The PhotoBook Journal

July 20, 2017

Penny Wolin – Descendants of Light. American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:29 am

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Photographer: Penny Wolin (born Cheyenne, Wyoming; resides Sebastopol, California)

Publisher:  Crazy Woman Creek Press, Cheyenne, Wyoming, © 2015 Penny Wolin (portions by others)

Essays:  Alan Trachtenberg, Yale U.; Penny Wolin; various quotes, interview segments, and background details

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover with illustrated dust cover; 244 numbered pages, four-color and duotone lithography; 14×10 inches, printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California

Designer:  Bunne Hartmann

Notes:

“The camera was an affirmation of the miraculous.“  Abe Frajndlich, p. 52

“Exploring other people’s identities took me to exploring my own.“  Lori Grinker, p. 64

Telling stories about storytellers is not an easy task, but Penny Wolin excels at it. This book is a painstakingly researched and intelligently thought-out compendium of ideas and visual content along several dimensions. It contains cultural information and stimuli, drawing on the featured photographers’ shared cultural history and beliefs that provide the basis for a rich universe of creative thought and stimulation, against a background that also is tinged by discrimination and suffering. Dozens of influential photographers are featured: their biographical and bibliographical information, challenging interview segments, portraits of many of them by Penny Wolin, and also photographs by the photographers. This publication is the result of a project encompassing many years of passionate research and collaboration, and was partly crowd-funded.

The book is divided into several sections that complement and enhance each other. First there is an introductory section that contains Penny Wolin’s rationale and procedure, Alan Trachtenberg’s essay on the Jewish eye (an illuminating gateway to the subject), and other pieces of wisdom. Part 2, “The Photographers,” is a rich resource of quotes and interview reactions in response to Penny Wolin’s questions regarding family background and personal and professional influences and beliefs. At times she interviewed the photographers’ descendants in the case of those deceased; wherever possible she created very astute photographic portraits of the photographers as well, as shown in the excerpted visuals below. Some images from the photographers’ past often are included, in order to also give a visual glimpse into their background. Part 3, “Questions about Answers” is guided by major concerns (injustice, anti-Semitism, and others) that are related to group identity and the possibilities of group visibility or invisibility, and the benefits of having a feeling of belonging. Part 4, “The Work,” contains a well chosen photograph by each of the photographers, along with some select bibliography for each. The volume concludes with a detailed index, further bibliography, and a glossary that explains cultural and other special expressions. The book is superbly printed by Dual Graphics in Brea, California, a firm with a distinguished printing record going back to Ansel Adams, as described by Douglas Stockdale. In the same way that the printer is devoted to technical excellence, so is Penny Wolin – her portraits were made on medium format film and scanned from silver-gelatin exhibition prints.

Suffice it to say that all the pages in this book are fascinating. Each time you pick up this volume, there are new things to discover. The artists included constitute a virtual encyclopedia of creative forces that have allowed us special views of the world through their informed creative eyes. Just to name a few:  Sid Avery, Lilian Bassman, Bruce Davidson, Robert Frank, Lauren Greenfield, Philippe Halsman, Claudia Kunin, Annie Leibovitz, Helen Levitt, John Loengard, Joel Meyerowitz, Melvin Sokolsky, Arthur Tress, Joel-Peter Witkin, and many, many more (the complete list is shown in the last image below). It is the kind of project that invites the reader and viewer to share, both intellectually and visually, in a rich cultural framework and its creative visual output. In the section below, I have chosen to juxtapose a few of the photographers as featured in Parts 2 and 4, so that you see Penny Wolin’s portrait of the photographer first and the photograph by the photographer second. Beyond that, I will leave it to you, the reader and viewer, to obtain the book and discover the many gems of wisdom and insight for yourself.

This important volume about these influential figures in photography should not be missing in the library of anyone who wishes to gain an appreciation of what inspired these artists to inspire us. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

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May 17, 2017

Lighting donation – Dual Graphics

Filed under: Uncategorized, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:53 am

Norman Strobe set-up for book photography

Photo Book Photography; Norman strobe set-up, April 2017 Copyright Douglas Stockdale

While I was working on the printing of my artist book Bluewater Shore with the printing team at Dual Graphics, they offered me an opportunity to tour their facility to observe how they provide front-to-back color management for their book printing processes. This led to the discussion about the back ground on their Fulton printing methodologies that resulted in my recent interview article about this amazing printing capability on the West coast.

