The PhotoBook

January 29, 2016

Agnieszka Rayss – American Dream


American Dream Copyright 2011 Agnieszka Rayss

Photographer: Agnieszka Rayss (born, resides Poland)

Publisher: Foundation Photography Institute Pro Fotografia (Poland)

Essays: Agnieszka Rayss

Text: English

Hardcover book, linen cover with foil stamping, page marker, sewn binding, four-color lithography

Photobook designer: Ania Nalecka (Tapir Book Design)

Notes: When I was asked by the editor of Emaho magazine to become the “American” expert and write about contemporary American photobooks, I took this suggestion very broadly; not only American photographers but anyone who investigates the American culture and things “American”, either directly or as to what they consider to be attributes of America. It would seem that I could accomplish and a bit qualified as I was born and raised in the American Midwest (Pennsylvania, Michigan) and lived most of adult life on or near the Pacific coast (California and Arizona) and traveling throughout Western Europe, Caribbean, Central America, Asia and Canada.

I had earlier received Agnieszka Rayss’s photobook American Dream, which at first look was interesting but it did not initially take a hold of me. Nevertheless with the “American” assignment, this was one of the many books that I had immediately thought of. This is Rayss’s investigation of one of many cultural changes to a post-communist country as it adapts to a new reality of western trends of fashion, self-appearance and modeling contests. There are definite parallels of her subjects chasing the American, if not universal, dream of stardom, wealth and beauty in the hopes of finding success and a wonderful life. Rayss begins her investigation as a documentary photographer, but over time, finds herself intrigued by this lifestyle and is soon standing in front of the judges as a willing participant. Becoming a model similar to her subjects adds another dimension to her project as someone who is looking from the inside out, not as a coolly detached observer. This book is evidenced from a feminine perspective as I sense warmth, intimacy and empathy in her photographs as someone who has walked a mile in her subject’s high-heel shoes.

Best regards










January 26, 2016

Michele Cera – Dust


Dust Copyright 2013 Michele Cera

Photographer: Michele Cera (born Bari, resides Rome, IT)

Publisher: Kehrer Verlag (Germany)

A conversation between Michele Cera and Francesco Zanot

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Vincenzo Schiraldi

Notes: Cera’s urban landscapes provide a lonely setting for his subjects who frequently have their eyes hidden or averted from the photographer’s inquiring lens. His subjects are usually absorbed in some ambiguous task and seemingly caught mid-stride. His documentary style does not capture a decision moment, the point of when the action within the frame is at an apex, but more of the anti-decisive-moment, the more routine moment that his subjects appear to usually exists in.









January 23, 2016

Marcin Grabowiecki – Babie Lato


Marcin Grabowieckibabie lato (Indian Summer) Copyright 2013

Photographer: Marcin Grabowiecki (born Gliwice, resides Warsaw, PL)

Published: Muzuem in Gliwicach with Czytelnai Sztuki (Poland)

Essay: Marcin Grabowiecki

Text: English & Polish

Stiff cover book, embossed cover, stab-sewn binding & string closure, edition of 300, four-color lithography, printed in Poland

Photobook designer: Marcin Grabowiecki

Notes: The subject of Grabowiecki’s babie lato (Indian Summer) is an investigation of his identity in the context of exploring the rites of a family summer’s vacation that has evolved over time. He is using his own family photographs culled from a span of over sixty years.

Grabowiecki states “Even though the photographs included in the book come from different periods, they are linked by a common, nostalgic mood. Regardless of the passage of time, we remember summer holidays in a similar way. Time influences the shape of our memories, and it doesn’t spare photographic materials, exposing their fleeting nature mercilessly.”

I am very intrigued by projects that look back at family photographs as visual fragments of events not possible for the author to have experienced. Photographs can become a  melancholy document that point to past events that once those subjects present in the photographs are no longer with us, can only lead us to speculate on what might have been. I find that looking at these, as might the reader, spins me back to my own family history and the unknown stories which are now forever lost.

The book production of 350 copies (300 numbered) borders on being an artist-book; part high production printing partnered with the stab binding and the use of the extended strings to function as a book closure. It has the appearance of a collection of prints, thus the form follows function creating a very nice book object. Well done and on my list of interesting photobooks in 2014.


Best regards









January 10, 2016

Julia Borissova – DOM



Copyright 2014 Julia Borissova

Photographer: Julia Borissova (born Talinn, Estonia, resides St. Petersburg, RU)

Self-published artist book, signed and numbered edition of 100

Text: English & Russian

Stiffcover book with stab-sewn booklet and multiple gatefolds, naked-sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Russia

Photobook designer: Julia Borissova

Notes: Borissova investigates home and identity in a subtext of the Document Object Model (DOM) in this complex, layered and very creative self-published photobook. DOM is an acronym from the programming world and is a cross-platform application convention for representing and interfacing with objects using a structured and logical organization. The design of the book’s extended cover allows it to be constructed as a cube and with the full bleed printing; the results can appear like a small model of a house. Borissova has subsequently photographed this model house in a number of environmental situations which she uses for the interior gatefolds of her book. These gate folds open to reveal interior photographs and smaller pages of text by her subjects as to what constitutes a “home”. She has utilized this same model house as a planter for the interior photographs of the accompanying booklet, which as the book progresses, the plant continues to grow and soon overflow the planter.  Combining the concepts of programming organization and logic with inherent messiness of a creative investigation as to what is the meaning of “home” is brilliant. I highly recommend this book if you can still find a copy.

Other photobooks by Julia Borissova that have been featured on The PhotoBook: address & Running to the Edge.









