The PhotoBook

June 15, 2017

Richard Humphries – Kingdom’s Edge

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 1:40 am

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Photographer:  Richard Humphries (born St. Albans, UK; resides Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Publisher:  Richard Humphries Photography, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK, © 2016

Essays:  Foreword and captions by Richard Humphries; Introduction by Gerard McDermott

Text:  English

Sewn cloth-bound hardback with 200 numbered pages, 79 captioned color images and 2 maps; 25×16.5 cm; printed in Italy

Photobook Designer:  Helen Kudrich Coleman

Notes:

We are in the midst of increasingly unacceptable acts of intolerance, escalating from verbal to physical violence. Today’s event on a baseball field near the U.S. capital is just the latest example. When will they ever learn: VIOLENCE DOES NOT SOLVE PROBLEMS! And so this book is another very important example to demonstrate this point, as was the work by Paula Bronstein on Afghanistan, which I reviewed here as well.

Strife in the south of Thailand goes back many centuries, but violence has intensified in the 21st century due to clashes based on some extreme interpretations of beliefs. Gerard McDermott in the volume’s Introduction supplies an extensive account of historical developments affecting this region of Thailand, a monarchy with a military government, especially the border area between Thailand and Malaysia, a difficult region that we have heard much less about than other difficult areas around the world.

Richard Humphries has visited this area, which presents a mix of Buddhists and Muslims, Thais and Malays, over a period of eight years; he speaks the local languages, and currently lives in this area of Southeast Asia as well. A seasoned photojournalist as well as a storyteller, he has used this background very effectively. We are able to see the historical and the modern aspects of this part of Thailand, the old and the new, the various activities that sustain both livelihoods and belief systems and traditions, in both somber and light-hearted moments. Some of the images are literal and stark, some metaphorical and mysterious, and his approach suggests that all these aspects could well coexist peacefully, if only some levels of greater tolerance were part of the mix. A particularly attractive feature of this volume is the fact that both ordinary and extraordinary images are included so that we see both everyday life and the unusual side by side. The detailed captions supplied by the photographer for each image are also very helpful for the viewer’s understanding. A highly recommended volume for those interested in global strife and its cultural contexts, as well for anyone who wants to enjoy excellent photojournalism!

This volume was juried into the Photo Independent Photobook Competition and was subsequently on display at the Photobook Salon.

Gerhard Clausing

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June 6, 2017

Alice Q. Hargrave – Paradise Wavering

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Artist: Alice Q. Hargrave (born & resides Chicago, IL)

Publisher: Daylight Books (North Carolina, USA) copyright 2016

Interview: Alice Hargrave & Kendra Paitz, Essay by Allison Grant

Text: English

Hardcover with sewn binding, four-color lithography, index, printed by Ofset Yapimevi (Turkey)

Photobook designer: Ursula Damm

Notes: I have found Alice Hargrave’s photobook Paradise Wavering to be complex, layered, and very conceptual as an investigation of our global environment.  Perhaps not unlike an episode from the sci-fi television series The Twilight Zone where something is really off kilter from the on-set.

Dark ominous images are interspersed with mysterious landscape of unusual color casts and hues that create a dark undercurrent. The opening photograph is a tropical coastal landscape with looming storm clouds but the color is really strange and immediately places me on edge. Immediately following is a photograph with a darkening sky in conjunction with red and orange tinged clouds that creates mixed message of hope and gloom. As Hargrave states, this book is “a photographic stream of consciousness….exploring the fugitive nature of experience, time, light and the photographic medium itself.”