While on the facility tour, we stopped at their photo studio to meet up with my buddy Scott Mathews whose the lead photographer for this operation. I would have to say that I am primarily a street/location photographer, not a trained or practicing studio photographer. Mathews studio lighting set up was very impressive and I stated that this is something I probably need to think about at some time for photographing photo book covers and interiors for The PhotoBook Journal. Mathews gave me a look and then stated that they had mothballed a long time ago a Normal lighting rig when they purchased their current studio lighting, would I be interested in a donation of an old studio lighting set up; Norman P2000 power pack and two Normal strobe heads. Wow, would I (although not exactly sure of what I was getting into as I have never worked with studio lights, but sort of frustrated with my current book photography process). Being a non-profit (or as I say, no-income/no-profit), I do not look a gift-horse in the mouth and appreciate all donations!

Dual Graphics also threw in a couple of Bogen light stands with this donation; sweet! So I received a quickie studio lighting lesson from Mathews about what I needed to do for my “new” studio set-up; buy a pair of inexpensive umbrella reflectors and NOT connect a digital camera directly to this old Norman power pack but purchase a pair of PocketWizard Plus wireless transmitters. Done and done.

So after a little bit of experimenting and some lighting coaching from Mathews, I think we are in business. The recent book photographs for the Barbara Peacock book review showing some nice improvements in our book photography process.

So a big thank you Dual Graphics for their support of this journal and we hope you enjoy the revised look!

Cheers!

Douglas

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January 17, 2017

Nancy Baron – Palm Springs > The Good Life Goes On

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Photographer:  Nancy Baron (born in Illinois, residing in California, USA)

Publisher:  Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany, © 2016

Essays:  Foreword by Alexa Dilworth; statements by Matthew Weiner and Nancy Baron; quotations by Martha Stewart and Hugh Kaptur

Text:  English

Hardcover book with 120 pages; 63 numbered and titled color photographs; sewn binding, printed and bound in Germany. 22.5 x 22.5 cm

Photobook Designer:  Katharina Stumpf, Kehrer Design Heidelberg

 

Notes:

Palm Springs has been a geographical and cultural mecca (not only for Southern Californians) since the early twentieth century, a place where a variety of endeavors have had the freedom to unfold. Especially in our time, both celebrities and others consider this desert city a notable attraction, an informed center of cultural activities of all kinds, most notably several film and art festivals, a summer photo festival, an excellent Museum of Art, and many more, also in association with its eight sister communities in the Coachella Valley. The dry air supplies a healthy environment for outdoor activities much of the year as well.

Mid-century modern is the architectural style that makes many of the private residences in Palm Springs especially appealing. Some fifty years later, one marvels at the manner and style that seem to seamlessly integrate residential buildings into the desert environment with its seasonal challenges in temperatures, and at the “good life” it supports. Nancy Baron excels as an observer who lets us look over her shoulder to see the marvels which this impactful town presents. It is almost as if time has stood still: In an era of world turmoil the serenity of the desert and its structures forming an enclave for residents serve as the basis for this second volume of Palm Springs photographs by Nancy Baron. (The first volume was previously featured on The PhotoBook by Douglas Stockdale.)

The volume is designed with a square format, as are almost all of the photographs; square compositions have a satisfying feeling of completion when well done, as is the case here. This is in line with the feeling of serenity of the “good life” depicted here. The colors are bright, a series of portraits of the environment and its inhabitants to match the bright desert sun. The emphasis is on the structures in their surroundings; the occupants and owners and their possessions seem part of an ever-changing context that is subject to some cultural influences and interpretations, as well as to a great deal of nostalgia. The volume is well thought out and is pleasant to view and read. The writers of the essays share some personal impressions and experiences regarding this unique town. Nancy Baron shows a special knack for portraying the special characteristics of places along with their cultural phenomena. We are looking forward to her future projects!