December 28, 2015

Alejandro Cartagena – Before the War



Copyright 2015 Alejandro Cartagena

Photographer: Alejandro Cartagena (born Dominican Republic, resides Mexico)

Publisher: Self-published (Mexico)

Text: English & Spanish

Multiple components, variable sizes, unbound in a heavy printed board folder, black & white lithography (newsprint), printed in Mexico

Photobook designer: Alejandro Cartagena & Fernando Gallegos

Notes: For Cartagena, “in 2008 the war against the drug cartels erupted in México. The State of Nuevo León in northeastern México became an increasingly violent place. The book project is a compilation of images and texts that obsessively revisit places where the war was eventually fought and look for signs of an evil that lay underneath but was invisible to everyone´s eyes at the moment these images were shot.” This complex project is indirectly a critique of photography itself which questions the “meaning” that photographic images seem to hold for the viewer. What do we really know by looking at a photograph of a landscape or a portrait at a given moment in time?

Previous Alejandro Cartagena photobooks reviewed on The Photobook: Carpoolers











December 23, 2015

Alec Soth – Songbook


Copyright 2015 Alec Soth

Photographer: Alec Soth (born & resides Minneapolis WI, USA)

Publisher: MACK (UK)

Text: English

Embossed hardcover book, sewn binding, Photographic Index, black & white lithography, printed by Ofset Yapimevi in Turkey

Photobook designer: Alec Soth & Gregoire Pujade-Lauraine

Notes: The black and white photographs in this photobook are extracted from a photo-reportage style collaborative project, The LBM Dispatch, a newspaper like series of publications that Soth and Brad Zellar created as they toured various states, such as Michigan, in the USA. The photographs emulate a small newspaper documentary style, attempting to capture the daily local events that would be of interest to the community. In a newspaper the photograph would have a well-documented caption and probably related to an accompanying story. Many of Soth’s photographs appear more like out-takes that a newspaper editor would round-file. His photographs move between ambiguous & awkward faceless individuals, to full-faced frontal portraits that appear to describe a person. This is the stuff of local news including that which is not fit to print and without the normal newspaper provided context, all together a strange brew.

Other Alec Soth photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: Kin Subscription number two (Hido, Mueller, Soth, Nolan), One Day – Ten Photographers, Le Belle Dame sans Merci & Michigan










November 23, 2015

Sally Mann – The Flesh and The Spirit


Copyright 2010 Sally Mann

Photographer: Sally Mann (b. & resides in Virginia) USA

Publisher: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) & Aperture Foundation

Author: John B. Ravenal, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

Essays: John B. Ravenal, David Levi Strauss, Anne Wilkes Tucker

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Exhibition History, Bibliography, Index, printed in Singapore

Photobook designer: John Hoar

Notes: This is a photobook that although bears similarities to a retrospective, is a collective body of work by Sally Mann that was earlier exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. To paraphrase the book’s author, “One of the apparent paradoxes in Mann’s work is her desire to show what lies beyond vision by using a medium invented to record reality’s surfaces”. Mann’s recent work with the Ambrotype and Collodion wet plate photographic processes provide her with more opportunities for “chance events” to occur that push her images further into abstraction. For me, there is a strong undercurrent of melancholy in her photographs that span the last forty years, while Mann states that her contemplation is on “Memory, Loss, Time and Love”.











November 13, 2015

Rachael Jablo – My Days of Losing Words


Rachael Jablo  Copyright 2013

Photographer: Rachael Jablo (born USA resides in Berlin, Germany)

Publisher: Kehrer Heilderberg Berlin Verlag (Germany)

Essays: Robert Wuilfe and Dawn Buse

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, List of Plates (photographs), printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Katharina Stumpf

Notes: An introspective study about Jablo’s own personal medical condition and the resulting impact on her life and lifestyle. She investigates the question of what do you do when there are things that are out of your control which subsequently, and dramatically, changes your life for the worse. In Rachael’s situation she found herself suffering from chronic migraines with acute issues of light sensitivity as a side effect, a difficult condition for a person who was a landscape photographer up to on-set of her migraines.









November 5, 2015

Martin Toft – Atlantus


Martin Toft Copyright 2015

Photographer: Martin Toft (born Denmark & resides in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK)

Photographic Archivist: Gareth Syvret (resides in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK)

Publisher: Self-published in conjunction with Societe Jersiaise

Essays: Gareth Syvret

Text: English

Collection of Five (5) softcover zines (Atlantus, Portraits, Precious Galinthia, The Atlantic World, The Transoceanic Journey), unbound, four-color Flexographic printing, printed by PlatformP, Netherlands

Photobook designer: Kummer & Herrman (Utrecht, Netherlands)

Notes: This is a layered, fragmented and intriguing attempt to compare two complex cultural and geographic regions, the island of Jersey, Channel Islands, UK and the state of New Jersey, USA. These two places face each other across the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and trace their roots back to a historical, but related, past. Billed as a multi-functional newspaper and DIY exhibition as some assembly is required. Btw to assemble a complete exhibition of this work, two copies of Atlantus are required. Nicely executed.

Cheers, Doug







October 22, 2015

Jeannette Montgomery Barron – My Mothers Clothes


Copyright 2009 Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Photographer: Jeannette Montgomery Barron (born Atlanta, GA, resides Rome, IT & Connecticut, USA)

Publisher: Welcome Books (USA)

Essays: James D. Barron, Patrick Kinmonth, captions by Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Kristen Sasamoto

Notes: Barron creates a portrait of her late mother through still life images of her cherished clothing, shoes, and personal possessions. As her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s progressed, robbing her of any remembered past, Barron began a visual album as a way of both sparking her mother’s memories, as well as coping with her own sense of loss, and in the process creating unique and personal remembrances. Having lost my own mother to Alzheimer’s, I found this photobook to be a very poignant and touching narrative.










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