The PhotoBook Journal

April 4, 2018

Gary Ng – 1 + 1 = 3

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 7:45 pm

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Photographer:  Gary Ng (born and resides in Hong Kong)

Self-published, © 2017

Stiff cover, machine-sewn; 15×21 cm; 49 pages in full color; edition of 50 signed and numbered copies

 

Notes:

Several years ago, there was a series of books by Fred Hüning, published by Peperoni Books, Berlin, entitled Einer/Zwei/Drei (2010-2011), subsequently reissued in a single volume, entitled One Circle (2013). Those volumes recounted a personal history, tracing the photographer’s journey from being single, finding a partner, all the way to establishing and nurturing a family unit. That project constituted a three-part mini-saga accompanied by poetry and other texts.

In the present volume by Gary Ng, which has as its title a cute equation that is not mathematically correct but definitely points to natural expansion, we are also confronted with what can be a universal narrative, and all of that in a slim volume of 49 pages, without any text or titles for the images. This allows the viewers to project themselves into the narrative even more readily.

Ng’s photography is full of symbolism, which allows us easy extrapolation to our own lives: where there is pleasure, there is also pain, or: The path to a new life can also be full of strife. We see moments of loneliness in a large city, we see signs of vulnerability such as bandaged wounds and marks left by tight clothing, and broken glass or container pieces. Contrast that with images presenting symbols of vigorous life, primarily represented by the color red (ladybugs, lipstick, fruit), and symbols of fertility, such as eggs or the peeled apple held in the woman’s hand. There are also many other images that present ambiguity, just the way we like it in a volume of fine art photography. Intertwined body parts add to the mysterious and quirky presentation, at times with a measure of humor.  Alas, the offspring does arrive near the end of the volume, and I leave the discovery of that image to those who obtain the book. Many moments of waiting, gestures of supplication and thanks, and visual surprises lead up to that point.

A compactly articulated, intriguing narrative, well thought out, informally presented, yet formally sequenced. A most enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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March 30, 2018

Robert Stivers – Staging Pictures – Early Polaroids by Robert Stivers

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:32 pm

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Artist: Robert Stivers (born Palo Alto, CA & resides Santa Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA)

Published by Dark Spring Press, copyright 2017

Essay: Robert Flynn Johnson

Text: English

Hard cover, with image index, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Arizona Lithography and binding by Roswell Bookbinders, AZ

Photobook designer: Andy Burgess and Dawne Osborne

Notes: This is a small retrospective body of early photographic work of Robert Stivers using Polaroid (Polaroid back on a Hasselblad) film to experiment and play with visual ideas. Stivers was in the transition from being a dancer (with recent back issues) to that of a visual artist. As aptly pointed out in the Introduction by Robert Flynn Johnson, a transition from “a sensitivity to balance, form, grace, beauty and movement (as a dancer)….into the fixed imagery of photography was an early challenge.”

As such there is a rawness in the Polaroid remnants that remain, reminding me of the concept behind Stephen Gill in which he buried photographic prints to see what might happen. In the case of Stivers these Polaroids were not meant to be the final artistic object, but his attempts to understand the potentials of the medium; thus creating collages, scratching and burning the image surface and other experiments to push and pull the potential narrative. What we see are out-takes and an inventory of the early work-in-progress, similar to the hand-written notes of an author or the preliminary drawings for a painting.

What results are mysterious images cloaked in darkness that became the building blocks of Stivers photographic oeuvre. The book design by Andy Burgess and Dawne Osborne push that concept of mystery and the elements of surrealism even further with the utilization of black pages and black image borders.

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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February 21, 2018

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet – Le Naufrage

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Photographer:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet (born in Chicoutimi; lives in Québec City, Canada)

Publisher:  Les Éditions du renard, Montréal, Canada; © 2017

Text:  Poem “Dompter le naufrage” by Fabien Cloutier

Language:  French

Illustration:  Frédérik Lévesque

Hardback, sewn; 108 pages with 55 images, paginated; 9 x 10.5″; printed in Canada by Deschamps Impression; edition of 500 and special edition of 30

Photobook Design:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet and CRITERIUM

 

Notes:

I recently reviewed a book by Gerald Boyer from Catalonia, in which the main emphasis was childhood recollections and family connections around the rugged terrain along the northeastern coast of Spain. Part of those recollections concerned the camaraderie of going fishing in “the cove.” In the present work, things get much rougher.  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet has been documenting the very traditional work of the fishermen of the Quebec/St. Lawrence River area and its connected bodies of water, men who earn their livelihood by braving rough waters and other natural turmoil to bring home their catch; they follow in the path of ancient traditions.