I found some of the photographic parings visually delightful while others are rather difficult to comprehend. Regretfully I found an unevenness in the flow (note: which should NOT be construed from my own sequence of the book’s interior images below) of the photographs while the theme is one that resonances with me regarding a concern for our environment. I think the book is challenging and will probably delight many readers by the complexity of the visual narrative.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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May 25, 2017

Cheryl Dunn – This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 11:48 pm

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Photographer:  Cheryl Dunn (born in Old Tappan, NJ; resides in New York City, NY)

Publisher:  Deadbeat Club Press, Los Angeles, CA; © 2017

Stiff cover, saddle-stitched; 52 unnumbered pages with 43 black-and-white and color images; digital offset printing, 6×9 inches, edition of 300.  (Deadbeat Club #53)

Notes: 

For all those who are wondering what the United States is currently struggling with, this is a very timely volume of telling photographs. Cheryl Dunn is a photographer from New York City who effectively visualizes both heart and soul of this divided country and turns it into a brief but iconic presentation. No wonder, she has a strong record in editorial and advertising work, as well as portraiture, and has also directed an amazing feature-length documentary film on street photography in New York City, Everybody Street, seen through the eyes of well-known photographers (details on her website, as linked above). NYC can certainly be considered a most representative amalgam of cultures and therefore of opposing viewpoints as well.

So in this very important volume we see the forces of a healthy democracy at work. There is a divisiveness fueled by particular political interests, by economic needs, by the crude realities of long-standing military strife, by the marginalization of and disdain for minority groups, and other factors. Here we see a visualized panorama of opinions, driven by many emotions, such as anxiety, fear, anger, dismay, and sadness – of the groups opposing the election of a government by a minority of voters due to electoral college rules and some voter lethargy, of the groups that find themselves at minimal existence levels and are hoping for government magic, while blaming the “others” for their woes, of the young people who as a more accepting population segment are hoping for a better future with less violence and hatred, and with more varied economic opportunities. Some representative double pages are shown below. The pacing of the volume and the pairing of images are designed to keep the viewers curious and interested throughout. Observations of minute detail that shows everyday life as it transpires everywhere under any circumstances are also refreshing. Well done!

Congratulations and thanks to the photographer and Deadbeat Club for making such interesting work available at such an affordable price, and kudos for encouraging the use of film-based photography as well!

Gerhard Clausing

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May 19, 2017

David Kregenow – At Eye Level. Photographers Photographed

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 4:51 pm

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Photographer:  David Kregenow (born and resides in Berlin, Germany)

Publisher:  The Unknown Books, Sintra, Portugal, © 2015

Essay: Preface by Wim van Sinderen

Text:  English

Stiff cover, HP Indigo printing, perfect-bound, 21×14.8 cm; 48 unnumbered pages, 21 black and white photographs; edition of 110

Notes:  Excellent portraits of photographers are rare indeed. We often see them portrayed in situational settings, in a mode generally known as environmental portraits, if formally posed at all, or simply in the process of doing their work. Not only that, but it is well known that many photographers often are more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of it. Thus there is some persuasion necessary to get them to pose at all.

We are fortunate that David Kregenow, who is well known for his urban and architectural work, has made it his special project to photograph other photographers, and has been persuasive to have a good number of them pose for him. As Wim van Sinderen describes in the preface to this book, Kregenow corners them as he meets them and ask them to pose for him. The resulting portraits are a treasure trove of formal portraits, done with a special sensitivity to bringing out their personality and style. The portraits are horizontal monochrome headshots, and it is fair to say that they add certain heroism to the subjects. We look straight into their eyes, in a pleasant and non-confrontational manner. One is reminded of the portraits of the old master Yousuf Karsh, who also posed his subjects against a neutral darker background to add a special dimensionality to the portraits.

In the meantime, Kregenow’s project has grown to at least 69 portraits of photographers, as shown on his website. In this volume we are shown 21 of them, all taken between 2011 and 2014, and cropped a bit in a few cases as dictated by the vertical format.  Five of these photographers are no longer among us (Baltz, Burri, Greene, Leiter, and Schmidt), so that these portraits are acquiring value for the history of photography as well. Since this volume has been issued in an edition of only 100 (plus 10 with special prints; collectors, please note!), I am hoping that a larger edition will follow, one that allows the portraits to shine fully on individual pages, without gutter intrusion.

