The PhotoBook

August 12, 2015

Mary Ellen Mark – Man and Beast


Copyright 2014 the estate of Mary Ellen Mark

Photographer: Mary Ellen Mark (1940 – 2015)

Published & copyright: 2014

Publisher: University of Texas Press, Austin (TX)

Essays: Melissa Harris

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed & bound in China

Photobook designer: Mary Ellen Mark & Ellen McKie

Notes: A photo project that the late Mary Ellen Mark started in the late 1970’s that resulted in her earlier photobook Indian Circus (1981). She would continue to return to this subject for the following 40 years and this photobook was published just before her passing. I think that the publisher may have described this book best, in stating “Infused with an unsentimental poignancy and fully intentional anthropomorphism, Mark’s photographs of animals, circus performers, children and others are sometimes ironic, occasionally unsettling, but always remarkably engaging”.

Cheers, Doug







August 11, 2015

Kenny Braun – Surf Texas


Copyright 2014 Kenny Braun

Photographer: Kenny Braun (born & resides TX, USA)

Published & copyright: 2014

Publisher: University of Texas Press, Austin, TX

Essays: Stephen Harrigan

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, lithographic printing, printed & bound in China

Photobook designer: DJ Stout & Barret Fry

Notes: Braun’s lyrical black and white photographs investigate the excitement and emotional rush of surfing in the context of the culture and lifestyle of those who participate in this coastal sport. This narrative is from an insider’s perspective as this is Braun’s own Texas surfing turf.

Cheers, Doug






August 10, 2015

Dave Jordano – Detroit Unbroken Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 11:33 pm


Copyright 2015 Dave Jordano

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

Published & copyright: 2015

Publisher: powerHouse Books

Essays: Nancy Watson Barr, Dawoud Bey, Sharon Zukin

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Sam Silvio, Edited by Meg Handler

Notes: The residents of a region inside Detroit (Michigan) that is known for being on the downside edge of life are the subject of Jordano’s photobook. He creates an intimate narrative about hope and endurance to an otherwise misunderstood and misrepresented city.

Cheers, Doug







August 9, 2015

Pawel Bownik – Disassembly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 10:55 pm


Copyright 2012 Pawel Bownik

Photographer: Pawel Bownik (resides Poland)

Published & copyright: 2013

Publisher: Mundin Sp. Z o.o.

Essays: Andrew Berardini

Text: English edition (stiffcover insert, saddle stitch binding)

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Poland

Photobook designer: Honz Zamojski

Notes: Bownik first disassembles his plants and flowers, then reconstructs them, documenting the results. A bipolar mix of engineering, scientific investigation, botany and artistic exploration with mystifying visual results.

Cheers, Doug







August 7, 2015

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin – Scarti


Copyright 2013 Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

Photographers: Adam Broomberg (born South Africa) & Oliver Chanarin (born UK) both reside in UK

Concept: Gigi Giannuzzi (d. December 2012), publisher Trolley Books

Published & copyright: 2013

Publisher: Trolley Books (UK)

Text: English

Hardcover book with tipped in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Fernando Gutierrez

Notes: A photographic concept envisioned by the late Gigi Giannuzzi, created by the double printing of the interior press sheets (scarti di avviamento) to clean the press drums, which these were created after the printing of Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin’s photobook Ghetto. The random and unanticipated resulting images would have been equally enjoyed by the Surrealist. nice.

Cheers, Doug








Janire Najera – Moving Forward, Looking Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 7:00 pm


Copyright 2015 Janire Najera

Photographer/author: Janire Najera (born Spain, resides Spain & UK)

Landscape photographer (panoramas): Matt Wright

Published & copyright: 2015

Publisher: Spain Arts & Culture (Spanish Embassy) in conjunction with Editorial RM (Spain)

Essays: Janire Najera, Orlando Romero, David Roybal, Alexander King

Text: English & Espana (Spanish)

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Spain

Photobook designer: N2 Estudio Grafico

Notes: “Moving Forward, Looking Back, Journeys Across the Old Spanish Trail” is a documentary project focused on identity, based on memory and inspired by travel. A mashup of portraits, landscape of the Western USA, interviews and a personal diary. Interesting and worth checking out.

