The PhotoBook

January 7, 2015

Kate Nolan – Neither

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Copyright Kate Nolan 2014, self-published

Neither is a three year project by Kate Nolan (b. 1979 Dublin, Ireland, where she currently resides) that takes place in Kalingrad, formerly called Königsberg (German), a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. This place was formed following World War II with the displacement of the native Germans with those who relocated from the interior regions of Russia. What results is a multi-dimensional photobook that is a mashup of written narratives and visual poetry that attempts to investigate feminist identity in the context of a memory of an ambiguous place.

Nolan’s photographs the women of Kalingrad, a mix of portraits, those who directly confront the photographer, thus the viewer, and those who look pensively away. Inter-woven are urban landscapes of a place that shift from the lyrical, a beautiful tree in colorful bloom, to terrifying landscape, a field ablaze in flames. The latter photograph (below) is adjacent to and faces a photograph of a women with a child playing on a ride, while a child faces away unaware of the “approaching” danger.

The smaller stiff-cover booklet contains narratives and is bisected by the larger stiff-cover book containing the full bleed photographs with a floating and separate narrative as a physical sub-text. The front booklet acts as a Forward with hand-written short stories to describe current conditions .The book’s Afterward, formed by the other half of the smaller booklet, contains stories that describe events occurring in 1946 during the formation of Kalingrad, written by the women who were involved in this transition.

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Her photographs are printed full bleed, so the photographs are physically joined at the seamless gutter, one photograph slamming into the other, creating interesting diptychs, that can be read singularly or as a panoramic whole.

This project appears autobiographical as Nolan is investigating the subject of the identity of young women within society with perhaps some similarities to her own circumstances.

As a book object, this is a crazy and complex design with a lot of moving parts that include three distinct sections; one smaller stiff-cover book that is bisected by the larger stiff-cover volume, held together by a sewn binding and a clear poly band. Within the larger volume is another narrative on separate pages, essentially a mini-booklet within a book and can be read independent of the pages above.

Due to the design and sewn binding of the larger volume, the interior narrative pages slightly brush and physically interact with the photographic pages, creating a subtle tension between the two. The book is a lay-flat book design that makes it a joy to read.

This photobook was designed and developed in collaboration with the creative Dutch photobook designer -SYB- (Sybren Kuiper). The publication of her book was supported by a successful Indiegogo fund raising campaign and I have selected this photobook as one of the Interesting Photobooks for 2014.

Cheers

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December 26, 2014

Alejandro Cartagena – Carpoolers

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Copyright Alejandro Cartagena 2014, self-published

“Carpooling” is an American, maybe Southern Californian, term for an occasion when multiple individuals ride in the same vehicle to the same destination. On the freeways of California the need to increase the quantity of carpoolers in order to relive the increasing congestion has raised the process and infrastructure of carpooling to an art form. Alejandro Cartagena (b. April 1977 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, now lives in Monterrey, Mexico) became aware of the American phoneme of carpools and diamond lanes on a visit to Southern California and riding on those congested freeways must have been an amazing experience compared to the highways of his home in Monterrey. Nevertheless this southern California experience created the seed of a conceptual idea that would play out later in Monterrey.

The actual process of carpooling is a well-known practice outside of America, where vehicles can be rare, expensive to own as well as operate. Upon first seeing a family of five on an electric scooter in China a few years back was a bit of a cultural shock which quickly wore off when this sight became a common occurrence. Likewise, Cartagena observed how pick-up truck loads of workers were routinely traversing from dense urban sites to new housing and construction areas on the expanding outskirts of the Monterrey region. The carpooling of the Monterrey workers was an economic necessity for the reasons stated above; trucks are both expensive to own and operate and there are few reasonable alternatives to travel to these new construction sites.

Cartagena found a high advantage point, a pedestrian overpass, to create this topology project; a study in carpooling, in which he could look almost straight down into the passing vehicles. The resulting layout of these vehicles take on abstract shapes, a visual mapping that we do not frequently observe, and further reinforcing the topological nature of his project.

