The PhotoBook

July 30, 2012

FotoGrafia di Roma XI: Work – PhotoBook Exhibition

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:49 pm

photographs copyright of photographers and publishers

FOTOGRAFIA Festival Internazionale di Roma XI Edition: Work

The theme of Work for XI FotoGrafia di Roma is complex and multi-faceted subject, which I attempted to broadly explore in my selection of contemporary PhotoBooks for this exhibition. This theme is also ambiguous and illusive, which can be as much about one does as well as what one is doing.

I want to create the opportunity for those attending this exhibition to investigate the contemporary aspects and explore the rich narratives as to what constitutes work, as seen by a diverse range of creative photographers in conjunction with their book designers and publishers who support these endeavors. As a result, I selected what I hope is an interesting mix in the various ways photographers using the PhotoBook as a medium investigate this conceptual theme. The PhotoBooks continue to add yet another layer and dimension to the Festival’s theme, as the PhotoBook object is also the actual work of a photographer, book designer, printer and publisher.

In addition to the PhotoBooks being present as a physical object, I am complementing these with a concurrent exhibition of interior double-page spreads re-photographed by the photographers. Thus the physical book would be present for viewing as well as be surrounded in a sea of interior photographs that should create a reference to the other.

In my investigation of this conceptual theme, I find an undercurrent of identity interwoven in many of these PhotoBooks, posing a quintessential question; are we defined by work, or does work define us?

The photographers and their PhotoBooks that will be in the exhibition, in alphabetic order, are:

Pierre BessardBehind China’s Growth

Julie BlackmonDomestic Vacations

Paul Flyod BlakePersonal Best

Andrew BuurmanAllotments

Michal ChelbinThe Black Eye

Chris CoekinThe Altogether

Clayton CotterellUnarmed

Marco DeloguThe Thirty Assassins

Charlotte DumasAl Lavoro!

Andy FreebergGuardians

Thijs HeslenfeldMen at Work

Sarah HobbsSmall Problems in Living

Henry HorensteinSHOW

Rob Hornstra – Sochi Singers

Pieter HugoPermanent Error

Ron JudeLick Creek Line

Chris KillipSeacoal

Gina LeVaySandhogs

Janne LehtinenNight Shift (not available)

Rania MatarA Girl in her Room

Kendall MessickThe Projectionist

Darin MickeyStuff I Gotta Remember Not to Forget

Cristina de Middel (Puch)The Afronauts

Bertil NilssonUndisclosed

Andreas Oetker-Kastmanpower

Louie PaluCage Call

Lina PallottaPiedras Negras

Christian PattersonRedheaded Peckerwood

Dana PopaNot Natasha

Nina Poppeama

Florian von Roekel How Terry Likes His Coffee

Ken SchlesOculus

Martin SchoellerFemale Bodybuilders  (not available)

David SchulzLone Wolf

Melissa ShookMy Suffok Downs

Lars TunbjorkOffice

I will be posting information on most of these PhotoBooks leading up to the exhibition in September.

As to the PhotoBook exhibition:

dates: September 20 through October 28, 2012

venue: MACRO Testaccio, Piazza Orazio Giustiniana 4, Roma

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Curator, 2012 FotoGrafia di Roma PhotoBook exhibition

Note: the photobook exhibition is now scheduled for a Southern California one-night pop up exhibit at the Irvine Fine Art Center on October 18th, more information here.

July 21, 2012

Rob Hornstra – Sochi Singers

Copyright Rob Hornstra 2011 self-published

Rob Hornosta, in the third of a series of photobooks, investigates a region that will soon be the site the 2014 summer Olympics. It is an attempt to document a region that is and that might soon be what was with the anticipated and pending changes to accommodate the Olympics. In this edition, he investigates one aspect of the Sochi culture and identity of this region, by examining the ever-present entertainment offered by the numerous restaurants that cater to the visiting tourist.

A series of photographs of the performing “cover bands” and “lounge acts” in the various Sochi restaurants intermingled with a few landscape photographs of the tourist vacationing on the rock laden beaches of the region. This is also an investigation of those entertainers whose work provide the entertainment, the music of the (day and) night.

