The PhotoBook

April 20, 2017

Ellen Korth – CHARKOW

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

PublisherSelf-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

Language:  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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