A delightful introduction to seeing photographed photographers!

Gerhard Clausing

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May 16, 2017

Barbara Peacock – Hometown

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Photographer: Barbara Peacock (b. Waltham, MA – resides Portland, ME)

Publisher: Bazan Photo Publishing (Brooklyn, NY) copyright 2016

Essays: Barbara Peacock, Ernesto Bazan

Text: English

Embossed linen hardcover with tipped in photograph, sewn binding, four-color lithography, list of photographs, printed by Puritan Capital (New Hampshire)

Photobook designer: Kevin Sweeney

Notes: Barbara Peacock documented her own hometown of 30 plus years, while perhaps the citizens of the town grew older, her visual concept of what a hometown meant, continued to evolve. Her subject is a small New England town, Westford, located Massachusetts. There is enough contextual ambiguity as to the actual location that Peacock’s hometown could be representative of any small town in the East or Midwest region of America, which is a factor that draws me and probably other readers into this monograph.

She opens with an urban landscape photograph of a small market, an archetype of the local hang-out for bored kids in a small town. It appears that topic of conversation for her subjects that day was probably her and the view camera balanced on the tripod as the woman who kept darting under the curious black sheet. Her young subjects gaze directly at the lens not realizing that this was a poignant moment in time in 1982 and they were in the process of becoming subjects of nostalgia and memory when this photograph is contemplated some thirty-five years later. We can speculate that some of these same kids probably now have children of their own that are this same age or maybe even older, although Peacock states that this small market is no longer there and that one of these boys has since passed.

We witness an evolution of photographic style, from a formalism of a large format camera with color film to an informal capture in expressive black & white that encompasses digital capture methods. There is also a subtle pairing of the photographs within the book, such as the image below of the contrasting lives of the dejected appearing older woman who Elvis is still adoring and the opposing photograph of the antics of young men hanging out with skate boards and engrossed in what’s on their cell phones.

She records the quite moments of normal life being lived without big drama. We can find ourselves, friends and family in the midst of her hometown investigation and these photographs may trigger memories of our own past “normal” events.

This photobook was juried into the Photo Independent Photo Book Competition and subsequent exhibition.

Cheers!

Douglas

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May 12, 2017

Roger Ballen – The Theatre of Apparitions

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Photographer:  Roger Ballen (born in New York City, NY; resides in Johannesburg, South Africa)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, London; © 2016

Essays:  Preface by Roger Ballen; introduction by Colin Rhodes

Text:  English

Hardcover with dust jacket, sewn binding; 192 numbered pages; 90 monochrome captioned photographs; printed in China; 17.5×25 cm

 

Notes:

On April 22, 2017, in his keynote address at the annual Photo Independent Exposition (celebrating the Los Angeles Festival of Photography), Roger Ballen said that “everything happens in and with the mind.” Further, in response to a question from the audience regarding the possibility of a photographer exploiting his or her subjects, he further expanded on this theme, expressing his view that we all exploit or make use of others, since we are all programmed to live, and thus as a matter of survival must consume other living matter, be they plants or animals. Leave it to a professional geologist to brazenly uncover that which is hidden, to unearth the earthly as well as the unearthly, the more ethereal forces behind our externalized everyday scenes! The subconscious and the unconscious are powerful forces in the Ballenesque perception of life, guiding our thoughts, emotions, and actions, and he brings them into our visual and emotional awareness.

