The PhotoBook Journal

November 9, 2018

Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne

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Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne, 2018

Photographer: Dave Jordano (born Detroit, MI, USA resides Chicago IL, USA)

Publisher: powerHouse Books

Essay, Foreword by Karen Irvine

Text: English with captions and pagination

Hardcover book with illustrated dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed and binding in China

Photobook designer: Sam Silvio

Notes: The investigation of an urban man-built landscape can be a sociological study of those who live in it as part of a photo-documentary practice. Dave Jordano adds another couple of more layers to the study of his subject, the city of Detroit.  His visual framing of this urban landscape is from the adjacent byways of this city, a version of street photography which in this case only a few individuals are observed. Second is the time of day he creates this urban investigation, or perhaps more succinctly, a project created in the wee hours between sunset and when the sun rises again. A time when things might go bump in the night.

For the most part of this study Jordano focuses on the aging structures of Detroit that are illuminated by a variety of lighting, both the natural moon lite sky as well as the various industrial, commercial neon, residential and street lights. The combination of lighting sources creates interesting color palette to an already colorful city and the occasional sharply delineated shadows make for an overall strangeness to his photographs. The night time lighting creates graphic shapes of this urban setting as the structures appear to flatten and visually break down to basic shapes, masses, blocks of color and lines. The overall effect might be best characterized as being surreal.

The capture of these lonely night-lite structures as a documentary practice attempts to reveal the underlying social order of this area. I am struck by a combination of visual humor mixed with moments of melancholy, as many of these photographs seem to reveal an underlying sadness about what is occurring in this region. Like Jordano, I grew up near these same locations many years ago, so viewing these mostly dated, sometimes seriously deteriorating, structures remind me of my own aging and mortality.

Dave Jordano has been previously featured on TPBJ: Detroit Unbroken Down

Cheers, Doug

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October 29, 2018

Richard S. Chow – Urbanscape

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 5:34 pm

 

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Photographer:  Richard S. Chow (born in Hong Kong; lives in Los Angeles, California)

Self-published, edition of 50; © 2017

Text:  Notes by the photographer, in English

Soft covers, spiral-bound (Wire-O), 10.75 x 8.25 inches; 66 pages, unpaginated; black and white and color sections with 18 and 12 images respectively; printed by MagCloud (a division of Blurb)

 

Notes:

Having recently curated the ABSTRACT VISIONS Exhibition, I was very pleased to come across this work by Richard S. Chow. He is a prolific exhibitor in the Los Angeles area and internationally, has received a number of important awards for his work, and is also very active in furthering the exposure of other photographers through Open Show LA events, along with his colleague Jonas Yip, whose work I will be reviewing shortly.

This volume by Richard S. Chow is entitled Urbanscape, and consists of some 30 photographic images, with two additional arrangements of three and six as collages. The work displays an astute vision, an impressive ability both to isolate shapes and lines and to combine forms into distinct and pleasing and/or riveting patterns and juxtapositions, both in monochrome and color. This work gives us the impression that we are contemplating architectural archetypes that have their own rules and aesthetic systems. As Chow himself states in his notes in the book, one of his main goals is to give the viewer a participatory projection experience as a member of the society whose architects and builders have created the distant beauty of these forms for their structures.

The first part of the book is comprised of 18 images in monochrome, while the latter part contains 12 color plates, well printed and of a good size; they also have interesting titles, such as “Between the Lines” and “Hip to be Square.” I was especially pleased to note that all double pages lie perfectly flat on the table with this kind of binding. All the images display a dynamic optimism, a sense of beauty that is characterized by distance yet beckons the viewer to get involved in the image in leisurely contemplation to get a bit closer. These are not the kinds of images that leave you cold, in spite of what may at first appear, and as might be one’s initial reaction upon first glance. The level of abstraction varies across this work; sometimes there are some natural elements or quirky human objects in the periphery (the sky with or without clouds, rain gutters and/or their shadows, and other such bits not so high-tech) that remind us of the human needs behind the structures. Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray might be pleased by Chow’s contemporary treatment of the abstractions that urban spaces present to us today. Most intriguing!

