The PhotoBook Journal

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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December 15, 2017

Robert Lyons – Pictures From The Next Day

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:05 pm

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Photographer: Robert Lyons (born Malden, MA & resides in Portland, OR and Berlin, Germany)

Published by Zatara Press (250): Richmond, VA USA copyright 2017

Text: English

Hardcover, Leporello design with glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Wanderer Drucker, Germany

Photobook designer: Zatara Press

Notes:

The ephemeral nature of life is inclusive of the final days, something that is never thought about in our youth, maybe there are hints as one thinks about opportunities yet to achieve in light of recent accomplishments in middle age, until when the concept really sets in as parents become deathly ill or friends and acquaintances unexpectantly pass away. The former was the situation for Robert Lyons’s return from Europe in the summer of 2008 when his mother’s health was failing and his brother needed assistance in caring for her. Lyons was inspired to capture his mother’s likeness as a personal memorial, but she forbade him to photograph her in her remaining days.

What appears as serendipity is an introduction to Walter Niemiec, the uncle of his studio assistant, Erica Ann Flood. Niemiec, who like his mother, was in his advanced years but he was open to Lyons photographic investigation. The resulting photobook Pictures From The Next Day is part environmental portrait, part visual metaphor and part investigation of the ephemeral end of life.

I will have to admit that this book struck an emotional cord regarding the failing health of my mother. Regretfully due to the later stages of Alzheimer’s, she no longer resembled the woman or mother that I knew, thus leading to my other artist projects that investigate her and our relationship. Likewise, Lyons gracefully acquiesce to her wishes not to be photographed (remembered) at this stage of her life and thru Niemiec, he was given an opportunity to “glimpse into my own mortality and aging, something I had not really given much thought to prior

Lyons has attempted to create a visual biography that would speak for who Niemiec is (and was) in the many still life documents. We are introduced to his subject’s various interests, someone who liked to fish, root for his favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, and an interest in building model airplanes. The home appears as a time capsule; dated chairs and lamps, usually in disarray, a typewriter harkening to a pre-computer era, a dust covered VHS unit, portable radios, a not so modern kitchen that includes a telling line-up of now essential medication bottles.

I was also intrigued by the books layout using a leporello design as another metaphoric layer for this environmental portrait. The continuous fold-out of the page-spreads are symbolic of the continuity of a person’s essence, that the various aspects of someone’s life is complex and interrelated, not defined by one particular defining moment. An interesting and well thought out design element, one that I think we will be seeing more of in the future.

This book was selected as one of Interesting PhotoBooks of 2017.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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November 16, 2017

Brandon Thibodeaux – In That Land of Perfect Day

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Photographer: Brandon Thibodeaux (born Beaumont & resides Dallas, TX)

Published by Red Hook Editions: Brooklyn, NY copyright 2017

Text: English

Hardcover, clothbound, gold leaf embossed, sewn binding, quad-tone (two for black and two for grey shades) printing, printed & bound by Wilco Art Books (Amersfoort, Netherlands)

Photobook designer: Heijdens Karwei, Teun van der Heijden

Color Management & Lithography; Sebastiaan Hanekroot, Colour & Books

Notes:

There is something about a long term project that enables a person to patiently dig under the surface façade to create a strong body of work. Like the old metaphor of peeling an onion, it takes time to slowly remove the layers, moving from the distrust of an obvious outsider to eventually allowing access to private moments. Over a period of eight years Brandon Thibodeaux was a frequent visitor and for some, became part of this rural community located in the South. This was not a brief stop, take the photo and then go; to never to be seen again kind of weekend project.

Nevertheless there is still a weariness in the eyes and guarded pose by some of his subjects, while in other photographs his subjects appear to be genuinely open to his presence. I am not sure the latter would have occurred without the long term commitment that Thibodeaux continued to prove by constantly returning to stay for short duration’s in this place.

I believe that Thibodeaux has summarized his project very well with “For eight years I witnessed signs of strength against struggle, humility against pride and a promise for deliverance in the lives I have come to know…for evidence of the tender and yet unwavering human spirit that resides within its fabric…reminded that these themes of faith, identity, and perseverance are common to us all.”