Gerhard Clausing

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January 13, 2017

David Carol – No Plan B

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Copyright 2016 David Carol

Photographer: David Carol (born and resides NYC, NY)

Publisher: Peanut Press (Los Angeles, CA)

Essays: David Carol Introduction, Afterword by Jason Eskenazi

Text: English

Hardcover book with debossed cover, sewn binding, duotone printing with slight varnish, captions, printed by Meridian Printing in RI

Photobook designer: Ashly Stohl

Notes: This monograph of David Carol’s photographs recaps twenty-three years of candid and ironic black and white street photography and is a visual testament to his love of this medium. He has been fortunate to have a career as working photographer, but these are his personal out-takes of situations that momentarily captured his wild imagination. These mini-narratives speak to the power of always having a camera available and constantly looking for the possibilities, open to what might unexpectedly come by your way.

His photographs range from the subtle reflection in a window that juxtapositions oil wells with wedding dresses, the surreal image of an oversized white gorilla sitting in front of a suburban home, humorous photographs of his son doing funny kid’s stuff, to the poignant  self-portrait of his cast shadow on the snow holding his symbolic son’s hand. Who has not found themselves trying to talk to someone and something is blocking their face, but Carol recognized this humorous situation and captured it.

Carol seizes upon the opportunity to create humorous antidotes about mankind and as he states “My job is to find stuff and report back”. Which he is doing quite well and he has no plans to do otherwise.

Other photobooks by David Carol featured on The PhotoBook: All of My Lies are True

Cheers

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January 6, 2017

Young-hwan Choi – BABEL

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Copyright 2014 Young-hwan Choi

Photographer: Young-hwan Choi (born & resides in Seoul, South Korea)

Self-Published (South Korea)

Essays: Young-hwan Choi, Dong-sun Jin, Sang-yong Shim

Text: Korean & English

Stiffcover book with tipped in image, perfect binding, four-color lithography, printed by Photonet in South Korea

Photobook designer: Photonet, South Korea

Notes: Choi’s self-published photobook BABEL is a tall, thin collection of black and white photographs that investigate a towering urban landscape in which the vegetation is either attacking a structure or attempting to conceal it, as though a futile potential reclamation is in process.

This is a dark poetic and surreal allegory about the pursuit of happiness by means of accumulating power and wealth through the construction of tall looming structures, similar to the vain construction of the towers of Babel, is but a hollow chase. None of these structures has been able to truly reach heaven.

In writing about Choi’s photograph, Sang-young Shim states “the excessive deficiency of light, which often comes close to absence. Sometimes all light is extinguished except for the minimum required for perception. Even that is reflected light, with the light source nowhere to be seen. The main tones range between grey and black, but as the darkness advances to the extreme level, it often threaten the middle tones as well…the plant is a place that should be brighter, for sure. One should poke a hole through the sky cover in ash-colored clouds. The ominous grey that pressed down should be covered with brilliant colors. But the signs of dawn are too faint.”

I met Choi at Photo Independent last spring in Los Angeles and I was impressed with his photographic exhibit and his two self-published photobooks, this and his earlier REQUIEM (published in 2011).

I find BABAL’s visual narrative to be extremely relevant to the current global events, especially those occurring in the United States. Anyone who builds large and tall structures with their name bronzed in large letters across the front for all to see (hoping for admiration) is indeed pursuing a dark folly that was characteristic of Babel.

Best regards

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January 1, 2017

Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam – When War is Over

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Copyright 2016 Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam

Photographer: Daniel Alexander (born Edinburgh, Scotland, resides London, UK)

Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (UK)

Essay: Daniel Alexander

Text: English

Hardcover book with embossed cover, inserts, multiple gatefolds, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Daniel Alexander

Notes: Towards the end of World War I in 1917, the United Kingdom made a decision to establish the Imperial War Graves Commission that currently tracks and maintains the burial of 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead from World War I and II in perpetuity. Daniel Alexander’s photobook When War is Over provides a documentary style investigation of this on-going process of memorialization.

