The PhotoBook Journal

September 6, 2018

Jurek Wajdowicz – 67/11

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:48 am

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Photographer:  Jurek Wajdowicz (born in Cracow, Poland; lives in New York City)

Publisher:  EWS Press, New York, NY; © 2017

Hardback, sewn binding; illustrated cover; 72 pages, paginated, full color; 7 ¾ x 11 ¾ inches (20 x 30 cm); printed in the USA

Photobook Designer:  Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios

 

Notes:

Letting go of one’s remaining parent and of one’s parental home is a formidable task. Suddenly feelings of abandonment may emerge, and childhood memories become conscious again. When combined with making arrangements for the funeral and gazing upon what remains in that home of moments now past, and from the perspective of another country which has become a second home, we are prepared to sense multiple layers of memory and recollections, as well as cultural and personal perspectives in glancing back on so much detail of a shared life.

Jurek Wajdowicz is up to that task and then some. A highly regarded designer and fine-art photographer based in the US, he traveled back to Lodz, Poland, to pay final respects to his mother, and now allows us to participate in that process through his eyes, his mind, and his emotions.

The result is this touching volume of observations. House number 67/11 – is it all a dream, what of it is still real, and what is there that catches his attention that represents moments of a life that was so shared and special, and how not to lose the memories of it all… Traveling with the photographer through time, we are shown photographs that he took over a period of a few days of the memories in the place that had so much meaning for his mother and himself. A deep-rooted sense of belonging is mixed with feelings of loss and not wanting to let go. The tones of the images are mostly subdued, yet light shines through in many places, through patterned glass and drapery, around furniture. We are able to glean a variety of items that represent his mother’s life – old glasses, books, suitcases, the stove that was the site of many shared meals that were prepared on it, apples on a window sill that were saved and gradually are withering… We also see portraits of son and mother in the shadows.

Wajdowicz has a great skill for designing his narrative with a creative sensitivity that not only allows him to effectively share his personal journey but also lets us relate it to our own lives. This visual tribute through recollections stands out as an excellent example of how fine art photography and one’s personal journey can be combined and offered to all of us as an appealing shared experience!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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August 31, 2018

Melissa Lazuka – Song of the Cicadas

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Song of the Cicadas, Melissa Lazuka, Copyright 2018

Artist: Melissa Lazuka (born Cleveland, OH, resides Chardon, Ohio)

Self-Published, Ohio

Without essays, pagination or captions

Text: English

Hardcover book, leporello binding, photographs & paper ephemera, hand-made, limited edition 1/1 in a series of 25, USA

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Photobook concept & designer: Melissa Lazuka

Notes: I met Melissa Lazuka while reviewing her portfolio at the LACP (Los Angeles Center of Photography) EXPOSURES 2018 event last July during which we spent time with two of her artist books, Song of Cicadasand Fly Away, both of which I thought were brilliant. We mostly discussed the challenges of an artist book (1/1) and how to create multiple of the concept, which I have just written about in a previous article on TPBJ.

Lazuka has decided that her the path forward to create multiples of her artist book is to create a series of unique books (each 1/1), each individually unique but slightly different as to all of the found ephemera and materials that constitute her books. This artist books series is unified by the photographs she will included in each edition. I am very excited about her publishing strategy as it has in turn allowed me to acquire an edition for this artist book review.

Her artist book is a wonderful mashup of found objects and old ephemera that are layered with her own photographic prints. Bits and pieces of old books create the foundation to support her photographs, thus creating the back-story of past events, while foretelling of the future. Lazuka’s photographs appear almost mysterious, in and out of soft focus, that are grounded in current experiences while harkening ahead to future memories, as an indistinct recall of past events. She obtains her beautiful visual effects with a combination of technics; freelensing and the use of multiple exposures. Her black and white photographs remind me of the magical work of Keith Carter’s Fireflies and a monochromatic version of the recent photobooks by Cig Harvey, such as her Gardening at Night.

