The PhotoBook

May 16, 2017

Barbara Peacock – Hometown

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Photographer: Barbara Peacock (b. Waltham, MA – resides Portland, ME)

Publisher: Bazan Photo Publishing (Brooklyn, NY) copyright 2016

Essays: Barbara Peacock, Ernesto Bazan

Text: English

Embossed linen hardcover with tipped in photograph, sewn binding, four-color lithography, list of photographs, printed by Puritan Capital (New Hampshire)

Photobook designer: Kevin Sweeney

Notes: Barbara Peacock documented her own hometown of 30 plus years, while perhaps the citizens of the town grew older, her visual concept of what a hometown meant, continued to evolve. Her subject is a small New England town, Westford, located Massachusetts. There is enough contextual ambiguity as to the actual location that Peacock’s hometown could be representative of any small town in the East or Midwest region of America, which is a factor that draws me and probably other readers into this monograph.

She opens with an urban landscape photograph of a small market, an archetype of the local hang-out for bored kids in a small town. It appears that topic of conversation for her subjects that day was probably her and the view camera balanced on the tripod as the woman who kept darting under the curious black sheet. Her young subjects gaze directly at the lens not realizing that this was a poignant moment in time in 1982 and they were in the process of becoming subjects of nostalgia and memory when this photograph is contemplated some thirty-five years later. We can speculate that some of these same kids probably now have children of their own that are this same age or maybe even older, although Peacock states that this small market is no longer there and that one of these boys has since passed.

We witness an evolution of photographic style, from a formalism of a large format camera with color film to an informal capture in expressive black & white that encompasses digital capture methods. There is also a subtle pairing of the photographs within the book, such as the image below of the contrasting lives of the dejected appearing older woman who Elvis is still adoring and the opposing photograph of the antics of young men hanging out with skate boards and engrossed in what’s on their cell phones.

She records the quite moments of normal life being lived without big drama. We can find ourselves, friends and family in the midst of her hometown investigation and these photographs may trigger memories of our own past “normal” events.

This photobook was juried into the Photo Independent Photo Book Competition and subsequent exhibition.

Cheers!

Douglas

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April 28, 2017

Douglas Stockdale – Bluewater Shore

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Artist:  Douglas Stockdale (born Butler, PA; resides Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Publisher: Self-published, hand-inscribed, limited signed edition of 99; Copyright © 2017

Text: English

Stiff-cover book of 32 pages with 16 prong-bound images, unnumbered; in poly slip-cover; Fultone® digital lithography, printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California

Notes: Photobooks that present their images in a loose format, i.e., not permanently bound and sequenced but changeable, are still the exception. One such successful work was David Alan Harvey’s 2012 project entitled (based on a true story), dealing with life in Rio, with real and imagined storylines. That innovative volume (which received a number of important awards) was designed with double pages whose sequence could be rearranged to tell a different story from the viewer’s perspective, using the same images, but with new juxtapositions. A more recent predecessor to Bluewater Shore is Douglas Stockdale’s Pine Lake, reviewed previously; it shares a similar image presentation format with Bluewater Shore, which is its sequel.

In the case of Douglas Stockdale’s Bluewater Shore, we have a hand-inscribed and hand-assembled limited edition artist book presenting a simulated drugstore-issued set of 16 prints that take the viewer on an imaginary trip taking place in the 1940s: a young woman traveling to “bluewater shore” with her women friends. Since that was a time in which women were able to feel some greater sense of self and independence, they were not accompanied by males as might have been the expected practice in previous times. We see them on their journey, we see them at the beach in various activities, and – lo and behold! – suddenly males also appear in the pictures. That’s where the story gets interesting – we don’t know who they are, or what relationships there are between them and the women, but we can project our ideas into the pictures. There are also some children in the photographs, and we don’t know whether they are relatives, or bystanders, or symbols of things to come. Since the roll of film fictitiously presented in this publication is made up of only 16 pictures and the people depicted are not available, we are only able to guess what might be taking place. Consider it a story puzzle that allows us to participate vicariously. Creative photographic storytelling at its finest!

Douglas Stockdale has taken vernacular images from his family’s archives and has repurposed them for this semi-fictitious narrative as a new single set of 16. They have been appropriately aged and once printed slightly enlarged, prong-bound into a folder that simulates how prints were once delivered with processed rolls for a small additional fee (Kodak/Ansco flip-books). There is even a seemingly unintentional double exposure. Since they are bound with a prong that can be removed from the folder, the images can be rearranged and spread out on the table as might have once been the case if they were to be evaluated or placed in an album. Thus we can experience parts of a family history and relate what we see to our own history and our shared cultural past as well. A most enjoyable photographic puzzle of memories and times gone by.

