The PhotoBook Journal

February 12, 2019

Peggy Levison Nolan – REAL PICTURES

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Peggy Levison Nolan, REAL PICTURES: Tales of a Badass Grandma

Photographer: Peggy Levison Nolan, born Albany, NY currently resides in Hollywood, Florida

Publisher: Daylight Books, Durham, North Carolina, c. 2018

Essays by Abner Nolan, Suzanne Opton, Bonnie Clearwater

Language: English

Hardcover, Clothbound, 130 pages, 85 color photographs, 10 x8 inches, printed by Artron, China

Notes: Having recently attended a panel discussion on the topic of Photo-books, this reviewer was reminded of the value of having access to a photographer’s work within reach, available to visit and revisit whenever the mood occurs. To hold a book in one’s hands, to turn the pages at the pace of our own choosing, to enjoy the tactile experience of a real object, perhaps in the comfort of a favorite chair, or as a way to nourish the creative spirits while living through challenging times…all these pleasures come together in REAL PICTURES the new photo-book by Peggy Levison Nolan.

The full title of this collection of personal imagery is REAL PICTURES: Tales of a Badass Grandma; however the subject of Nolan’s 85 color photographs seems more intimate and gentle than the name suggests. Nolan may in fact be a Badass Grandma, but she is also a keen observer of light, color, joy, and quiet moments. By focusing her lens in the direction of her grandchildren and their parents, Nolan goes beyond the mode of typical family snapshots. REAL PICTURES is an Ode to life’s simple gifts in the fine art tradition of William Eggelston, Robert Frank, and Harry Callahan.

Rarely does the cover of a book warrant as much touch: this hardbound book is covered in a muted orange material reminiscent of sun faded upholstery, immediately evoking feelings of being in someone’s living room. Perhaps Nolan’s, perhaps your own. The first 3 images directly address perception of focus, shadow and reflection as seen through windows, gradually drawing us in to the homes of her adult children while signaling these images have an emotional point of view.

Its hard not to feel Nolan’s love of her subjects, and in turn theirs through willingness to be photographed in toy strewn houses, rumpled bed sheets, sleepy morning kitchens. Infants cry, kids make messes, family members embrace.

Nearly every image is infused with appreciation for color found in natural light, be it the simple blue line of a plastic shower curtain or the tiny pink foot of a napping child. The de-saturated tones of a nursing mother and child are echoed in the wide-angle view of two generations standing at the edge of a shore. Babies are born, stray hairs are left on the side of the bathroom sink; in Nolan’s work we understand why all of this is beautiful.

Though Nan Goldin’s color work is sited as having influenced Nolan to move beyond her initial use of Black and White, REAL PICTURES is less confrontational, and other than a shadow on the wall and a final image of feet in need of a pedicure, Nolan does not visually represent herself. Rather her work feels more in line with the early work of another female photographer Sally Mann, who also turned her lens in the direction of family; both women photographing those she knows best and loves most. In an era saturated with celebrity worship and instagram selfies, Nolan’s work is refreshingly sincere, selling nothing, offering us the richness of deeply invested relationships and the spaces in which they grow..

Upon learning that Nolan’s own mother died tragically when she was a girl and her father burned all the family photos in an attempt to spare further pain, the choice to become not only a mother and grandmother but a photographer herself, adds poignancy to revisiting Peggy Nolan’s beautiful work. Born of a self-made tradition giving her offspring handmade books documenting their own journeys into the wonders of parenthood, to now share these celebratory images with the rest of us, does indeed confirm that Peggy Nolan is in the best sense of the word, Badass.

Put on the kettle, turn off your media, curl up on a comfy couch and allow REAL PICTURES to soothe your eyes and your mind.

Enjoy! –  Melanie Chapman

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February 8, 2019

Katherine Longly – To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit

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To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit, Katherine Longly, Copyright 2018

Artist/Photographer; Katherine Longly, born Arlon, Belgium, resides Brussels, Belgium

Self-published artist book, 280 pages, many, many gate-folds, edition of 61 hand-made copies, signed and numbered

Essays and found text: Katherine Longly with essays and correspondence by Luca, Ren, Yuki, Martijn, Marina, Kenichi, R.P.K., Mina, Tomoko and Rika.

Text: English, with some French & Japanese

Stiff-cover book, hand-sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by PREFILM in Ixelles, Belgium.

