The PhotoBook

January 11, 2017

Claire Felicie – Only The Sky Remains Untouched

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Copyright 2016 Claire Felicie

Photographer: Claire Felicie (born Breda, NL, resides Amsterdam, NL)

Self-published (the Nederland)

Essays: Claire Felicie

Text: English

Stiffcover book, sewn binding, quad-color (2 blacks, dark grey, warm grey) lithography by Colour and Books, printed in the Nederland

Photobook designer: Sybren Kuiper ( -SYB- )

Notes: Claire Felicie has undertaken a daunting task of investigating the dark inner psyche of war veterans who after engaging in terrifying military combat, have returned home with the invisible wounds of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Felicie carefully chose a symbolic location to stage her portraits, which is a former military weapons factory.  Her portraits and landscapes are subsequently mashed-up and interwoven together in an attempt create a more chaotic and disjointed narrative. The black and white photographs lean heavily into grey and dark tonalities, providing a very somber setting for this body of work.

Her subjects recline half-dressed on a minimalist and symbolic military style cot within a stark space. Some cannot confront the camera, needing to turn their backs to look away. The remaining gazes appear blank, dull, without energy and momentarily without resistance. Many of her portraits are truncated with the interleaving of pages, see images 2 and 3 below, and as well as images 5 and 6, visually revealing only a partial embodiment of her subject, as though that person is no longer whole and symbolically broken.

Many of portraits are paired with images of a decaying structure; a desolate and foreboding environmental context that seems well suited to the disturbing war stories her subjects share in the afterword. Her subjects have experiences that are difficult for a non-combatant viewer to fathom, even after reading about the events that have been witnessed. These are the experiences that subsequently result in sudden bouts of intense anxiety, fear, and sadness accompanied with a loss of trust and a sense of security. Thus pairing a portrait with an abstract marking that could be representative of a weeping wall, bottom image below, is a beautiful symbolic metaphor for a depressing sadness.

Essentially all conceptual projects, although especially portraits, attempt to find ways to explain the unexplained and visualize the invisible. Books and photographs become a silent witness. Nevertheless, I find her photographs of these veterans sequenced among the moody rural and urban landscape photographs elicits a perceived sadness emulating from her subjects and although I don’t know the extent of their pain, it feels palpable.

The surrounding forest, although rendered darkly, is steadily reclaiming the man-made structures, thus offers hope for a slowly regenerative healing for her subjects and mankind as well.

In closing, a beautiful book object that results from the creative collaboration of Felicie with the smart book designer Sybren Kuiper and the beautifully lithography by Sebastiaan Hanekroot at Colour and Books. Recommended.

Cheers

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January 8, 2017

Barbara Kyne – By Fire

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Ph­otography:  Barbara Kyne (Oakland, California)

Fall 2015, self-published. Softcover book with 32 pages, not numbered; 10 duotone photographs; 8.75 x 7.25″; $20. Marketed by Norfolk Press  and by the photographer.  For a limited time included as a bonus upon purchase of the second book, A Crack in the World, to be reviewed here shortly.

Essay:  “On Contemplation and Perception” by Barbara Kyne

Text:  English

Photobook design: Yon Sim

Notes:  By Fire is a fascinating seminal volume that has as its goal creating a connection between severe personal tragedy and the universe of nature as a sphere of continuity and as a context permitting some healing. In ten well-chosen images that have also been given intriguing titles, Barbara Kyne allows the viewer to enter a foreboding yet promising atmosphere: we can project events that have fundamentally affected our lives into a series of fiery depictions of nature. These often include a shadowy figure – a stand-in and ethereal spirit, hinting at a gutsy universality beyond the comprehension of any one individual being, as well as pointing toward some solace and an understanding that we are not alone.

Barbara Kyne has a keen interest in pursuing the deeper meaning of reality and discovering clues to the great existential questions, using her photography to serve as a conduit to understanding “the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, often and surprisingly connecting pathos and joy.” Regarding this volume, she states, “If we move through the metaphorical fire with awareness, we may find that facing mortality creates expansion and renewed life.” Indeed, there is a mysterious and mythical quality to her photography that envelops and fascinates the viewer, inviting several types of discovery.

Barbara Kyne is continuing her important photography in further volumes. We admire her work and are looking forward to further illuminations.

