The PhotoBook

April 14, 2016

Jamey Stillings – The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar

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Copyright 2015 Jamey Stillings

Photographer: Jamey Stillings (born Springfield, MO, resides Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany)

Essays: Jamey Stillings, Robert Redford, Anne Wilkes Tucker and Bruce Barcott

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, captions, line drawing, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: David Chickey

Notes: While driving north on I-15 from LA to Las Vegas and nearing the conclusion, one drives down and out of the mountain terrain towards the small city of Primm, clearly delineating California from the Nevada border. The descent provides a magnificent view of the Mojave Desert stretching out for miles ahead. As the descent continues towards Primm, there appears a strange apparition on the left out in the desert; three glowing towers amidst a field of small glowing objects. What this odd structure was mystified  me until I recently read Jamey Stillings’ photobook The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar.

In October 2010, Stillings commenced an aerial photography project over the future site of the Ivanpaph Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert of California. At the end of 2013, Ivanpaph Solar became the world’s largest concentrated solar thermal power plant with the capacity to produce 377 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power 140,000 American homes. Stillings photographs, created in a documentary style, are equally fascinating and mysterious as the site itself. Stillings oscillates, perhaps similarly to the mirrors on the site, between grand and sweeping aerial landscapes of Michael Light to the abstract expressionist of David Maisel. What results is a mix of technological and artistic contemplation.

Stillings states in his essay “While black and white represent the tonal end points of imagery in this book, shades of gray bring structure, detail, and nuance to each photograph. And while our rash obsession in contemporary culture is to embrace extreme postions, real progress lies in understanding the importance and great complexity found between these poles.”

Additional Footnote: I was part of the 2016 PhotoBook Competition jury during which we selected Stillings’ photobook The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar as one of the three Best in Show.

Cheers

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April 5, 2016

Kenneth Josephson – The Light of Coincidence

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Photographs Copyright 2016 Kenneth Josephson

Photographer: Kenneth Josephson (born Detroit, MI, resides IL, USA)

Publisher: University of Texas, Austin (USA)

Essays: Gerry Badger and Lynne Warren

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, includes List of Plates, Chronology, Exhibition History & listing of Collections, printed in China

Photobook designer: not stated

Notes: This thick, retrospective monograph examines the photographic works of Kenneth Josephson, an early innovative conceptual photographer. Early in his career, Josephson’s photographs ran counter to Szarkowski’s MoMA (1960 – 70’s) trend towards documentary photography, during which Josephson created photographs as objects that are “made”, not taken.

As Gerry Badger states in his forward to this book; “These images may contain meanings that are primarily private and personal to their maker. However, although Kenneth Josephson exemplifies the turn inward toward a self-reflective vision that marks post-World War II photography – he was taking selfies, though very complex selfies, decades before the iPhone generation – he was also enough of an artist to look outward.”

Many of Josephson’s photographs probably will appear hauntingly familiar, probably much more recognizable than his name.  His humor and wit is an undercurrent in many of his photographs, such as a car with a white shadow, which is not uncommon sight where the sun quickly melts the snow except for that which is in the shadows. Or when he frames his own shadow (early selfie) cast over his son laying on the ground, or his outstretched arm holds a photograph to create a juxtaposition of myth/reality into his composition. Josephson warrants a second look as someone who is providing a conceptual foundation for much of the current photographic practices.

Cheers

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April 1, 2016

Sara J. Winston – Homesick

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Copyright 2015 Sara J. Winston

Photographer: Sara J. Winston (born & resides New York, USA)

Publisher: Zatara Press (USA)

Short Story: Ani Katz

Text: English

Stiffcover book with Wire-O binding with fold back covers, four-color lithography, printed in Richmond, VA (USA)

Photobook designer: Sara J. Winston & Andrew Fedynak

Notes: Winston’s book title hints at a state of mind and her photographs are a mix of ambiguous and telling as to a potential homesickness (Sick of Home; Sick for Home, or Sick at Home). There is evidence of underlying issues; a bunged-up cat’s head, a sea of pills on a bed, hospital probes and monitoring wires and someone working with a non-functioning clock. Winston interweaves photographs of various tussled beds indicating an uneasiness that comes from not sleeping well in conjunction with food in various states of preparation, as though nourishment (health) is pending and not complete. Something is out of kilter and as a reader, I am left with a lingering sense of things not as they should be. This narrative about mortality and the circle of life is one in which Winston regretfully plays an unexpected role.