This site has also featured Douglas Stockdale’s hardbound volume, Ciociaria.

Gerhard Clausing

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April 20, 2017

Ellen Korth – CHARKOW

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

Publisher: Self-published, Deventer (Netherlands), copyright 2016

Interviews by: Ellen Korth, Sybren Kuiper

Text: Netherlands, English & German

Seven (7) Stiff-cover books in slip-case, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Fine Books Weesp (Jos Morree) in Netherlands

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Photobook designer: Sybren Kuiper ( -SYB- )

Lithographer: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)

Notes: Ellen Korth’s CHARKOW photobook is a very layered and complex set of photobooks, both physically and in her narrative, in part similar to and driven by her mysterious and complex past. Essentially this is an investigation of the question of what constitutes “home”?

It is a collection of short visual stories that delves into the subject for each person or couple as to what is “home” (where their heart is) for them? Perhaps for Korth in attempting to understand how others sense “home”, it might be a therapeutic process for her to deal her own feelings of belonging. It appears to me that this photobook also investigate a related and equally beguiling question; how deep must one’s roots be to feel “grounded”?

Each of the thin books create a fascinating visual metaphor; as each successive full-bleed photograph becomes smaller, the outer framing of the previous photographs can be read as a background border to create a complex, layered environmental context for the developing narrative. The unbalanced trim of each page spread adds to the visual layering effect. Once at the center of each book, it is difficult to read the photographic spread, the only image with a small white margin, without noticing the Kaleidoscopic background framing that reminds the reader about how complex a person’s story might be. A wonderful analogy to the layering of skins surrounding an onion and the effort to peel each layer to get closer to the central heart. The reader imagines that that they are slowly delving deeper into the layers of her subject’s life to get at the core of who they might be as it relates to being “home”. Both visual tantalizing and emotionally elusive.

For Korth, her personal story is cloaked in dark secrets and a sense of loss as to her family history. This may be in part as a result of her mother’s need for secrecy since fleeing from Charkow (Kharkov) during the absolute terror and chaos of the German invasion during WWII. Korth is dealing with the issues of an incomplete and hidden past and perhaps the unanswerable questions of how to resolve those feelings.

Highly Recommended! (my basis: I was one of the jurist for the International Photo Book Competition sponsored by Photo Independent and I was absolutely blown away by this brilliant photobook and immediately knew that I had to provide this to the readers of The PhotoBook. Oh, it also won the photobook competition as well)

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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April 12, 2017

Frances F. Denny – Let Virtue Be Your Guide

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 4:03 am

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Photographer:  Frances F. Denny (born San Francisco, CA; resides Brooklyn, NY)

Publisher:  Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM, © 2015

Essay:  Lisa Locascio

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover, protective transparent acetate dust cover; 108 pages, color lithography; 36 9×9 inch images, a composite sepia leporello fold-out, and the reproduction of a sampler; 10×10.5 inches,  printed in Italy

Photobook Designer:  David Chickey

 

Notes:

All of us have been recipients of the expectations and prescriptions of the generations that came before us. Occasionally these conventions and social mores have kept us under what we might have considered unwarranted constraints, or might have caused us traumatic conflicts that had to be resisted and/or resolved as our own development in life proceeded. I wanted to review this book because I consider it an important contribution to intergenerational understanding and individual development.

In this volume Frances F. Denny examines the impact of previous generations on her as well as other women in New England today. Her images present women of her family spanning several generations, along with their accoutrements and surroundings. They are also quoted as they evaluate traditions and admonitions that have been passed down to them, both in New England and from Europe. The photographs are all in color and seem to present a world that is cheerful and in order, with occasional signs of unrest or disturbances showing through the veneer. Most of the images are accompanied by historical material as well as by short personal quotes and anecdotes from the women’s lives. Some of these expectations have always been explicit, others implicit. Examples are: “In my family the default was decorum, but with kindness” (p. 27), or: “A lot was unsaid. I think more up-front talking would have been helpful” (p. 37), or: “Don’t talk about yourself too much.” (p. 53) Among the problems that are dealt with: the suppression of emotions; the pros and cons of entitlement; alcoholism; taking advantage of those below you in the social hierarchy and the guilt associated with that; the problem of exhibiting slight imperfections; and many others.