There exists both a sameness of his subjects; similar models of the pick-up trucks, organizational layout of the front hood, cab and the back bed of the truck, the differences in the paint and condition, the open bed in which there is a mash-up of workers, equipment and tools; that varied over time and season. It is evident that he became known for making this series of photographs with many of his subjects gazing back at the photographer and thus connecting also with the reader. Many of these photographs are humorous; worker stretched out sleeping during their trip, gazing up and interacting with the photographer, and others showing a bit of concern. His subjects frequently appear cold and huddled together to protect themselves from the windy, chilling ride.

The subtext is an investigation into identity and culture. There are the economic differences between the poorer construction workers providing the labor to the unseen nicer homes and estates of the upper class. Even within the photographs there is an economic narrative; the “first class” ride; which is inside the protected cab along with the driver, and the “economy coach” section, in the open and unprotected back bed of the truck.

To further understand his subjects, Cartagena took a similar ride in the back bed of a truck to see what his subjects were experiencing. Evident was the expansive blue sky marked by the occasional objects that were seen from this prone perspective; overpasses, signage, etc. Cartagena then intertwined these alternative viewpoint photographs to help break up the flow and cadence of his book that in turn provides more tension and dynamics to what could become a very static and repetitive sequencing.

The book layout provides one top view of a pick-up truck one each of the facing pages inviting the reader to provide comparison and take note of the subtle differences between them. The differences over time, who they are and where they are from, as well as where they are going and what are they going to do when they arrive. The interior of the truck bed provides some clues; equipment, tools, and the clothing of his subjects.

As a book object, the hard covers are constructed from raw boards, printed and die cut to reveal an interior pick-up truck that is the subject of the cover’s line drawing; creating an interesting three dimensional visualization. The heavy cover boards provides some heft and protection for the photobook and the color printing by a Mexico City press and bindery is nicely finished. The insightful Afterword essay was provided by Jessica S. McDonald.

Cheers!

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December 23, 2014

Laura Curran – Lots of Cake!

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Copyright Laura Curran, 2014 self published/After Image Publishing

From the moment that I first saw the photographs from Laura Curran’s photobook Lots of Cake!, her project resonated with me. The project was made all the more delightful in the layout and design of this photobook object.

Curran uses a documentary style to investigate her family, with her mother as the focal point of this introspective study. She focuses in on small details to identify for the reader the various talismans for this family’s memory.

She includes a series of four hand-written family recipes printed on a semi-translucent sheet of vellum and sequenced in conjunction with photographs of what the resulting recipe may create, an interesting layering of this narrative. The recipe for the Easter Bunny Cake (aka Easter Carrot Cake) faces a page with a photograph of two bunny shaped cakes on top of a table with English china. In turn, this translucent page provides a hint of the photograph on the following page, of someone, whom we might guess is her mother, sitting at a table perhaps eating the ears of one of these wonderful Bunny Cakes.

As the photographs sequence through the book, her subjects appear to be more and more involved in the celebration, holding up glasses for a toast, sitting a bit askew on a chair and other hints of evidence that a good times are occurring. Likewise, the first recipe appears orderly and clean, but subsequent recipes appear more and more distressed.  The final Chowder Recipe is almost illegible due to something liquid falling on the recipe and creating a large lake of ink. As an autobiographical narrative, this hints that sometimes her family and events become similarly messed up.

I find a subtle undercurrent of humor in her photobook, perhaps of my own making as I recall the times when my great aunts, also of Irish descent, would get together in the kitchen to cook, gossip, laugh and tell family stories while preparing some delicious meals. The photograph of the broken egg on the floor with the two pair of legs & feet in the background is wonderful, full of suspense as to what might occur next; a torrent of laughing or some evil eye followed by quick scurrying to clean up this little mishap. In our family it was going to be the former, hearty laughing which was always a good reason to begin to recounting the endless other funny stories of similar past events.

There is more than enough ambiguity to allow the reader to relate to their own family history and memories that for me always seem to be linked to the preparation and consumption of meals.

As a book object, this is a little more complex stiff-cover book that is perfect bound (nice to hold and read, but terrible to lay out for display or photograph), includes two gatefolds and four recipes printed on velum. This photobook is printed in four color, with ample white margins, but no captions. The layout of the photographs on each page appears to be in a random position located on a different part of each subsequent page. This image layout provides a bit of dynamics implying that even when the events could seem routine, such as baking a cake, serendipity can create some unanticipated, if not dynamic, results. The introduction is provided by Curran.

Cheers!