Lazuka has written a poignant passage that I would like to share as it sums up very elegantly her intent; These photographs of single, delicate and fragile moments of time, I collected just as we collected the beautiful see-through wings of the cicadas that summer of 2016. Like the cicadas that lived such a short time, these moments did too. They were beautiful and real, and then they were gone, only to be remembered in photographs, just as all we had left of the cicadas in the end. Each photograph in this series (Editor: artist book) is an individual moment, that was not a memory as it was taken, but became one in its afterlife. However, strung together, in this series, this is their “song”, like the cicadas, of those magical summer days.

It is safe to say that her narrative is not about these prolific cicadas bugs that strangely appear in mass every 17 years, or the sometimes-deafening noise they can create in the late evening. Lazuka as a parent and a mother of four is very aware of events that are not fathomable to a child; that a fleeting event that her child is experiencing now will not reoccur again for a considerable amount of time and when it does, that child will have grown to be a young adult. Her short narrative is about taking note of the present moment, perhaps event admonishing to be presentat all times, as today’s events will eventually create future memories.

As a physical object, her small petite artist book is roughly hone with ragged edges, uneven textures and a deckled top-edge on the heavy paper that creates the backbone of this leporello book design. Truly a visual diamond in the rough. There is nothing neat and tidy about this artist book, but conversely it is a bit of a mess, perhaps even purposely crude, with hints of fragility such that it seems as though it might suddenly fall apart, thus a wonderful metaphor for life itself. Highly recommended.

Cheers, Doug

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August 24, 2018

Tara Wray – Too Tired for Sunshine

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 1:30 pm

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Too Tired for Sunshine, Tara Wary, Copyright 2018

Photographer: Tara Wary (born Manhattan,Kansas, resides Vermont, USA)

Publisher: Yoffy Press (Atlanta, GA, USA)

Introduction: Aimee Bender

Text: English

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Turkey

Photobook designer: Jordan Swartz

Notes: I am always amazed when an artist attempts to define an internal personal feeling, whether is it is a dazzling sense of excitement or a gloomy sense of dread, that they are able to convey those feeling with visual images that seem to connect for me in regard to those indirect expressed feelings. That is exactly what I experience while looking at Tara Wary’s photographs of her photobook Too Tired for Sunshine, that hints at the issue of depression in the context of the ups and down of life.

I do think that there is a gender difference in experiencing the myriad of various feelings encountered in life, whether is physiological or part of the social imprint created during childhood. Even so, as individuals I believe we all experience events differently. So far be it for me as a male, to state that what Wray has photographed is or are not visual clues as to her life’s ups and down issues.

Nevertheless I find a intriguing combination of pathos and humor in many of her photographs that seem to connect for me; the playground slide frozen in a winter landscape, a slightly out of focus animal, a down-trod appearing dog that seems to potentially exemplify the feelings of the photographer, a woman appearing to be stuck (trapped?) in the back of a truck, some dishes stacked in a sunlight kitchen sink, a donut that is accidentally squished and the back end of a deer that for me, is symbolic for the end of her narrative (was thinking the end of her tale, but decided that pun is probably a bit tired).

Perhaps one of the more interesting for me is the photograph of the stack of boxes that are stamped with the label “Disappointment” and my experience has been that for some individuals, a series of disappointments become accumulative and create a morass that one seems unable to escape. The disappointments start to take on an almost perceptive weight. Likewise, I encounter individuals whose life would seem nothing short of a high stack of disappointments, yet they appear to not be similarly burdened. I have also learned that DNA plays a part for some individuals tendency to have “down” moods, who may have a chemical or psychological unbalance due to no fault of their own, but nevertheless need to learn how deal with the cards they have been played. Wray’s message is that life is complex and not always sunny and bright.

Wray’s book has given me an opportunity to introspectively look at my life as to past events, my own ups and downs and what has provided me with perseverance to keep moving ahead (although perhaps not always easily). That a photographer can create a book that invites these kinds of open questions and inquiry is a strong testimony as to how well it is thought out. Wray provides a difficult investigation into the various challenges of life with a sideways glance towards the darker side.