It is interesting to observe the portraits of the women of several generations against the background of the many struggles necessary on the road to self-actualization and assertiveness. Denny makes a special effort to contrast two generations in some of the images as well as in the pairing of images. The pictures are captioned, and care is taken to display some of the women without showing their faces, so that it is possible to project oneself into the character and her moment and to imagine one’s situation to be similar. Page 85 presents a leporello-type fold-out that shows three pictures from a wedding in the early 1940s, including two of the bride: a perfectly organized tableau, behind which conflicted feelings regarding past and future might also be lurking. The “primer” by Lisa Locascio takes us from definitions of virtue as compulsory moral excellence to the stage of self-discovery and personal redefinition, as the process of one’s individuation proceeds. The book ends with the picture of an old needlepoint “sampler” as a reminder of this former test of marriage-worthiness that also displays all the “right” expectations and prescriptions from long ago.

An important work with much food for thought and a very attractive design as well!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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October 17, 2014

Laia Abril – The Epilogue

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Copyright Laia Abril 2014 Published by Dewi Lewis

Laia Abril (b. 1986 Barcelona, Spain, currently resides in NYC and Barcelona) continues to develop narratives that probe identity issues for women. In The Epilogue, she expands on her earlier photographic project Thinspiration, a self-published zine investigating a pro-anorexia community, essentially women and girls, with obsessive eating disorders who are wasting away. In The Epilogue, unlike her subjects who are anonymous, aloof and distant as they are in Thinspriation, we are fully immersed into the initiate details of one extended American family who is still dealing with a daughter/sister/nice and her tragic binging and purging disorder and ultimately their grief, frustration and loss.

Abril provides a complex and multi-layered voice in conjunction with an interesting mashup of old family photographs, interviews, medical documents, letters and her own photographs. She creates a documentary approach for the own landscapes and portraits of the individuals who have been affected by the principal subject of this story, Cammy (Mary Cameron Robinson, American). Abril’s narrative jumps into the middle of the current family’s situation many years after Cammy’s passing. In the book’s captions Abril uses informal nick-names for her subjects that create a sense of intimacy; while Cammy’s full identity is provided later as this unsettling narrative progresses and then as a newspaper obituary, one of many documents that are inserted into the book’s interior.

In the historical family photographs of Cammy, it is not empirically evident that she had an eating disorder, as she appears to look rather normal, unlike the thin and emaciated appearance of those suffering from Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa). In many ways, Cammy’s outward appearance is similar to a photograph, as surface appearances cannot tell an entire story, but only provides the vaguest of hints.

This sad tale is similar to a mystery novel in Abril’s attempt to discover an unknown person; she interviews the indirect victims of Cammy’s demise: her mother, father, brother, roommate, boyfriend, aunt, cousin, and doctor. In the end we are provided some evidence of Cammy’s life, that she suffered a traumatic life and ending, while leaving an open ended question of how to deal with someone who has a eating disorder. Equally important it calls into question the media’s fascination with the ultra-thin body-image of models, creating the associated cultural peer pressure as to what constitutes “beauty” and “attractiveness” resulting in self-esteem issues and in this case an unhealthy eating disorder.

This unsettling book is a call to action, but can only point to the pending consequences and the potential frustrations experienced by those who are caught up as events unfold. Eating disorders are now global, predominantly (85%) experienced by teen girls and young women but perhaps more prevalent in Western Countries, especially the United States, where this narrative takes place. Thus Cammy, her family and support structure in America is the untended role model to place a face on eating disorders.

I had earlier wrote about how she and her book designer/collaborator Ramon Pez have carefully designed and created what they are calling tri-fold pages into this book object. The revealed panel extends the narrative as well as symbolically “breaking the book” as each of the four tri-fold-pages correspond to a photograph when the subject of the book, Cammy, has experienced a severe break down in her life’s journey. This is yet another testimony that a book design can further reinforce, and in this case, literally extend a narrative. Let’s see if you can do that with your e-pad!

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My one niggle is the black printing on the dark blue page stock at the very conclusion of the book and the tip-in on the book’s front cover which borders almost on being illegible (darn hard to read!). I am guessing that Abril and Pez have a symbolic meaning for this design aspect; it did not come quickly to me.

The book design was complete by Abril in conjunction with Ramon Pez and beautifully color printed by Grafiche Antiga (Italy). The book cover has a tipped in image and the interior also includes gate-folds, inserted letters, documents, and a newspaper obituary.

This photobook review was co-published on EMAHO magazine; here.

Other books by Laia Abril reviewed on The PhotoBook: Thinspiration

Cheers!

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October 4, 2013

Douglas Stockdale – Pine Lake

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Pine Lake copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale self-published Limited Edition Artist Book

I am very thrilled to announce the publication of my hand-made artist book Pine Lake. Thus post is not intended to be a book review, as I need to let others provide more objective assessments. This is just blatant self promotion.

Pine Lake is sequenced as a semi-fictional story about an American multi-generational summer rite, a weekend fishing trip.