Gerhard Clausing

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January 6, 2017

Young-hwan Choi – BABEL

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Copyright 2014 Young-hwan Choi

Photographer: Young-hwan Choi (born & resides in Seoul, South Korea)

Self-Published (South Korea)

Essays: Young-hwan Choi, Dong-sun Jin, Sang-yong Shim

Text: Korean & English

Stiffcover book with tipped in image, perfect binding, four-color lithography, printed by Photonet in South Korea

Photobook designer: Photonet, South Korea

Notes: Choi’s self-published photobook BABEL is a tall, thin collection of black and white photographs that investigate a towering urban landscape in which the vegetation is either attacking a structure or attempting to conceal it, as though a futile potential reclamation is in process.

This is a dark poetic and surreal allegory about the pursuit of happiness by means of accumulating power and wealth through the construction of tall looming structures, similar to the vain construction of the towers of Babel, is but a hollow chase. None of these structures has been able to truly reach heaven.

In writing about Choi’s photograph, Sang-young Shim states “the excessive deficiency of light, which often comes close to absence. Sometimes all light is extinguished except for the minimum required for perception. Even that is reflected light, with the light source nowhere to be seen. The main tones range between grey and black, but as the darkness advances to the extreme level, it often threaten the middle tones as well…the plant is a place that should be brighter, for sure. One should poke a hole through the sky cover in ash-colored clouds. The ominous grey that pressed down should be covered with brilliant colors. But the signs of dawn are too faint.”

I met Choi at Photo Independent last spring in Los Angeles and I was impressed with his photographic exhibit and his two self-published photobooks, this and his earlier REQUIEM (published in 2011).

I find BABAL’s visual narrative to be extremely relevant to the current global events, especially those occurring in the United States. Anyone who builds large and tall structures with their name bronzed in large letters across the front for all to see (hoping for admiration) is indeed pursuing a dark folly that was characteristic of Babel.

Best regards

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January 1, 2017

Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam – When War is Over

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Copyright 2016 Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam

Photographer: Daniel Alexander (born Edinburgh, Scotland, resides London, UK)

Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (UK)

Essay: Daniel Alexander

Text: English

Hardcover book with embossed cover, inserts, multiple gatefolds, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Daniel Alexander

Notes: Towards the end of World War I in 1917, the United Kingdom made a decision to establish the Imperial War Graves Commission that currently tracks and maintains the burial of 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead from World War I and II in perpetuity. Daniel Alexander’s photobook When War is Over provides a documentary style investigation of this on-going process of memorialization.

Alexander and Haslam’s photographic project took on more meaning for me as I had recently completed a related photographic project documenting road-side memorials. In my investigation I was documenting what family and friends had erected as a personal memorial at the site of a tragic accident in an attempt to create a remembrance and deal with their personal grief. Similarly Alexander and Haslam investigate an organized process of remembrance for those who tragically passed while serving in the military with the government acting on the behalf of families who might not otherwise have a means or capacity to do so, such that those who passed were honored equally.

For me this photobook calls into the question of how we create a remembrance of those who we have known and loved, but who have now passed on. How do we maintain that memory and how that memory is passed on to later generations? Does a well maintained cemetery create this experience, or does it provide an associated remembrance as an example that is available to us all? Likewise this photobook, although not about someone specifically still elicits a poignant remembrance of my family members who were lost in military action during these wars as well as those who were in the war but have passed since, such as my own father who was in the American army during World War Two.

This photobook documents the various aspects of maintaining these burial sites, which engages administrators, quarry-men, stone cutters, and gardeners for the upkeep of 2,500 cemeteries, 21,000 other burial grounds and 200 memorials for the missing in 154 countries. I also find that this photobook is a sober narrative about the terrible price of war, but if so engaged, those valiantly involved will be remembered.

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December 30, 2016

Ara Oshagan – Mirror

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Copyright 2015 Ara Oshagan

Photographer: Ara Oshagan (born Beirut, Lebanon, resides Glendale, CA, USA)

Self-Published (USA)

Essay by Ara Oshagan

Music & Lyrics by Gor Mkhitarian

Text: English & Armenian

Hardcover exposed boards with tipped in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in China

Photobook designer: Ara Oshagan & Varoujan Hovakimyan

Notes: Ara Oshagan and his self-published photobook Mirror uses a documentary style to create a predominately black and white diary of the Gor Mkhitarian band but with an unusual twist; he incorporates some new technology that allows the viewer to scan the appropriate interior pages and link up the related music on their phone. Oshagan has incorporated the free Aurasma.app (available from Apple or Google) that after downloading and subsequently pointing the phone’s camera to the red icon pages of his book, the reader will be able to experience Mkhitarian’s band play the related music.