Photobook designer: Katherine Longly with Welmer Keesmaat

Concept, edit and art-direction developed by Katherine Longly in the 2018 Atlas lab photo book making workshop by Alex Bacchetto and Yumi Goto, in collaboration with AKINA and Reminders Photography Stronghold.

Notes: Food. For some a real love – hate relationship. For others it’s just basic fuel to keep the carbon bio-mass moving that day. It’s a complex subject with volumes written about it each year; from describing the preparation of complex epicurean delights to the many ways to manage a diet and hopefully inspire someone to become a slimmer new person. For Katherine Longly, her past issues related to food created some emotion baggage and the reason behind the concept for her artist book. Essentially poking the food boogie-man right in the eye.

First, this is a complex artist book, in part using curated photographs created by Longly’s subjects as they use an inexpensive disposable camera to document their food and eating experiences. The twist is that that their camera use analog film, not an instant feed-back digital capture; first the camera’s are used by her subjects in Japan, then mailed to Longly for processing in Belgium. No careful visual editing by her subjects, thus many of these photographs have that rawness in composition and framing we think of when viewing vernacular photographs. In our current camera-phone or digital capture cameras age it seems we have become very conditioned to view the immediate visual results and then make some instant on-the-fly compositional adjustments for the next exposure.

Next, her subject’s photographs are then mashed up with some contextual photographs made by Longly who then creates a visual juxtaposition by the inclusion of magazine and newspaper articles and clipping that are overlaid with Longly’s diagrams and charts as a visual collage. She then added some more emphasis with yellow highlighters on some text, as though this was a school assignment or to provide quick notes to study by. Much of the additional context is hidden behind small gatefolds (second and third photographs below) of her subject’s photographs that creates another layer as to how to read the top level photograph while revealing additional information about the environmental conditions facing her subjects in Japan.

One quickly realizes that in Japan, as in many developed cultures, there are social norms related to one’s physical appearance, which can create food problems and perceived eating disorders. Each of her subjects photograph and write about their on-going experience with food and eating, creating chapters for each of her subjects; Healthfulness, Shelter, Emptiness, Obsession, Silence, Strength, Judgement, Heritage, Inspiration, and Empathy.

Longly’s artist book confronts some of many aspects of eating food. Eating may not always be a simple act, but potentially loaded with emotional baggage or helping to create a sense of freedom and joy. She provides a symbolic voice to the angst that many individuals have with the complex culture issues surrounding food, as it is not just a Japanese issue. By investigating how food issues haunt those of a different culture, perhaps this project provides Longly with the emotional distance to deal with her own past, and maybe still lurking, food issues, as well as a path forward for others to walk with her.

The folding and unfolding of this complex and layered artist book is a visual and visceral delight.

Cheers! Doug

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January 25, 2019

Dawoud Bey – Seeing Deeply

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 2:48 pm

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Photographer:  Dawoud Bey (born in Queens, New York City; lives in Chicago, Illinois)

Publisher:  University of Texas Press, Austin, TX; © 2018

Essays:  Sarah Lewis, Deborah Willis, David Travis, Hilton Als, Jacqueline Terrassa, Rebecca Walker, Maurice Berger, and Leigh Raiford

Language:  English

Clothbound hardcover with illustrated dust jacket; 400 pages, paginated, with 129 color and 136 black-and-white photographs; 11 ½  x 12 ¼ inches; printed in Germany by Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Medien GmbH

 

Notes:   This photobook is a 40-year retrospective of the work of the distinguished photographer Dawoud Bey, who is also a well-received Professor of Art at Columbia College in Chicago. Others before him have contributed perspectives on some of the same US communities, especially James Van Der Zee, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Roy DeCarava; some of these predecessors of his left us with interesting insights into individuals and their surroundings, especially Harlem and other NYC neighborhoods. Over time there has been a significant shift, from a “social documentary” point of view (perhaps as previously expected peering in from the outside) to a more late 20th century and contemporary perspective, a more egalitarian position, that treats the individuals photographed as persons whose lives and creative contributions are to be shared on an equal level.

Bey is certainly a master of peering into the individual’s psyche, while also a master of light and shadow as he crafts his portraits with artistic acumen and compassion. Page after page in this photobook delights us with portraits that are forthright, direct, and honest. We feel we can almost touch the individuals shown; most of them make direct eye contact and share their pride and hope – it is clear that the rapport between the photographer and the individuals photographed was very strong, and this directness also creates a bond between those shown and the viewer.