Best regards

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March 28, 2016

The Aftermath Project – WAR is Only Half the Story – Volume VIII

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Copyright 2015 the photographers

Photographers: Philippe Dudouit (Switzerland), Olga Ingurazova (Russia), Luca Locatelli (Italy), Diana Markossian (USA), Javad Parsa (Iran)

Publisher: The Aftermath Project (USA)

Essays: Sara Terry and the photographers

Text: English

Stiff-cover book with hand stamp, sewn binding with hand applied butcher tape on the spine, four-color lithography, printed in the United States

Photobook designer: Sara Terry & Mika Toyoura Mingasson

Notes: The Mission of the Aftermath Project and their annual publication WAR is Only Half the Story, is to broaden the public’s understanding of the true cost of war the real price of peace. They believe that while stories of war must be told, war itself is the story of man’s inhumanity to man. The Aftermath Project strives to illumine what it means to be human, to explore specific stories with universal themes that affirm our common humanity – and alert us to the dangers of equating a mere end of violence with sustainable peace.

This year’s submissions resulted in the winning grant awarded to Luca Locatelli (Italy) for United Colors of War, his four part project investigating the Industry of War, the commercial infrastructure that has swelled to make war possible, and perhaps a little too profitable. Locatelle includes one part investigating the industry of training combat photographers who subsequently make a living documenting war.

This edition also provides selections from the four Finalist; Philippe Dudouit (Sahel the Dynamics of Dust), Olga Ingurazova (Scars of Indeprndence), Diana Markossian (Goodbye My Chechnya) and Javad Parsa (Moments of Freedom). Collectively, a strong narrative that affirms our common humanity and that we need to avoid war.

Cheers

 

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March 25, 2016

Tim Richmond – Last Best Hiding Place

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Copyright 2015 Tim Richmond

Photographer: Tim Richmond (born England, resides Somerset, UK)

Publisher: Kehrer Verlag (Germany)

Essay: Jorg Colberg

Text: English

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Mark Tappin (London)

Notes: Richmond’s opening one-line statement summarizes his body of work; “Places, like people, can seem alone, filled with melancholy”. As an English photographer, he investigates a version of the American West that is found in Montana, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado, perhaps chasing movie myths while facing current realities. His photographs indeed appear to be layered with melancholy; open spaces devoid of people while sparsely populated by cattle, abandoned dusty western streets, boarded up small town store-fronts, old beat-up cars and empty bars. He has found those lonely in-between places where the American West dream has seemed to fizzle and become something much less. I am left wondering about his subjects; the faceless cowboys, the old biker, the young boy and others captured in a pensive moment.

Richmond’s photographs are well made and have an objective, documentary appearance that capture the nuances of the wide open expanses in Big Sky country. As his book title implies, and his photographs tend to support, the American West is still a large, sparse and desolate space where someone can escape to and become lost, leaving all one’s past baggage behind.

Cheers

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March 19, 2016

Chris Killip – In Flagrante Two

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Copyright 2015 (2016) Chris Killip

Photographer: Christopher David “Chris” Killip    (born; Douglas, Isle of Man, resides Boston, MA, USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany)

Essays: the book is without any essays, but does include an index of photographs at the conclusion.

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, with index of photographs, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Chris Killip and Victor Balko

Notes: In Flagrante Two is Steidl’s edition of Killip’s original photobook In Flagrante, which was a softcover book published in 1988 by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. Killip is investigating the working class neighborhood of northeast England over the duration of 1973 to 1985, a time of unrelenting economic troubles for the UK. Regretfully I have not have a copy of the original 1988 In Flagrante, but the frequent criticism of this first edition was that the horizontal two page spread design and printing lost some of the photographic content within the gutter. This large Steidl edition has each photographic image on one entire page, one printed page per spread and thus all of the photographic content is intact.

