” And: “The whispering figures represent the fleeting expression of this unspeakable disturbance that consumes her.” We get impressions of bodies and souls interacting and parting, the carousel of life, dancing in a circle, as it goes round and round to its beginnings, over and over. Thus you can traverse the book from front to end and back again. The double meaning of the word unbecoming also supports the idea that loss is always harder to take, not only personally, but also in a social context.

The individuals shown are of different ages and genders, in a variety of combinations, with females constituting the central figure “She.” We can surmise the possibilities or the existence of one or a variety of relationships, to be projected into the pictures by each viewer, depending on his or her life experiences and preferences. We see individuals touching each other or not, partly clothed or not, tastefully presented. There are also moments of being alone. The ambiguity of who belongs to whom, for what purpose, and for how long (if at all!) is where the mystery of the book comes into play. There is also a large bone-like structure in some of the images, perhaps a tusk or other part that seems to have once belonged to a large animal. In the shape of a boomerang, it perhaps reminds us about the mutuality and universality of interactions and of the circularity of life itself. Perhaps it is a reminder of loss, or of death as the ultimate loss; wilted flowers are also shown at the end of the book. Ambiguity consistently drives the visuals, and the untangling of the interplay between fantasy and reality becomes the viewer’s personal task.

The literary pieces and the essays – poem, foreword, afterword, prose (the latter presented in a separate, attractive bilingual booklet) – are also interesting, as they support the wholistic approach of Nuno Moreira, and also shed light on his previous work. I am also very pleased that the author chose naked stitched binding as a tool for the pages of the volume, as it allows the double-page spreads to lie flat, giving the viewer a closer viewing experience, as if glancing at an album, rather than a more tightly bound conventional book.

An important work of fine art photography that engages the viewer/reader in a variety of ways – visually, textually, and viscerally.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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April 22, 2018

Jeffrey Milstein – LA NY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York

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Photographer:  Jeffrey Milstein (born in Los Angeles, California; lives in Woodstock, New York)

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

Essays:  Jay Maisel, Owen Hopkins, Jeffrey Milstein

Text:  English

Hardcover, sewn, with illustrated dust cover; 10×13 inches; 144 numbered pages with 84 photographs; printed in China

Photobook Designers:  Jeffrey Milstein with Abigail Sturges

 

Notes:

This volume was selected by the Editors to be featured in celebration of Earth Day, April 22, 2018.
“The best of art is not only beautiful, it surprises, it delights, and it challenges our past perceptions.”
Jay Maisel (Foreword)

 

Without a doubt, the impact humans have had on this planet of ours invites exploration and exposition of all sorts. But only a photographer with a love of both art and flying, and one who also has the combined talents of Jeffrey Milstein (architect, graphic designer, and dedicated visual artist) is able to open our eyes to the impact we have had on this earth, and make it a pleasure to view such a complex subject at the same time.

Milstein has done a fantastic job taking us under his wings, so to speak:  for several years he has dangled his high-definition cameras out of helicopters and small planes, shooting straight down to show us what a giant bird in the sky might observe, catching portions of Los Angeles and New York. The results take us to visual adventures that make us question our own nature as well – what do we consider important and necessary in order to cause major impact on our environment?

The book is divided into four parts: Neighborhoods – Commerce – Parks and Recreation – Transportation and Industry. The sections are accompanied by brief introductory comments, and the images are presented with specific captions. There are many parallels between East Coast and West Coast, as well as some contrasts, of course. What strikes us most is the newly found magnificence and beauty of even the most often viewed icons (Statue of Liberty, Getty Museum, Coney Island, Santa Monica Pier) or of mundane subjects, such as giant parking areas, whether filled or empty. From a greater distance, and with the specific eye of Milstein making selections rotating the viewpoint, selecting time of day and lighting, and specific cropping decisions, this takes it to a realm of artistry far beyond much of the drone photography presented by others, since the photographer is directly involved at all times, and specific intervention and a relationship to the subject is maintained throughout the process; this is also very evident in the final images as presented. The layout and sequence were also given careful attention: daytime shots are often surrounded by white borders, night shots by black ones, especially if paired in a spread and not printed flush as single horizontals. The presentation is varied and keeps the viewer’s interest from beginning to end.