Cheers, Doug




August 6, 2015

A change in my photobook commentaries


Photograph copyright Dragana Jursic 2015 (YU The Lost Country)

I have been contemplating some changes to this blog for a while now, due to a combination of factors. First is the large quantity of photobooks that are being published at an almost dizzying rate since I started this blog in 2008. Second is the growing quantity of high quality, creative and delightful contemporary photobooks and self-published artists books. At times I am overwhelmed with wonderful photobooks, and while taking the necessary to spend time to enjoy each of these, this precludes having the time to writing about them. Yet these great books deserve a shout out to the photographic book community at large to increase the awareness, part of the purpose of this blog.

Second half of this is the time that I have available to write about photobooks is shared with time I can spend on my personal photographic projects and photobooks (yes, I do have a day job that can be equally demanding). Thus the more time I spend with the books of others, the less time I have to spend on developing my own. Regretfully this is a balancing act and one that I have not been too good at with both parts suffering as of late.

Now here is the thing, I really enjoy creative photobooks, so I will continue to collect. Second, I am a photo-blogger so I will continue to write about photobooks. Thus I am going to try using my Facebook format on this blog for a while to provide a more concise shout out about the books I like. You should see more book shout outs and a lot more often that before. That in turn should allow me some guilt-free time to work on my own photographic projects. nice!

So let’s see how this works for a while.


June 14, 2015

Gytis Skudzinskas – Albumas


Gytis Skudzinskas, copyright 2014, self-published limited edition (edition size: 99) artist book

I must admit I really enjoy serendipity that when I am contemplating a photobook concept to explore only then to receive an artist’s photobook exploration of a similar concept. Such is the case of Gytis Skudzinskas’s artist book Albumas (Album), a recreation of a family album that differs in that the accompanying photographs are inverted, images face down. For each page spread there is one page containing the inverted photographs, while on the facing page there is a contour illustration of the rectangular shapes that echo the opposing mass. Within the contour drawing there are English captions that I suspect translate the handwritten text on the facing photographs.

Family albums are meant to contain photographs that are personal talismans to elicit memories of events and the persons who were involved in this events. As a memory aid to help with the recall, or to share this “information” with another person, the back of these photographs would be personally notated. Over time the specifics of events begin to fade, or become interpreted, jumbled, fragile, thus the hand written notes are expected to help trigger the memories as a memory aid. When dissociated from the originator, the photographs take on other meanings. This is further compounded when the albums are passed down to successive generations and the originators, as well as the subjects, are no longer available to provide a detailed telling of the implied story. These lost memories and historical context become open to interpretation by the reader as new narratives are created.

In Skudzinskas’s investigation of personal memories and identity, he has made collages of these photographic prints before re-photographing them, with the prints stacked, layered, and overlapping each other, held together with a very visible tape to bind the image together. As to say that memories are complex, layered, overlapping and messy. When he stacks photographs on top of another, concealing underlying images, the implication is that a photograph cannot reveal everything and at best provides half-truths if any truth at all. Thus Skudzinskas is also making a statement about the inaccuracies of photographic medium.

By reversing the photographs Skudzinskas, the actual photographic image is concealed, hidden and unknown, thus increasing the tension and mystery of the subject he is working with. Perhaps as a tease, each artist book contains within the front fly page actual photographs that are taped face down similar in fashion to the book’s contents. I found it tempting to remove the tape and examine the actual photograph, similar in desire while reading this book, asking what these concealed photographs really look like? It has been temping, as the tape is not permanent and could be easily lifted from the page, but in doing so would break the spell, as the anticipated image of my imagination is far grander that what might be revealed. This book is all about imagination as to what might be revealed, such as when one notes states “It is a pleasure to dig trenches when girls are next to you”. For me, the image possibilities are endless.

Interestingly the resulting photographic collages resemble the abstract grid-based cubic paintings by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Whereas Mondrain’s color pallet eventually evolved into the three basic colors, Skudzinskas’s pallet is the muted and monochromatic colors of aging paper. The back of these prints are a narrative about passing time, loss, and aging while the dates of the prints indirectly speak to our mortality.

Similar to Mondrain, Skudzinskas emphases form over content, his images reduced to a series of overlapping rectangular shapes that are interlocking panels; building off each other, dependent upon the other to create a geometric shape, as one photograph builds off the content of another. Unlike Mondrain’s solid color fields, the mottled photographic prints resemble the later generation of Abstract Expressionist paintings. The handwriting on the verso of the prints is a series of flowing calligraphic lines. As undecipherable text to me, they take on graphic marks that fill in the rectangular voids.

This is a mysterious book of opposites, what is usually concealed in an album is revealed while those aspects that are usually visible, are concealed. The contour drawing of the opposing photographic collage functions as a mapping of memory. I am really intrigued with this book’s concept, design and materials of construction and named it as one of my More Interesting Photobooks for 2014.

