The PhotoBook Journal

March 23, 2018

Laia Abril – On Abortion

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:09 am

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Artist: Laia Abril (born & resides Barcelona, Spain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2018

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color and duotone lithography, printed by Grafiche dell’Artiere, Bologna (IT)

Photobook designer: Laia Abril, Ramon Pez

Notes: The extended title of Laia Abril’s new book is A History of Misogyny, Chapter One, On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Access, which is a bit more informative as to her extended photojournalist investigation. The key word is repercussions, as she provides ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities.

Abril has not shy’d from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like subject. Abril and her co-designer Ramon Pez have incorporated this multi-layering theme into the design of the book which incorporates narrow interior pages that create overlapping pages. These narrow pages when turned  then reveal additional text and images to further inform the reader. The book design reinforces their narrative as to state; nothing is very easy or as straight forward as it might first appear.

In her earlier book The Epilogue, she weaved sharply delineated family archive photographs of her subject in with her own documentary style photographs, while in this book the archive photographs of her subject are frequently less defined. In many instances there is only a hint of a potential likeness of her subject, perhaps due to confidentiality.  Nevertheless I find the abstracted portraits to create more visually expansive images and allowing the reader to reflect on their own version of this story. Does it really change the impact of her narrative if we see the actual likeness of someone who has passed away as a result of some botched medical procedure or social/cultural taboo?

This book is a call to action and the subject is still extremely slippery, while she makes a strong case that we as a society need to reexamine many of our cultural and moral beliefs as to these difficult situations for women.

Other photobooks by Laia Abril featured on The PhotoBook Journal: The Epilogue and Thinspiration

Cheers

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March 14, 2018

Michael Dalton – The Great Falls

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:22 pm

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Photographer: Michael Dalton (born Marshfield, MA & resides in MA)

Published by Peperoni Books, Berlin, DE copyright 2017

Text: English

Hard cover book, sewn, printed by Wanderer, Germany

Photobook designer: Kiran Puri

Notes: I was fortunate to share a table at the Medium Festival in San Diego last October adjacent to one that Michael Dalton was hosting and able to leisurely discuss his first book, The Great Falls, in a little more detail. Thus learn that his beautifully rendered photographs were created with an 8×10” camera and that a number of the images in his photobook are essentially contact prints from those large sheets of film. And that the double exposures were created purposefully, allowing for some serendipity that results from this exposure experimentation.

This photobook is a gritty biography of a post-industrial city; Patterson which is located in a region of New Jersey that has seen better times. Dalton provides ample visual evidence that at one time Patterson was a bustling city of commerce that probably thrived on the flowing river and falls within its boundaries as evidenced by the large industrial size remnants.

His documentation of the debris, trash and abandoned buildings appear to haunt his urban landscape as he takes an unkind eye to his subject. Perhaps the city of Patterson is indeed in a deteriorating state and this project might be construed as another “ruin-porn” documentation common to post-industrial blight. Even his lyrical photographs have discerning elements; a rusting metal container, shattered glass, green slime and graffiti that belie a tranquil landscape.

Nevertheless, Dalton captures an undercurrent of resilience for this tough area, photographing individuals and couples who call this city home. Perhaps due to the fact that his subjects know that they are being photographed (hard to sneak a photograph when using a giant 8×10” camera), they do not appear to show the strain of living in the troubled environmental conditions that encompass this region. His subjects are standing amid the trash, perhaps in part resignation to the surrounding conditions, yet showing indications of affection and that provides some element of hope that these individuals will persevere.

Likewise, the book ends with a series of green and lush landscape photographs that implies that nature, and perhaps mankind, is slowly reclaiming this region and that that an order and balance may yet be restored.

