The PhotoBook Journal

January 17, 2017

Nancy Baron – Palm Springs > The Good Life Goes On

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Photographer:  Nancy Baron (born in Illinois, residing in California, USA)

Publisher:  Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany, © 2016

Essays:  Foreword by Alexa Dilworth; statements by Matthew Weiner and Nancy Baron; quotations by Martha Stewart and Hugh Kaptur

Text:  English

Hardcover book with 120 pages; 63 numbered and titled color photographs; sewn binding, printed and bound in Germany. 22.5 x 22.5 cm

Photobook Designer:  Katharina Stumpf, Kehrer Design Heidelberg

 

Notes:

Palm Springs has been a geographical and cultural mecca (not only for Southern Californians) since the early twentieth century, a place where a variety of endeavors have had the freedom to unfold. Especially in our time, both celebrities and others consider this desert city a notable attraction, an informed center of cultural activities of all kinds, most notably several film and art festivals, a summer photo festival, an excellent Museum of Art, and many more, also in association with its eight sister communities in the Coachella Valley. The dry air supplies a healthy environment for outdoor activities much of the year as well.

Mid-century modern is the architectural style that makes many of the private residences in Palm Springs especially appealing. Some fifty years later, one marvels at the manner and style that seem to seamlessly integrate residential buildings into the desert environment with its seasonal challenges in temperatures, and at the “good life” it supports. Nancy Baron excels as an observer who lets us look over her shoulder to see the marvels which this impactful town presents. It is almost as if time has stood still: In an era of world turmoil the serenity of the desert and its structures forming an enclave for residents serve as the basis for this second volume of Palm Springs photographs by Nancy Baron. (The first volume was previously featured on The PhotoBook by Douglas Stockdale.)

The volume is designed with a square format, as are almost all of the photographs; square compositions have a satisfying feeling of completion when well done, as is the case here. This is in line with the feeling of serenity of the “good life” depicted here. The colors are bright, a series of portraits of the environment and its inhabitants to match the bright desert sun. The emphasis is on the structures in their surroundings; the occupants and owners and their possessions seem part of an ever-changing context that is subject to some cultural influences and interpretations, as well as to a great deal of nostalgia. The volume is well thought out and is pleasant to view and read. The writers of the essays share some personal impressions and experiences regarding this unique town. Nancy Baron shows a special knack for portraying the special characteristics of places along with their cultural phenomena. We are looking forward to her future projects!

Gerhard Clausing

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January 13, 2017

David Carol – No Plan B

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Copyright 2016 David Carol

Photographer: David Carol (born and resides NYC, NY)

Publisher: Peanut Press (Los Angeles, CA)

Essays: David Carol Introduction, Afterword by Jason Eskenazi

Text: English

Hardcover book with debossed cover, sewn binding, duotone printing with slight varnish, captions, printed by Meridian Printing in RI

Photobook designer: Ashly Stohl

Notes: This monograph of David Carol’s photographs recaps twenty-three years of candid and ironic black and white street photography and is a visual testament to his love of this medium. He has been fortunate to have a career as working photographer, but these are his personal out-takes of situations that momentarily captured his wild imagination. These mini-narratives speak to the power of always having a camera available and constantly looking for the possibilities, open to what might unexpectedly come by your way.

His photographs range from the subtle reflection in a window that juxtapositions oil wells with wedding dresses, the surreal image of an oversized white gorilla sitting in front of a suburban home, humorous photographs of his son doing funny kid’s stuff, to the poignant  self-portrait of his cast shadow on the snow holding his symbolic son’s hand. Who has not found themselves trying to talk to someone and something is blocking their face, but Carol recognized this humorous situation and captured it.

Carol seizes upon the opportunity to create humorous antidotes about mankind and as he states “My job is to find stuff and report back”. Which he is doing quite well and he has no plans to do otherwise.

Other photobooks by David Carol featured on The PhotoBook: All of My Lies are True

Cheers

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January 6, 2017

Young-hwan Choi – BABEL

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Copyright 2014 Young-hwan Choi

Photographer: Young-hwan Choi (born & resides in Seoul, South Korea)

Self-Published (South Korea)

Essays: Young-hwan Choi, Dong-sun Jin, Sang-yong Shim

Text: Korean & English

Stiffcover book with tipped in image, perfect binding, four-color lithography, printed by Photonet in South Korea

Photobook designer: Photonet, South Korea

Notes: Choi’s self-published photobook BABEL is a tall, thin collection of black and white photographs that investigate a towering urban landscape in which the vegetation is either attacking a structure or attempting to conceal it, as though a futile potential reclamation is in process.