The PhotoBook Journal previously reviewed Richard S. Chow’s Distant Memories.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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October 24, 2018

Kranzler – Phelps – The Drake Equation

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Paul Kranzler & Andrew PhelpsThe Drake Equation, 2018 (book miss-printed 2017)

Photographers: Paul Kranzler, (born Austria, resides Linz,Austria and Leipzig, Germany) & Andrew Phelps (born Mesa, Arizona, resides in Salzburg, Austria)

Publisher: Fountain Books (Verlag), Berlin

Essay: Alard Von Kittlitz

Text: English

Without pagination or captions

Hardcover book, bronze embossed linen over boards, tipped-in image on back cover, sewn binding, bronzed page edges, one double gate-fold, four-color lithography, printed by Optimal Media, GmbH (Germany)

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Book Designer: Isabel Latza

Notes: The rural region of Green Bank, West Virginia is a modern paradox; a mash-up of ultra-high technology in the midst of an almost non-tech community, confounded by the fact that this situation is by careful design. Green Bank is the home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory built in the 1950’s. This high technology site with the astrophysicist who work there, is a series of highly sensitive radio telescopes that are searching the edges of the universe looking for signs of life. Operating this highly sensitive equipment requires the surrounding area is not disturbed by any form of radio activity, such as Wi-Fi, radio stations, cell towers and all forms of electro-magnetic energy, a region classified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a “radio-free” zone. This has become a region that uses dial-up land line phones, correspondence by letters and requires individuals to actually talk to each other.

Photographers Paul Kranzler and Andrew Phelps co-photographed this project, working together in such a manner that the identity of who actually activated the shutter for a specific image is inconsequential. Both photographers hail from Austria, while Phelps was born in Arizona and has resided in Austria since the early 1990’s and as I have noted in Phelps other photobook looking at the Arizona landscape that over time it appears he has acquired an outsider’s view point. The photographs capture a mash-up of high technology nestled within a community of non-technology, capturing both sides of the Drake Equation. The giant domes are observed facing outward looking into the furthest edges of existence while Kranzler and Phelps photograph those individuals who choose the simple basics of a lifestyle that might be considered the near side of existence.

The visual attributes of the high technology are stunning; the huge organic sculptural shapes of the radio telescopes situated in the sparse rural landscape; massive contradictions of size, shape and mass. These round shapes appear similar to what we think of what alien spacecraft should look like, lurking eerily in this desolate landscape.

In contrast are the intimate studies of those individuals who make this region their home; although there are hard to miss hints, such as the young woman with an off-the-chart iridescent blue hair, that their collective understanding extends beyond this rural community. Nevertheless they create a portrait of a white rural community; a young person cradling a chicken, another young man firing his rifle at something, ball caps, pizza, big belt buckles, camouflage fashion-wear and taxidermy trophies lining the walls.

The writer Alard von Kittlitz’s essay delves into this photographic study of a small region of America as a surrogate for the greater whole. So might Green Bank be a micro-cosmos, a representation of the greater America as postulated by von Kittlitz; I think not. I speculate that Green Bank might have more in common with a David Lynch story that is an odd mix of the surreal with the common, thus it appears like a very mysterious place. Perhaps an interesting place that I would really like to visit if given the opportunity.

Other photobooks by Andrew Phelps previously featured on TPBJ; Not Niigata, and Haboob.

Cheers, Doug

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October 19, 2018

Nathaniel Grann – Midwest Sentimental

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:14 am

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Photographer:  Nathaniel Grann (born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; lives in Los Angeles, California)

Publisher:  Peperoni Books, Berlin, Germany; © 2018

Introductory Remarks:  Nathaniel Grann, in English

Hardcover, sewn, textured wood imitate with tipped-in image; 64 pages with 33 color images; 22.5 x 28.5 cm; printed in Germany by Wanderer

Photobook Design:  Nathaniel Grann

 

Notes:

Nathaniel Grann, who grew up in the Midwest of the United States, raises three major questions in the introductory remarks to this volume: “What makes a family click? – What holds a family together? – And, what allows for a family to move on from a troubled past?”  As a young man he travels back in time and spends an extended period in his childhood contexts, and he realizes that the answers to these questions are most elusive: The places still look similar, the folks are still the same folks, maybe a bit older, the places are similar yet different, but most of all, he himself has changed and moved beyond what once was, and perhaps still is. And indeed, any looking back through the eyes of the present encompasses both joys and difficulties within constellations of shared family memories.