The title of this volume is Le Naufrage (The Shipwreck), and that title certainly makes us wonder if the specter of tragedy and unforeseen events are in the minds of such men pursuing their rugged trade. And sure enough, in the back of the volume there is a fitting poem by Fabien Cloutier entitled, “Dompter le naufrage” (“Dodging the Shipwreck,” perhaps with the implication, “Against all odds”), which lets us in on the images floating about in the fishermen’s minds: separated from their people, they will brave the storm, overcome their fear of disaster, and get back safely to the land and their loved ones again…

This narrative of fishermen is well photographed and handsomely presented. Ouellet rode along on the boats for several years and got to know the men well, pitched in when needed, and was subject to the same adverse conditions as they were. Thus they fully accepted him; he was able to obtain honest views of both calm and rough moments. There is some effect of pictorialism to the work, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. The overall feeling of nostalgia, survival, and temporality is generalized through choices of light and composition that nudge the work toward the abstract and support its strong graphic impact. The longing for the safety of the land exists along with the urge for excitement; the romantic veneer has been removed and the images show the best photojournalistic vision that is enveloped in an artistic presentation. The segment of images taken on the water is surrounded by an initial and a final portion that show terra firma and recollections of nature as a kind of “before”and “after,” which complete the contexts these men experience. The use of small Leica film-based rangefinder cameras on the water, and large-format film cameras for the landscapes and clouds, was a very effective strategy that provided Ouellet with technical ruggedness when needed and an overall artistic look. We are put in the midst of the action in well-composed images and nicely sequenced scenic views. The ever-changing weather conditions certainly also provide a strong background for this narrative. Paisley endpapers, a very pleasing matte paper stock for the printed pages (both ivory and gray), a bound bookmark, and a painting showing rough waves also support the elegant appearance of this book.

A most enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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January 11, 2018

Gerard Boyer – Ser de La Cala

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Photographer:  Gerard Boyer (born in L’Ametlla de Mar, Spain; lives in Tarragona, Spain)

Publisher:  Fuego Books, Murcia, Spain; © 2011-2016 by Gerard Boyer

Texts:  Quotes in Catalan, Spanish, and English

Zine-style, naked-bound and glued, with stiff printed wrap; 22.6 x 32 cm; 64 pages; edition of 500; printed in Spain by CeGe

Photobook Design and Art Direction:  Gerard Boyer, Ignasi López, Román Yñán

Notes: Our memories are very tricky things – they are partial, emotional, full of gaps and uncertainties, and prone to embellishment. Good ones, bad ones, and everything in between. What was, might have been, could have been, should have been? And what is our role in what we have made prominent in all of this, or shoved aside as faded bits and pieces?

Gerard Boyer is from Catalonia, an area politically part of Spain, but with its own language and proud identity. Along the eastern coast there is a certain rugged landscape by the sea and an independent spirit to go with it. This had its impact on this volume of recollections: a view of childhood and its contexts in the “La Cala” (The Cove). The book, professionally designed to make an impression of incidentally “found” detail, illustrates these feelings very well, in that it approximates how detail swerves in and out of our consciousness. The format is that of a large-size glossy magazine; the binding is “naked” (check out our discussion “Naked Bound”), and we get the impression of a past that is full of distinct yet partial memories. Some text portions with quotes are bound to the front and also internally, to evoke further associations in the viewer. There is also a map of the area, with a small window, perhaps suggesting the distant access for an outside viewer. The volume is contained in an intriguing folded, cover-like wrap-around, with an abstract design suggesting land and sea.

The images are an appropriate mix of subjects, showing childhood portraits, family members, area landscapes and other local markers, and some of the folks from the family and the community. Some of the images show a certain ruggedness and imperfection, such as large out-of-focus areas, light-struck film exposures, and faded color to parallel fading memories and thought intrusions.  Themes such as the rugged camaraderie and sensory strength among anglers and the major role of motherhood emerge. As we view this multilayered sequence of images that are presented effectively to approximate the workings of the mind as it comes up with its recollections, we are confronted with doing our own memory work, remembering things from our own childhood as well. And isn’t that precisely what an effective photobook will do, to make us also get in touch with ourselves. An innovative treatment, well done!