The photographs are very gray and gritty, the documentary style portrays an industrial area in a declining condition; an opening photograph of the Wallsend housing in Tyneside, cloaked in snow and at the conclusion of the book, the same advantage point during the demolition of this same housing track in Wallsend, with the bricks and rubbish littering the lane, similar to resulting the fall of Humpty Dumpty, who could not be put back together again by all of the King’s men. I should note that when corresponding with Killip, he revealed that the later photograph of the Wallsend housing demolition is one of three images that are new to the Steidl edition, which for me, makes this edition all that more compelling as a narrative of this time and place. I also note that Killip frequently photographed children who seem happy and oblivious to their dire surroundings, while the older youth and young adults appear to become very aware of their situation.

In my naivety of my English cousins, I had though In Flagrante was a reference to a region or place in northern England. Following up with Killip, he states that his book’s title is extracted from the term “In Flagrante Delicto”, a legal term meaning “caught in the act” in a sexual connotation, while In Flagrante is also caught in the act, but without a sexual connotation.

I had also read that many of the photographs of In Flagrante were made by Killip with a 4”x5”, but there was a spontaneity to the images that did not seemed to correspond to a static viewpoint of a view camera (my 4”x5” equipment assumption) on a tripod. In response to my question regarding the camera equipment he used, Killip stated that he mainly used a Linhof Technica 4”x5” hand-held which was mixed with 6×7 roll film taken on a Plaubel.

As to my question as to the overlap of his Seacoal images that are also included in In Flagrante, he responded; “I did the In Flagrante book a longtime before the Seacoal book and the Seacoal images that are in In Flagrante just seemed to fit.

Killip also states “In Flagrante Two is strident in its belief in the primacy of the photograph, embracing ambiguities and contradictions in an unadorned narrative sequence devoid of text.”

Other Chris Killip photobooks featured on The PhotoBook: Seacoal

Cheers

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March 11, 2016

Ron Jude – Lago

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Copyright 2015 Ron Jude

Photographer: Ron Jude (born Los Angeles, resides Eugene, OR, USA)

Publisher: MACK (London)

There are no essays, pagination or captions

Text: English

Hardcover book with embossed and printed linen cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Germany by Optimal Media

Photobook designer: Ron Jude with Grégoire Pujade-Lauraine

Notes: Although not stated in Ron Jude’s 2015 photobook Lago (Spanish for Lake), his title is a sideways reference for his subject, the Salton Sea and the surrounding Southern California desert community located not far from the Mexican border. In fact this photobook is minimalist in design; photographs only without any essays or captions, thus intending the reader to create their own narrative.

I will admit that this storied location out in the desert is not that far from my studio but its current downward spiraling conditions, both economically and environmentally, have had no appeal for me. Probably why I am a bit late to acquire and review Jude’s photobook, but I became more interested as I read other books reviews and interviews with Jude about his project.

The decaying structures, plants and isolated details appear ambiguous as to their actual location other than a place in a desert setting. When his subjects are illuminated by a warm light, this creates an emotional disparity for the dismal vision in front of Jude’s lens. Nevertheless, when his subjects are in the harsh, direct light of the cloudless desert, this seems to provide a more appropriate illumination of the found conditions. The Salton Sea due to the economic decay matched with the increasing alkalinity of the lake, has become a frequent photographic “ruin porn” destination, in line with the similar sad conditions surrounding Detroit, while I find that Jude’s photographs transcend the vast majority of photographs created at the Salton Sea. I feel that is probably due to Jude’s concept which goes beyond a documentary style project investigating failure.

Although his photographs capture some of the sad economic conditions that surround the location, once thought in the 1950’s to become another desert Palm Springs on the lake, his photographs can be read as visual metaphors for memory, hope, loss and stubborn reality. Jude stated in another interview about this project “These things you mention—the harsh light and the fishbone beaches—served as strange, almost violent embodiment’s of how difficult it is to come to terms with the gap that exists between the smooth edges of memory and the staccato nature of actual experience.”