This large and beautifully printed photobook is divided into nine major sections, with excellent introductory essays that shed light on each particular phase of Bey’s work, as well as illuminating commentary about various related contexts:

1  Harlem

2  Small camera work

3  Polaroid street work

4  Large-size Polaroid portraits (20 x24 inch)

5  Class pictures

6  Character project

7  Stranger / Community

8  The Birmingham Project

9  Harlem redux

Bey’s work features all those photographed as distinct individuals belonging to interesting groups, across various strata of society. There are also some landscapes and cityscapes to present the character of communities. The care this photographer shows with his students is demonstrated in section 5; each of the portraits is accompanied by a brief text that gives us further insights about the individual and his or her connections to others. Section 7 is also quite intriguing – Bey created staged portraits of sets of two different strangers from the same environment that might otherwise not have met, and thus raises a very crucial issue of our time: how united or how divided do we feel or are we really, and most important, what are we moving toward (see image 7 below)?

Some of the other portraits make use of a collage technique, which makes us curious about a particular individual’s other moments and moods, and hints at the individual as more multi-faceted than a single image can show. It is a great testament to Bey that even the Acknowledgments section in the back makes for interesting reading, as it allows us to see his method of collaboration with all who were involved.

This retrospective is much more than that: it is a magnificent testament to what  can be shown about people’s pride and hope, and in an exemplary yet subtle manner seems to posit the idea that all us individuals, no matter what our background and heritage may be, are interested in building a better future and would benefit from collaboration. This photobook is destined to become a classic!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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January 18, 2019

Tema Stauffer – UPSTATE

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Photographer: Tema Stauffer

Born: Durham North Carolina, currently resides in Tennessee

Publisher: Daylight Books, Chapel Hill, NC, copyright 2018

Foreword by Xhenet Aliu and essay by Alison Nordstrom

Language: English

Hardcover, Cloth bound sewn, 84 pages, 33 color photographs, printed by OFSET YAPIMEVI, Turkey

Photobook Designer: Ursula Damm

Notes: Upon opening UPSTATE for the first time, this reviewer was immediately taken back to her own years spent living in the Hudson Valley while attending Bard College. Not only because the subject of Tema Stauffer’s new work is the nearby city of Hudson and the surrounding landscape, but because Stauffer’s visual approach is in comfortable alignment with the work of seminal photographer Stephen Shore and the photography department he has directed at Bard since 1982. Thus while some photo books offer a glimpse into worlds we can never ourselves experience, the landscape and palette of UPSTATE felt so familiar that it has taken a bit of time to put into words the pleasure of this fine body of work.

Especially after reading the excellent essays that bookend Stauffer’s beautiful images. Novelist Xhenet Aliu does an outstanding job of providing context for the recent changes in Hudson, a once mighty industrial city which has become the weekend darling destination of monied Manhattanites. Photo historian Alison Nordstom’s essay references Stauffer’s work in the context of Hudson River painters, the New Topographics “school” of photography, Edward Hopper, and even the Japanese concept of Natsukashii, which loosely translated means nostalgia for something that no longer exists. The quality of writing in these essays complements the quality of Stauffer’s images and thus there is little one can add, other than to share an individual experience of spending time with this must-have book.

For those who are familiar with the work of photographer Gregory Crewdson one might find some similarity in the settings of UPSTATE. However, this reviewer prefers Stauffer’s approach, which is non-fictional, honoring the truth of a real place rather than using it as backdrop for expensive cinematic narratives.

The design of UPSTATE also differs significantly from another recently published (and potential companion piece) photo-book, UPSTATE GIRLS by Brenda Ann Kenneally, which focuses on the chaotic lives of low income inhabitants of nearby Troy New York, and is thus presented in collage-like journalistic manner.  In UPSTATE, Stauffer concentrates more on the architecture of a beautiful yet changing landscape, focusing on fields, winter light, abandoned buildings, and further evidence of blue-collar lives in which the hardware store is more important than the newest knitting store serving six dollar lattes. Thankfully, nothing found in UPSTATE, be they interiors or streetscapes, feels artificial.

There are many pleasures to this book of 33 color images, particularly if one appreciates fine printing and singular 8×10 images with clean white borders filling an entire page, complemented with blank white pages that allow Stauffer’s formal images to breathe, as if on a gallery wall.

