The PhotoBook Journal

November 22, 2008

Beth Dow – In The Garden

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:20 am

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In the Garden, Beth Dow, Blurb 2008

Beth Dow’s In The Garden, was the 2008 grand prize winner of the recent Blurb Photography.Book.Now juried book competition. Dow had developed her large format book based on the Plantium Palladium prints from her photographs made in formal English and Italian gardens. This book probably does represent some of the best in self-publishing book design utilizing print-on-demand (POD) templates which I will discuss in a moment.

It is easy to understand how one can be taken by both her photographs and her book.

My first impression is that this is a contemporary series which could be seen as evolving from the later photographic work of Eugene Atget. I find that the statement that John Szarkowski made about Atget’s photographs of the French gardens at Saint-Cloud to be equally applicable to Dow’s photographs:

When we attempt to discuss the life of pictures we allow ourselves to speak of real trees and reflected trees; we extend to ourselves sufferance to speak imprecisely, rather than repeat over and over again, tediously, that there are no real trees here or reflected trees either, that there is only aspect. Photographs are about aspect, the best of them make us half forget the fact.

Dow gives us a chance to roam these formal gardens, providing a glance there and glimpse over here. To perhaps walk along a lane or take a seat and meditate on what currently worries or delights us. She effectively uses her lens to create a slice of form in light to direct our vision and thus prod our thoughts.

Her photographs use the edges of the pictorial frames in conjunction with the control of the tonalities to provide a meditative and peaceful escape. Even when the weighting of subjects within the photograph are seeming out of balance the resulting photographs still seem complete.

In her introduction she stresses the hand held nature of image capture but the resulting photographs have all of the structure and formality of a larger format camera. We are provided with a clear vision and a wonderful description of line and mass within the context of these gardens.

Dow’s book design and layout does strive to take as much advantage as possible of the limitations of self-publishing limitations with print-on-demand. Usually the print-on-demand publishers provide limited design options in the form of premade templates but a skillful selection and implementation of these templates can allow someone to rise above the rest.

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As Dow did not return my email message regarding some questions about the design and production of this book, I am not sure that the slightly green hue of the photograph in her book was intentional. The photographs in the book do not have the same gray neutrality of the platinum palladium images on her web site.

While looking at her book under florescent light there were so some very slight magenta “bronzing” in the dark middle grays of the photographs. The POD publisher she has used does offer a color managed printer work flow but that is an extra premium and I was not able to confirm that Dow had purchased this color managed work-flow for her book.

Best regards,

Douglas Stockdale

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October 6, 2008

Photography.Book.Now winners

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 11:03 pm

In the Garden, copyright of Beth Dow, and Grand Prize Winner, 2008

If you have not had a chance to browse the winners of the Blurb photo book contest Photography.Book.Now, you just might want to and see the possibilities of self publishing. The templates of many of the Print on Demand (POD) publishers can be limited, but within the available possibilities, good things can happen.

Blurb can be a nice place to purchase some interesting books.

I know from my own personal experience my first attempts with Blurb now seem a little awkward. I knew where I was trying to get within the limitations of Blurb and for my first book I was not as familiar with the ins and outs. Kinda like the Photoshop software that to learn it after you find out about the basics you just have to start using it. For my Blurb book In Passing I think now that I might design the cover differently. And for my Blurb book Places Amongst Us I should not have chosen the 7 x 7″ format as it was a bit too small.

One nice thing about the POD technology is that you can quickly change your self publishing project into a second edition with a completely different & revamped appearance.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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