Cheers

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June 9, 2018

Ellen Korth – Fabric of Time

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Artist: Ellen Korth (b. The Hague, Netherlands – resides Deventer (Netherlands) & Nordhorn (Germany)

Self-Published 2018 and developed in collaboration with Castle (Kasteel) Twickel (Netherlands) (see exhibition photo below), signed and numbered Edition of 50

Text: English

Poetry: Pablo Nerudo

Stiff cover, rolled, artist printed on 14-gram Japanese Awagami double-layered paper, and then bottom layer removed, Japanese binding by Fopma Wier/Wytze Fopma

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Photobook designer: -SYB- (Sybren Kuiper)

Notes: Family mysteries and family secrets, how does one investigate these and then subsequently report their findings? What if there is no collaboration; those who could speak to what occurred are no longer among us, then how does one know really with certainty what the “truth”, a slippery slope at best, might be?

Ellen Korth is continuing to investigate into what might be her family history. With this latest work, a layered translucent artist book, she provides a wonderful metaphor for memory while attempting to deal with her mother’s desire to keep her own past a secret.

Her subject are garments that are from a wardrobe collection at the Castle (Kasteel) Twickel, which are reminiscent of her mother’s under clothes that constitute very personal feminine items. It is by looking closely at these personal items similar to those her mother choose to spend much time in cleaning and preparing, Korth might find some understanding or make a connection with the secrets of her late mother’s past that she was reluctant to share.

Perhaps fitting that Korth is investigating undergarments in a quest to further understand here own mother, as these items are things that a woman would keep secret, as these are concealed under her clothing. Metaphorically clothing is a facade, meant to hide what resides underneath, while the undergarments create both exterior form as well as concealing the person’s full identity. A facade is a false front, projecting something that one might want others to think they know and with Korth’s own mother, not allowing others to know the true person who lurks within.

Likewise utilizing the thin translucent Japanese Awagami paper to print her book, Korth layers her subjects, allowing one to see thru the ghostly layers.  Nevertheless these layered pages, without providing a clear and sharp definition, are visually representing various attributes of a murky and unknown memory.

Other photobook by Ellen Korth featured on The PhotoBook Journal: CHARKOW 

Cheers

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May 18, 2018

Richard S. Chow – Distant Memories

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:11 pm

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Photographer: Richard S. Chow (born Hong Kong & resides Los Angeles, CA)

Self-published 2016, Edition of 50

Text: English

Stiff covers, perfect bound, black and white, printed by MagCloud (div. Blurb)

Photobook designer: Richard S. Chow

Notes: Richard S. Chow came to Southern California as a sixteen year old when his family emigrated from Hong Kong, which is a difficult transitional age in of itself for a teenager, least being thrown into a completely different culture.

This project and self-published book, Distant Memories, originates from a desire to “capture the childhood that I could have experienced, those weekend forays to museums, outings to the waters edge with family, friends and a picnic basket filled with ingredients for a perfect day. Like finding shells on the shore, I am collecting memories.”

Memories are equally fragile and critical to a person’s identity. Thus sometimes we may not have the wonderful memories we would like and similar to a dreamer, we can try to recreate new memories that are more aligned to one’s hopes and desires. Chow’s project is an investigation of memories that are not perfect and are a bit slightly skewed, reflecting on the imperfect nature of memory or perhaps how a memory could be reimagined.

I had an opportunity to talk with Chow about his project and is experimental/play as to how this project came about. He was randomly playing with some tourist pay-for-use telescopes found on the public piers of Southern California and he was finding the resulting photographs to be very interesting. These non-professional scopes created indistinct and truncated images that had an immediate personal appeal. One photograph lead to another and the idea developed of how these ambiguous images resonated with Chow as a potential metaphor for memories.

These are imperfect images of individuals, groups and other beach scenes that avoids the typical lyrical qualities usually associated with the Southern California beach photography. Similar to other street photography, there is also a bit of an uncomfortable voyeur aspect to his use of a very long lens to capture individuals in the midst of their beach activities.

That these photographs are created in a graphic black and white further abstracts his beach landscapes and provides more opportunities for the viewer to re-imagine their own memories of playful times and summer holidays.