Other Ron Jude photobooks that I have discussed on this blog in the past: Lick Creek Line, Other Nature

Cheers

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February 29, 2016

Ralph Gibson – Political Abstraction

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Copyright 2014 Ralph Gibson

Photographer: Ralph Gibson (born Los Angeles, resides NYC, USA)

Publisher: Lustrum Press (USA) (Distributed: University of Texas Press, Austin)

Essays: Ralph Gibson

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography

Photobook designer: not stated

Notes: This is Gibson’s first stated foray into digital photography and the book is also meant to be an exhibition catalog. His vertical photographs, now incorporating color in combination with his classic black & white images, are ambiguous photographs and not unlike those of his earlier seminal photobooks Somnambulist and Deja-vu. Gibson’s current book, Political Abstraction again provides Surrealistic juxtapositions, as his stated intent is to provide photographic diptychs for the reader/viewer to compare and contrast.

The Abstraction aspect of the book’s title is somewhat easy to grasp, as his truncated photographs are simplified and ambiguous forms, lines, shapes and colors without revealing the greater context of what (or where) the subject actually is. Gibson does pull back to provide more contextual information to the female nude forms, one of his stated sources from which all shapes are derived from. In his introduction, Gibson bullet-points almost 50 definitions of what he considers Synapses, including three repetitions of the “in democratic cosmopolitan culture a book can begin or end on any page in the book”, a key element of his Political theme, thus signaling that his paired pages can stand alone and his book does not necessarily provide an overall narrative save what the reader might glean form their appraisal of his collective pairings. Gibson concludes that “the reader is the subject of this book”, an interesting, if not confounding statement, born of his Ed Ruscha/ LA generation.

Cheers

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February 23, 2016

Alessandra Kila – Calabria Upon Return

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Copyright 2015 Alessandra Kila

Photographer: Alessandra Kila (born Reggio di Calabria, IT, resides: London UK)

Publisher: Paper Tiger Books (London)

Poems: Alessandra Kila

Text: English

Stiff-cover book with French folds and elastic strap closure, loose binding, concertina insert four-color off-set, printed in UK by Jigsaw Colour in a numbered addition of 300

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Photobook designer: Laura Braun

Notes: Kila’s investigating the concept of “never being able to go home again”, as that once you leave a place, perhaps even for a short while, many things are not perceived the same upon returning. A person returns with different “eyes”, the new experiences change and modifies one’s memory and the subtle day-to-day changes that once went unnoticed become very staggering in retrospect.

This small photobook has a very smart, if not brilliant design. The text is printed on a concertina insert that weaves through the interior literally and conceptually holding the loose photographs, thus the book content’s, together. A photobook that immediately captures my imagination; recommended and I hope you can obtain one, as I suspect that these will disappear fast.

Cheers, Doug

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January 29, 2016

Agnieszka Rayss – American Dream

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American Dream Copyright 2011 Agnieszka Rayss

Photographer: Agnieszka Rayss (born, resides Poland)

Publisher: Foundation Photography Institute Pro Fotografia (Poland)

Essays: Agnieszka Rayss

Text: English

Hardcover book, linen cover with foil stamping, page marker, sewn binding, four-color lithography

Photobook designer: Ania Nalecka (Tapir Book Design)

Notes: When I was asked by the editor of Emaho magazine to become the “American” expert and write about contemporary American photobooks, I took this suggestion very broadly; not only American photographers but anyone who investigates the American culture and things “American”, either directly or as to what they consider to be attributes of America. It would seem that I could accomplish and a bit qualified as I was born and raised in the American Midwest (Pennsylvania, Michigan) and lived most of adult life on or near the Pacific coast (California and Arizona) and traveling throughout Western Europe, Caribbean, Central America, Asia and Canada.

I had earlier received Agnieszka Rayss’s photobook American Dream, which at first look was interesting but it did not initially take a hold of me. Nevertheless with the “American” assignment, this was one of the many books that I had immediately thought of. This is Rayss’s investigation of one of many cultural changes to a post-communist country as it adapts to a new reality of western trends of fashion, self-appearance and modeling contests. There are definite parallels of her subjects chasing the American, if not universal, dream of stardom, wealth and beauty in the hopes of finding success and a wonderful life. Rayss begins her investigation as a documentary photographer, but over time, finds herself intrigued by this lifestyle and is soon standing in front of the judges as a willing participant. Becoming a model similar to her subjects adds another dimension to her project as someone who is looking from the inside out, not as a coolly detached observer. This book is evidenced from a feminine perspective as I sense warmth, intimacy and empathy in her photographs as someone who has walked a mile in her subject’s high-heel shoes.

Best regards

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