A delightful addition to any coffee table, guaranteed to surprise, to stir up memories, and to stimulate interesting conversations!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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April 4, 2018

Gary Ng – 1 + 1 = 3

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 7:45 pm

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Photographer:  Gary Ng (born and resides in Hong Kong)

Self-published, © 2017

Stiff cover, machine-sewn; 15×21 cm; 49 pages in full color; edition of 50 signed and numbered copies

 

Notes:

Several years ago, there was a series of books by Fred Hüning, published by Peperoni Books, Berlin, entitled Einer/Zwei/Drei (2010-2011), subsequently reissued in a single volume, entitled One Circle (2013). Those volumes recounted a personal history, tracing the photographer’s journey from being single, finding a partner, all the way to establishing and nurturing a family unit. That project constituted a three-part mini-saga accompanied by poetry and other texts.

In the present volume by Gary Ng, which has as its title a cute equation that is not mathematically correct but definitely points to natural expansion, we are also confronted with what can be a universal narrative, and all of that in a slim volume of 49 pages, without any text or titles for the images. This allows the viewers to project themselves into the narrative even more readily.

Ng’s photography is full of symbolism, which allows us easy extrapolation to our own lives: where there is pleasure, there is also pain, or: The path to a new life can also be full of strife. We see moments of loneliness in a large city, we see signs of vulnerability such as bandaged wounds and marks left by tight clothing, and broken glass or container pieces. Contrast that with images presenting symbols of vigorous life, primarily represented by the color red (ladybugs, lipstick, fruit), and symbols of fertility, such as eggs or the peeled apple held in the woman’s hand. There are also many other images that present ambiguity, just the way we like it in a volume of fine art photography. Intertwined body parts add to the mysterious and quirky presentation, at times with a measure of humor.  Alas, the offspring does arrive near the end of the volume, and I leave the discovery of that image to those who obtain the book. Many moments of waiting, gestures of supplication and thanks, and visual surprises lead up to that point.

A compactly articulated, intriguing narrative, well thought out, informally presented, yet formally sequenced. A most enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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March 30, 2018

Robert Stivers – Staging Pictures – Early Polaroids by Robert Stivers

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:32 pm

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Artist: Robert Stivers (born Palo Alto, CA & resides Santa Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA)

Published by Dark Spring Press, copyright 2017

Essay: Robert Flynn Johnson

Text: English

Hard cover, with image index, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Arizona Lithography and binding by Roswell Bookbinders, AZ

Photobook designer: Andy Burgess and Dawne Osborne

Notes: This is a small retrospective body of early photographic work of Robert Stivers using Polaroid (Polaroid back on a Hasselblad) film to experiment and play with visual ideas. Stivers was in the transition from being a dancer (with recent back issues) to that of a visual artist. As aptly pointed out in the Introduction by Robert Flynn Johnson, a transition from “a sensitivity to balance, form, grace, beauty and movement (as a dancer)….into the fixed imagery of photography was an early challenge.”

As such there is a rawness in the Polaroid remnants that remain, reminding me of the concept behind Stephen Gill in which he buried photographic prints to see what might happen. In the case of Stivers these Polaroids were not meant to be the final artistic object, but his attempts to understand the potentials of the medium; thus creating collages, scratching and burning the image surface and other experiments to push and pull the potential narrative. What we see are out-takes and an inventory of the early work-in-progress, similar to the hand-written notes of an author or the preliminary drawings for a painting.

