The PhotoBook

April 27, 2011

Amsterdam Art – Book Fair 2011

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 2:51 am

Thanks to Harvey Benge, I have the following photobook Amsterdam Art/Book Fair press release to share:

The first Amsterdam Art/Book Fair (AA/BF)  will take place the 14 & 15 of May 2011, presenting a high end international selection of art publications. The fair aims to reflect on the emerging practices and new development in art, through a selection of publishers from 16 countries. Printed matter and digital media edited by independent publishers and artists, magazines and institutions, art schools and graphic design studios are featured in this first edition.

Conferences and talks by keynote speakers, book launches, artist talks and performances will take place during the Amsterdam Art/Book Fair. Guests include Kenneth Goldsmith, Metahaven, Clive Phillpot, Mathieu Copeland. A unique series of curated tables will offer a selection of publications and posters. Book trading and signing, encounters and conversations will take place at ‘Black Market’, an informal meeting place for artists, designers, publishers and collectors.

The Amsterdam Art/Book Fair is initiated and organised by Delphine Bedel (Monospace Press) and Yannick Bouillis, and is hosted by the Flemish Cultural Centre De Brakke Grond. The Amsterdam Art/Book Fair aspires to be a meeting place during the Amsterdam Art Week.

The Best deal of the day: The entrance to the AA/BF is free.
After quickly canning the lectures and publishers who will be present, I am sad that I will not be near Amsterdam in the middle of May this year.

April 25, 2011

Harvey Benge – Sri Lanka Diary, February 2011

Copyright Harvey Benge 2011 courtesy of the artist

I recently received another self-published photobook by the prolific photographer and photobook publisher, Havery Benge, titled Sri Lanka Diary, February 2011. This book is the latest in his “Diary” series and results from his recent visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year.

The color photographs appear to be detailed and created in documentary in style, perhaps made with a normal lens, as there is little apparent visual distortion that would result from either a very wide-angle or telephoto lens. The vast majority of the photographs are made directly in front of the subject with the objects tightly filling the frame. Occasionally a larger perspective landscape photograph is included and these are usually printed across a two page spread.

Being a fan of Benge’s photographs, I also find a consistency in his compositions, but even more some with his handling of color. In fact it is his use of color that finally became evident to me after reading his 2010 All of the Places I’ve Ever Known hardcover book published by Kehrer which is now equally evident with Sri Lanka Diary. Benge is a colorist, and secondary is how he uses them in combination with patterns to create rich, complex and interesting photographs.

Benge’s color palette is mostly monochromatic with either a pattern of complementary color that harmonizes or a dissident color that creates an emotional and unstated tension. As an example, the cover of this book is a sea of bluish taupe framing black, gray and white. Within the subjects tie on the bottom edge, there is a subtle hint of blue in the stripes, mixed with the taupe, which creates an interesting harmony and essentially make the photograph complete.

Likewise in the third pair of photographs below, in the photograph on the left, the brown in the picture frame is echoed by a similar hue in the wall’s baseboard running the width of the photograph. This same color is a key component in the colors of the photograph on the facing page, another monochromatic color scheme of a sea of yellow surrounding white and browns on a floor of dark brown. This same dark brown color can then be found in the hand rail on the photograph of the facing page. These two photographs continuously play off of each other.

Perhaps the most interesting set of photographs to me are the pair that are found on one of the early spreads, the first image below, where one photograph is of a religious shrine of worship and on the facing a page, what appears as a wall of riotous color. I found the religious shrine to again be monochromatic of reds and whites with areas of gray, but the red color is very similar to, but inversely located, to the facing photograph. In both photographs, there is a color blend and gradually shifting change from the top of the photograph to the bottom. I also sense that there is a very subtle message from Benge with this pair of photographs; that the viewers need to slow down and contemplate their surroundings and enjoy the complex play of colors and patterns that exist in our every day lives.

This stiffcover book with saddle stitch binding is available in both a trade edition and as a limited edition.

by Douglas Stockdale

April 22, 2011

Himes & Swanson – Publish Your Photography Book

Copyright Darius Himes & Mary Virginia Swanson 2011 courtesy Princeton Architectural Press

I had started to acquire the quarterly photo-eye Booklist (no longer in publication) founded and edited by Darius Himes after he and Mary Virginia Swanson were already well into their series of articles regarding the ins and outs of publishing a photobook. The back articles were not available on-line, thus I thought I had lost the opportunity to gain some potential insights into the world of photobook publishing. But as it turns out, I needed only a little patience, as Himes and Swanson have just published their collective and expanded photobook publishing narrative, Publish Your Photography Book, aka PYPB (and they have taken their own advice to set up a book specific website for their publication, here).