I consider Ballen the visual Shakespeare of our time, with good measures of Freud and Jung tossed in, especially Jung! He knows the many parts we play externally in the drama of life, but also most especially the archetypal parts within each of us that are struggling and trying to assert themselves, as some of them may wish to be externalized; they hover, cower, act out the most secret of emotions, desires, fears, and drives, and translate them into potential actions in our everyday existence. The shadows know it all… In collaboration with Marguerite Rossouw, Ballen paints and draws these spirits on windows and other panes, then photographs the results, one-of-a-kind and ethereal as works of art, and short-lived except through the photographs and this book, a source of self-discovery and astonishment for those who dare. Inspired originally by such drawings in an abandoned institution, Ballen has moved toward incorporating drawing and painting into his art over the past several years, in this instance to create primeval and primitive effects.

This volume is all black and white, with black backgrounds on all the pages, as shown below, and with only white and simulated shades of gray used for the drawings and paintings. On 192 pages, 90 photographs are reproduced, comprising seven sections, labeled “acts,” true to the title promising theatrical apparitions: persona – burlesque – eros – transmuted – melancholy – fragmentation – ethereal. There is usually only one image per double-page spread, either on the left or on the right, with a short title and the year of creation opposite each image. I am showing a representative image from each section below, in sequence. The image titles are kept short on purpose, since Ballen is of the school of thought that many words are only needed for bad images. Occasionally there is a playful use of language, e.g. “Hold Up” (page 87), third image below. The sum total is a contribution that invites the viewer to engage in introspection against an ancient and transient stage full of surprises, a mirror of our collective internal world, to be examined with some measure of daring and acumen.

A challenging work, full of fascinating encounters.

The PhotoBook previously featured two reviews by Douglas Stockdale of Roger Ballen’s Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds.

Gerhard Clausing

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May 5, 2017

Manca Juvan – Guardians of the Spoon

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:27 pm

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Photographer: Manca Juvan (b. & resides Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Publisher: ZRC Publishing

Essays: Manca Juvan, Sasa Petejan, Urska Strle

Text: English (Slovene e-book edition is available)

Hardcover book with slip-cover, ring binding, four-color lithography, split pages, Fascist internment timeline, printed at optimal media, Germany

Photobook designer: Prapesa (Sara Badovinac & Peter Zabret)

Notes: The opening photographs are dark with each succeeding photograph allowing more light to illuminate and reveal a bit more tantalizing information about the unfolding landscape. This visual metaphor for secrets and concealed information becomes more apparent as the viewer confronts portraits and personal testimonies of events that occurred during WWII (1939 – 1943) by the Italian Fascist. Probably for political reasons and since the Italian Fascist camps were not as horrific as the Germany Nazi counterparts, these camp sites and the events that took place are not well known.

From the authors regarding the concept of this book; “Acknowledgement of Italian war crimes in the larger international context today, is as uncommon as it is inconsistent. Indeed a survey of various references and encyclopedias rarely turns up any mention whatsoever of the many Italian concentration camps that served as instruments of political and racial persecution. While the most notorious Nazi camps have become widely embedded in popular culture and our collective imagination, history has little if anything to say about the Italian Fascist camps.

Juvan’s photobook was a recent winner of the Photo Independent International Photo Book Competition that I was a jurist for. I was immediately taken by the four elements we use as criteria to evaluate the book submissions; photography, project concept execution, book design and book production. One design element I found brilliant was within the body of the book, most of the interior pages are horizontally split, which allows the reader to change and modify the sequencing and pairing of the page spreads, thus the narrative. This book design is an excellent physical metaphor relating to the fragmentation of memory, that memory can be incomplete and jumbled with time. Likewise, this book design speaks to ability to alter facts and change meanings.

