The PhotoBook

March 13, 2017

Bronx Photo League – Jerome Ave

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Copyright 2016 Members of the Bronx Photo League

Photographers: Bronx Photo League (Bronx, NYC)

Publisher: Bronx Documentary Center Editions, Bronx, NY

Essays: Mike Kamber, Ed Murphy

Text: English & Spanish

Hardcover book, linen covers with tipped in image, sewn binding, 93 Black & white photographs, duo-tone printing with spot varnish, captions, member biographs, printed by Fort Orange Press, NY

Photobook designer: Bonnie Briant & Katie Khouri

Notes: Jerome Ave is an investigation of a community within the Bronx of New York by a group of young, budding photojournalist that have come together as the Bronx Photo League. Their purpose and intent is not all-together different from than that of the Photo League of the 1940’s; a collective of inspired photographers who want to learn their craft in conjunction with documenting the local environmental, economic and social changes that surround them.

This hard cover book is a result of one of their recent projects; attempting to document the pending changes to an area of the South Bronx. This is currently one of the city’s poorest regions, much of it situated under the elevated “4” train, a “gritty two-mile stretch of low-slung buildings where thousands of immigrants work in small stores, factories and car repair shops.”

Their focus is principally on the individuals who work and live in this small region to narrative this study, usually including some environmental context that provides clues to the working conditions, thus creating an indirect portrait of the South Bronx. It is evident to the reader that these photographers know their subjects very well by the close and tightly composed portraits, not a quick snap-shot from an impersonal distance.

The manual process of the photographic methods is also a nice metaphor for this project and their subjects who are predominantly providing manual labor to make a living. It appears that another consistent requirement for the photographers is to pay close attention to the framing of their images keeping in mind that there will be no cropping of the negative (a luxury that will come later in their photojournalistic lives).

One nice design aspect of this book that unifies this collective body of work together by the various photographers is the image/page layout; each photograph is framed by the negative’s exterior (yes, old school Tri-X film and manual processing). This design provides a consistency in the reading of the images that I think works very well to illustrate their project.

Cheers

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March 3, 2017

Carol Golemboski – Psychometry

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Copyright 2016 Carol Golemboski

Photographer: Carol Golemboski (b. Shreveport, Louisiana – resides outside Denver, CO)

Publisher: Flash Powder Projects

Essay: Shirley Jackson

Text: English

Hardcover book, embossed cover, duo-tone printing, Smyth sewn binding, captions, printed by EBS, Verona, Italy

Photobook designer: Jordan Swartz

Notes: Golemboski’s monograph of intricate manipulated photographs investigate nostalgia, loss and impermanence. The manipulated prints use an old school Black & White wet-print technique; a mask that is hand-scribe by the photographer to modify her photographic “reality” during the print making process. Her marks are a mash-up of careful delineated lines, scratches, letters, and drawings, which are similar to a digital layer mask in Photoshop. Frequently these masks are pin-registered to the printing paper to ensure precise line-up of the mask with the projected negative. A few of her intricate velum masks are included within the book in perfect alignment with the corresponding print. The effect is to lift the vale on the process that results in the final print. I find the velum’s layers as intriguing as the final print object.

Regarding the book’s title, Golemboski states “In Psychometry, arrangements of old objects in dilapidated spaces serve as metaphors for human emotions and psychological states. The term “psychometry” refers to the pseudo-science of “object reading,” a purported psychic ability to divine the history of objects through physical contact. The objects in these pictures seem haunted. They are designed to transcend their material nature and evoke the mysterious presence of past.”

Personally I have found myself  attempting “object reading” of artifacts of the past; a found photograph, family hand-me-down, or perhaps an old structure that I feel inclined to touch, as though my touch will reveal something of the object’s past. Subliminally I think Golemboski’s photographs connect with me in a similar fashion; that when gazing at her visual poems that I might actually connect with some essence just beyond my comprehension.

In turn, the viewers reading of these hand-altered photographs is as layered as the resulting images, some initially appear to be an easy read, such as Safe house, below, while others are a more complex and ambiguous. In some images the marks attempt to obscure the identity of the object or its external context while in others the marks appear to clarify, instill or attempt to add a layer of meaning. The juxtaposition of found objects with her subsequent inscribed marks creates very magical and beguiling works of photographic art.

Cheers

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February 25, 2017

John Loengard – Moment By Moment

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Photographer:  John Loengard (American, born and lives in New York City)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, 2016

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding; 152 numbered pages; 135 duotone photographs, titled and captioned; name and place index; printed in China; 10.1 x 12.9 inches

Essays:  Preface by John Loengard

Text:  English

Copyright © 2016 John Loengard

Notes:  John Loengard is a photojournalist with many decades of experience. As part of his distinguished career with Life magazine and beyond, he has photographed many notables and others along the way. Thus one will find among the 135 photographs in this volume some interesting shots of singers such as the Beatles (as shown on the dust jacket) and Judy Garland, of visual artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Annie Leibovitz, of politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, and many others. The well-known are often shown in conjunction with less well-known individuals across various locations and times. All of the photographs are well-reproduced duotones, since Loengard considers black and white “often more convincing” than color. He sums up his approach to photography as follows: “The shutter opens briefly to let the camera marry reality to form. Their union gives the picture structure and defines the moment that lives on” (Preface).