In the years since their articles were initially published in photo-eye Booklist, Swanson has continued her role as a creative consultant while Himes has subsequently moved on to the role of Acquisition Editor for Radius Books and is working for the Blurb organization in judging their annual photobook competition, expanding his experience with regard to the full gamut of photobook publishing. Together Swanson and Himes provide a broad  background and informed perspective to this how-to book, which is nicely augmented with the inclusion of stories, the voice of other photobook industry experts and published photographers.

They collectively give a sophisticated voice to this how-to book, which provides a wonderful overview of the photobook publishing world, demystifying many of the photobook publishing processes.  The book’s chapters include a historical recap of photobook publishing, basics on publishing, the process of publishing, what do you do with all of the books that were printed (Promotion, Sales & Marketing), case studies by published photographers, and finally a list of publishing resources (I really love this section, as this blog, The PhotoBook is included in their list of photobook resources, Thanks!) This book does lack an index and a definition of terms (e.g. such that marquette is a French word for mock-up, or “book dummy”), thus if using this as a developmental workbook, you will probably find your self dog-earing the page corners and writing notes in the margins.

I believe that they provide sage advice, especially as to determining what you want to accomplish with a photobook, otherwise as the Cheshire cat admonished; any road will do. Think of it as photobook pre-visualization; what is your vision for a photobook, why do you want a photobook of your work, how does it look, how does it feel, how would a viewer experience it? If you can succinctly answer these and the many other questions that Himes and Swanson pose, it will immensely benefit both you and your subsequent photobook.

They provides some interesting pros and cons regarding the self publising versus working with an established publisher and having  self published via print on demand (POD) three projects and one how-to book, I would have still continued down this same POD path for essentially the same reasons they provide for self-publishing. In retrospect, if I had read their book much earlier, I might have obtained the idea that one book that I was about to deleted off of Blurb could be treated as a book dummy for discussion with other publishers. Although this book is now technically “out of print” (edition of three), the photographs and design still reside on my desktop Blurb design folder and I could be easily bring it back to life again. hmmmm. Likewise, my own publishing experience for Douglas Stockdale Ciociaria, which is in the book design stage with the publisher Edizioni Punctum, has essencially followed the sequence of steps to date outlined in their book for working with a smaller photobook publisher.

 I also found the case studies that Himes and Swanson provide to be fascinating and equally informative, as these narratives provide some very personal experiences.  I obtain another dimensionality since I have reviewed a couple of these photobooks that the photograhers discuss, Paula Mccartney’s Bird Watching and David Maisel’s Libary of Dust as well as John Gossage’s The Pond, a book review that I have in progress.

They do not propose to answer all of the questions to publishing a photobook, as the reasons for a publishing photobook are almost as varied as the options. But they do want the reader to understand the underlying processes in order to make intelligent and informed decisions such that the enjoyment and success quota will be greatly increased upon publication. There probably is no greater frustration to spend the extensive time and resources only to determine the resulting books need to hide in the back of the garage for all eternity.

I recommend that for a photographer who is interested in publishing a photobook, either self published or with a publisher, this is a must read. Likewise, I think even an experienced author will find some new nuggents of informational gold in these pages, as even one small idea can be a wellspring of inspiration.

Best regards, Doug

April 8, 2011

Pierre Bessard – Photographer & Publisher

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 3:36 am

Pierre Bessard, copyright 2011 Douglas Stockdale

I first became aware of the Parisian photographer, Pierre Bessard, when I had the opportunity to review his photobook, Wuhan Boiler Company Workers, an intriguing industrial landscape photobook sponsored by a Chinese company, Wuhan Boiler Company Workers. I will have to admit, I was initially very skeptical about a “company book”, but it turns out that Pierre had the artistic freedom to investigate this industrial space in China. Subsequent to that review on my next trip into Paris, we decided that we meet, which we have now managed to do on several occasions, and in the process discovering that Bessard has authored two other photobooks with a third in progress; currently in print are Behind China’s Growth published by timezone 8 and Journal de Chine published by Editions Glenat. As I became to know him as an excellent chef, a wine connoisseur with a wonderful cave that great bottles keep appearing from, a photographer, photographic print and photobook collector, and I also discovered that he was starting his own photographic book publishing company.

So during last month’s visit to Paris, I had the opportunity to discuss with Bessard about his new publishing house, Editions Bessard. We very quickly launch into the trials and tribulations of photobook publishing as he was preparing to launch his first title, the Australian photographer Max Pam’s Ramadan in Yemen, now due to be out later this year.