Gerhard Clausing

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March 18, 2017

Lorena Endara – É Arenas: Nariz

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 2:04 am

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Photographer:  Lorena Endara (Los Angeles, CA)

Music:  Composed, arranged, and produced by Eduardo Arenas

Publisher:   Producciones Con Sal, Los Angeles, © 2016

Stiff cover, saddle stitch binding; 32 unnumbered pages; 13 color photographs, accompanied by the corresponding song titles from the vinyl album that it accompanies; printed in Los Angeles, CA; 8.5×8.5 inches

Photobook Designer:  Lorena Endara

 

Notes:

A labor of love and creativity – this package of music and photography speaks of all that and more.

Eduardo Arenas, a talented composer and musician, plays a variety of instruments and sings, along with some support musicians, in a set of twelve songs that comprise this exciting innovative solo album, É Arenas – Nariz. The “in your face” themes reflect our time – ever searching and sometimes finding. The resulting “world fusion” music (using this term in a supportive, constructive way here) is most expressive, showing Anglo, Latin, and Brazilian influences, in the rhythms and in the lyrics as well. Outstanding sounds, a variety of unexpected pleasures, speak for the creativity of the artist. You can preview the music on this CD Baby page.

And, getting to our main focus here, his lady, Lorena Endara, worked hard during those six years as well, supporting the project, and was also inspired to create images that reflect the tenor of the musical pieces. And again, we report a distinct measure of success; instead of merely illustrating the content of the music and lyrics, the images are in themselves an interpretation of the emotional substance and context of what the music represents and engenders. In her images, she achieves a level of abstraction that allows the viewer/listener to dream and wonder. You will need to obtain the vinyl version (yay! resurgence of vinyl!) to appreciate the images, printed in a separate booklet that comes with the album; some of the double pages are reproduced below.

We are looking forward to further work from this talented team!

Gerhard Clausing

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February 7, 2017

Barbara Kyne – A Crack In The World

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Copyright 2016 Barbara Kyne

Photographer: Barbara Kyne (b. Hoboken, New Jersey – resides. Oakland, CA)

Publisher: Daylight Books (USA)

Essays: Barbara Kyne, Susan Griffin, Jasmine Moorhead

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Ursula Damm

Notes: Barbara Kyne and her partner Fran Lowe have property in Mariposa, located east of the San Francisco bay in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. The land is a bit rough and tumble, which is to say a little on the wild side. Although her book appears to be an abstraction of the natural landscape, Kyne is seeking to go beyond the apparent and investigate an aspect of nature that we do not usually think may be occurring; how does nature view itself?

In nature we take for granted that there is an active interplay between the wildlife animals, birds and other crawly creatures, but we have not been taught or made aware that perhaps the trees and vegetation may actively communicating among themselves. Kyne has tapped into the writings and scientific investigations that gives credence that plants and trees are in a sense actively communicating with each other. Thus raising the question; if plants and trees can perceive, what might they comprehend and what could that vision look like?

In discussing this book, she stated “And my work is about reality. Reality and time. I’m just looking at reality from what I imagine is the perception of another species. I’m attempting to expand our perception of reality and let go of or at least loosen the grip of our human-centric perception.”

Her photographs are abstract and very lyrical as I find Kyne’s hypothesis and subsequent investigating to be very intriguing and visually beautiful.

Other photobooks by Barbara Kyne reviewed on The Photobook: Gerhard Clausing’s review of By Fire

Cheers

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January 8, 2017

Barbara Kyne – By Fire

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Ph­otographer:   Barbara Kyne (born Hoboken, NJ; resides Oakland, CA)

Publisher:  Self-published, © 2015

Essay:  “On Contemplation and Perception” by Barbara Kyne

Text:  English

Stiff cover book with 32 pages, not numbered; 10 duotone photographs; 8.75 x 7.25″. Marketed by Norfolk Press  and by the photographer.

Photobook Designer:  Yon Sim

 

Notes:  

By Fire is a fascinating seminal volume that has as its goal creating a connection between severe personal tragedy and the universe of nature as a sphere of continuity and as a context permitting some healing. In ten well-chosen images that have also been given intriguing titles, Barbara Kyne allows the viewer to enter a foreboding yet promising atmosphere: we can project events that have fundamentally affected our lives into a series of fiery depictions of nature. These often include a shadowy figure – a stand-in and ethereal spirit, hinting at a gutsy universality beyond the comprehension of any one individual being, as well as pointing toward some solace and an understanding that we are not alone.