Hornstra focuses on the entertainers using a rigid formula of centering his subjects in the middle of the horizontal frame obtained from a medium advantage point that incorporates the performers on their stage. His photographs remind me of the stylistic rigor employed in the industrial photographs by Brend and Hiller Becher. In Hornstra’s current body of work, unlike the cold and dispassionate Becher style, his subjects are warm, alive and sometime showing some vitality.

This series is also about what is unseen, but hinted at, as to the what the remainder of the restaurant may look like, who else is in the restaurant, or who is not, as to the age, gender and appearances of the patrons, as to who find this particular cover band appealing. The viewer is provided some tantalizing glimpses of the others, but they are unseen and allow us to create their presence.

In comparing the photographs, the differences and similarities between each of the performer(s) are fascinating, as to the details of their costuming, condition and complexity of the staging and the intensity they appear to bring into their work.

It is also obvious from the camera flash and location that these are not “stolen” photographs. Hornstra’s subjects know that they are both performing as a part of their work as well as performing for his lens. By the way, for those who have met Hornstra, you would know that with his tall lean stature, he does stand out in a crowd.

Although Hornstra states his desires to use a documentary style to capture the “before the Olympics come to town”, but in examining the photographs, I find this is still a narrative about current cultural change. Although a few of the performers are accompanied with actual instruments, who can not miss the omnipresent portable computers that provide the performers play list, lyrics and accompanying music.

As I examine his narrative, I suspect that the Olympics will be a blimp in the history of Socchi and that this region will very soon return to the normalcy that Hornstra investigates today.

As a photobook object, this is a large stiff cover photobook encased within a slightly stiffer dust cover. The lithographic pages appear robustly glued into the binding. The book has an interesting twist, with the interior photographs printed full bleed but at right angles to the opening of the book and you feel you are reading a calendar, sans the top holes to fix it to your wall.

By Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Other Rob Hornstra photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: 101 Billionaires – Crisis Edition

July 11, 2012

PhotoBook exhibition – curating in progress

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS — Doug Stockdale @ 1:04 am

I was recently invited to submit a curatorial proposal for a photobook exhibition based on the thematic subject of “work”, which is an interesting word as well as subject for photographers. Idea is tap into the history of photography in recent years, reinterpreted through a great deal of attention to differences and changes of the languages of photography and contemporary work.

As stated by the exhibition director;  

What remains of “20th-century” work? Its “vision”, which was often also mythological, full of physical exertion and large masses, has changed and in many cases endures alongside more sophisticated, often solitary, technological kinds of work that are frequently difficult to transform into visions. How do these old visions marry the new ones? What unites them? Perhaps some of the answers to these questions contain a global vision of the world and a vision of photography that we consider the most effective tool for the analysis of contemporary society and its languages.

A study of work is therefore also an investigation into identity.

My goal is to bring together 25 – 30 photobooks by contemporary photographers who explore and investigate this multifaceted and complex theme. To add a further layer to the exhibition, I am asking the photographers to select and re-photograph a two page spread from their book in which we will exhibit the prints of the interiors of photobook on the walls surrounding the photobooks.

As examples of those which are on my short of photobooks are Melissa Shook’s My Suffolk Downs, Ron Jude’s Lick Creek Line, Clayton Cotterell’s Unarmed, Thijs Helenfeld’s Men at Work, Christian Paterson’s  Redheaded Peckerwood, Rania Matar’s A Girl in her Room, Bertil Nilsson’s Undisclosed, Rob Hornstra’s Sochi Singers, Gina LeVay’s Sandhogs, Andy Freeberg’s Guardians, Beth Dow’s In the Garden, Lauren Burke’s Birth of a Statesman, Dan Nelken’s Till the Cows come Home, Chris Shaw’s Life as a Night Porter, Pierre Bessard’s Wuhan Boiler Company Workers, Susan Anderson’s High Glitz, and Louie Palu’s Cage Call.

Please leave a comment about any photobooks that you think deserve consideration and if possible include a link to the book and its interior images.

Best regards, Doug


July 7, 2012

Melissa Shook – My Suffolk Downs

Photographs copyright Melissa Shook 2012 published by Kat Ran Press and Pressed Wafer Press

Melissa Shook is investigating the back story of the stables and the workings of a horse-race track, Suffolk Downs, located in Massachusetts. She has been photographing at this small track for an extensive period when her access to the track’s operations improved as a result of her friend’s “claiming” investment of a race horse. Shook has attempted to capture the swirling activities that constitute the unique life and work of this micro-environment.