Bessard Editions, similar to many of the small publishing houses, is utilizing printers and binders in China. Unlike many others, Bessard probably has a better understanding of the Chinese publishing infrastructure, as he, his wife and two sons relocated and lived in Beijing for two years. Bessard documenting their experiences utilizing a photo-a-day intent, resulting in his personal account Journal de Chine. So suffice to say that Bessard is not a novice in Chinese printing organizations, yet he still encountered issues with his production of Pam’s Ramadan in Yemen.

As part of the background story, Bessard is focusing his publication house on providing luxury photobooks, incorporating four-color printing, even for black and white photographs, nice linen covers supported by sturdy sewn binding and encased in matching linen clamshell, with embossed printing. Thus, while printing in China to control costs, he was still seeking out the best printers that China had to offer. Bessard had selected a printer specifically due to the presence of one of the most talented pressmen that he had met while in China. There is a lot of tweaking on a press to ensure that when the ink finally dries, you have the intended results, if all goes well.

Even so, one of the issues with printing in China when you are not present on press and providing oversight for your press run, the results may not come out as expected. What Bessard had not expected was that his selected pressman would not be available for the printing of Ramadan in Yemen.

Even with the pre-production proofs in hand, enough of the interior photographs did not meet the contrast and printing quality for either Bessard or Pam. The book’s binding was perfect, the matching clamshell an excellent match, but the printing was dismissal. I had the opportunity to look at the proofs and compare them to the matching printed interior photographs. Indeed when the subject is already enveloped in dark shadows and low contrast situations, muddy printing made the image results much worse. So I found myself understanding why Bessard now has many copies of his first book in a French warehouse, while having the book re-printed again, and ensuring that his selected pressman will be present.

Thus Bessard’s has encountered the trials and tribulations of a photobook publisher, while he has yet to formally launch his first photobook. Nevertheless, the very good-natured Bessard always seems to be upbeat and in good spirits, even in the face of this kind of frustrating (and expensive) adversity.

April 7, 2011

DieNacht – #8

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:30 pm

Copyright the various artists 2010 courtesy DieNacht

I had the opportunity to review a recent edition (#8) of DieNacht magazine, a nice compact magazine out of Trier, Germany with the accompanying text in both English and German (Deutsch). The magazine is issued twice a year by the tireless efforts of Calin Kruse, who is all things rolled into one;  publisher, designer, layout and what have you.

Although the magazine has a strong emphasis on photography, it is not entirely limited to publishing that artistic genre. It is a perfect bound magazine, like a POD stiffcover book, printed in four-color. I found the selection of work to be broad, diverse and intriguing. With a magazine, unlike a photobook, you are provided with a tease about a body of work, but in the case with DieNacht I think enough is provided to help make a decision whether to investigate the photographer/artist if you want to learn more.

The one weakness if I had to find one, is that the intent is to create a German/English magazine, but the translations are uneven, such as missing the English translation of some captions. Or providing a quoted text in French, but not  providing either a German or English translation of the quote. Some of the articles were in German with the English translation provided at the end of the book, but page references for the translated text are missing, thus creating a bit of a disruption in the flow of understanding the context while madly thumbing though the book seeking the related translations.

Nevertheless the magazine is interesting and stimulating, recommended.

Also note, DieNacht has an on-line book store with a broad variety of available photographic magazine and ArtZines.

April 6, 2011

LensWork Magazine – #74

Filed under: Book Publications — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:06 pm

Copyright the various photographers 2008 courtesy of LensWork

While I was updating the photography magazine section of this blog and providing very brief overviews of various photographic magazines that I though had some aesthetic merit, I realized that there was an opportunity for a two-fer, to discuss the LensWork magazine while shamelessly promoting my own photographic work.  Yes, that is indeed me, Douglas Stockdale, on the front cover as one of the four photographer portfolios featured in this edition.

At the time of this publication in 2008, LensWork was available on newsstands, principally throughout the USA. Later that same year, Brooks Jensen, the publisher and editor of the magazine, made the decision to have this magazine available only by subscription or as an internet purchase. There is a matching DVD with each issue, that may have additional photographs for the published portfolio (as the issue #74 DVD has for my project), additional photographer portfolios, and audio recordings of each photographer discussing their project, similar to the DVD accompanying issue #74 which has my interview with Jensen discussing my portfolio project In Passing.