Oshagan states “Images mirror music. Music is a mirror of images. Darkness and light reflected in both. The diary’s very structure is a mirror; the lexicon of the pages that follow one another has a visual rhythm, an echo of the ebb and flow of music itself.”

Oshagan was present at Photo Book Independent last spring when I had an opportunity to meet him and discuss his photographs as well as the technology lurking in this book. I usually do not provide reviews of musical band documentaries, but this was really an intriguing collaboration of a nice physical photobook with the download of the related music, which I find more interesting that an iPad experience. I am guessing that once the reader downloads this app, that they should even be able to scan the photographs in this review and interact with the music. Cool.

Cheers

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December 8, 2016

Kenneth O’Halloran – Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing

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Copyright 2016 Kenneth O’Halloran 

Photographer: Kenneth O’Halloran (born Corofin, Country Clare, resides Dublin, Ireland)

Self-published (Ireland)

Essay: Presidential Announcement speech, 2015

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, edition of 500, printed by Mirex, Gdansk (Poland)

Photobook designer: Mac & Ken

Notes: This documentary style project occurred in Los Angles on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2016 during the United States presidential election. O’Halloran’s perspective was that of an outsider looking into an on-going political process, visiting this Southern California region from his native Ireland.

O’Halloran documented the raw emotional reaction of his subjects when confronting the name of one of the candidate’s bronzed in the sidewalk. His portraits of his subjects are tightly composed which appears to add an additional layer of tension to the emotional charged environment surrounding this location.

It might be an understatement that most of his subjects did not appear to react favorably to this landmark, as this candidate went on to lose the popular vote in the election by over two and half million votes as of this writing, while still becoming president-elect.

Best regards, Doug

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December 2, 2016

LACP workshop: Introduction to PhotoBook design

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Copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale

I am very excited to announce that I will be leading an Introduction to Photo Book Design workshop in conjunction with the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) next Spring 2017. The workshop will be held over two consecutive Saturdays, April 1st and April 8th in Los Angeles at the LACP facilities.

This workshop is intended for photographers preparing to transition their photographic images and projects to book form. I am planning that this two-day workshop will teach participants creative and practical approaches to photo book design, in anticipation of working with a book publisher, self-publishing or creating an artist-book.

My goal for this practical workshop is that everyone will understand the basics of photobook design, book publishing and reasons for a book dummy and should be well on their way to develop a book that reflects their personal creative vision.

Currently there is a 20% early bird registration available, so if you plan to be in the LA area next spring and would like to join me for this fun & challenging workshop, check it out!

If you have any questions, post a comment for me.

Cheers!

btw, if the photograph of the stack of photobooks above look familiar, this was my selection of interesting photobooks for 2013.

November 28, 2016

Jacek Fota – PKiN

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Gerhard Clausing @ 5:59 am

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Concept and Ph­otography:  Jacek Fota (Warsaw, Poland)      http://www.jacekfota.com/

Publisher:  Fundacja Centrum Architektury, Warsaw, Poland 2015. Co-financed by the Capital City of Warsaw.      http://centrumarchitektury.org

Essays:  Introduction by Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska / Interviews by Milena Rachid Chebab / Translation by Zosia Sochańska.

Text:  English (English edition, 430 copies); there is also a Polish edition.

Hardcover book with 112 pages, not numbered; 70 color photographs numbered and captioned in the appendix; sewn binding; cloth cover, printed and bound in Poland.

Photobook design: Ania Nałęcka, Tapir Book Design / Photo editing: Mark Power, Magnum.

 

Notes:   PKiN is the abbreviation of the Polish name (Pałac Kultury i Nauki) for the Palace of Culture and Science in the country’s capital, Warsaw. This huge building containing in excess of 3200 rooms was a gift from the Soviet Union under Stalin to the people of Poland and was created between 1952 and 1955. Construction elements include some of the finest workmanship by craftsmen from Poland and the Soviet Union. This beautifully printed volume of photographs and ten pages of personal notes based on staff interviews shows an embossed replica of the so-called “frog” diagram of the ventilation system of this impressive edifice on the cover as an introduction to the myriad of details inside.