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December 19, 2014

Interesting Photobooks for 2014

My interesting Photobooks of 2014

For those who follow my posts already know that I am a strong believer that anyone who has the endurance, determination and guts to publish their photobook deserves a strong pat on the back. You are all winners! The following photobooks have that little something extra, which may be exceeding hard to define or explain, but these photographers, usually in cahoots with a great (if not brilliant) book designer and backed by a diligent printer and bindary team, stand out.

Enjoy!

Laia Abril – The Epilogue, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing (Also selected for my list published in Emaho magazine)

Roger Ballen – Asylum Of The Birds, Thames & Hudson

Julia Borissova – Running to the Edge, Self-published (Also selected for my list published in Emaho magazine)

Jan Brykczynski – Boiko, self-published

Alejandro Cartagena – Carpoolers, self-published

Laura Curran – Lots of Cake!, self-published

Carolyn Drake – Wild Pigeon, self-published

Michelle Frankfurter – Destino, published by FotoEvidence

Robin Maddock – III, published by Trolley Books

Paula McCartney – A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, published by Silas Finch (Also selected for my list published in Emaho magazine)

Kate Nolan – Neither, self-published (Also selected for my list published in Emaho magazine)

Bryan Schutmaat & Ashlyn Davis – Islands of the Blest, published by Silas Finch

Matej Sitar – Morning Sun, self-published (his imprint)

Gytis Skudzinskas – Albumas, published by Nerutina

Ed Templeton – Random & Pointless, Deadbeat Club Press (#19) (Also selected for my list published in Emaho magazine)

Hiroshi Watanabe – The Day the Dam Collapses, published by Daylight Books & Tosei-sha Publishing, Ltd, 2014 (as a note about potential conflicts, I was the Text Editor for Watanabe’s book)

This list of photobooks as I hope you noted are in alphabetical order by last name, so please do not read into whose name/photobook is first or last. Not all of these photobooks have been reviewed yet, but I should have the missing reviews published soon ;- )

Thanks to all of you for your on-going support this past year and I am eagerly looking forward to the creative endeavors or 2015.

Cheers!!

The photobook covers are as follows:

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Laia AbrilThe Epilogue

Roger_Ballen-Asylum_Of_The_Birds_cover

Roger Ballen – Asylum Of The Birds

Julia_Borissova-Running_to_the_Edge_book_cover_n_slip_cover

Julia BorissovaRunning to the Edge

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Jan Brykczynski – Boiko

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Alejandro Cartagena – Carpoolers

Laura_Curran-Lots_of_Cake!_cover

Laura Curran – Lots of Cake!

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Carolyn Drake – Wild Pigeon

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Michelle Frankfurter – Destino

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Robin Maddock – III

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Paula McCartneyA Guide to Snow and Ice

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Kate Nolan – Neither

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Bryan Schutmaat & Ashlyn Davis – Islands of the Blest

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Matej Sitar – Morning Sun

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Gytis Skudzinskas – Albumas

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Ed Templeton – Random & Pointless, Deadbeat Club Press (#19)

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Hiroshi Watanabe – The Day the Dam Collapses, published by Daylight Books & Tosei-sha Publishing, Ltd, 2014

November 14, 2014

Hiroshi Watanabe – The Day the Dam Collapses

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Copyright Hiroshi Watanabe 2014 co-published by Daylight Books and Tosei-sha Publishing Co., Ltd

First I need to declare that I may be a tad bit biased in my photobook review as I was one of the text editors for this book.

Hiroshi Watanabe’s (b. Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan 1951, currently resides in Los Angeles since 1975) recent photobook, The Day the Dam Collapses, is unusual in as he is well known for his photographic projects utilizing black and white film while this book project is completed with color/digital capture.

Watanabe has been making color digital “snapshots” for many years while deferring to his medium format camera and 120/220 film for his more serious projects. Since the birth of his recent child, he has become a bit more reflective and over a period of five years built a large body of color digital work. What I find interesting is that Watanabe will zoom in to examine the details and introduce a high degree of ambiguity, much as he does with his large format capture. In this regard, he has a consistency of vision.