As might be realized by looking at the accompanying images below, LensWork only publishes Black and White projects and prints them in  the same exact format with a slightly warm toning. Jensen is an accomplished photographer and this magazine publication reflects his personal aesthetics, including some very talent magazine printing and binding that he found in Vancouver Canada. This magazine brings out the best of almost any black and white photographic project.

The LensWork format is relatively consistent with four black & white photographic portfolios, one of which is the key body of work that usually includes the written interview as well as the magazine cover image. Yes, my portfolio did not make the grade for this issue. The magazine is published every other month and one big change with the current issue, unlike issue #74, is that the late Bill Jay is not writing his infamous EndNotes (besides pontificating on a variety of subjects, in issue #74 he chose Darius Himes as the subject for one of his wonderful interviews). In fact Jay passed away not long after issue #74 was published.

So in LensWork issue #74, you have my portfolio for In Passing (not my original name for this project, but a title that Jensen’s assistant came up with, which I liked immensely, and was granted continued use), Ann Mitchell’s photographs that would lead to her book Austin Val Verde (reviewed here).  Ann and I subsequently became friends and I have taught photobook and photo-project workshops with her at Long Beach City College. In issue #74 is the magazine’s cover project by Josef Hoflehner, excerpted from his photobook Iceland and a portfolio by Barry Wolf, who was also granted the issue’s back cover photograph.

Best regards, Doug

April 5, 2011

La Fabrica – Madrid Spain

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Book Stores — Doug Stockdale @ 9:35 pm

La Fabrica Bookstore, Madrid, Spain 2011 copyright Douglas Stockdale

A couple of months ago when I was preparing to spend a couple of nights in Madrid, some Facebook fans of The Photobook alerted me to the La Fabrica Bookstore located in downtown near the Museum de Prado. I did not make to their store in January, but I did visit it this week late one evening. Fortunately the bookstore stays open until 8pm (20:00), but check their web site in advance for the exact hours.

I now realize that the bookstore is but one of their many venues, as La Fabrica publishes their own titles (using local printers and binders here in Madrid) and about 50 meters down the street from the bookstore is their photographic gallery. Both the bookstore and gallery are intimate places, you will not get lost in either one. In the bookstore they carry a wide variety of photobook publishers, with a strong emphasis on Spanish photographers. For the titles that they carry have prodominately only have Spanish text. Likewise, as a publisher, they are focused on the photographers of Spain, but also create imprints of well known books prodominately in conjunction with Steidl, with a Spanish text, e.g. the recent reissue of Robert Frank’s The Americans.

Regretfully I was still in browse mode when 8pm rolled up, so it is probably one of the few times I left a new bookstore without a package tucked under my arm. But now that I know where it is at, I suspect that I will be back again.

Best regards, Doug

March 30, 2011

Camille Hervouet – Geographie Intime

Copyright Camille Hervouet 2010 courtesy Poursuite Editions

What does happen when you go home again? There are usually the lingering memories of youth, but how do these memories mesh with the realities of the present day? In Geographie Intime (English translation: Intimate Geography), Camille Hervouet, who now lives in Nantes, returns to explore and investigate the geography of Vendee, the area in which she was a child and young adult. Hervouet states that in working on this photographic project, she had “the urge to explore deeper into the idea of home, of living in a territory”.

To chose for her subject a personal region, that of her childhood, can be either fraught with emotional danger or perhaps bring immense personal pleasure. A place that has strong emotional ties will no doubt, perhaps at a very subliminal level, lead to a stronger autobiographical narrative. It can be argued that all photographs are really about the photographer, with the sleight of hand illusion that what is in front of the lens might be the subject. Thus it can be said that all photographs are autobiographical, but some are more autobiographical than others.

Hervouet continues in her introduction to state her intent “to capture the way the landscape and the building talk about those who inhabit them, to see how they revel the structure, working pattern, the development as well as the contradictions of the territory…its intimate and collective history.” I find that Hervoutet elegantly lays out her conceptual foundation for this photography project and equally important, then delivers on it.

The photographs are without captions, but from her introduction, I suspect that the portraits of individuals are those who she knows personally, probably family, neighbors and friends. She has a shared history and memory with them.

Her landscape and portrait photographs appear to start in the hills and upper elevations of Vendee and as her photobook progress, we steady approach a seacoast. The final photograph in this series, which is spanning a two page spread and printed full bleed, provides a great expansive body of troubled water. Is this dark and turbulent seacoast symbolic of her emotional condition after this exploration? Has the emotional ride of this project left in troubled turmoil, much as the troubled, overcast and dark sea? The dark sea, much like memory, can be cold, dark and deep, hiding rocks and fissures, concealing wonders and dangers alike.