This photobook is solidly produced, rendering the color photographs with clarity and dignity, a delightful book to hold and read.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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February 14, 2018

Lynn Alleva Lilley – Tender Mint

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Photographer: Lynn Alleva Lilley (born Silver Spring, MD & resides Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Published by Eriskay Connection, 2017, the Netherlands

Text: English

Poems: Samih al Qasim, Jane Hirshfield

Stiff cover fine canvas, sewn & glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Jos Morree (Fine Books)

Photobook designer: Rob van Hoesel

Lithography: Sebastiaan Hanekroot (Colour & Books)

Notes: I have to admit that I feel some aspects of disassociation when I embark on long transcontinental flights for an international assignment and then various degrees during the trip, usually when alone in the evening with only my thoughts. Thus Lilley’s recently released photobook, Tender Mint, which explores similar feelings that resulted from her families long term relocation from Maryland to the country of Jordan emotionally resonates with me. I understand how these personal feelings of displacement can become further acute when the written and spoken word do not resemble your native language, in my case it was the written Mandarin characters of China, while she became suddenly immersed in the Arabic script of Jordan, neither resemble the written English of America.

There are other radical cultural changes for her family to adapt to as well: social norms and policies, housing, infrastructure, shopping, food, aromas, scents and for the Arabic world, the religious customs. For Lilley even the new landscape was foreign; moving from the lush Northeast American costal area to an arid and hot desert region. She also reveals the personal loss that occurred with the passing of her father while she was in this distant location.

Lilley’s photographic project appears to rise out of trying to make sense of this mysterious land, to find a way to ground her family and herself in this strange culture while dealing with aspects of the changes to their lives that probably seemed beyond their control. That she was also concerned about how she as an American woman might be perceived in this new environment strikes me as a potential feminine quality of this visual project.

Choosing to document and visually investigate the animals within a confined landscape of a local zoo as a part of this project appears to provide metaphoric potential to reveal her feelings. The most striking photograph in that regard is the first image below, that of the small group of monkeys who appear to be cowering in the back edges of their cage. The sense of confinement is made palpable by the slightly out of focus barrier fencing in the foreground that extends over the entire frame. A younger animal appearing to be tightly clinging to an older animal, which we might deduct as one of the animals parents. The two appear to be holding each other in such a way as to provide physical if not emotional comfort. In the foreground at the edge of the frame is a larger animal whose dark features are difficult to discern. Symbolically I read that this could be Lilley’s father, who is distant and although in the same location, metaphorically these two individuals could be in their own confinement in their respective locations, hers in Jordan and his in America.

Lilley has grappled with the daunting and difficult task of not only documenting a new environment but attempting to place this experience in the context of her own feelings that result from the turbulent changes to her and her families lives.

Cheers

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January 25, 2018

Louie Palu – Front Towards Enemy

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Photographer: Louie Palu (born Toronto, Canada & resides Washington DC)

Published by Yoffy Press: Atlanta, GA (USA) copyright 2017

Essay by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu

Text: English

Stiff cover Zine with metal saddle stitch binding, Cards, Leporello (Accordion), soft cover Newspaper, folded without binding, exhibition insert, housed in printed chip-board folder with cover flap, four-color lithography, printed in Turkey

Photobook designer: Jordan Swartz

Notes: War. I don’t understand it and fortunately I have not had to experience it, although I live on an old WW2 bombing range, that’s another story. Louie Palu in his new multi-media publication (can we really call this a photobook?) Front Towards Enemy provides a version of a photo-documentary that resulted from a self-assignment investigation of the war conflict in Afghanistan. This is a very complex region; socially, economically, politically and environmentally that Palu has tried to emulate with an equally complex and layered print concept.

His multi-media conceptual photobook immediately reminded me of Alejandro Cartagena’s 2015 self-published Before the War, which in retrospect, I have found so complex at the time as to be visually overwhelming. There are similar aspects about Palu’s publication as well.

Palu’s photobook has four major components and then each of these break down or expand from there. Part newspaper, The Void of War, part zine, The Fighting Season, part leporello, part a pack of picture cards and finally an insert that suggests how to assemble of this into a exhibition. Wow.

