The PhotoBook Journal

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 13, 2018

Rose-Lynn Fisher – The Topography of Tears

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Photographer:  Rose-Lynn Fisher (born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, lives in Los Angeles)

Publisher:  Bellevue Literary Press, New York, NY; © 2017

Essays:  William H. Frey II, Ph.D., Ann Lauterbach, Rose-Lynn Fisher

Text:  English

Paperback, stiff cover with French flaps; 128 pages with duotone images; 8×8 inches; printed and bound in China

Photobook Designer:  Mulberry Tree Press, Inc.

 

Notes:

I love landscape-like images of all sorts, but most especially those given out-of-the-ordinary approaches that reach into the realm of abstraction, whose representation can be considered other kinds of “scapes.”  In my own work, I have featured the body as landscape, resulting in unusual macro images, labeled “bodyscapes,” published in Blur magazine.  Of course, I also believe in the role of art as therapy, especially as a tool of self-observation, both for the photographer and the viewer. Rose-Lynn Fisher has gone in a similar direction in her visualizations, into the “micro” realm, examining the visual nature of tears (a product of emotional or onion-chopping moments) under the microscope for a number of years – a fascinating world in miniature, the world of what I would consider “tearscapes,” is the outcome, as published in this volume, entitled The Topography of Tears.

Of course it is expected that there are connections between art and the emotions, especially in a project like this. And sure enough, the titles given the images bear this out, since the author hints at moments that gave rise to the tears. The foreword and afterword by the author, as well as the essays, written by a neuroscientist and a poet, provide further contexts. Such titles as “Grief and gratitude,” “I remember you,” and “Nervous exhaustion” show a range of moments that gave rise to the examined outpourings.

The tears visualized are mostly the author’s own, and emotional conditions are necessary and concomitant contexts for these visualizations. The author essentially interrupted her emotions to capture the tears for visual examination. There two major ways in which this artistic inquiry examined tear samples: air-dried or compressed under a cover glass. Whereas the former often resulted in branchy, estuary-like structures, the latter often produced more free-form irregular patterns. Still others produced unexpected surprises that defy description. The viewer has a feeling of sitting in an elevated, drone-like position, looking in on someone’s inner turmoil that has been released for all to see. It is a bit like divining meaning from tea leaves or coffee grounds or lead castings on New Year’s Eve. You are welcome to derive your own meanings from the images; some sample pages are shown here without the titles to keep you guessing.

This volume is an excellent study in self-examination through art. I feel inspired to dig out my microscope and start exploring!

For those readers interested in an overview regarding the therapeutic possibilities of art, I refer you to the volume edited by Judith Aron Rubin:  Approaches to Art Therapy: Theory and Technique. 3rd Edition. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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April 6, 2018

Cig Harvey – You An Orchestra You a Bomb

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:55 pm

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Photographer: Cig Harvey (born Devon, UK & resides in Rockport, Maine)

Published by Schilt Publishing, (Amsterdam, NL), 2017

Essay: Vicki Goldberg

Text: English

Hardbound with linen covers, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Offizin Scheufele, Stuttgart (DR)

Photobook designer: Deb Wood (Brooklyn, NY)

Notes: This is Cig Harvey’s third photobook in her introspective series that investigates her family, friends and the changing environment of mid-costal Maine. Perhaps the reason for the overlap of the photographic images between the various photobooks; that memories are overlapping during life’s experiences. She stages her family, friends and pets as well as weaving in poetic images of the rural landscape her family is enveloped in. There are many whimsical, if not outright strange, images, such as the open picture frame balanced on a women’s head, that hints at a lighthearted surrealism when this photograph is then paired up to a close up of a decorated frosted cake.

Many of Harvey’s photographs are tightly cropped and edited while her subjects are frequently truncated or slightly concealed. This is in part to create plenty of ambiguity to allow the readers imagination to freely roam. This visual effect is replicated in the design and layout of her book, with full bleed images that suggest that we are a witness to only a part of her narrative (her life). The editing and pairing of the photographs is exquisite, with repeating colors and forms or even perhaps the yin/yang contrast of a high-key photograph in the context of an adjoining dark image. A poetic and lyrical volume.

Cig Harvey was previously featured on TPBJ: Gardening at Night

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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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 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 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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