This project is a collection of singular images that were created in a documentary style and attempts to define a specific place as well as those who work there. It does not attempt to be all-inclusive investigation, using a combination of poetic black and white images couple with her poetic words to create something might be greater than the two.

As to the layering of the poetic writing that is interlaced through and around the interior photographs, I will rightful leave that to others to critique. Nevertheless, the writing has an interesting cadence as she attempts to capture the dialect of her subjects.

As a book object, it is a stiff cover, lithography printed and sewn, horizontally designed book that reads very well, as the book lays open nicely in your hands. The horizontal book design is nicely matched to the horizontal black and white photographs, each with an ample amount of a white margin.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Note: in posting this review, I notice that there is a small area of warmth in the interiors images which is probably a result of my not turning off one of the room lights when making these images, so apologies to all, as these are very nice entirely Black and White photographs.

July 6, 2012

Clayton Cotterell – Unarmed

Photographs copyright Clayton Cotterell 2012 published by Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books

This photobook is a mashed up narrative that intertwines the lives and family of two brothers, one brother is the subject, the unarmed solider, while the other is the unseen brother, who is the photographer. In this photobook, Clayton Cotterell provides a series of portraits of his brother Ian from young adulthood to that of a seasoned solider. Cotterell has a unique view-point as well as one that could create a bias that might hinder him, in that he has intimate knowledge of his subject over a very long duration. Thus this book is indirectly a narrative about a relationship between two brothers.

It appears that Cotterell is shaping a story about the identity of a young man who has opted for a career pathway in the military service. Questions arise as to how the decision to engage in military service has shaped this young man, how might it leave a lingering stamp on how he defines himself as well as others might define him. I find interesting the last portrait of the book as the one brother, who does not directly confront the other’s lens, reveals the enduring marks of identity.

I am left to reflect on the averted gazes of these portraits. As stated by Myles Haselhorst in the Introduction “More profound, however, is the quiet, unarmed demeanor with which he faces the camera up to the last photograph. Here he is shirtless & looking askance. The tattoo on his chest, which is the ultimate mark of transition, says little about the destruction of war & a lot about live, declaring in reverse that art saves.”

As a book object, this photobook by Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books is printed in color in a larger size than most of their previous publications. As a glued print on demand design, with stiff covers, it still exhibits some of the similar issues in regard to readability, but to a much lesser extent, a welcome difference. The interior photographs are printed on a semi-luster stock and exhibit a full range of tones and details making for a nice read. The introduction is by Myles Haselhorst, with a list of captions in an ending index.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

June 26, 2012

Thijs Heslenfeld – Men at Work (Nil Sine Labore)

Copyright Thijs Heslenfeld published by Oost West Thijs Best

Heslenfeld appears to have traveled the global in search of men who are performing some unique work, or happen across a subject while in search of another.  In reading Thijs Heslenfeld’s introduction to his fourth photobook “Man at Work”, he raises a rhetorical question: “The question raised by each of these images: is a man’s identity based on his work, or is his work based on his identity?” Personally I find this question vexing and having universal appeal and depending on the status in life, economic conditions, geographic location or culture a person was raised in, will undoubtedly vary.

Tantalizingly, the answer to his question is not directly provided by Heslenfeld, but rather broadly hinted at. What is evident is a series of portraits of men who appear to be at or about their work. The portraits are placed in context with an extended caption from a brief conversation he has with his subject.

Heslenfeld does offer this observation:  In the wealthy, capitalist Western world, men seem to identify strongly with their work: they are what they do. So their existence seems to be based on their job. In less advanced countries, this is often quite different. Here it works the other way around: people tend to do work that suits them.

Reading this photobook, I find that the vast majority of Heslenfeld’s subjects are the later and that he gravitates to subjects who are doing the work that seems to suits them. Although Heslenfeld appears to be focusing mostly on one half of the equation, the photographs and body of work is still very compelling.