Watanabe is very familiar with a square image that results from his medium format camera, the square being an inherently a static framing as compared to a traditional 35mm format or 8 x 10” image. Even though his digital camera has the capability to create rectangular images, Watanabe imposes the equal sided format that he is so comfortable with. After so many years working with a 6 x 6 vision he is able to introduce a delicate balance and tension within this structured format. The square image, printed one per page, seem to gain some dynamic energy due to the random placement within the page’s frames.

The photographs upon first reading appear playful, but with closer examination, an undercurrent of tension and drama develops. This is apparent as both singular images and as well as the carefully pairing of images as they play off each other across the book’s gutter. In one page spread, below, an object that appears to be childlike is awash and submerged on the shoreline surf. There appears to be a large air bubble above the face, as though the air is being exhaled. The agitation of the water and this object being total submerged is startling as it is disturbing.  One the facing page is photograph of a bare tree or bush situated in front of a wall, revealing the skeleton of the plant’s structure. This plant may be dormant at the moment or has died. For the reader, both of these images are ambiguous and both have a dark undertone that is further reinforced by their approximation on the page spread.

Interestingly, the book’s title hints at a pending disaster, creating more tension, which is subsequently elaborated on by Watanabe in his Afterword. He acknowledges that the reader and everyone we know will as some point die, when we never know. Nevertheless we take for granted the normal, banal aspects of our lives as though we might live forever, a somewhat fatalistic viewpoint. Watanabe is essentially evocating that the reader should remain grounded in the moment and see the wonderful things as these are today.  The book’s dust cover provides another metaphoric reading; perhaps life is as delicate and fragile as the wings of a butterfly.

As a book object, this was designed in conjunction with the Daylight team in the US and subsequently printed in conjunction with Tosei-sha in Japan, an interesting collaboration that was orchestrated by Watanabe. The dust cover is printed on an interesting paper with a beautiful texture, although I also note that this paper is also a dirt magnet, so handle carefully.  The essay was written by Watanabe with the text provided in English and Japanese. The pages are numbered while the photographs lack captions.

One aspect of this photobook that does bother me is that although this is a very beautifully printed object, the binding does not allow a lay flat viewing for the reader as you will note the inclusion of my hand frequently in the book’s interior photographs, below. The flip side is that this is a stronger book binding technique.

Other Watanabe photobooks reviewed on The Photobook include: Love Point, Veiled Observations and Reflections, 99 Findings (iTunes which includes my interview of Watanabe), Ideology in Paradise, Findings.

Cheers!

This photobook review co-published in EMAHO magazine.

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November 12, 2014

Photobook events

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:56 pm

This is just a quick shout out about some current and pending photobook events. These are always great opportunities to hold, see, compare and purchase photobooks. It can also be a slight bit overwhelming, so give yourself plenty of time, which is good advice that I need to take myself. Also, for some popular book stands, the crowds can get pretty dense, which does not lead to good opportunities to examine popular titles.

There are three interesting photobook events occurring in Paris (France) later this week. I am guessing if these were events you were planning to attend, you are already well on your way! Which is of course: Paris Photo, OFFPRINT and Photobook Fest. Regretfully all are located at different venues, but not that far apart as the Paris Metro is great way to get around.

If you missed last month’s Art Book Fair (hosted by Printed Matter) in NYC, you will have another opportunity when this event occurs in LA at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA next January 30 – Feb 1, 2015. This will be the third year for the LA version and again at MOCA, which is not a bad venue but can be a confusing facility with all of its nooks and crannies to hide the various exhibitors.

Also looking ahead is Paris Photo LA, a SoCal version of Paris Photo. Similar to Paris, this huge LA event draws a really big crowd, thus the spin-offs such as the Photobook Independent in conjunction with Photo Independent located literally across the street from Paris Photo LA at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Walking a film/TV sound stage backlot is almost worth the cost of admission! The dates are May 1-3, 2014. For the Photobook Independent, this is an opportunity for self-published photographers and Indie publishers to have an opportunity to show their photobooks and a great opportunity to meet and discuss directly with the authors. (Note: the cost to rent a half or full table for Photobook Independtent is fairly reasonable if you are interested in getting your photobook(s) in front of a large audience – I know that I am considering this option!)

Cheers!