As the author wrote us: “With this project, I am interested in exploring the idea of Family and my relationship to those who make up my own. Love, sadness, and humor are at the core of this project for me, as I engage with my family through photography to ask questions about the bonds that hold us together, … I had naively hoped to find answers while working through this body of work, but instead it accumulated into a collective exhale of momentary release and reflection.”

In a well-sequenced series of astute observations, Nathaniel Grann shows us a bemused but loving look at his surroundings of origin and the folks that now populate it; at the same time we see feelings for the complicated life that the eyes of a child might have considered to be global truths – the charms of the home that once was his origin. The relatives and friends are depicted with respect and care, and were collaborators in creating this glance into the past through the eyes of the present. They are ensconced in their lives, and the depiction is through the eyes of the son who has explored the expanded horizons of the wide world that bursts the cocoon of origin. It is charming to see his careful recreation of that life as it now strikes him: remnants of the long existence that his elders have lived, with some bittersweet sense of future loss behind it all. We see knickknacks and mementos, things that may only mean a great deal to those whose world they still adorn, and perhaps not so much to anyone else. Heredity and environment act as a major blanket that protects and can also be a damper, but the youngest generation is also around, and full of optimism. The sum total of this carefully selected and sequenced set of 33 images adds up to a coming-of-age journey we all have taken and identify with: the particulars may vary, but the mix of nostalgia and newly found self-actualization is a universal experience.

The images from the book shown here were selected to represent the overall narrative rather than the smaller subsequences, which will be yours to ponder when you get the book. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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October 12, 2018

Max Sher – Palimpsests

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Max Sher Palimpsests, Copyright 2018

Photographer: Max Sher, born St Petersburg (then Leningrad), resides Moscow (RU)

Published by Ad Marginem with support from Heinrich Böll Foundation (Germany/Russia), 2018

Essays: Kate Bush, Maxim Trudolyubov, Nuria Fatykhova

Text: Russian, English

Hardcover book, embossed cloth over boards, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by IPK Pareto-Print, Russia

Photobook designer: Veronika Tsimfer

Notes: This is a study of the current urban landscape of modern Russia, now called a post -Soviet period that reveals the underlying layers of the older Russian architecture driven by its economy and social order. The book’s title, Palimpsests, is a very old term for recycling, dating back when precious parchment writing materials were scraped off to create a new writing surface, yet contain faint traces of the older writing. Likewise Sher documents the new “modern” post-Soviet architecture sitting on the bones of the Soviet era brutalism, while yet traces of the earlier Romanov-era layer are still slightly visible.

As a topographic study of this immense region, Sher uses a slightly elevated view point similar to a few of those included in New Topographics; Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape and other contemporary social-landscape photographers such as Robert Adams and Simon Roberts. One aspect of the visual subtly of Sher’s urban landscape study is that until recently many of his subjects were strictly forbidden landscape topics; bridges, harbors, certain restricted cities and even an elevated view point. These are subjects that one did not document or photograph as it related to the “security” of the government.

Frequently Sher creates a juxtaposition with his image paring throughout his book; on one side is an earlier Soviet/Romanov mash-up while contrasting on the facing page spread is a shiny, bright new modern structure, that has all of the visual trappings of European and America commercialization. Sprinkled throughout are traces of a vaguely familiar mint-green or a green shade of turquoise, another visual trace of the earlier Soviet decor.

We become a witness to the older Soviet era architecture that appears to contain a sense of design that might be characterized as Soviet-Communistic. This architecture was meant to be a no-nonsense, basic to needs, utilitarian, inexpensive (the relator code word for “cheap”) and quickly constructed structures for the common-man. In other words; dreadfully boring, on the verge of in-human and barely inhabitable.