However, experiencing these images presented in book form offers the viewer a chance to appreciate not only Stauffer’s eye for detail and active frame lines, but also her meditation on the subtle power of color. The opening image “River’s Edge” offers complementary tones of blues and yellow via steel grey buildings and farming equipment, and is then answered by a distant red door in the following image “Furgary Shacks.” Picking up on the musicality of Stauffer’s color sense makes UPSTATE a fun book to spend time with. As with themes which rise and diminish throughout a musical suite, UPSTATE offers the viewer a delightful dance between cool tones of winter and exciting pops of warmth; some found in nature, some created by man.

A minuet of red returns in the collar of “Reggie” (a portrait of a distinguished yet paint splattered gentleman), crescendos in the following image aptly titled “Red House”, finally diminishing yet still heard in the geometric lines of houses on “Cross Street.” Stauffer’s melodic images return to blues and yellows of “Rear Bedroom” and continues through the next four photographs, then red chimes back in with the appearance of Sumac trees, reaching a masterful pitch with the vinyl seats and ketchup bottle in the Elizaville “Diner”. The passepied of this passage can be found in the blue eyes and pinkish flesh of the bare-chested “Mike”, one of only three portraits contained in the book. The polonaise of “Allen Street” and “White Car” evoke the architectural work of Walker Evans and the time-stamping inclusion of vehicles found throughout Stephen Shore’s UNCOMMON PLACES. These two elements are successfully united with the inclusion of “Brown Dodge”.

Though these gorgeous 8×10 images can be appreciated formally, there are also traces of humor, best seen in “Interior, Furgary Shack #6.” For those who study the very edges of the frame, a game we lovers of large format photography can’t help but play, pay attention to the wall art in the background. Rarely does a photograph make you laugh out loud. This one did.

Throughout UPSTATE, Tema Stauffer shares her gift of seeing the inherent beauty of what is, and what was.

A subtle symphony of images, UPSTATE is a gorgeous collection of work. Highly Recommend.

Enjoy! – Melanie Chapman

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January 16, 2019

Ikuru Kuwajima – Tundra Kids

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Photographer:  Ikuru Kuwajima (born in Japan; lives in Moscow, Russia)

Publisher:  Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna, Austria; © 2015

Texts:  Introduction; folktale “How the mighty eagle returned the sun to the Nenets people”

Languages:  Nenets, English, German

Stiff covers leporello (accordion) foldout; 83 pages with 58 color images; 16 x 16 cm; printed in Austria by Rema Print Wien (Vienna)

Photobook Design:  Ikuru Kuwajima, Dorothea Brunialti

 

Notes:  Every once in a while we see a photobook that hits all the right spots. In Tundra Kids, Ikuru Kuwajima, a multicultural photographer – born in Japan, studied in the United States, and now lives in Russia – has successfully created a book that shows us a minority at the edge of “civilization” through the eyes of their children. They pose for portraits in their schoolrooms and in their rugged northern arctic Russian environment, and show us their perceptions through everyday objects, toys, and drawings, as well as with a native folk tale with a nod to Soviet influence.

It is a real pleasure to handle this photobook of 83 pages of color work, presented in leporello* (accordion) foldout style, printed on both sides. The effect is to create a continuity of images and subjects which, while linear, is more flexible than a conventionally bound book. You can pick up the whole sequence of images, turn them, look at both sides, and view many more than a couple of images at the same time. We get a feeling of interconnectedness as we view the enthusiasm and cooperation of the children who are learning about the big world out there, against the backdrop of their Nomad home areas, in which they spend the rest of their year when school is out.

Images include portraits of the kids joyfully posing in a studio setting created in their classroom; they show us such things as their tents and reindeer antlers, glimpses of their native environment to which they seem proudly connected as they are gaining a global understanding. It is the artwork they share with us that also lets us wonder about how they may maintain their identity in a faster-moving larger context so dominated by helicopters and planes and other forms of intrusion, in contrast to their natural home settings.

A wonderful book that lets us share a different world. Kudos to the Nenets kids and Ikuru Kuwajima!