But yet there is one last small color photograph hiding behind the final Remerciements, much like providing a last kiss after taking a brief pause at the end of a long conversation, a beautiful evening seascape. It could be easily missed, but lingers after the conclusion and for me implies that there is still is hope, perhaps a hope that Hervouet still has, even if troubling memories come tumbling down upon her

The book is printed in four-color, with stiff covers and stitched binding. The text is in French, and with my copy, I received an English translation insert.

By Douglas Stockdale

March 23, 2011

Valeria Cherchi – 3centro34

Copyright 2010 Valeria Cherchi courtesy AAlphabet Libri

Valeria Cherchi is providing a short and relatively dark narrative about a house that is inhabited by two individuals who do not appear to be connecting with each other.  Her two subjects for this photobook are a young man and a young woman and the building tension between the two of them.

The man is photographed alone, either sitting or standing with a vacant expression and in one photograph has his bowed down. The woman in turn is also photographed alone, alternating between an upwards glace or with her bowed.  Both individuals appear to be waiting, in contemplation as though anticipating for the other’s initiating advance. The woman appears in a dreamlike state, as though embracing and in a dance with her lover, with someone who is not there. The bed is entirely hers, whether by default or plan, nevertheless, creating a sense of loneliness and sadness. 

The last photograph of the book spans the two page spread and is printed full bleed. The man continues to stands alone, now in a three-quarter profile, shrouded in the semi-darkness, his profile lost the in deep shadows. It is a stark, graphic, haunting, and eerie photograph. There is an illuminating window pane just behind him and it appears to be part of a door.  This dark image of the shirtless man creates an ominous and foreboding feeling of an implied threat to who may be just beyond the other side of this door. What I might call an Alfred Hitchcock moment.

Cherchi’s black and white photographs are stark, tightly framed and border on being minimalistic. With a minimum of content, it can allow the reader more freedom to fill in the unanswered spaces. The minimal clothing of both individuals implies the appearance of vulnerability and accessibility that perhaps they have nothing to hide between themselves. Yet they do not appear together in any of the photographs and at best, are in separate photographs on facing pages, with the implied dialog crossing the binding of the book, as though the binding is a silent and imaginary barrier between the two.

Situated between the photographs are graphic symbols, the meaning of which is codified and ambiguous to the reader. The layout of the photographs mixed with the graphic elements is a bit confusing. After a number of readings, I am still not sure if the graphic elements and symbols are helping or distracting this narrative. These graphic elements are printed a very solid and dense black relative to the photographs and they seem to act as anchors that pull the focus away from the photographs. The graphics create a sense of tension that somehow then resonates in the photographs.

I found Cherchi’s cinematic narrative to be fragmented, erratic and difficult to follow, but with a captivating ending. Nevertheless, Cherchi and her publisher should be lauded for investigating an experimental layout with the inclusion of different graphic elements (alternatives to text) to structure a different photobook concept.

This photobook is printed in one color with the text in Italian, but my copy came with an insert that contained both the original Italian and an English Translation. I am not very sure (as my Italian is very limited), but appears that the English translation is a bit on the rough side.

by Douglas Stockdale

March 6, 2011

Fantom magazine – Issue 06 Winter 2011

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 5:47 am

Copyright the various artist courtesy Boiler Corportation

From Milano, Italy, via the Boiler corporation, aka Fantom Editions, comes a very smart photography magazine. It has the heft and feel of a stiff cover photobook and beautiful printed in Italy (Frafiche Antiga). What I had not realized is that Fantom Editions was also publishing photobooks, one of which, Charolette Dumas’s Al Lavoro!  which I expect to review later this year.

Unlike a photobook, this like other magazines of its kind, provide either a board retrospective sampling of a photographers work, such as the Joel Meyerowitz interview by Giorgio Barrera, an interview with a photographer regarding a recent project, such as the Marc Feustel interview (conversation) with Hans-Christian Schink or perhaps a portfolio sampling, as in this case, the portfolios of Jessica Labatte, Ra di Martino and Irina Polin.

The magazine has an interesting cadence, moving from portfolio to discussion while photographs form another portfolio (Pop-Up) suddenly appear. The photographic work that is brought into the pages has a very broad breath and aesthetic feel, with a myriad of conceptual challenges for the reader. nice.

There is a minimum of advertising, which in this case is all relegated to the back of the magazine, resulting in some very dense content. The magazine is published entirely in English and I hope that you can find in on a news stand (art photography magazine rack) near you.

By Douglas Stockdale

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