The “new Soviet order” appears to sit on top of the previous urban structures of the Romanov period, which are agrarian, religious, crude, rustic, individualized, and private within the confines of what was acceptable to the czar. It is this architectural mashup that Sher investigates as symbolic of the underlying social, economic and political turbulence within Russia. Similar to Simon Roberts continuing attempts to capture the essence of the British, Sher creates a similar indirect portrait to take a pulse of this broad expense known as Russian, his homeland.

Max Sher’s photobook A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz was previously reviewed on TPBJ.

Cheers,

Douglas

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October 4, 2018

Ernesto Esquer – In No Time

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:05 pm

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Photographer – Ernesto Esquer – In No Time, 2017

Photographer: Ernesto Esquer, resides Tucson, AZ, USA

Publisher: Dark Spring Press (Tucson, AZ, USA)

Introduction: Ken Rosenthal

Text: English

Stiff-cover book with side sewn stitching, four-color lithography, printed in Arizona

Photobook designer: Andy Burgess and Ernesto Esquer

Notes: This is a slim volume with a series of understated, elegant images framed with an expansive amount of classic white margins. The photographs are a combination of toned and hand colored silver gelatin photographs in which the subjects appear to be only casually related without a real sense of a specific narrative.

The contemplative images as sequenced evoke a state of visual mediation. Each photograph appears to be carefully arranged, composed and then paired with a slightly contrasting image. I sense a cross-over of the early modernism of Minor White within a more contemporary framing and yet perhaps a hint of the still earlier Camera Work published by Stieglitz.

These images have a slight hint of the surreal, such as the floating glass vase of flowers that appear to be illuminated by the glowing light that emanates just off the side of the right border. A pensive and delicate set of images that are housed in a similar style softcover book, where the physical form appears to echo the visual style.

Cheers, Doug

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September 28, 2018

Saskia Groneberg – Büropflanze (office plant)

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 6:53 pm

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Photographer:  Saskia Groneberg (born in Munich; lives in Munich and Berlin, Germany)

Publisher:  Edition Taube, Munich and Zurich; © 2017

Essay:  Thomas Seelig

Text:  German and English

Hardback, thread-stitched; 76 pages, unpaginated; 21.5 x 29.5 cm; printed by Longo A.G., Bozen/Bolzano, Italy

Photobook Designers:  Saskia Groneberg and Jonas Beuchert

 

Notes:

Studying this volume, one can see that plants in the office seem to be beloved companions of office workers, perhaps as a pleasant, silent partner who calms you down in an artificial and stressful environment. Office plants can make neutrally-painted mundane surroundings more personal and pleasant, almost like a mini-extension of home (and of the owner’s personality and/or wishful thinking), and thus it can make working more bearable when one can look at greenery and possibly flowers too. They might also represent an often-felt longing for vacations in far-off warmer lands, and thus be chosen for their exotic nature, to remind the office employee of the (hopefully temporary) freedom from work that will be on the horizon sooner or later, such as a vacation.

Saskia Groneberg shows a well-honed sensitivity for this project. She approaches the subject with the people in mind that brought the plants to their locations and also nurture them. She writes:  “Even when provided by the company as a decorative element, the office plant is something that is allowed to unopposedly thrive and blossom: A tiny bit of anarchy amid the rigid clockwork, something amorphous among the geometric forms, a spark of life within the mechanisms of control. In contrast to […] other attempts to personalize the impersonal office architecture, plants are prone to change and grow – sometimes utterly unnoticed, and sometimes under close observation and loving care – up the ceiling, around and behind the heater and encroaching through the blinds. Plants can only be controlled to a certain extent, yet they are utterly dependent; they must be watered and cared for to survive in such an arid and artificial habitat.”