Rebecca Senf in her assay discusses the parallels between Palu and W. Eugene Smith as to how Smith after his tiff with Life magazine about his Albert Schweitzer photo essay left the magazine and went independent. As Palu was self-assigned for his Afghanistan project, likewise he did not have to conform to the norms of a picture editor, but completed his project on his own aesthetic terms. We do not always see his subject but are provided indirect evidence of his subject’s presence; a cast shadow, an out of focus form, heads bowed, truncated feet, legs and arms. A photo-documentary that attempts to connect with the heart.

Newspaper; The Void of War; interior pages with images that are an impressive 8-1/2” h x 21-1/2” w; the ultrawide format of the camera lens creates a distorted visualization that echos the frequently un-nerving human situations that are in a state of progress. The photographic quality of the newsprint has low contrast with muddled blacks, typical of an area of newspapers and harken back to newspaper coverage of the Vietnam War era.

Zine; The Fighting Season, saddle stitch binding, with the essays by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu and includes the book’s colophon. A mix of the trauma of warfare with the background of the human element, the children and adults with their animals who try to survive in the region amidst the war.

Leporello (Accordion); 14 continuous panels, printed full bleed that when unfolded extends 13 feet, with the photographs on one side and the caption printed on the reverse. The physical manipulation of the leporello to look at the images and then read the corresponding caption is awkward and not meant to be an easy act. The last image (or depending on how you fold the leporello, the first image) of a seriously wounded Afghan solider in a Medevac helicopter’s blue light is incredibly haunting.

Cards, individual prints, which are printed full bleed, 11”h x 7-1/2”w, on heavy card stock. Captions are provided on the reverse side. These are tightly cropped portraits of his subjects who are soldiers that are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.  I find their eyes and gaze visually riveting.

Single page insert: Instructions and suggestions on how to create one version of an exhibition with this publication.

As one moves from one part of the publication to another, there is a feeling of messiness, an interesting feeling, perhaps a simulation of the awkward and strained social and environmental conditions that Palu is encountering. Another dimension of this body of work.

Palu has stated that although he has experienced some aspect of war, his photographs cannot provide the reader with the full experience of what this is. Similarly, this review is an attempt to describe a complex publication, but cannot provide the reader with the full experience. Highly recommended you obtain your own copy.

Other books published by Louie Palu that have been reviewed on TPBJ: Cage Call

Cheers!

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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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November 7, 2017

Frank Cancian – Lacedonia – An Italian Town, 1957

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:12 am

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Photographer: Frank Cancian (born Stafford Springs, CT and lives in Irvine, CA)

Self-Published (350): Irvine, CA, second edition copyright 2017

Essays: Franco Arminio, Rocco Pagnatiello and Frank Cancian

Text: English

Stiff cover, perfect bound glued binding, digital lithography, printed by Hemlock Printers (Canada)

Photobook designer: Doug daSilva

Notes:

As an anthropologist by training and a photographer as a creative passion, these two elements were fused together in 1957 when Frank Cancian investigated a small Italian hill-top community located east of Naples. This body of work would also pass for a photojournalist story found in either LIFE or LOOK magazines of this same period. It is now a photobook of memories about social and economic conditions that have since evolved.

As a trained observer of culture and society, Cancian’s process did not allow him to remain aloof and at a distance, but to directly interacted with his subjects, catching them in self-reflection as well as allowing them to boldly face his lens. For a small Italian town, an Italian-American stranger with a camera was an oddity, thus his presence was conspicuous. Nevertheless, over time he was able to blend in and become more of an objective observer.