October 25, 2014

Roger Ballen – Asylum Of The Birds

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 10:04 pm

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Copyright Roger Ballen 2014 published by Thames & Hudson

This photobook is another introspective project from Roger Ballen, the American (b. 1950 New York) photographer who relocated from New York City to Johannesburg South Africa in the 1970’s. This is the fourth photobook continuing the evolution of the investigation of an unknown place in South Africa;  Boarding House (2009), Shadow Chamber (2005), and Outland (2001).

Similar to his three previous photobooks, Ballen uses intricate and darkly designed sets that are constructed narratives. As he continues his investigation, there appears to be less emphasis on the inclusion of individuals within the frame. As a result, the photographs read more as still lives than the documentary interaction of his subjects as an aspect of theater. The sets include more of sculptural objects. The lines, marks and shapes have grittiness to them, that anticipating that these sets will be photographed in black & white, were probably created with graphite and chalk. The abstract animals and living organisms that inhabit the walls and furniture have a similar appearance to those creatures who inhabit the Lyrical Expression paintings of Arshile Gorky, who Andre Breton call a Surrealist, another aspect of which Ballen’s compositions. Ballen’s use of line is almost delicate in comparison to the heaviness of the Franz Kline, an Abstract Expressionist.

Ballen has stated that “Black and White is essentially an abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality. My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.”

His black and white photographs continue the a similar gritty and graphic appearance that are with the background marks and shapes, lines, graphics, symbols, Less emphasis on the inclusion of individuals within the frame, their presence now inferred by the marks and graphics on the background, sculptural, works of art, animals, predominately birds, objects, depicts an unknown and ambiguous place.

His photographs are ambiguous, abstract, read as singular images and need to be considered within the context of the entire book. These are wonderful photographs to read and contemplate, emotionally charged, tension filled and on occasion, delightfully absurd and humorous. No wonder I am such a big fan of Ballen.

This is a hardcover book with an illustrated dust jacket and paginated. Each photograph is framed with a classic white margin and each has a caption. The introduction was written by Didi Bozzini.

Recommended: Interview of Ballen by Manik Katyal, Editor EMAHO magazine: here.

Previous Roger Ballen title reviewed on The PhotoBook: Boarding House

Cheers

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October 17, 2014

Laia Abril – The Epilogue

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Copyright Laia Abril 2014 Published by Dewi Lewis

Laia Abril (b. 1986 Barcelona, Spain, currently resides in NYC and Barcelona) continues to develop narratives that probe identity issues for women. In The Epilogue, she expands on her earlier photographic project Thinspiration, a self-published zine investigating a pro-anorexia community, essentially women and girls, with obsessive eating disorders who are wasting away. In The Epilogue, unlike her subjects who are anonymous, aloof and distant as they are in Thinspriation, we are fully immersed into the initiate details of one extended American family who is still dealing with a daughter/sister/nice and her tragic binging and purging disorder and ultimately their grief, frustration and loss.

Abril provides a complex and multi-layered voice in conjunction with an interesting mashup of old family photographs, interviews, medical documents, letters and her own photographs. She creates a documentary approach for the own landscapes and portraits of the individuals who have been affected by the principal subject of this story, Cammy (Mary Cameron Robinson, American). Abril’s narrative jumps into the middle of the current family’s situation many years after Cammy’s passing. In the book’s captions Abril uses informal nick-names for her subjects that create a sense of intimacy; while Cammy’s full identity is provided later as this unsettling narrative progresses and then as a newspaper obituary, one of many documents that are inserted into the book’s interior.

In the historical family photographs of Cammy, it is not empirically evident that she had an eating disorder, as she appears to look rather normal, unlike the thin and emaciated appearance of those suffering from Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa). In many ways, Cammy’s outward appearance is similar to a photograph, as surface appearances cannot tell an entire story, but only provides the vaguest of hints.

This sad tale is similar to a mystery novel in Abril’s attempt to discover an unknown person; she interviews the indirect victims of Cammy’s demise: her mother, father, brother, roommate, boyfriend, aunt, cousin, and doctor. In the end we are provided some evidence of Cammy’s life, that she suffered a traumatic life and ending, while leaving an open ended question of how to deal with someone who has a eating disorder. Equally important it calls into question the media’s fascination with the ultra-thin body-image of models, creating the associated cultural peer pressure as to what constitutes “beauty” and “attractiveness” resulting in self-esteem issues and in this case an unhealthy eating disorder.