Jacek Fota’s 70 images delve behind the scenes of this magnificent structure as it exists today. In the words of Krzysiek, one of the Palace staff members interviewed, “Now there is much less going on and one can feel that the palace has been neglected.”  Fota’s distanced views evoke a sense of the range of public responses – awe, respect, and perhaps even some resentment of this overwhelming structure, with all its elements and all its history. Fota states that his goal was to document how the palace functions on the inside, “to convey the mysterious, surreal ambience” which the Palace exudes.

And sure enough, the administrators and caretakers of the palace are depicted as relatively small elements of the photographs in which they appear. The general impression of the viewer is one of distance, which enhances the mysteries of what is shown. The viewer also feels overcome by the sheer number and size of the many magnificent structural elements, as they mix with items neglected or in disrepair, mere reflections of the “glory” of former times. One can let one’s imagination take a journey, thinking of events that once gave even more luster to the structure than may be the case today. The images of this astute photographer are well composed and sequenced, and it is a pleasure to wander through the volume from beginning to end.

Gerhard Clausing

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October 28, 2016

Yanina Shevchenko – Crossing Over

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Copyright 2013 Yanina Shevchenko

Photographer: Yanina Shevchenko (born: Russia – resides: Barcelona, Spain)

Publisher: The Velvet Cell (London, Taipei)

Essays: Yanina Shevchenko

Text: English

Stiffcover book, saddle-stitch binding, four-color lithography, printed in Taiwan

Photobook designer: Velvet Cell Graphics

Notes: In America a “road-trip” in which one wants get up-close and personal with the land is usually by accomplished by means a car. To cross an even greater expanse of Russia and attempt to create a personal relationship with the land, a road-trip one usually associates with is by means of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This photobook is Yanina Schevchenko’s narrative using a documentary style and resulting from riding the rails over a duration of fourteen days; from Moscow to the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway and then immediately returning. Her subject was the expansive rural and intermittent urban landscape of Russia in an attempt to investigate the regional culture along this route.

As a reader who has traveled by railway in both the United States and Europe, what can be observed in Shevchenko’s photographs appears similar in one aspect but not all-together different; stretches of open and frequently monotonous rural landscape with short duration’s of the urban industrial landscape. I also found myself recently returning to this book as I am now make frequent commutes to a laboratory space about an hour and half away that involves a long drive with a short stretch of stop and go traffic. During the drive, the ensuing landscape is a soft blur, but due to the serendipity and chance of where I made the brief stops in heavy traffic, the adjacent landscape takes on a startling clarity. These are similar elements that Shevchenko captures in her investigation. Perhaps some of the structures of the steppes are a bit unique, but the land adjacent to a noisy rail line is a place that is not usually attractive but can still be a very interesting to contemplate.

Cheers

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October 7, 2016

Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius – Mangini Studio

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Copyright 2014 Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius

Photographic collaborators: Terry Brown (resides Richmond, VA) & Gordon Stettinius (resides Richmond, VA) USA

Publisher: Candela Books (Richmond, Virginia)

Essays: Dr. Manuel Moore, Terry Brown, Gordon Stettinius

Text: English

Hardcover book, embossed and tipped-in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, index, printed by Worth Higgins & Associates, Richmond, VA

Photobook designer: Sarah Rowland

Notes: This photobook is a humorous eight year collaboration between of two photographers, with Terry Brown making the exposures of her subject, Gordon Stettinius (perhaps an alter-ego series of selfies?), with Gordon having the opportunity to play a variety of roles. This conceptual project also reminds me of the work of Cindy Sherman, another photographer/artist who is very adapt at playing a variety of roles for her lens. The reader has an opportunity to really get to know the wild and crazy side of Gordon Stettinius. I will admit, not realizing that this project was underway or knowing Stettinius, it was pretty perplexing to figure out just who Stettinius actually was when I found some of these portraits on-line over the last couple of years.

These interesting, albeit playful, series of studio portraits also has a serious undercurrent that investigates perceived roles and identities.The viewer cannot help in reacting to the various visual persona’s that are represented in this portfolio; hippie, dork, right-wing conservative, left-wing intellectual, low-life, ex-military, skin-head, artist, politician, country musician and even a cross-dresser. I find that this project pokes fun at many of the stereotypes of our society (regretfully pre-Trump), while subtly confronting some of the cultural issues we face today.

Cheers

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