Alexander and Haslam’s photographic project took on more meaning for me as I had recently completed a related photographic project documenting road-side memorials. In my investigation I was documenting what family and friends had erected as a personal memorial at the site of a tragic accident in an attempt to create a remembrance and deal with their personal grief. Similarly Alexander and Haslam investigate an organized process of remembrance for those who tragically passed while serving in the military with the government acting on the behalf of families who might not otherwise have a means or capacity to do so, such that those who passed were honored equally.

For me this photobook calls into the question of how we create a remembrance of those who we have known and loved, but who have now passed on. How do we maintain that memory and how that memory is passed on to later generations? Does a well maintained cemetery create this experience, or does it provide an associated remembrance as an example that is available to us all? Likewise this photobook, although not about someone specifically still elicits a poignant remembrance of my family members who were lost in military action during these wars as well as those who were in the war but have passed since, such as my own father who was in the American army during World War Two.

This photobook documents the various aspects of maintaining these burial sites, which engages administrators, quarry-men, stone cutters, and gardeners for the upkeep of 2,500 cemeteries, 21,000 other burial grounds and 200 memorials for the missing in 154 countries. I also find that this photobook is a sober narrative about the terrible price of war, but if so engaged, those valiantly involved will be remembered.

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December 30, 2016

Ara Oshagan – Mirror

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Copyright 2015 Ara Oshagan

Photographer: Ara Oshagan (born Beirut, Lebanon, resides Glendale, CA, USA)

Self-Published (USA)

Essay by Ara Oshagan

Music & Lyrics by Gor Mkhitarian

Text: English & Armenian

Hardcover exposed boards with tipped in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in China

Photobook designer: Ara Oshagan & Varoujan Hovakimyan

Notes: Ara Oshagan and his self-published photobook Mirror uses a documentary style to create a predominately black and white diary of the Gor Mkhitarian band but with an unusual twist; he incorporates some new technology that allows the viewer to scan the appropriate interior pages and link up the related music on their phone. Oshagan has incorporated the free Aurasma.app (available from Apple or Google) that after downloading and subsequently pointing the phone’s camera to the red icon pages of his book, the reader will be able to experience Mkhitarian’s band play the related music.

Oshagan states “Images mirror music. Music is a mirror of images. Darkness and light reflected in both. The diary’s very structure is a mirror; the lexicon of the pages that follow one another has a visual rhythm, an echo of the ebb and flow of music itself.”

Oshagan was present at Photo Book Independent last spring when I had an opportunity to meet him and discuss his photographs as well as the technology lurking in this book. I usually do not provide reviews of musical band documentaries, but this was really an intriguing collaboration of a nice physical photobook with the download of the related music, which I find more interesting that an iPad experience. I am guessing that once the reader downloads this app, that they should even be able to scan the photographs in this review and interact with the music. Cool.

Cheers

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December 16, 2016

David Taylor – Monuments

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Copyright 2015 David Taylor

Photographer: David Taylor (resides Tucson, Arizona)

Publisher: Radius Books (Santa Fe)

Essays: Claire C. Carter, Daniel D. Arreola, William L. Fox, Rebecca Senf (interview)

Text: English, Spanish

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Document section (essay, maps, articles, Plate details), printed in Verona, Italy

Photobook designer: David Chickey, David Taylor

Notes: This photobook is an investigation of the borderland straddled by the United States on one side, Mexico the other that extends the 690 miles between the two El Paso/Juarez and Tijuana/San Diego. Marking that transition point are 276 boundary obelisks, with 52 constructed initially of stone (1883) standing 11 feet high then later 224 additiaonl were fabricated of iron (1891-1895) and slightly smaller at 6 and a half feet tall.  Taylor has photographed these boundary Monuments in a documentary and visually objective style, similar in idea to that of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typologies. His photographic project was initiated in 2007, well before this borderland became a contested subject in the recent American presidential election and a book that probably has not been viewed in its entirety by the president-elect. This photobook project is essentially an expansion on Taylor’s 2008 Guggenheim fellowship that resulted in his earlier photobook, Working The Line, also published by Radius Books.