As a reader, we do have the vaguest hint of information about these men which has been provided by an interaction with the photographer and an out-take from a conversation. Interestingly, it seems to be enough to engage me, as though we have just been introduced and then I am left to finish the conversation. Heslenfeld’ tease is enough so that I find myself wanting to know more, while in some cases, I think I know more than enough. These photographs are filled with fragments’ and bits of random information that draw me, as a reader, in.

How can a man with such dirty hands and soiled face yet still keep his white shirt so clean? Can a man with such a sad-looking clown outfit and in the midst of poverty really bring joy and happiness as he portends? Might I trust a man in such conditions to weld a razor so close to my neck such that I might still walk away? How would I be smiling while working and living in such sad appearing conditions? Why does Heslenfeld keep photographing men while they hold such deadly weapons in such remote locations, especially when they are not exactly smiling? Can this overweight guy really be a Club Med aficionado?

The ending quote is provided by Benjamin Franklin “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”

This hardcover book is very self-evident with the English title silkscreen on the front exposed kraft board and the Latin motto (Nothing Without Work) silkscreen on the back kraft board, with the exposed spine revealing the sown and glued binding. Book design and color printing was completed in the Nederland’s.

Update: The design of the book by the Dutch agency Koning Harder won a Red Dot Award, a very nice European design award. Nice.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

June 24, 2012

Hiroshi Watanabe – 99 Findings

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:58 pm


copyright the photographers

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure to be included in a iPad App project that brought together my friend and photographer Hirohsi Watanabe, videographer Michal Kastenam and myself, as the interviewer, to expand on an earlier Watanabe photobook Findings, a photobook which I had reviewed in 2009. Watanabe was a Critical Mass winner and the resulting Findings was published by Photolucida, Portland, OR. The iPad App is titled 99 Findings, and increases the number of Watanabe’s photographs to 99, of course.

The iPad app is being produced by Hibiku, Inc in Japan this summer and 99 Findings will be available very soon on iTunes. In addition to the 99 photographs, there is my interview in which we discuss some of these photographs as well as Watanabe’s background and philosophy. There is also a segment of Watanabe working in his beautiful darkroom, a darkroom which I featured on a post in Singular Images.

As an iPad app, more content can be provided that traditional found in a photobook, and one that Watanabe is very interested is a photo-site linkage, best described in his words  “There are also links in each photograph to specific locations (where the photographs were taken) in Google Map. In some case, you will see the actual view of the landscape and surroundings by the Street View in the Google Map.”

This iPad app should be very interesting. I have not seen any of the post-production edits yet and this app just might be the reason I finally break down and purchase an iPad. I hope that I make a good “talking head” but thankfully all eyes will be on Watanabe and his delightful and open-ended photographs.

He has published a photobook before Findings as well as couple more since, including his first color photobook Ideology in Paradise  and most recently Love Point, published by Toesisha Publishing and subsequently a One Book by Nazareli Press.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Gytis Skudzinskas – Tyla – Silence

Photographs copyright Gytis Skudzinskas 2011 published by Culture Menu (Kulturos Meniu)

Gytis Skudzinskas joins the minimalist ranks of the 1960’s color field painters and the recent cadre of long exposure photographers who reveal that with the passing of elastic time, that there are other “realities” that exist beyond our everyday comprehension and perception.

He creates contemplative images with beautiful lyrical colors of things that are, but yet are not. The results can be somewhat serendipitous as the final results are seldom visualized yet there is a core essence that can be anticipated.

The photographs are created with a neutral and static composition with the boundary between the upper and lower sections drawn mid way, dividing the two color fields into equal halves. This ccompositional tool is then consistently employed providing a sameness and interrelationship to and between the various photographs.

Beyond a contemplative opportunity for these photographs I regretfully do not find anything of sustaining value. The photographic content exists entirely within the boundaries of these photographs and other than the variations in color there is little else to hold my attention, to tweak my curiosity or create a desire to return.

The hardcover book is nicely printed and bound, the color photographs are suburb, but the textual design element of using a light color font on a paper of similar value increases the difficulty to read and comprehend the essays. This may be a case in which the attempt to be creative in design fell short, but an attempt to challenge the basics of book design is applauded. As an artist, risk need to be ventured and creative failure is a surrogate for success, as nothing ventured, nothing gained.

By Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

June 23, 2012

Silvia Camporesi – La Terza Venezia – The Third Venice

Copyright Silvia Camporesi 2011 published by Trolley Books

To say the least, Venice is a daunting subject for a photographic project, as are the over photographed venues of New York City, Paris, Rome and San Francisco. This Italian city is a virtual cliché of photographic images. Silvia Camporesi is choosing to travel a different route employing vestiges and façades mixed with a wonderful dose of her own imagination to create a beautiful and haunting narrative.

Little is provided to help interpret the dreamlike and mysterious images, thus a story of your making. Sharply detailed photographs reveal out of the ordinary elements within the photographic borders, with the inclusion of animals as one of many motifs. These animals, both the type and stature are out of context within this place: shark, deer, bear, elephant and rabbit.

A prone woman with her closed eyes is lying on the banks of the shore, floating in and submerged in the water, provides metaphoric images of sleep. Suggesting that perhaps what are floating on the pages around her are a fragment of the dreams (madness) found in sleep. Her landscape, floating in the mist and fog, is softly defined as one might think of a past memory, which can floating in and out of sharp focus with aspects dulled to the effects of time. Water, not only ubiquitous to Venice, is also symbolic of birth and a life providing substance. The presence of water is a constant subtext to most of her photographs.

Camporesi’s melding of images at times appears unnatural and a bit forced; it is these juxtapositions that tweak our interest as they jar our perception of accepted reality. We can quickly accept that these are constructed images and then proceed to allow ourselves to delve deeper into the question of why.

Camporesi states: “The book is a dreaming diary, composed of views of the city and short texts. The project explores places through the filter of imagination and dreams, divided in 4 thematic series: “Foghorns” (city images lost in the fog); “Souvenirs” (typical Venetian objects staged in anonymous locations around the city); “Ghosts” (legends and surreal places which take place in Venice); and finally “where water begins” (tales of real and imagined floodings, of buildings and churches).”

The hardcover book is very nicely printed with an essay provided by Bruno Cora.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

May 28, 2012

Bruce Haley – Sunder

Photographs copyright Bruce Haley 2010 published by Edizioni Charta in conjunction with Daylight Community Arts Foundation

From 1994 to 2002 Bruce Haley embarked on “a far reaching (photographic) journey through numerous former USSR and Iron Country countries”, investigating a transitional point of time encompassing post-communism and post-war. This body of photographic resulted in Haley’s gritty and dark photobook Sunder, as Taj Forer describes “a stark perspective on the collapse of the Communist empire”.

His choice of using black and white photography is very well suited to this documentary style journey through a region that appears to be enduring very difficult times. I sense his range of grays as revealing a poetic and melancholic subtext to his urban subject. Likewise, his frequent choice of a panoramic photographic format seems to make the resulting dismal conditions appear to be even more overwhelming.

Haley’s body of work is very synergistic with Rania Matar’s “Ordinary Lives”, her investigation of the social aftermath of the Lebanon war. Interesting for me to compare and contrast Haley’s photographs with Katherine McLaughlin’s photobook “The Color of Hay”  investigating a Romanian region during a similar point in time. Haley’s photographs are dark and pessimistic, while McLaughlin has created colorful and optimistic photographs. Looking at these two bodies of work, it would be difficult to understand how this could be the same region and time.

Haley has provided a serve commentary on war and economic blight left by communistic colonialism. His photographs are a dark criticism of both socialism and those who take adverse advantage of a countries resource that result in a wasteland left in apparent ruins. His harsh landscape photographs reveal ecological disasters that might haunt many generations yet to come.

He observes individuals who frequently appear to be in a state of resignation or barely functional in a sea of dysfunctionality. Like Matar, Haley observes the dark irony, harsh and dismal economic conditions and that with perseverance and tenacity, individuals continue to survive. This is a transitional time as a dark curtain has been drawn back only to reveal an uncertain future. Nevertheless, Haley’s narrative is a testimony as to how resilient mankind is.

This very wide hardcover book complements the many panoramic photographs that Haley has incorporated into this project. The photographs are presented as singular images per spread, with ample classic white margins framing each photograph images that make this a joy to read. The book is beautifully printed and bound in Italy revealing the many nuances’ of Haley’s moody black and white photographs. A Foreword is provided by Dina and Clint Eastwood, an extended essay is provided by Andrei Codrescu and Afterword by Taj Forer.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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