Cheers,

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April 6, 2018

Cig Harvey – You An Orchestra You a Bomb

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:55 pm

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Photographer: Cig Harvey (born Devon, UK & resides in Rockport, Maine)

Published by Schilt Publishing, (Amsterdam, NL), 2017

Essay: Vicki Goldberg

Text: English

Hardbound with linen covers, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Offizin Scheufele, Stuttgart (DR)

Photobook designer: Deb Wood (Brooklyn, NY)

Notes: This is Cig Harvey’s third photobook in her introspective series that investigates her family, friends and the changing environment of mid-costal Maine. Perhaps the reason for the overlap of the photographic images between the various photobooks; that memories are overlapping during life’s experiences. She stages her family, friends and pets as well as weaving in poetic images of the rural landscape her family is enveloped in. There are many whimsical, if not outright strange, images, such as the open picture frame balanced on a women’s head, that hints at a lighthearted surrealism when this photograph is then paired up to a close up of a decorated frosted cake.

Many of Harvey’s photographs are tightly cropped and edited while her subjects are frequently truncated or slightly concealed. This is in part to create plenty of ambiguity to allow the readers imagination to freely roam. This visual effect is replicated in the design and layout of her book, with full bleed images that suggest that we are a witness to only a part of her narrative (her life). The editing and pairing of the photographs is exquisite, with repeating colors and forms or even perhaps the yin/yang contrast of a high-key photograph in the context of an adjoining dark image. A poetic and lyrical volume.

Cig Harvey was previously featured on TPBJ: Gardening at Night

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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March 23, 2018

Laia Abril – On Abortion

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:09 am

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Artist: Laia Abril (born & resides Barcelona, Spain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2018

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color and duotone lithography, printed by Grafiche dell’Artiere, Bologna (IT)

Photobook designer: Laia Abril, Ramon Pez

Notes: The extended title of Laia Abril’s new book is A History of Misogyny, Chapter One, On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Access, which is a bit more informative as to her extended photojournalist investigation. The key word is repercussions, as she provides ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities.

Abril has not shy’d from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like subject. Abril and her co-designer Ramon Pez have incorporated this multi-layering theme into the design of the book which incorporates narrow interior pages that create overlapping pages. These narrow pages when turned  then reveal additional text and images to further inform the reader. The book design reinforces their narrative as to state; nothing is very easy or as straight forward as it might first appear.

In her earlier book The Epilogue, she weaved sharply delineated family archive photographs of her subject in with her own documentary style photographs, while in this book the archive photographs of her subject are frequently less defined. In many instances there is only a hint of a potential likeness of her subject, perhaps due to confidentiality.  Nevertheless I find the abstracted portraits to create more visually expansive images and allowing the reader to reflect on their own version of this story. Does it really change the impact of her narrative if we see the actual likeness of someone who has passed away as a result of some botched medical procedure or social/cultural taboo?

This book is a call to action and the subject is still extremely slippery, while she makes a strong case that we as a society need to reexamine many of our cultural and moral beliefs as to these difficult situations for women.

Other photobooks by Laia Abril featured on The PhotoBook Journal: The Epilogue and Thinspiration

Cheers

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February 14, 2018

Lynn Alleva Lilley – Tender Mint

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Photographer: Lynn Alleva Lilley (born Silver Spring, MD & resides Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Published by Eriskay Connection, 2017, the Netherlands

Text: English

Poems: Samih al Qasim, Jane Hirshfield

Stiff cover fine canvas, sewn & glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Jos Morree (Fine Books)

Photobook designer: Rob van Hoesel

Lithography: Sebastiaan Hanekroot (Colour & Books)

Notes: I have to admit that I feel some aspects of disassociation when I embark on long transcontinental flights for an international assignment and then various degrees during the trip, usually when alone in the evening with only my thoughts. Thus Lilley’s recently released photobook, Tender Mint, which explores similar feelings that resulted from her families long term relocation from Maryland to the country of Jordan emotionally resonates with me. I understand how these personal feelings of displacement can become further acute when the written and spoken word do not resemble your native language, in my case it was the written Mandarin characters of China, while she became suddenly immersed in the Arabic script of Jordan, neither resemble the written English of America.