This unsettling book is a call to action, but can only point to the pending consequences and the potential frustrations experienced by those who are caught up as events unfold. Eating disorders are now global, predominantly (85%) experienced by teen girls and young women but perhaps more prevalent in Western Countries, especially the United States, where this narrative takes place. Thus Cammy, her family and support structure in America is the untended role model to place a face on eating disorders.

I had earlier wrote about how she and her book designer/collaborator Ramon Pez have carefully designed and created what they are calling tri-fold pages into this book object. The revealed panel extends the narrative as well as symbolically “breaking the book” as each of the four tri-fold-pages correspond to a photograph when the subject of the book, Cammy, has experienced a severe break down in her life’s journey. This is yet another testimony that a book design can further reinforce, and in this case, literally extend a narrative. Let’s see if you can do that with your e-pad!

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My one niggle is the black printing on the dark blue page stock at the very conclusion of the book and the tip-in on the book’s front cover which borders almost on being illegible (darn hard to read!). I am guessing that Abril and Pez have a symbolic meaning for this design aspect; it did not come quickly to me.

The book design was complete by Abril in conjunction with Ramon Pez and beautifully color printed by Grafiche Antiga (Italy). The book cover has a tipped in image and the interior also includes gate-folds, inserted letters, documents, and a newspaper obituary.

This photobook review was co-published on EMAHO magazine; here.

Other books by Laia Abril reviewed on The PhotoBook: Thinspiration

Cheers!

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October 11, 2014

America Latina Photographs 1960 – 2013

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Published by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contermporain  with Museo Amparo, copyright the artist, 2013 & distributed by Thames & Hudson

Last year an exhibition catalog, America Latina Photographs – 1960 – 2013, was published jointly by the two exhibiting museums, one in Paris and the other in Mexico for the exhibitions subsequently occurring in 2014.

This is an expansive survey of America Latina photography that includes almost every country in South America, Central America and the nations of the Caribbean Sea. The list of photographers that are included is impressive, with many photographs relatively unknown beyond their own borders. The partial list of photographers includes Elias Adasme (Chile), Carlos Altamirano (Chile), Francis Alys (Mexico), Claudia Andujar (Brazil), Ever Astudillo (Colombia), Artur Barrio (Brazil) Luz Maria Bedoya (Peru), Oscar Bony (Argentina), Barbara Brandli (Venezuela), Marcelo Brodsky (Argentina), Miguel Calderon (Mexico), Johanna Calle (Colombia), Luis Camnitzer (Uruguay), Bill Caro (Peru) Guillermo Deisler (Chile), Felipe Ehrenberg (Mexico), Juan Manuel Echavarria (Colombia), Roberto Fantozzi (Peru), Jose A. Figueroa (Cuba), Carlos Garaicoa (Cuba), Anna Bella Geiger (Brazil), Daniel Gonzalez (Venezuela), Graciela Iturbide (Mexico), Claudia Joskowicz (Bolivia), Adriana Lestido (Argentina), Marcos Lopez (Argentina), Rosario Lopez (Colombia), Pablo Lopez Luz (Mexico), Teresa Margolles (Mexico), Marcelo Montecino (Chile), Damian Ortega (Mexico), Pablo Ortiz Monasterio (Mexico), Leticia Parente (Brazil), Luis Pazos (Argentina), Rosangela Renno (Brazil), Miguel Rio Branco (Brazil), Lotty Rosenfeld (Chile), Eduardo Ruben (Cuba), Graciela Sacco (Argentina), Gegina Silveira (Brazil), Susana Torres (Peru), Jorge Vall (Venezuela), Eduardo Villanes (Peru) and Facundo De Zuviria (Argentina).

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The photographers are segmented by four broad themes; Territory, The City, Informing/Resisting, and Memory and Identity. The central theme to the book is the on-going political and economic instability of this region and the resulting personal chaos that results as described in the introductory text The Violence of Modernity, Latin America Since the Late 1950’s by Oliver Campagnon.

This is a book that is a bit like a delightful jelly sandwich, as the content is very tasty, but spread very thin. Each photographer is represented by only a few photographs, thus providing only the briefest glimpse of those whose careers may span 10, 20 or 30 years. What this exhibition catalog does help provide is a little more insight into the diverse photographic work occurring in a region that has had limited exposure to the Western press. I will have to admit that this book sat on my reading stand for an extended duration as many of the photographers and their work were unknown to me and I needed time to absorb their stories. This is a recommended book that should pique a reader’s interest on the photographic work taking place in America Latina.