The visual qualities of tenderness, resilience and faith that I find in this body of work resonates with me. The elegant and classical book design with ample margins creates a feeling of dignity for Thibodeaux’s photographs, thus I feel his subjects are afforded that similar dignity.

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

 

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September 14, 2017

Brenda Moreno – B to B

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Photographer: Brenda Moreno (born, Mexico City & resides Mexico & Spain)

Publisher: Witty Kiwi, Italy, copyright 2017

Text: Spanish & English

Essay: Carmen Dalmau

Stiff cover, die-cut with French folds, sewn and glued binding, four-color off-set, printed by Artes Graficias Palermo (Spain)

Photobook designer: Brenda Moreno & Paolo Berra

Notes: Brenda Moreno’s photobook B to B is an interesting curiosity as it is a beguiling narrative. We can surmise that it’s an investigation of a family, maybe even hers, located at a place that includes horses and other small animals, both alive as well as inanimate. These are the basic elements that appear to interact and become intertwined with a few individuals and animals having an occasional cameo role.

The photographs are repeated, cut apart, collage and montaged, sewn back together and appear to be clumsily taped in place, perhaps similar to an unsophisticated family album that indirectly attempts to tell us a story. In the process the story line fades and becomes incomplete, if not incoherent, which I find to be a wonderful metaphor for the inaccuracies and false stories created by memory.

Moreno provides factual visual evidence and although a photograph may be worth a thousand words, her photographs provide only a few vague clues that requires us, the viewer, to fill in the blanks. In Moreno’s book there are a lot of blanks in conjunction with many intriguing hints, which like most curiosities will continue to draw you back.

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

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July 31, 2017

Alla Mirovskaya – Old family Photos and Deep Sky Objects

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Artist: Alla Mirovskaya (born & resides Moscow, RU)

Self-Published & Limited Edition (100): Moscow (RU) copyright 2016

Text: English & Russian

Stiff cover with glued printed panels, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Moscow (RU)

Photobook designer: Alla Mirovskaya

Notes: I will have to admit that lately I have become fascinated with artist books that utilize vernacular photographs to create a narrative. Perhaps even more so when it becomes apparent that the archive source for the photographic material is from one’s own family. This is probably due in no small part to my personal artistic book practice that utilize photographic material from my own family archive. Thus I find Alla Mirovskaya’s artist book Old family Photos and Deep Sky Objects extremely intriguing in how she layers and creates juxtapositions of her archive photographs with found photographs of distant galaxies and star systems.

One aspect of her vernacular photographs is that these appear to be of family, friends and acquaintances. The same subjects keep reappearing throughout her narrative. Another layer of this charming narrative is the inclusion the images of unknown individuals, which are photographs that have been found but without any notes or other information to inform Mirovskaya as to their identity. We would suspect that these photographs are included in a family archive for a reason. With the inclusion of these additional unknown subjects she further acknowledges how complex memory can be when there are potentially related persons and now their identity appears to be lost to the current generation. In some ways I think that this is another form of death as the memory as to who this person represents has died for the family. I think it might be easy to read that these photographs of individuals relate to the transitional nature of memory and its fragility.

Understanding the physics of the speed of light in space Mirovskaya’s found photographs of deep sky objects is the documentation of events that have occurred thousands and thousands of years ago, an even longer transitional memory that makes our current memories pale in comparison. Nevertheless, these two bodies of work within her book share the same context for memory; something was recorded and we have the opportunity to ponder who/what these individuals/events are? Mirovskaya has confounded the reader with another aspect; she mixes the captions of the individuals with those of the star systems and we are left adrift as to who might be whom. This tactic also unmoors the reader from a word/name association and allows deeper introspection of the book.

Equally fascinating for me is the close similarities of how a family archive from Russia compares to that of my own, which speaks of a universality of family. Perhaps all that more poignant given the current economic and political friction that is occurring now between the two respective countries of Russian and the United States. I think that we need to remember that at the family unit level we all share similar interests related to making a living, ensuring we have substance and a decent roof over our heads, love of our family and memories of our past that we attempt to hold on to.

Mirovskaya’s artist book is a very delightful and complex narrative about family memories in the context of the big picture of our complex and changing universe.

Cheers! Douglas Stockdale

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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 Journal. Oh, it also won the photobook competition as well.

Update: CHARKOW was a finalist in the first (2017) Lucie Photo Book Prize.

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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