The PhotoBook Journal

January 25, 2018

Louie Palu – Front Towards Enemy



Photographer: Louie Palu (born Toronto, Canada & resides Washington DC)

Published by Yoffy Press: Atlanta, GA (USA) copyright 2017

Essay by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu

Text: English

Stiff cover Zine with metal saddle stitch binding, Cards, Leporello (Accordion), soft cover Newspaper, folded without binding, exhibition insert, housed in printed chip-board folder with cover flap, four-color lithography, printed in Turkey

Photobook designer: Jordan Swartz

Notes: War. I don’t understand it and fortunately I have not had to experience it, although I live on an old WW2 bombing range, that’s another story. Louie Palu in his new multi-media publication (can we really call this a photobook?) Front Towards Enemy provides a version of a photo-documentary that resulted from a self-assignment investigation of the war conflict in Afghanistan. This is a very complex region; socially, economically, politically and environmentally that Palu has tried to emulate with an equally complex and layered print concept.

His multi-media conceptual photobook immediately reminded me of Alejandro Cartagena’s 2015 self-published Before the War, which in retrospect, I have found so complex at the time as to be visually overwhelming. There are similar aspects about Palu’s publication as well.

Palu’s photobook has four major components and then each of these break down or expand from there. Part newspaper, The Void of War, part zine, The Fighting Season, part leporello, part a pack of picture cards and finally an insert that suggests how to assemble of this into a exhibition. Wow.

Rebecca Senf in her assay discusses the parallels between Palu and W. Eugene Smith as to how Smith after his tiff with Life magazine about his Albert Schweitzer photo essay left the magazine and went independent. As Palu was self-assigned for his Afghanistan project, likewise he did not have to conform to the norms of a picture editor, but completed his project on his own aesthetic terms. We do not always see his subject but are provided indirect evidence of his subject’s presence; a cast shadow, an out of focus form, heads bowed, truncated feet, legs and arms. A photo-documentary that attempts to connect with the heart.

Newspaper; The Void of War; interior pages with images that are an impressive 8-1/2” h x 21-1/2” w; the ultrawide format of the camera lens creates a distorted visualization that echos the frequently un-nerving human situations that are in a state of progress. The photographic quality of the newsprint has low contrast with muddled blacks, typical of an area of newspapers and harken back to newspaper coverage of the Vietnam War era.

Zine; The Fighting Season, saddle stitch binding, with the essays by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu and includes the book’s colophon. A mix of the trauma of warfare with the background of the human element, the children and adults with their animals who try to survive in the region amidst the war.

Leporello (Accordion); 14 continuous panels, printed full bleed that when unfolded extends 13 feet, with the photographs on one side and the caption printed on the reverse. The physical manipulation of the leporello to look at the images and then read the corresponding caption is awkward and not meant to be an easy act. The last image (or depending on how you fold the leporello, the first image) of a seriously wounded Afghan solider in a Medevac helicopter’s blue light is incredibly haunting.

Cards, individual prints, which are printed full bleed, 11”h x 7-1/2”w, on heavy card stock. Captions are provided on the reverse side. These are tightly cropped portraits of his subjects who are soldiers that are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.  I find their eyes and gaze visually riveting.

Single page insert: Instructions and suggestions on how to create one version of an exhibition with this publication.

As one moves from one part of the publication to another, there is a feeling of messiness, an interesting feeling, perhaps a simulation of the awkward and strained social and environmental conditions that Palu is encountering. Another dimension of this body of work.

Palu has stated that although he has experienced some aspect of war, his photographs cannot provide the reader with the full experience of what this is. Similarly, this review is an attempt to describe a complex publication, but cannot provide the reader with the full experience. Highly recommended you obtain your own copy.

Other books published by Louie Palu that have been reviewed on TPBJ: Cage Call













September 13, 2017

Giles Duley – One Second of Light

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 11:04 am


Photographer:  Giles Duley (born and resides in London, UK)

Publisher:  Benway Publishing / EMERGENCY UK, London, © 2015

Essays:  Gino Strada, A.L. Kennedy, Melissa Fleming, Giles Duley; conversation with Giles Duley and Roger Tatley

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover; 172 pages, not numbered; four-color lithography, 117 images, numbered, captioned and with expanded background stories; list of organizations and charities; 28×21.5 cm, printed in the UK by Push, London

Photobook Designer:  Shaz Madani



Here we are, sixteen years after 9/11, and the conflicts and “collateral” suffering are continuing. The longest war in the Middle East is being ramped up again, and an end to the violence is nowhere on the horizon. Only a few months ago I reviewed the strong contribution by Paula Bronstein, Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear, a work that has been well received and admired, especially in regard to the courage and insights shown by her, depicting a society in which the role of women is still more limited.