This is a obsessive investigation, as he has stated “the obelisks have ended up familiar figures invested with enormous meaning for me“. Each of the 276 boundary markers rests within an urban or rural landscape relative to the two respective countries. His photographs of the urban marker landscape provides a sharp visual contrast to the lives on either side of the borderland. The urban markers these are usually adjacent to a high fence or barrier to impede (or control) clandestine foot traffic. The urban photographs are in sharp contrast to the rural markers found in the mountains and large expanses of the desert, as these lonely markers provide the only evidence that a man-designated boundary occurs.

In terms of current social-political discussions about borders, especially as one contemplates the lonely markers high in the mountains or in the open desert, these photographs beg the question about what does a border really means?  Is a location/site more “American” or more “Mexican” ten feet, or even one thousand feet, on either side of the marker?

This is a large and thick volume, beautifully designed and printed, which results in a book object that is a pleasure to read.

Note: As one of the photobook judges earlier this year for Photo Book Independent, I had juried Taylor’s Monuments submission into the subsequent exhibition.

Cheers!

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December 8, 2016

Kenneth O’Halloran – Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing

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Copyright 2016 Kenneth O’Halloran 

Photographer: Kenneth O’Halloran (born Corofin, Country Clare, resides Dublin, Ireland)

Self-published (Ireland)

Essay: Presidential Announcement speech, 2015

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, edition of 500, printed by Mirex, Gdansk (Poland)

Photobook designer: Mac & Ken

Notes: This documentary style project occurred in Los Angles on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2016 during the United States presidential election. O’Halloran’s perspective was that of an outsider looking into an on-going political process, visiting this Southern California region from his native Ireland.

O’Halloran documented the raw emotional reaction of his subjects when confronting the name of one of the candidate’s bronzed in the sidewalk. His portraits of his subjects are tightly composed which appears to add an additional layer of tension to the emotional charged environment surrounding this location.

It might be an understatement that most of his subjects did not appear to react favorably to this landmark, as this candidate went on to lose the popular vote in the election by over two and half million votes as of this writing, while still becoming president-elect.

Best regards, Doug

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November 5, 2016

Alex Van Gelder – Mumbling Beauty Louise Bourgeois

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Photographer:  Alex Van Gelder (residing Paris, France)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, © 2015

Essays:  Foreword by Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Ever Louise” / Introduction by Alex Van Gelder

Text:  English

Hardcover book with 112 pages, not numbered; 81 color photographs without captions; sewn binding; cloth cover with dust jacket, printed and bound in China

Photobook Designer:  Béatrice Akar

 

Notes:

This photobook presents 81 extraordinary collaborative images taken during the last three years of life of the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who came to the US in 1938 and was primarily known for her sculptures and installations, but also for her paintings and prints. Her art received the most attention from the 1970s on, and she was also a strong fighter for artistic freedom and social justice. Alex Van Gelder, the photographer now based in Paris, became her friend and, from 2008 to 2010, was repeatedly invited to her home in New York City in order to participate in the creation of this personal yet public reality of a highly creative and spirited individual. As Van Gelder says in the foreword, “She became a consummate performer in front of the camera.”

In viewing the images, we can literally experience the joy of the artist in the process of creation, as well as the pain of aging, perhaps foremost among them her inability to move around as freely as possible, as she was paralyzed from the hip down. The photographer uses a variety of techniques to show the difficulties of both artistic creation and old age, such as distortions and long exposures with the resulting blurred appearances: self-reflection through visual ambiguity. The viewer is not only reminded of the work of John Coplans, but also of Cindy Sherman: Louise Bourgeois here assumes many roles (some with disguises) in a number of settings within her house. A very creative look at the last few years of this artist as a result; she is shown working in her studio on paintings, posing with some small sculptures, as well as in mundane settings of everyday life.

This book confronts the viewer with his or her own aging process and creativity. It is a stark yet supportive and positive, even optimistic presentation, at times with some humor as well. As the artist is shown active even at the very end, we get the idea that she is creative and hopeful in spite of it all. Since Louise Bourgeois considered much of her work autobiographical, based in part on childhood traumas, these portraits give us a glimpses of the relationships between the artist and her art, and many other dimensions to reflect on as well. The human body, with its fragile and temporary nature, was a main theme in her art, and this is certainly well represented in this visceral yet elegant collaborative photographic study.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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