Barbara Kyne has a keen interest in pursuing the deeper meaning of reality and discovering clues to the great existential questions, using her photography to serve as a conduit to understanding “the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, often and surprisingly connecting pathos and joy.” Regarding this volume, she states, “If we move through the metaphorical fire with awareness, we may find that facing mortality creates expansion and renewed life.” Indeed, there is a mysterious and mythical quality to her photography that envelops and fascinates the viewer, inviting several types of discovery.

Barbara Kyne is continuing her important photography in further volumes. We admire her work and are looking forward to further illuminations.

Gerhard Clausing

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April 5, 2016

Kenneth Josephson – The Light of Coincidence

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Photographs Copyright 2016 Kenneth Josephson

Photographer: Kenneth Josephson (born Detroit, MI, resides IL, USA)

Publisher: University of Texas, Austin (USA)

Essays: Gerry Badger and Lynne Warren

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, includes List of Plates, Chronology, Exhibition History & listing of Collections, printed in China

Photobook designer: not stated

Notes: This thick, retrospective monograph examines the photographic works of Kenneth Josephson, an early innovative conceptual photographer. Early in his career, Josephson’s photographs ran counter to Szarkowski’s MoMA (1960 – 70’s) trend towards documentary photography, during which Josephson created photographs as objects that are “made”, not taken.

As Gerry Badger states in his forward to this book; “These images may contain meanings that are primarily private and personal to their maker. However, although Kenneth Josephson exemplifies the turn inward toward a self-reflective vision that marks post-World War II photography – he was taking selfies, though very complex selfies, decades before the iPhone generation – he was also enough of an artist to look outward.”

Many of Josephson’s photographs probably will appear hauntingly familiar, probably much more recognizable than his name.  His humor and wit is an undercurrent in many of his photographs, such as a car with a white shadow, which is not uncommon sight where the sun quickly melts the snow except for that which is in the shadows. Or when he frames his own shadow (early selfie) cast over his son laying on the ground, or his outstretched arm holds a photograph to create a juxtaposition of myth/reality into his composition. Josephson warrants a second look as someone who is providing a conceptual foundation for much of the current photographic practices.

Cheers

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February 29, 2016

Ralph Gibson – Political Abstraction

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Copyright 2014 Ralph Gibson

Photographer: Ralph Gibson (born Los Angeles, resides NYC, USA)

Publisher: Lustrum Press (USA) (Distributed: University of Texas Press, Austin)

Essays: Ralph Gibson

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography

Photobook designer: not stated

Notes: This is Gibson’s first stated foray into digital photography and the book is also meant to be an exhibition catalog. His vertical photographs, now incorporating color in combination with his classic black & white images, are ambiguous photographs and not unlike those of his earlier seminal photobooks Somnambulist and Deja-vu. Gibson’s current book, Political Abstraction again provides Surrealistic juxtapositions, as his stated intent is to provide photographic diptychs for the reader/viewer to compare and contrast.

The Abstraction aspect of the book’s title is somewhat easy to grasp, as his truncated photographs are simplified and ambiguous forms, lines, shapes and colors without revealing the greater context of what (or where) the subject actually is. Gibson does pull back to provide more contextual information to the female nude forms, one of his stated sources from which all shapes are derived from. In his introduction, Gibson bullet-points almost 50 definitions of what he considers Synapses, including three repetitions of the “in democratic cosmopolitan culture a book can begin or end on any page in the book”, a key element of his Political theme, thus signaling that his paired pages can stand alone and his book does not necessarily provide an overall narrative save what the reader might glean form their appraisal of his collective pairings. Gibson concludes that “the reader is the subject of this book”, an interesting, if not confounding statement, born of his Ed Ruscha/ LA generation.

Cheers

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August 20, 2015

Aaron Siskind – Another Photographic Reality

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Copyright 2014 the estate of Aaron Siskind

Photographer: Aaron Siskind (1903 – 1991) USA

Publisher: University of Texas Press, Austin (TX) (first published by Editions Hazan, Paris, 2014)

Essays: Charles Traub, Gilles Mora

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Chronology, Bibliography, List of Photographs, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Nicolas Hubert

Notes: A photographer who first came into recognition for his documentary photographs of NYC as part of Photo League. Siskind then evolved into one of the ground breaking and subsequent prominent photographers making the conceptual leap into Abstraction and his close friendship with Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell. He viewed photography as a visual language of signs, metaphors and symbols as the equivalent of poetry and music.

Cheers, Doug

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