As to how this project came about, it started with my recently discovered family photographs of my grandfathers fishing, a passion of which was unknown and totally foreign to me. Thus the small, worn vernacular photographs I found became talismans for the lost memories and stories of my family.  This has led me to create this artist book to tell a story of what might have been. Pine Lake is another of my on-going series that investigates memory and its preservation.

The interior flip-book is formatted in a style reminiscent of a promotional processing book common in the 1960′s produced by Kodak and Ansco, which could be purchase with a film processing order. The book is accompanied by a small collection of preserved ephemera that represent the memorabilia that might be saved after a favorite vacation.

The stiff cover book contains 17 black & white photographs. The outer cover is fabricated from a sheet of 120 gm Canson Mi-Teintes paper, hand trimmed to size and inkjet printed which is then hand inscribed.  This cover is bone creased, hand hole punched and an aluminum prong binding is attached to manually bind the interior pages. The book resides inside a hand inscribed poly slip-cover (a zip-lock bag) accompanied with three pieces of ephemera; a fishing stamp, a fishing notice & a section of fishing line with small weight attached mid-way.

The book and ephemera are housed in a hand-made wood frame with a printed cover constructed from 110# Daler-Rowney Canford paper, cut to size, ink-jet printed, hand bone crease and glued to the frame to create a gate fold flap, and has an elastic band closure.

Exterior size is 8 1/2″ x 10″ x 7/16″ (210 mm x  250mm   x 100mm)

The photographic images are anonymous and from my family archive and have been re-photographed and modified to provide a consistent appearance to illustrate this short visual story. Pine Lake is produced in a Limited Edition of 25, with a price of $150.00 USD per book plus shipping (and taxes where applicable).

I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers!

Note: price increase to $250 on 2/01/2014 as edition is almost sold out.

Note: For the three remaining editions, the price is now $350.00 each.

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October 25, 2008

Julie Blackmon – Domestic Vacations

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:21 am

 

Time Out, 2005 copyright of Julie Blackmon, courtesy Radius Books

At fist glance, Blackmon’s photographs are super real observations of a large knit family on the edge of total chaos and about to go out of control. In others words real life with family’s and real children. Whether her photographs really are direct observations or a constructed reality they connect.

For me her earlier photographs created for this series are a little more believable, which I attribute to the darker tonality versus the hyper-lit later photographs. Nevertheless all of her images seem to resonate with my own experience with my siblings and my own children. Probably even more so today where I have a greater ability to stand aside and watch the ebb and flow of emotions and events.

For Blackmons photographs there is a lot happening on and near the edges of the photographs. The activity on the edges would seem to pull you out of the photograph but I find that it creates more mystery while allowing you re-inspect the whole photograph for more clues.

Overall a playful and fun series with a wonderful sense of excitement, which creates a real sense of anticipation. You have been there and by what you see you can almost anticipate the total chaos which is about to explode about you. Which is to say normal life of parents in the suburb with kids.

The book is well designed with regard to the flow of her images with a nice mix of single and paired images on facing pages. It is a hardcover book with 51 color and black and white photographs augmented with an insightful interview by Alison Nordstrom.

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Best regards, Doug Stockdale

Update – (11/22/08)

One of the wonderful aspects of a book, unlike an exhibition, is the ability to return and browse at your leisure.  A new book is also a new acquaintance that can over time become an old friend. There are some books that are easily digested and perhaps sold or donated to the friend of the library while others you keeping finding yourself returning and finding more substance for the soul. The later is my experience with Blackmon’s Domestic Vacations.

This is probably the place that I admit that I am more of an urban landscape photographer who creates images with “found” subjects. That does have an influence on my objectivity with regard to the subject matter for book review thus it may take a little longer to gain a full appreciation of constructed works such as this book by Blackmon. The good news is that with a web-journal subsequent content can be added!

What I did not adequately discuss in my initial review is the creation and construction of Blackmon’s photographs. Some of which are disarmingly simple and with further analysis become deeper in complexity. The components of her photographs are not there by chance. Every part of her photographs provide clues and we are the ones that have the opportunity to create the resulting story.

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Such as this photograph, above, Green Velvet. The interplay between the girl on the couch and the woman in the painting with the action off screen on the right create an amazing tension. The woman in the painting is positioned with her vision directed off the left side of the photograph, while the dog and off screen activity is on the right. Then you notice that the countenance of the woman in the painting is a similar resignation as the girl who sits on the couch. The girl has her remote at near hand and apparently has to watch the adjacent dog performance perhaps with something far better to do?

Each of the photographs in Blackmon’s book need time to be read, thought about and reconsidered.

Still highly recommended!

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