*The leporello folding of paper, in an accordion-like fashion as shown below, is derived from the character Leporello in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, who, for comic effect, customarily is performed displaying a long list of his employer’s conquests on a long piece of paper folded in that manner. Note another effective use of this method of photobook presentation in Douglas Stockdale’s Middle Ground, which I reviewed in The PhotoBook Journal previously.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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December 19, 2018

Tobias Kruse – Material

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:13 pm

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Photographer: Tobias Kruse, born Mecklenburg and residing Berlin, Germany

Publisher: Kerber Verlag Berlin/Nürnberg, Germany

Text(s): German and English

Softcover, Width: 17cm x Length: 24cm, bound, 42 places, 35 people, 216 pages

Design: Neue Gestaltung Berlin

Notes: Berlin is a hot spot where the good life is lived, toasted, and celebrated. But truth be told, the strong art making of my generation (ages 35 to 45) in Berlin today leaves much to be desired. I see many people looking for the meaning of life in Berlin, as well as that of their own individual lives. Perhaps the contrast between the once divided city and the Berliners who live there today is so strong, creating art with meaning might be quite a complicated task within Berlin itself. Good Berlin art is created outside of Berlin, on trips, or on the outskirts of the city, in the surrounding areas.

Tobias Kruse has lived as a photographer in Berlin for 20 years and has now published his first photography book called “Material” . The title is pointedly provocative right off the bat. Don’t we dream of photography books that form a narrative out of a clever assembly and sequence of images, thereby taking the reader on a journey that unfolds through fine observations of perceptions? As a reader of this book, you want to see more than just material. But our senses are obscured. The author works with a reserved title, but once one begins reading, an explosion of thoughts and emotions erupt around life, life in one’s late 30s.

It turned out to be a dense book, about the situation of the author himself. Kruse came to Berlin 10 years ago to train professionally as a photographer at the Ostkreuz Photography School in Berlin. He studied under Arno Fischer – the Henri Cartier Bresson of the former GDR – in the last years of Fischer’s life. He was thereby brought up in the milieu of East German humanist documentary photography and has developed his own visual language over the years.

Few artists succeed in already developing their own visual language at such a young age. Again and again, Kruse’s peers can be seen in all facets of young life, confronted with dreams, the search for happiness, often together, and then alone again. They are images of being at home in Berlin, travelling around the country, encounters in Europe in Arles, Athens, and Tel Aviv. The pictures in the book become a kind of rush of life: its blooming, its transience. Out of this community of friends over many years, a family has emerged. Kruse dedicates the book to his children, Karl and Carla, who also appear frequently in the book.

Why should you buy this book? Because Kruse is one of the exceptionally strong gifted artists of the younger generation to come out of the environment of the Ostkreuz School and Agency. Because it has turned out to be a book that describes the attitude to life of a generation that was born in the ‘70s, grew up in the ‘90s, and have now become the generation on whom society has pinned its hopes. Hopefully, we will be seeing and hearing a lot more about Kruse’s personal work in the future.

Review – Kristin Dittrich, Director Shift School for contemporary Photography, Dresden, Germany

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December 6, 2018

Ekaterina Vasilyeva – Shipwrecked

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Ekaterina VasilyevaShipwrecked, Copyright 2018

Artist; Ekaterina Vasilyeva (Екатерина Васильева)(born and residing in St. Petersburg, Russia)

Self-published, St Petersburg, Russia

Afterword: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Text: English

Stiff cover front with original archive photograph (First #1-30 book covers), board back-cover book, twine sewn binding, four-color lithography, Limited edition, hand-made, signed & numbered, of 50, size: 12 cm x 33 cm, printed in St. Petersburg, RU

Photobook designer: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Notes: This extremely wide (13 inch) book with the rough twine binding hints at the subject of Ekaterina Vasilyeva’s artist book; a mash of mid-century black and white photographs by an unknown young Sea Scout in conjunction with Vasilyeva’s reinterpretation of a similar current landscape in color. Likewise, her book title, Shipwrecked, provides additional clues to this boat-load of images that were once a drift and now have been found. The vernacular photographs of the 1940’s and 1950’s are literally intertwined with Vasilyeva’s color landscapes.

This is a wonderful treatise about the bittersweet aspect of nostalgia, the double-edge sword of memory. The forgotten album is filled with images of playful youth; boys who are seemingly unencumbered by the realities of life, although we know that in the early 1940’s there was a terrible war occurring that had a huge impact on the UK. Nevertheless, we now observe these photographs with the advantage of knowing that their age of youth has now long passed and the subjects of this archive are perhaps more concerned with their pending mortality.