Giles Duley is a superb storyteller of places and people in times of armed conflict and violence as well. He too has shown courage beyond all expectation, at tremendous personal cost. You may wish to see and hear his TED talk for inspiration. As a triple amputee he has become “a living example of what war does to people.” This pivotal event has intensified and focused his work even more, and he serves as a strong role model to others who have suffered a similar fate. A tremendous journey for a photographer that started out in the fashion and music industry! His goal has always been for his storytelling to have an impact on those who can change things, and I suspect also on the vast audience that elects those who make decisions affecting the lives of others.

As his work covers not only people in Afghanistan, but also in many other conflict-laden locales as well, this book is an effective collection of stories (from 2005 to 2015) of many individuals affected by a variety of strife in a variety of places: Angola, Bangladesh, Syria, South Sudan, Jordan, and the Ukraine, besides Afghanistan. Orphans, child soldiers, victims of acid attacks, war injuries, and the refugee crisis are just some of the problems to which his first-hand account introduces us. The captions that accompany the images are mini-capsule introductions to people’s lives, further expanded through additional information for each image in the back of the volume. As Melissa Fleming states in her introductory comments, “One Second of Light introduces us to the people hidden by numbers […] Through these images we form relationships. We find empathy and connect; we discover the displaced as fellow travellers […] ­­­­We share moments of the most mundane intimacy.” And as the excerpted pages below show, a split second to take the photograph that allows us to view each person’s life, adding up to perhaps one second of time for all the photographs in the volume, represent a lifetime to those affected. As Duley states, “For those caught in these stories, the time and their suffering is a constant.” And Duley delivers sensitive and respectful glimpses into their worlds. The spirit of these individuals and groups against all possible odds is the focus of the stories told here, certainly also in the small moments of humor and happiness shown under very difficult circumstances.

A powerful and touching volume, highly recommended for all who care about the future of our world, and are seeking solutions other than violence! As Giles Duley says, “We can all make a difference!” His latest work, I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See: Photographs from the Refugee Crisis has been published this year.

Gerhard Clausing


















February 9, 2017

Paula Bronstein – Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear


Photographer:  Paula Bronstein (American, lives in Bangkok, Thailand)

Publisher:  University of Texas Press, Austin, 2016

Essays:  Foreword by Kim Barker / “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb / Afterword by Paula Bronstein

Text:  English

Hardcover cloth-bound book with 228 numbered pages, 114 color images with captions; sewn binding, printed in China. Louann Atkins Temple Women and Culture Series Book 42.



Paula Bronstein is a courageous and committed photojournalist with a distinguished career. The cultural and political situation of a war-laden country is not easy to depict, and she does not shirk from a gutsy presentation that documents the Afghanistan situation from 2001 through 2015. In comparison to other book reviews I have done, this particular one has been a true emotional challenge. Paula Bronstein gets right to the heart of things; having received amazing access in difficult situations, she confronts the viewer with a very stark reality through stunning, in-your-face photographic documents, each of which is a story in itself, enhanced by situational details in the captions. The entire volume is a heart-wrenching documentation of America’s longest war. As she depicts a variety of problems, she also provides small glimpses of hope that point to possible solutions.

The volume is divided into three sections labeled “The Situation,” “The Casualties,” and “The Reality.” Besides the 114 color photographs comprising these three sections, there are also three essays: A foreword by Kim Barker deals with the photographer and the context. “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb describes the background as well as the progress that they have made over the years. Paula Bronstein in an ‘Afterword’ (pp. 224-225) also describes some of the difficulties she faced in doing this work.

Subjects covered in this photographic journey include clashes between belief systems, cultural transitions under the influence of modernity, political and military strife, and the promise of educational opportunities for all, against a background of great turmoil. Both people’s fears and hopes are made relevant through the immediacy of the visual documents. Bronstein does her best to illuminate all the things that are often ignored or shoved aside, such as the byproducts of warfare euphemistically labeled “collateral damage” and the difficulties of oppression, be they cultural or religious: she shows the pain of it all, as well as some small joys and pleasures. As the sample double pages from the work shown below illustrate, military and political as well as social and medical challenges are included. Injuries depicted, both physical and mental, cry out for finding solutions to create a better world.

If ever there was a volume that shows the follies of strife and the need to make a huge effort to find peaceful solutions, this is the one. As I write this review, the press reports that the Afghan war killed 25% more children in 2016 than in 2015, as well as causing injuries to 23% more children than the previous year, affecting thousands of families (Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, p. A4), along with all of the equally lamentable adult casualties.

Gerhard Clausing









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