Juvan has confronted an uncomfortable subject and with the current political turmoil in the world, I feel that it is a danger that we must continue to remind ourselves about and guard ourselves against. Recommended

Other book review we featured for Manca Juvan, Unordinary Lives – Afghanistan

Cheers

Douglas

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April 28, 2017

Douglas Stockdale – Bluewater Shore

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Artist:  Douglas Stockdale (born Butler, PA; resides Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Publisher: Self-published, hand-inscribed, limited signed edition of 99; Copyright © 2017

Text: English

Stiff-cover book of 32 pages with 16 prong-bound images, unnumbered; in poly slip-cover; Fultone® digital lithography, printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California

Notes: Photobooks that present their images in a loose format, i.e., not permanently bound and sequenced but changeable, are still the exception. One such successful work was David Alan Harvey’s 2012 project entitled (based on a true story), dealing with life in Rio, with real and imagined storylines. That innovative volume (which received a number of important awards) was designed with double pages whose sequence could be rearranged to tell a different story from the viewer’s perspective, using the same images, but with new juxtapositions. A more recent predecessor to Bluewater Shore is Douglas Stockdale’s Pine Lake, reviewed previously; it shares a similar image presentation format with Bluewater Shore, which is its sequel.

In the case of Douglas Stockdale’s Bluewater Shore, we have a hand-inscribed and hand-assembled limited edition artist book presenting a simulated drugstore-issued set of 16 prints that take the viewer on an imaginary trip taking place in the 1940s: a young woman traveling to “bluewater shore” with her women friends. Since that was a time in which women were able to feel some greater sense of self and independence, they were not accompanied by males as might have been the expected practice in previous times. We see them on their journey, we see them at the beach in various activities, and – lo and behold! – suddenly males also appear in the pictures. That’s where the story gets interesting – we don’t know who they are, or what relationships there are between them and the women, but we can project our ideas into the pictures. There are also some children in the photographs, and we don’t know whether they are relatives, or bystanders, or symbols of things to come. Since the roll of film fictitiously presented in this publication is made up of only 16 pictures and the people depicted are not available, we are only able to guess what might be taking place. Consider it a story puzzle that allows us to participate vicariously. Creative photographic storytelling at its finest!

Douglas Stockdale has taken vernacular images from his family’s archives and has repurposed them for this semi-fictitious narrative as a new single set of 16. They have been appropriately aged and once printed slightly enlarged, prong-bound into a folder that simulates how prints were once delivered with processed rolls for a small additional fee (Kodak/Ansco flip-books). There is even a seemingly unintentional double exposure. Since they are bound with a prong that can be removed from the folder, the images can be rearranged and spread out on the table as might have once been the case if they were to be evaluated or placed in an album. Thus we can experience parts of a family history and relate what we see to our own history and our shared cultural past as well. A most enjoyable photographic puzzle of memories and times gone by.

This site has also featured Douglas Stockdale’s hardbound volume, Ciociaria.

Gerhard Clausing

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April 21, 2017

Christian Nilson – The Swiss

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Photographer: Christian Nilson (born Lerum, Sweden; resides Zürich, Switzerland)

Publisher:  Scheidegger & Spiess, Zürich, Switzerland, © 2016

Essay:  Jon Bollmann

Text:  English and German

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover with debossed circles and cut holes; 96 numbered pages, four-color lithography, 67 images, not captioned; 19.5×26.5 cm, printed in Germany

Photobook Designer:  Greger Ulf Nilson

 

Notes:

The essay by Jon Bollmann makes reference to Robert Frank’s The Americans (1956); we are also reminded of Rene Burri’s Die Deutschen (1962+); both of these forerunners are Swiss. And way before that, the German photographer August Sander’s approach to the portraiture of a nation’s people is also well known. While it does not seem possible to capture all the characteristics of a people in a single project, there are always particular reference points and points of view. (Frank and Sander were reviewed here previously: Robert Frank; August Sander.)

Christian Nilson’s viewpoint is different. As a Swede who has lived in Switzerland for over a decade, he shows what the country means to him, in color and in a modern style. There are touches of street photography (somewhat reminiscent of the in-your-face type of work by people like Bruce Gilden). Nilson also often uses flash, even in sunlight, to illuminate every corner of those shots. This gives the images a bright and cheerful appearance. He also has a strong eye for detail, along with humorous juxtapositions and overviews. One detects a sense of respect and wonder, which rubs off on the viewer, and allows an appreciation of his work as fine art photography as well. Nilson displays many of the expected clichés: mountains, traditional folk costumes and local customs, and others that we expect to see when we think of Switzerland. And for good measure, the designer has added a simulated cheese cover with actual holes, and cheese wrapping paper for the special edition! At the same time we see modern everyday life that is not any different than that in other countries – people in their rooms, eating, shopping, and similar daily activities.