The small book has stiff covers with a facsimile of an old album cover attach to the front cover and the book is hand sewn by Japanese stab binding with Japanese folded pages. My copy has two original old photographs taped lying face down on the front interior fly page, which I suspect is unique to each book in this edition. As a result of the book design and stab binding, this is not a lay flat book and dates are provided for the creation of the opposing line drawings for each spread. An Afterword in Lithuanian is provided by Ricardas Sileika.

Gytis Skudzinskas was previously featured on The PhotoBook: Tyla (Silence)









June 10, 2015

Paula McCartney – A Field Guide to Snow and Ice


Copyright 2014 Paula McCartney Published by Silas Finch

Paula McCartney (b. 1971, Pittsburgh, PA & currently residing in Minneapolis, MN) has chosen a familiar subject for her photobook A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, a natural manifestation occurring frequently during the cold and chilly winters of Minnesota. For those who live in the northern states of the United States, as elsewhere at the extremes of our worldly hemisphere, snow and ice are more like family, not readily chosen but come with the territory.

Similar to her pervious photobook Bird Watching, McCartney purports to provide us a Field Guide on how to recognize the various types of snow and ice. She explores the idea of constructed icy landscapes using scientific practice of collecting, cataloging, identifying, classifying and organizing as a starting point for her work. Also very similar in concept to her photobook Bird Watching, what the reader encounters may not really be what they think it is. She employs a very cleaver sleight of hand in creating many of her photographs of her subject.

McCartney self-published an artist book titled On Thin Ice – In a Blizzard in 2011 which is a sub-series to this more encompassing photobook, in which all of the images were constructed as photograms in the darkroom. She states that this earlier artist book is “a winter of my imagination. Snow begins to fall, grows denser, and obliterates my view while exposing the cosmos. Ice shifts, opening a beautiful black void. A wondrous view as I begin my descent.”

Her subjects are tightly composed, revealing graphic blacks and white masses, the contrast of the snow against the anti-snow, the blackness of non-snow. These are ambiguous forms, if not entirely abstract, difficult to comprehend as to the relative size. She provides little context; these could be small bits found in her back yard or large slabs of free ice wondering on one of the huge inland lakes adjacent to where she resides in Minnesota. Her snow accumulates dirt and debris that over time creates molded form and shape, textures are created by the change of state of the frozen mass of water. Changes are created by the melting and then re-freezing; resulting from the cycles of day and night; warming and then freezing as the sun recedes for the night, the radiant heat slowly dissipates and a chilly wind sweeps away all of the warmth.

I find that I connect with this body of work in a number of ways, one of which is my not so fond memory of snow and ice growing up in the Midwest region of Michigan, where winters can be extremely harsh. I had to endure these freezing elements while trudging to school and back, which left lingering bad memories of blowing, freezing snow (yes, even going side-ways) while attempting to maintain my footing on slippery ice. Not that it was all bad, in fact totally beautiful while looking out on the first morning of a new snow, but regretfully that view quickly turned to nasty slush as I needed to shovel huge amounts caked onto the sideway and driveway. Perhaps a strong underlying reason we live in Southern California and take brief winter ski vacations to “visit” the snow.

This photobook published by Silas Finch is perhaps better thought of as a large production artist book as it does not have the appearance of a traditional photo book. It is printed and bound with a Leporello binding (see below), which means that each page is continuous bound to the adjoining page and the entire book can unfolded to reveal a continuous series of images that extent 34 feet in length. Once unfolded, one side is printed while the reverse (verso) is unprinted. The effect is mesmerizing and yes, I needed both my adjacent dining room and living room floors to display the book’s interior and I was still about a foot or two short of the length of space I needed. Viewing the unfurled interior from my second story studio loft is when I was able to appreciate the slight repetitiousness of the subject’s form, color, mass, lines and shapes.


A second unusual aspect of this book design is the variation in the width of the interior pages/images. There are three page widths, one that encompasses the entire width of the book, and there are two which are narrower, which creates a variation in the sequencing cadence. While looking at one of the narrower images, the reader can observe the edges of a preceding page. These overlap images are a reminder to the other images that are present and that the singular image needs to be kept within the context of the whole; thus the world of snow and ice is both layered and complex.