The book is divided into four sections; The Town, The Piazza, Procession of Our Lady of Graces and The Farm, all important elements to life in this region following WWII. The double page spread of a wedding progression as it snakes along the hilltop road winding through the town is beautifully composed. The light drizzle adds an interesting atmospheric effect. Cancian includes in the edge of the frame in the foreground a small knot of townspeople who although are not part of the wedding procession, are still very interested in this local event. Likewise the humorous pairing of the padre and the individual with the up cast eyes could be a metaphor for good and evil, as we suspect the good intentions of the padre, but are not sure of the sly look of his other subject.

The first Edition hardcover book was published by Delta 3 Edizioni, copyright 2013, who regretfully chose a lithographic printer that either had inadequate color management or was asleep at the wheel while this book was being printed; major color shifts that are too noticeable, especially when these occur with a photograph spanning a page spread, with one page in one color, while the other half is another color. To Cancian’s credit he felt compelled to self-publish this book in a second edition under his direct publishing control for the US market. There are 20 additional photographs and the Italian text was not provided in the second edition. Regretfully as with most glued perfect binding, this book design does trap some of the image content in the gutter diminishing the visual effect of photographs that are a double page spread.

Cancian is a first generation American whose family had emigrated from Italy, thus his project is part autobiographical. Cancian’s Lucedonia is a Finalist in the recent Lucie Photobook Awards for this self-published edition.

The first edition of Cancian’s book was reviewed previously here: Lucedonia

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

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October 24, 2017

Chris Mottalini – Land of Smiles

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Photographer: Chris Mottalini (born Buffalo, NY & resides Brooklyn NY, USA)

Self-Published: Corgi Editions (E: 350): Brooklyn, NY copyright 2017

Text: English & Thai

Stiff cover with French folds, Japanese folded pages and cold-glue binding, four-color lithography, printed in Belgium by Die Keure

Photobook designer: Remake Design (Mike Dyer)

Notes:

Chris Mottalini’s recently self-published photobook Land of Smiles is a visual rhapsody in three distinct movement in the way it is episodic yet strangely integrated. The photographs of each of the three movement are free-flowing in structure and overall has a range of moods, color and tonality.

This book project coincides with three of his recent visits to Thailand in which Mottalini investigated three attributes of the Thai landscape, one aspect on each journey. He first noted of the use of florescent tubes as night lights in the countryside, which creates surreal night landscapes. Subsequently Mottalini investigated the myriad of narrow streets and alleyways of the large city of Bangkok and then on a return to the country side during his next visit to explore the nighttime dense fauna within the limitations of an artificial light. The two dark movements then create endcaps to the brilliantly colors and complex cityscapes.

The book’s design with the use of the Japanese folded pages and textured papers is a brilliant choice as this book object has what be best described as an oriental experience. A classic case of form following function.

Mottalini has stated (discussions with Michael Adno for Aint-Bad and Jon Feinstein for Humble Arts) that “Land of Smiles is intended to be a dreamlike experience, a collection of blurred memories, a wandering, distracted meditation….Land of Smiles is a nickname for Thailand which was invented by the tourism industry, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, I thought it was a perfect title for the book, though, in part because my photographs are so opposite of anything related to tourism and the Western world’s perception of Thailand.”

Previous Chris Mottalini photobook reviewed: After you Left, They took it Apart

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October 12, 2017

Tymon Markowski – Flow

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:32 pm

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Photographer: Tymon Markowski (born Kraków & resides Bydgoszcz, Poland)

Self-Published & Print Edition (400), Limited Edition (100): Bydgoszcz, Poland, copyright 2017

Text: English & Polish

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Hard cover, Leporello (Concertina) layout, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Chromapress (Bydgoszcz, Poland)

Photobook designer: Katarzyna Kubicka

Editor: Joanna Kinowska

Notes: Tymon Markowski’s self-published photobook Flow is a book design that conceptually emulates his subject, a leporello that unfolds almost as continuously as the Brda River. This is a classic design in which form follows function.