These are environmental portraits of plants, analogous to human environmental portraits. They may tell us more about the humans than about the plants. Naturally, the human owners do not appear in these images; rather, we observe bits and pieces about their choice of work as well as about the alteration or humanization of the work environment through their plants. Thus the stature of the “lowly” office plant has been substantially elevated through these images. The locations range from corporate offices to small spaces that either are or at least were arranged to look like home offices. The images in this mysterious and delightful volume makes us wonder about who owns each plant as well. Just like people, some of the plants seem to be thriving and others are merely eking out a minimal existence, that’s life for you!

Saskia Groneberg’s work received the German Photography Prize “gute aussichten – new german photography 2012/2013” and several other types of recognition. Check out her website for more about the larger scope of this project.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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September 25, 2018

A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:31 am

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A Place Both Wonderful and Strange, Edited by Gustavo Aleman

Artists/Photographers with essays; Anna Beeke, Carl Bigmore, Melissa Catanese, Salvi Danes, Cristina De Middel, Enrico Di Nardo + Valentina Natarelli, Antone Dolezal, Philippe Fragniere, Jason Fulford, Rory Hamovit, Sara Palmieri, Sarah Walker

Publisher: Fuego Books, 2017 (book is not dated)

Afterword: David Company

Text: English and Spanish

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Hardcover book, flocking and embossed, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Biographies, printed in Spain at Artes Graficas Palermo

Photobook designer: Rubio & del Amo

Notes: This collection of narrative works is inspired by a creative idea of Gustavo Aleman, the Editor-in-Chief of Fuego Books, by the television series Twin Peaks created by David Lynch. If you are not already a fan of either David Lynch or this short run TV series from 1990-1991, then this and this can provide a decent primer.

Each artist/photographer created a body of work that draws from the concept of Twin Peaks, per the definition offered by David Foster Wallace; Lynchian refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.

There are 12 unique storylines that although are not directly connected yet are held together by a conceptual thread. Likewise, each has an aspect of the Lynchian Twin Peaks element; the potential Doppleganger’s in the narrative by Christina De Middel and Antone Dolezal, a cinematic narrative by Philippe Fragniere, odd but related fragments offered by Rory Hamovit and Salvi Danes, slightly disjoined narratives by Melissa Catanese and Jason Fulford. The strange ironies and juxtapositions of Enrico Di Nardo and Valentina Natarelli, the surreal moments in the investigations by Sara Palmieri and Sarah Walker and the mundane environmental context offed by Carl Bigmore and Anna Beeke. Each artist offers the readers some tantalizing visual clues, a perplexing narrative or are these photographic stories in fact providing us with evidence? And yes, there are no answers.

This collection reminds us that all photographs are mysterious, or a take-off of the famous Orwellian 1984 statement; all photographs are strange, some are just stranger than others.

Having avidly watched the original TV series while living in Valencia at the time, a popular Los Angeles bedroom community, one of local residents was Ray Wise who played Leland Palmer aka BOB in this series. Early during the second season Wise showed up with his hair bleached stark white. What? Wise would only smile when asked what does this dramatic hair change mean, knowing that the related episode would air in about three weeks to inform all of us of the next strange twist in the Twin Peaks tale. Perhaps this earlier brush with the unfolding events of Twin Peaks and now a personal project that I am developing about a local mystery has made this collection of Lynchian stories all the more beguiling for me, and I think will for you as well. Rated Delightful.

Cheers, Doug

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September 22, 2018

Remembering Hannes Wanderer

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Book Stores, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: — Gerhard Clausing @ 1:06 pm
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Hannes Wanderer — Photo Courtesy of and © Nathaniel Grann

 

We are very sad to note the untimely death this month of Hannes Wanderer, publisher of Peperoni Books, as well as proprietor of 25books, a bookstore on Brunnenstrasse in Berlin.