This is essentially a brilliantly designed book that is a reflection of McCartney’s creativity and vision, equally supported by Kevin Messina and his Silas Finch publishing team. Likewise, I also find myself looking at snow and ice differently. I selected this photobook as one of the more interesting photobooks for 2014 for Emaho Magazine, as well as here for The PhotoBook.

The photobook has stiff covers with a detachable spine (which can create an installation piece approximately 34 feet in length) and the color plates are printed with UV inks on uncoated paper with Leporello binding of the multiple panels. The interior photographs are printed full bleed, thus no pagination or captions are provided. The spine closure is printed on synthetic paper which includes an essay by Mark Alice Durant and a quote from Roger Caillois printed on the inner wrapper, which requires disassembly of the spine to access and read. The intriguing book design is by McCartney with Creative Direction by Kevin Messina and was printed in Minnesota by the Avery Group at Shapco Printing.

Previously featured on The PhotoBook is McCartney’s Bird Watching








May 2, 2015

Bryan Schutmaat & Ashlyn Davis – Islands of the Blest


Copyright 2014 Bryan Schutmaat & Ashlyn Davis, Published by Silas Finch

Islands of the Blest is a collaboration by an American photographer, Bryan Schutmaat (b. 1983 Houston, Texas, currently resides in Austin, Texas), and an American writer, Ashlyn Davis (b. 1986 Port Arthur, Texas, currently resides in Austin, Texas) constructing a historical narrative that explores the American expansion into the “West”. Schutmaat and Davis created this photobook utilizing found photographs that were residing in the digital public archives of the United States Library of Congress and the United States Geological Survey.

I had initially suspected that Schutmaat is the visually oriented contributor while Davis would be the story teller who provides the essence of the story line. In an interview with the pair, I was a way off-base as Schutmaat has an undergraduate degree in History while Davis was a photo major and subsequently changing to art history with an emphasis on photography for her graduate studies. They point to their mutual aesthetical and historical literacy.

Davis states “I had been thinking about the complexities of the West for quite some time, so this project was not only a way to think about the photographic antecedents of Bryan’s work, but for me to explore the history of these landscapes through the shared history of the public archive. This photobook evolved out of preparing for a prelude exhibition to Schutmaat’s beautiful photobook Grays the Mountain Sends published by Silas Finch in 2013. The concept was to collect and exhibit historical photographs of the American West, which resulted in the pair making an extensive road trip from West Texas through New Mexico, Utah and Arizona visiting national parks while reading to each other history books on the American West. We think we still hope that it (the photobook) is not a true narrative but more of a poem.”

The subjects appear to have been captured in the midst of an act, doing something, which is really unknown to the reader, thus perplexing and yet intriguing. Their effort appears to be related to working in the mines or mining claims; essentially searching for their fortunes.  Another aspect that I find interesting is the mash up of ambiguous portraits and grand landscape photographs, each with a uniqueness in framing, perspective and scale between the two. The individuals are framed close and tight without much environmental context, while the landscape images are made from a distance to create an open grandeur in scale. As such it appears that the landscape is overwhelming the individual while attempting to establish a place that might be characteristic of the American West; mountainous, rugged, difficult, rough and tumble.

This photobook reminds me the meandering rural Colorado landscape that borders the I-70 interstate highway and is a conduit between Grand Junction and Denver. There are still some old gold mine towns intermingled with structures dating back to the turn of the 20th century; towns with their wonderfully descriptive names; Idaho Springs, Turkey Gulch, Breeze, Lawson, Georgetown, Silver Plume, Loveland, Dillon, Silvertorne, Frisco, Eagle, Avon, Beaver Creek, & Minturn. These old towns seem to be calling me from the highway to stop and spend some time exploring their passages and memories.

As to the development of the book, Davis goes on to say “we both went through several rounds of independent sequencing before we got to the final version, although one thing Bryan was really great at was sequencing. He was thinking more conceptually, whereas I was initially thinking a bit more literally up until the end and then I think I turned super conceptual. So if anything, that was the tension. We didn’t go into these archives with a specific story in mind. The photos really did a lot of the speaking and we did a lot of the listening to them and to each other before the more nuanced narratives or stanzas began to emerge. I think that patience is integral to the photobook form – it’s like meditating. There are both aesthetic and narrative elements that lead the eye from one image to the next.

I would agree that they did achieve their goal; this is a very poetic body of work.

This photobook has a heavy cloth cover with staple binding (saddle stitch), black & white photographs that are offset printed with UV inks on uncoated paper, with a poem by Michael McGriff.

I choose this as one of my interesting photobooks of 2014.









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