The layout of this volume is also varied and keeps us alert. We find a variety of small and large placements of the images, at various aspect ratios, all the way to totally flush double page spreads. The result is that the viewer can puzzle over many of the pictures, trying to figure out the location and meaning of the activity in which the subjects are engaged, as well as their juxtapositions. There is no particular social criticism or political agenda that the author seems to have in mind. The idea we get is that Switzerland is a mixture of old and new, like any other country. It is just that the particulars of the “old” are different (in this case, based on a history of many centuries), while the elements of contemporary life seem universally shared. Thus, for instance, we find adults playing Batman or Superman for their children or for each other’s cosplay amusements, and the vendor of apricots, “Apricot-Andi,” uses techniques of modern marketing, such as his selfie, at his stand, while the stout townsfolk are seen in their expected traditional rural appearance, engaged in the life of country folk. And all of this coexists quite normally, to constitute the contemporary Swiss mix of country and city life, of historical customs and everyday mundane continuity in a modern society.

A thoroughly enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

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April 20, 2017

Ellen Korth – CHARKOW

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Photographer: Ellen Korth, (b. The Hague, Netherlands – resides Deventer (Netherlands) & Nordhorn (Germany)

Publisher: Self-published, Deventer (Netherlands), copyright 2016

Interviews by: Ellen Korth, Sybren Kuiper

Text: Netherlands, English & German

Seven (7) Stiff-cover books in slip-case, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Fine Books Weesp (Jos Morree) in Netherlands

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Photobook designer: Sybren Kuiper ( -SYB- )

Lithographer: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)

Notes: Ellen Korth’s CHARKOW photobook is a very layered and complex set of photobooks, both physically and in her narrative, in part similar to and driven by her mysterious and complex past. Essentially this is an investigation of the question of what constitutes “home”?

It is a collection of short visual stories that delves into the subject for each person or couple as to what is “home” (where their heart is) for them? Perhaps for Korth in attempting to understand how others sense “home”, it might be a therapeutic process for her to deal her own feelings of belonging. It appears to me that this photobook also investigate a related and equally beguiling question; how deep must one’s roots be to feel “grounded”?

Each of the thin books create a fascinating visual metaphor; as each successive full-bleed photograph becomes smaller, the outer framing of the previous photographs can be read as a background border to create a complex, layered environmental context for the developing narrative. The unbalanced trim of each page spread adds to the visual layering effect. Once at the center of each book, it is difficult to read the photographic spread, the only image with a small white margin, without noticing the Kaleidoscopic background framing that reminds the reader about how complex a person’s story might be. A wonderful analogy to the layering of skins surrounding an onion and the effort to peel each layer to get closer to the central heart. The reader imagines that that they are slowly delving deeper into the layers of her subject’s life to get at the core of who they might be as it relates to being “home”. Both visual tantalizing and emotionally elusive.

For Korth, her personal story is cloaked in dark secrets and a sense of loss as to her family history. This may be in part as a result of her mother’s need for secrecy since fleeing from Charkow (Kharkov) during the absolute terror and chaos of the German invasion during WWII. Korth is dealing with the issues of an incomplete and hidden past and perhaps the unanswerable questions of how to resolve those feelings.

Highly Recommended! (my basis: I was one of the jurist for the International Photo Book Competition sponsored by Photo Independent and I was absolutely blown away by this brilliant photobook and immediately knew that I had to provide this to the readers of The PhotoBook. Oh, it also won the photobook competition as well)

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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