What results are mysterious images cloaked in darkness that became the building blocks of Stivers photographic oeuvre. The book design by Andy Burgess and Dawne Osborne push that concept of mystery and the elements of surrealism even further with the utilization of black pages and black image borders.

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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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 14, 2018

Michael Dalton – The Great Falls

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:22 pm

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Photographer: Michael Dalton (born Marshfield, MA & resides in MA)

Published by Peperoni Books, Berlin, DE copyright 2017

Text: English

Hard cover book, sewn, printed by Wanderer, Germany

Photobook designer: Kiran Puri

Notes: I was fortunate to share a table at the Medium Festival in San Diego last October adjacent to one that Michael Dalton was hosting and able to leisurely discuss his first book, The Great Falls, in a little more detail. Thus learn that his beautifully rendered photographs were created with an 8×10” camera and that a number of the images in his photobook are essentially contact prints from those large sheets of film. And that the double exposures were created purposefully, allowing for some serendipity that results from this exposure experimentation.

This photobook is a gritty biography of a post-industrial city; Patterson which is located in a region of New Jersey that has seen better times. Dalton provides ample visual evidence that at one time Patterson was a bustling city of commerce that probably thrived on the flowing river and falls within its boundaries as evidenced by the large industrial size remnants.

His documentation of the debris, trash and abandoned buildings appear to haunt his urban landscape as he takes an unkind eye to his subject. Perhaps the city of Patterson is indeed in a deteriorating state and this project might be construed as another “ruin-porn” documentation common to post-industrial blight. Even his lyrical photographs have discerning elements; a rusting metal container, shattered glass, green slime and graffiti that belie a tranquil landscape.

Nevertheless, Dalton captures an undercurrent of resilience for this tough area, photographing individuals and couples who call this city home. Perhaps due to the fact that his subjects know that they are being photographed (hard to sneak a photograph when using a giant 8×10” camera), they do not appear to show the strain of living in the troubled environmental conditions that encompass this region. His subjects are standing amid the trash, perhaps in part resignation to the surrounding conditions, yet showing indications of affection and that provides some element of hope that these individuals will persevere.

Likewise, the book ends with a series of green and lush landscape photographs that implies that nature, and perhaps mankind, is slowly reclaiming this region and that that an order and balance may yet be restored.

This photobook is solidly produced, rendering the color photographs with clarity and dignity, a delightful book to hold and read.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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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 26, 2018

Harvey Benge – Home Town Dream

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Photographer: Harvey Benge (born New Zealand & resides Auckland, New Zealand & Paris)

FAQEDITIONS (Self-Published) Limited Edition, signed and numbered book + print (E 50): Auckland, NZ copyright 2017

Text: English

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Stiff cover, saddle-stitch binding, four-color printing, printed in NZ

Photobook designer: Harvey Benge

Notes: A mysterious and ambiguous narrative with dark hints of surrealism, which in some ways appears that I am attempting to describe a fine bottle of wine. Perhaps I am.

In Harvey Benge’s introduction, he states that this smaller body of work is an extraction from a trade book intended to be published in 2018 and that this compilation of photographs was created over a ten year duration. “In this experimental work I simply wanted to see what would happen if I constructed this book only using the Auckland pictures, placing them in the same order that they will appear in the expanded trade edition. This makes for a picture sequence that is totally random and constructed without the use of logic or intuition. Make of it what you will.”

Nevertheless there are still some characteristics of Benge’s photo-documentary style that resonates with me apparently irrespective of this attempt at randomness. Each page spread is a mini-drama echoing some element; be it shapes, color or a similar poignant moment. This stylistic thread that runs thru the book probably hearkens back to the larger edit in his investigation of the nature of dreams. His short narrative creates an interest in what still lies ahead.

Other photobooks of Harvey Benge reviewed on TPBJ: The Month Before TrumpStill Looking for ItAll of the Places I’ve Even Known,  Eat Me, Sri Lanka Diary, February 2011BirdsAgainst Forgetting

Cheers

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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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