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The hard cover book has an exposed taped binding (Swiss Binding) thus the large text block is hanging by the endpapers on the back cover, which seems pretty substantial, yet makes for an interesting photobook design. Another text was provided by Luis Camnitzer, and there is an illustrated Biography section for each photographer that attempts to provide additional information, a selected Bibliography on Latin American Art and a Timeline of Latin American Histories to provide additional context. The engaging graphic design was by Olivier Andreotti (Paris) and the book was beautifully printed by Artegrafica (Verona, Italy).

Graciela Iturbide’s photobooks have been featured previously on The PhotoBook; El Bano de Frida and El Bano de Frida Kahlo

Cheers

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October 2, 2014

Andrew Phelps – Haboob

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Copyright Andrew Phelps 2013 published by Kehrer Verlag

Andrew Phelps (b. 1967, Mesa, AZ & residing in Austria since 1991) returns infrequently to the place of his birth, the arid and desert communities surrounding the regions of Mesa and Phoenix in the American Southwest. His childhood home is resplendent with past memories and with a family visit an expectation to resume old roles with family and friends entertaining with children playing in backyard pools at night.

In my first reading I sense an uncomfortable undercurrent and edge in Phelps photographs, as though everything is not right. Andrews is now having lived in Austria for the past 24 years and on his return he is a now bit of a stranger in a slightly familiar land, perhaps not unlike his feelings of being disconnected during his two weeks in Niigata Japan some years before which was documented in his book Not Niigata.

Daily evolving changes are usually hardly perceptible, such as when one vainly attempts to watch grass grow. When events such as a visiting a distant location after a long absence, the perceived changes can be startling. I liken it to seeing a young cousin after a year’s lapse, in which you observe that the lad has grown at least a foot, while those who live with him have hardly noticed his change in growing stature.

I will have to first admit that I read Phelps recent book Haboob with mixed emotions, having lived for a short period in Phoenix and then later in Yuma an even more desolate, dry, and if possible, hotter location in the Southern Arizona desert. Likewise I have visited Austria a number of times, the place where Phelps now lives, and I can appreciate the vast cultural and physical differences between these two regions. There is an enormous cultural and physical departure from the desert and the verdant lushness of his current home in Austria. He may well have stepped off onto the moon. His eyes have become conditioned to the European culture and landscape, thus this America landscape and ensuing cultural rites are oddly, if perhaps alarmingly, foreign.

The desert communities are surrounded by flat, arid landscapes with barren mountains looming in the background, with small sparse bushes or cactus populating the land. The air is so dry that even in 100˚F degree (plus) heat that permeates this place most of the year it is even difficult for a person to perspire. (yes, I have tried and it takes an enormous amount of energy to break into a sweat) The air is mostly sparkling clear under a cloudless blue sky unless a wind stirs the sand dispersing some fine particles into the air. On occasion, a strong wind whips up a Haboob, a threatening desert storm, which appears on the far horizon as a towering wall of sand advancing from the desert to obviate any vision in the darkness that soon envelops. While living in Yuma, we lived through an enormous Haboob, an experience that I can still vividly recall. Phelps does not capture an huge Haboob, but investigates an autobiographical metaphor of change (and threat) that it represents.

Phelps reminds me in his photographs of the playing children that youth are resilient. They appear in their innocence to accommodate even these harsh arid conditions and still have fun. Thus in reading Haboob, I sense another undercurrent, that of hope.

As a book object the printing and binding are excellent as you would expect from a Kehrer publication. The layout of the photographs is classical with ample white margins and a nice cadence in the flow of photographs. The front cover has a lacquer coating that depending on how the book is held, will reveal to the reader the silhouette of what appears as two running horses. This a subtle hint at the wild animals which had at one time roamed what is now trim and proper suburban neighborhoods. An interesting layering, as this lacquer coating is situated on the subject of the cover photograph; paint strips used to select colors for decorating homes, which appear to be discarded on the desert floor.

Phelps previous book Not Niigata reviewed on The PhotoBook; here.

Cheers

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