There are other radical cultural changes for her family to adapt to as well: social norms and policies, housing, infrastructure, shopping, food, aromas, scents and for the Arabic world, the religious customs. For Lilley even the new landscape was foreign; moving from the lush Northeast American costal area to an arid and hot desert region. She also reveals the personal loss that occurred with the passing of her father while she was in this distant location.

Lilley’s photographic project appears to rise out of trying to make sense of this mysterious land, to find a way to ground her family and herself in this strange culture while dealing with aspects of the changes to their lives that probably seemed beyond their control. That she was also concerned about how she as an American woman might be perceived in this new environment strikes me as a potential feminine quality of this visual project.

Choosing to document and visually investigate the animals within a confined landscape of a local zoo as a part of this project appears to provide metaphoric potential to reveal her feelings. The most striking photograph in that regard is the first image below, that of the small group of monkeys who appear to be cowering in the back edges of their cage. The sense of confinement is made palpable by the slightly out of focus barrier fencing in the foreground that extends over the entire frame. A younger animal appearing to be tightly clinging to an older animal, which we might deduct as one of the animals parents. The two appear to be holding each other in such a way as to provide physical if not emotional comfort. In the foreground at the edge of the frame is a larger animal whose dark features are difficult to discern. Symbolically I read that this could be Lilley’s father, who is distant and although in the same location, metaphorically these two individuals could be in their own confinement in their respective locations, hers in Jordan and his in America.

Lilley has grappled with the daunting and difficult task of not only documenting a new environment but attempting to place this experience in the context of her own feelings that result from the turbulent changes to her and her families lives.

Cheers

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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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January 5, 2018

Nancy Rexroth – IOWA

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Photographer: Nancy Rexroth (born Arlington, VA & resides Cincinnati, OH, USA)

University of Texas Press, Austin

First University of Texas Press Edition: copyright 2017

Text: English

Essays: Nancy Rexroth (1977, 2016), Mark L. Power (1977, 2016), Anne Wilkes Tucker, Alec Soth

Hard cover with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in China

Photobook designer: Derek George

Notes:  I was delighted to hear about a second edition of Nancy Rexroth’s IOWA, a photobook that although I had not actually seen, was a photobook that keep coming up during various photobook discussions. The backstory is the first edition was self-published by Rexroth in 1977, which in of itself is remarkable forty years ago by today’s self-publishing standards.

While this photobook might be considered the Second edition of IOWA, it has been re-imagined and perhaps slightly resembles its original name-sake. I have been informed that 20 images removed and 22 new ones added, a stronger emphasis placed on the children and Emmet Blackburn, in conjunction with a new edit and additional essays. So with all of the changes to this photobook and in line with other publisher’s practices it is appropriate that this is a First edition of University of Texas Press, Austin. Likewise, with this much time to reflect, it makes perfect sense that a work of art might undergo some visual synthesis.

Her journey stated with the acquisition of a “toy” camera, the Diana, with its single element plastic lens and square images captured on 120mm film. She has stated that although the plastic lens did soften the quality of the image, the results was still too well defined for her purposes. Thus her need to slightly move (jiggle) the camera during exposure to create a little extra blur that further degrades the sharpness of the image and obtain an visual artifact that is more poetic, less exact and only hinted at what the subject might actually be. Her story telling approach was very different from her early 1970 contemporaries, such as Sally Mann, Arthur Tress, Clarence John Laughlin, Minor White, Duane Michals or Ralph Gibson and more in alignment with the narrative photographs of Linda Connor.

Her mysterious photographs that comprise IOWA still appear as fresh today as they were when the first edition of this book was published in 1977. The images are ambiguous as to location, which hint of the Midwest, the actual subject and have a timelessness quality. By now it is no secret that although the book is titled IOWA, there are only four photographs made in this state and the remainder predominantly created in Ohio. This is an investigation of faint and distant memories of a child, experiences and transcendent feelings, with photographs that are not to be taken literally. An artist book that needs to be read by the heart.

IOWA was selected as one of the Interesting Photobooks of 2017 by the editors.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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