The captions for each photograph, English and Polish, are provide on the reverse of the photographs, and due to the leporello design, requires the viewer to physically flip from the front to the back (verso) to attempt to comprehend the photograph/caption relationship. As Markowski states “I wanted to hide the captions so you can follow the two stories – one created by the pictures, and second created by text….It was extremely important to me that the viewer first see the pictures that provokes questions and is is my habit to create a caption that may resolve a mystery

Markowski follows the small river Brda to capture the citizens of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship as this river meanders to the Vistula River in the city of Bydgoszcz, the eighth largest city in Poland.

This is an investigation of the culture of this region, frequently tongue-in-cheek, providing subtle humor as he gently pokes fun at his adopted city and adjacent country side. A fireman stands in the midst of a green forest with his limp hose line attempting to practice his trade of extinguishing a forest fire without benefit of either water or a fire to quench.  A kayaker navigates a stream of water that is so absurdly narrow that the Kayak barely fits and one wonders how he was able to get to this place and where he is going next. The accompanying captions provide documentation of these tasks in an understated matter-of-fact style that belies a dry wit.

The ability to spread out the book’s interior photographs, a key attribute of the book’s Leporello design, also signifies a potential interconnectedness of this large community and points to the underlying social order.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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October 6, 2017

Alejandro Cartagena – A Guide to Infrastructure and Corruption

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Photographer: Alejandro Cartagena (born Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic & resides Monterrey, Mexico)

The Velvet Cell: Berlin (Germany) copyright 2017

Essays by Ximena Peredo

Text: English

Pair of books; hard cover, embossed exposed boards, sewn and taped binding, and a stiff cover, saddle stitch, both four-color lithography, Edition of 450, signed and numbered, printed in Taiwan

Photobook designers: Alejandro Cartagena, Fernando Gallegos & Eanna de Freine.

Notes: I was fortunate to meet up with Alejandro Cartagena while he was visiting in Los Angeles for his exhibition opening shortly after the release of this book. Part of his artistic practice is to document what interests him and allow that body of work to accumulate over time to speak to him.

He has been watching the urban sprawl that transforms open country side into suburbia which eventually is assimilated by every the expanding cities. Mexico, as in the In the United States, when freeways, railways and other public works have been determined to be necessary by the city planners, this construction takes precedent over individual land ownership and rights, the eminent domain rules are evoked.

Thus a nice home or thriving business may find itself beset with an emerging and unplanned esthetic, if not economic, crisis. Regretfully this is not a new cultural issue and photographically this type of social-economic urban transformation was documented by Atget in Paris as early as the late 1800’s.

Once a back yard that was open to the neighbors, now has a view transpired to that of the freeway wall or into a highway underpass. With the proximity of a new roadway is the accompanying noise, traffic, litter and related personal safety concerns of a high traffic location. All for the greater good or as stated by Cartagena, “Their view is a permanent view of “progress””.

The publication is divided into five chapters, four of these in the larger book, the fifth in the smaller accompanying book; The Road you Take, The Dispossessed, Where to Cross, Structural Corruption and Epilogue. The viewer is taken on an irregular journey of the landscape of change, the social impact of the resulting changes, ugly personal overpasses meant to help resolve the social changes and the closed walls of the city planners the implied blindness to the changes that are either contemplating or implementing. The Epilogue has gruesome images of people who have been hung from the overpasses, which are difficult images to look at, images that have more tolerance in being displayed in the Mexican media, but perhaps no more terrible than the new man-made urban landscape that is subtly attacking the social fabric.

In conclusion from an interview of Cartagena with Eanna de Freine; “The new infrastructure needs to be built and nothing will stand in its way. No house, business or group of people. It cuts through the landscape and urbanscape to impose its progress. There is a power in infrastructure. Power imposes things on those without power… I was also interested in showing how the new eats up what was there before, i.e. the buildings, advertisements, roads and parking lots.  The new infrastructure doesn’t care for anyone but itself.”

Other books reviewed include: Rivers of Power, Before the War, and Carpoolers

 

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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