Who was this young unknown photographer whose images reveal a certain maturity in these carefully balanced compositions? Perhaps this found British archive that comprises part of Vasilyeva’s artist book is not fully elevated to the level of photographs by Vivian Maier, nevertheless under the careful editing of Vasilyeva, we can sense this young photographer’s developing photographic skills.

Likewise, I come to wonder how this photographic archive came to rest at a British flea-market; what has happened to this now aging Sea Scout that he was willing to part ways with his past? Why does he or his family no longer have a need to retain this wonderful archive of memories? This book is a collection of mysteries; is the portrait of a young lady a family member of the unknown photographer or perhaps his lover in later years and maybe eventually his spouse? There are clues to this mysterious photographer, such as the school badges on the coats of the young men mugging for this photographer, as to where these events may have occurred so many years ago.

Vasilyeva’s contemporary landscape photographs ground us to the current reality and in juxtaposition with the archive images creates a messy give and take dialog with the past. The vexing and unanswerable question remains; Will you Forget Us? What of this group of boys, who are now aging men who may be grandfathers if not great grandfathers, what has become their fate and stories since their young likenesses was permanently captured?

I find a book design’s that echoes the artistic intent to really amplify the narrative; in this case the rough twine binding is similar in nature to what one might expect a young Sea Scout in the early 1940’s to use if he were to create his photobook. We observe similar hand-made contraptions such as the float lashed together using old oil cans that are utilized for a sea and river adventures. This is a British equivalent to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a story of American youth, which was actually first published in the UK in 1884 before coming to the US in 1885. In reflection, perhaps Huckleberry Finn was an inspiration for Robert Baden- Powell, the founder of Scouting, who in turn inspired the unknown Sea Scout whose delightful photographs we enjoy here.

A very enjoyable read.

Cheers, Doug

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October 19, 2018

Nathaniel Grann – Midwest Sentimental

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:14 am

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Photographer:  Nathaniel Grann (born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; lives in Los Angeles, California)

Publisher:  Peperoni Books, Berlin, Germany; © 2018

Introductory Remarks:  Nathaniel Grann, in English

Hardcover, sewn, textured wood imitate with tipped-in image; 64 pages with 33 color images; 22.5 x 28.5 cm; printed in Germany by Wanderer

Photobook Design:  Nathaniel Grann

 

Notes:

Nathaniel Grann, who grew up in the Midwest of the United States, raises three major questions in the introductory remarks to this photobook: “What makes a family click? – What holds a family together? – And, what allows for a family to move on from a troubled past?”  As a young man he travels back in time and spends an extended period in his childhood contexts, and he realizes that the answers to these questions are most elusive: The places still look similar, the folks are still the same folks, maybe a bit older, the places are similar yet different, but most of all, he himself has changed and moved beyond what once was, and perhaps still is. And indeed, any looking back through the eyes of the present encompasses both joys and difficulties within constellations of shared family memories.

As the author wrote us: “With this project, I am interested in exploring the idea of Family and my relationship to those who make up my own. Love, sadness, and humor are at the core of this project for me, as I engage with my family through photography to ask questions about the bonds that hold us together, … I had naively hoped to find answers while working through this body of work, but instead it accumulated into a collective exhale of momentary release and reflection.”

In a well-sequenced series of astute observations, Nathaniel Grann shows us a bemused but loving look at his surroundings of origin and the folks that now populate it; at the same time we see feelings for the complicated life that the eyes of a child might have considered to be global truths – the charms of the home that once was his origin. The relatives and friends are depicted with respect and care, and were collaborators in creating this glance into the past through the eyes of the present. They are ensconced in their lives, and the depiction is through the eyes of the son who has explored the expanded horizons of the wide world that bursts the cocoon of origin. It is charming to see his careful recreation of that life as it now strikes him: remnants of the long existence that his elders have lived, with some bittersweet sense of future loss behind it all. We see knickknacks and mementos, things that may only mean a great deal to those whose world they still adorn, and perhaps not so much to anyone else. Heredity and environment act as a major blanket that protects and can also be a damper, but the youngest generation is also around, and full of optimism. The sum total of this carefully selected and sequenced set of 33 images adds up to a coming-of-age journey we all have taken and identify with: the particulars may vary, but the mix of nostalgia and newly found self-actualization is a universal experience.

The images from the book shown here were selected to represent the overall narrative rather than the smaller subsequences, which will be yours to ponder when you get the book. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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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 photobook 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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