Often Loengard captures the viewer’s attention with unusual viewpoints: he depicts the Beatles in a swimming pool, the writer Philip Roth looks away from the camera to answer the question of a visitor who is not shown, John Updike is presented in a very minimalistic fashion: his eyes look back at the viewer in the rear view mirror of a car – thus the unseen helps define that which is seen, and the less familiar casts a new light on the seemingly familiar. The captions for the images merely have the function of supplying a few words of background information, rather than to diminish the viewer’s capacity to get involved in the story told by each picture.

While one could consider this volume merely an excellent retrospective of a renowned photographer’s work, it is much more than that: it also is a compendium of many delightful surprises. Where this volume especially shines, in my opinion, is in the exquisite juxtaposition of images on double-page spreads. Below I have excerpted a few to whet your appetite; some of the intriguing combination principles, besides subject matter from different times and places, are: shapes, patterns, movements, scale, among others.

Gerhard Clausing

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February 9, 2017

Paula Bronstein – Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear

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Copyright © 2016 Getty Images and Paula Bronstein

Photographer:  Paula Bronstein (American, lives in Bangkok, Thailand)

Publisher:  University of Texas Press, Austin, 2016

Essays:  Foreword by Kim Barker / “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb / Afterword by Paula Bronstein

Text:  English

Hardcover cloth-bound book with 228 numbered pages, 114 color images with captions; sewn binding, printed in China. Louann Atkins Temple Women and Culture Series Book 42.

Notes:  Paula Bronstein is a courageous and committed photojournalist with a distinguished career. The cultural and political situation of a war-laden country is not easy to depict, and she does not shirk from a gutsy presentation that documents the Afghanistan situation from 2001 through 2015. In comparison to other book reviews I have done, this particular one has been a true emotional challenge. Paula Bronstein gets right to the heart of things; having received amazing access in difficult situations, she confronts the viewer with a very stark reality through stunning, in-your-face photographic documents, each of which is a story in itself, enhanced by situational details in the captions. The entire volume is a heart-wrenching documentation of America’s longest war. As she depicts a variety of problems, she also provides small glimpses of hope that point to possible solutions.

The volume is divided into three sections labeled “The Situation,” “The Casualties,” and “The Reality.” Besides the 114 color photographs comprising these three sections, there are also three essays: A foreword by Kim Barker deals with the photographer and the context. “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb describes the background as well as the progress that they have made over the years. Paula Bronstein in an ‘Afterword’ (pp. 224-225) also describes some of the difficulties she faced in doing this work.

Subjects covered in this photographic journey include clashes between belief systems, cultural transitions under the influence of modernity, political and military strife, and the promise of educational opportunities for all, against a background of great turmoil. Both people’s fears and hopes are made relevant through the immediacy of the visual documents. Bronstein does her best to illuminate all the things that are often ignored or shoved aside, such as the byproducts of warfare euphemistically labeled “collateral damage” and the difficulties of oppression, be they cultural or religious: she shows the pain of it all, as well as some small joys and pleasures. As the sample double pages from the work shown below illustrate, military and political as well as social and medical challenges are included. Injuries depicted, both physical and mental, cry out for finding solutions to create a better world.

If ever there was a volume that shows the follies of strife and the need to make a huge effort to find peaceful solutions, this is the one. As I write this review, the press reports that the Afghan war killed 25% more children in 2016 than in 2015, as well as causing injuries to 23% more children than the previous year, affecting thousands of families (Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, p. A4), along with all of the equally lamentable adult casualties.

Gerhard Clausing

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February 7, 2017

Barbara Kyne – A Crack In The World

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Copyright 2016 Barbara Kyne

Photographer: Barbara Kyne (b. Hoboken, New Jersey – resides. Oakland, CA)

Publisher: Daylight Books (USA)

Essays: Barbara Kyne, Susan Griffin, Jasmine Moorhead

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Index, printed in China

Photobook designer: Ursula Damm

Notes: Barbara Kyne and her partner Fran Lowe have property in Mariposa, located east of the San Francisco bay in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. The land is a bit rough and tumble, which is to say a little on the wild side. Although her book appears to be an abstraction of the natural landscape, Kyne is seeking to go beyond the apparent and investigate an aspect of nature that we do not usually think may be occurring; how does nature view itself?

In nature we take for granted that there is an active interplay between the wildlife animals, birds and other crawly creatures, but we have not been taught or made aware that perhaps the trees and vegetation may actively communicating among themselves. Kyne has tapped into the writings and scientific investigations that gives credence that plants and trees are in a sense actively communicating with each other. Thus raising the question; if plants and trees can perceive, what might they comprehend and what could that vision look like?

In discussing this book, she stated “And my work is about reality. Reality and time. I’m just looking at reality from what I imagine is the perception of another species. I’m attempting to expand our perception of reality and let go of or at least loosen the grip of our human-centric perception.”

Her photographs are abstract and very lyrical as I find Kyne’s hypothesis and subsequent investigating to be very intriguing and visually beautiful.

Other photobooks by Barbara Kyne reviewed on The Photobook: Gerhard Clausing’s review of By Fire

Cheers

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