Hannes was a very special and unique person. He was totally committed to the cause – publishing and promoting photobooks, albeit to the exclusion of much else. Whenever you would go to his store, you would experience a gracious storyteller and teacher, who along the way persuaded you of the value of some of the photobooks available each time, as well as their contexts. He shared his tremendous understanding of the fields of photography and publishing, and freely gave advice if and when you wanted it, also about potential projects the visitor might have been contemplating. Stories about crowded subways in Japan, rural rituals in the American midwest, a mother in Russia and stories told to her child, a German fellow who started a family that grew and thus resulted in a three-volume set of photobooks. Well, he was able to still let me have a proof copy of the first volume of that latter set, and I have the other two as well (einer-zwei-drei  by Fred Hüning); they were snapped up quickly, since the assessment of the market that Hannes had was quite realistic, and he shared all that with you each time. He had a special sensitivity toward the needs of each visitor, shown by the stories that he was able to tailor to the visitor’s goals and purposes – a rare talent. I particularly enjoyed his tales about the printing craft, especially about his collaboration with his brother in Lower Saxony, where I briefly lived as a child.

60 is way too early an age at which such a treasure should be lost to us. We will hold Hannes Wanderer in the highest esteem, as a member of the photographic community, and especially as an honest, gracious, and enthusiastic human being!

Gerhard Clausing

September 17, 2018

War is only Half the Story – 10 years of the Aftermath Project

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:10 am

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War is only Half the Story10 years of the Aftermath Project, Edited by Sara Terry & Teun Van Der Heijden, Copyright 2018

Director/Founder/sustaining editor; Sara Terry (resides in Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Photographers: various, all copyrights apply to the photographers

Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (Manchester, UK)

Introduction: Sara Terry, essays by Donald Weber, Clare Cavanagh, poems by Wislawa Szymborska

Text: English

Stiff-cover book, Concertina cover with belly bands, sewn naked binding, captions, listing of The Aftermath Grant Winners & Finalist, four-color lithography, printed by EBS, Verona, Italy

Photobook designer: Teun van der Heijden

Notes: Background: The Aftermath Project is a non-profit, grant-making organization which for the past ten years has supported the work of photographers documenting the aftermath of conflict. Their stated mission is to change the way the media covers conflict, and to broaden the public’s understanding of the true cost of war and the real price of peace.

This is a retrospective monograph of the series of annual War is only Half the Story photobooks that have been curated and published by Sara Terry’s The Aftermath Project. It is a collection of singular images, extracted from the various photographic investigational projects that have been supported over the past 10 years, structured around the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska. This is an extremely impressive recall of the broad scope of this important initiative.

Terry states that her goal with this monograph is “to let the images speak to each other… created a dialogue that’s never been heard before, a post-conflict visual symphony, one that invites you to listen over and over again.”

The individual images are visually searing; images and narratives that I first came to know as each of these annual stiff-cover books were published by The Aftermath Project. Which have, if it seems possible, even a stronger emotional impact in the context of this monograph. Some of these images can be very difficult to view; to witness what someone else has experienced and the tragic enormity of the consequences of events like war and hatred have created.

The documentary photographers and photo-journalist whose work is included is extremely broad, a virtual who’s-who of this genre of investigative work. To Terry and her editorial team’s credit, their grants and support represents an extremely broad international selection of photographers, from the well-known to the relatively unknown, including Donald Weber, Nina Berman, Jim Goldberg, Louie Paul, Jessica Hines, Stanley Greene, Kathryn Cook, Javad Parsa, and Justyna Mielnikiewicz to name only a few. All of whom have a difficult story to share and narrate.

There is still a measure of hope of in how the individuals and groups are documented in their attempts to rebuild their lives after such devastating carnage and loss. It can be difficult to comprehend the emotional impact to these individuals, especially when we are confronted with similar images of loss every day in the news. At times it just seems unrelenting.

This monograph is an elegant and touching ten year synopsis of this extensive body of work by Terry and the Aftermath Project. A testimony to the fact that after the conflict ends, not all of the photographers leave.

Nevertheless, one has to wonder how does another ignorant and ill-informed world leader come to power, who does not seem to know or even want to understand “the cost of war and the price of peace”?

The Aftermath Project annual editions (Volumes) that have been previously featured on TPBJ include: Volume IIVolume VVolume VIII

The Aftermath Project just announced a $25,000 grant for 2019. Details on their web site.

Cheers, Doug

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