This is a dark poetic and surreal allegory about the pursuit of happiness by means of accumulating power and wealth through the construction of tall looming structures, similar to the vain construction of the towers of Babel, is but a hollow chase. None of these structures has been able to truly reach heaven.

In writing about Choi’s photograph, Sang-young Shim states “the excessive deficiency of light, which often comes close to absence. Sometimes all light is extinguished except for the minimum required for perception. Even that is reflected light, with the light source nowhere to be seen. The main tones range between grey and black, but as the darkness advances to the extreme level, it often threaten the middle tones as well…the plant is a place that should be brighter, for sure. One should poke a hole through the sky cover in ash-colored clouds. The ominous grey that pressed down should be covered with brilliant colors. But the signs of dawn are too faint.”

I met Choi at Photo Independent last spring in Los Angeles and I was impressed with his photographic exhibit and his two self-published photobooks, this and his earlier REQUIEM (published in 2011).

I find BABAL’s visual narrative to be extremely relevant to the current global events, especially those occurring in the United States. Anyone who builds large and tall structures with their name bronzed in large letters across the front for all to see (hoping for admiration) is indeed pursuing a dark folly that was characteristic of Babel.

Best regards

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January 1, 2017

Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam – When War is Over

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Copyright 2016 Daniel Alexander & Andrew Haslam

Photographer: Daniel Alexander (born Edinburgh, Scotland, resides London, UK)

Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (UK)

Essay: Daniel Alexander

Text: English

Hardcover book with embossed cover, inserts, multiple gatefolds, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Daniel Alexander

Notes: Towards the end of World War I in 1917, the United Kingdom made a decision to establish the Imperial War Graves Commission that currently tracks and maintains the burial of 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead from World War I and II in perpetuity. Daniel Alexander’s photobook When War is Over provides a documentary style investigation of this on-going process of memorialization.

Alexander and Haslam’s photographic project took on more meaning for me as I had recently completed a related photographic project documenting road-side memorials. In my investigation I was documenting what family and friends had erected as a personal memorial at the site of a tragic accident in an attempt to create a remembrance and deal with their personal grief. Similarly Alexander and Haslam investigate an organized process of remembrance for those who tragically passed while serving in the military with the government acting on the behalf of families who might not otherwise have a means or capacity to do so, such that those who passed were honored equally.

For me this photobook calls into the question of how we create a remembrance of those who we have known and loved, but who have now passed on. How do we maintain that memory and how that memory is passed on to later generations? Does a well maintained cemetery create this experience, or does it provide an associated remembrance as an example that is available to us all? Likewise this photobook, although not about someone specifically still elicits a poignant remembrance of my family members who were lost in military action during these wars as well as those who were in the war but have passed since, such as my own father who was in the American army during World War Two.

This photobook documents the various aspects of maintaining these burial sites, which engages administrators, quarry-men, stone cutters, and gardeners for the upkeep of 2,500 cemeteries, 21,000 other burial grounds and 200 memorials for the missing in 154 countries. I also find that this photobook is a sober narrative about the terrible price of war, but if so engaged, those valiantly involved will be remembered.

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December 30, 2016

Ara Oshagan – Mirror

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Copyright 2015 Ara Oshagan

Photographer: Ara Oshagan (born Beirut, Lebanon, resides Glendale, CA, USA)

Self-Published (USA)

Essay by Ara Oshagan

Music & Lyrics by Gor Mkhitarian

Text: English & Armenian

Hardcover exposed boards with tipped in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in China

Photobook designer: Ara Oshagan & Varoujan Hovakimyan

Notes: Ara Oshagan and his self-published photobook Mirror uses a documentary style to create a predominately black and white diary of the Gor Mkhitarian band but with an unusual twist; he incorporates some new technology that allows the viewer to scan the appropriate interior pages and link up the related music on their phone. Oshagan has incorporated the free Aurasma.app (available from Apple or Google) that after downloading and subsequently pointing the phone’s camera to the red icon pages of his book, the reader will be able to experience Mkhitarian’s band play the related music.

Oshagan states “Images mirror music. Music is a mirror of images. Darkness and light reflected in both. The diary’s very structure is a mirror; the lexicon of the pages that follow one another has a visual rhythm, an echo of the ebb and flow of music itself.”

Oshagan was present at Photo Book Independent last spring when I had an opportunity to meet him and discuss his photographs as well as the technology lurking in this book. I usually do not provide reviews of musical band documentaries, but this was really an intriguing collaboration of a nice physical photobook with the download of the related music, which I find more interesting that an iPad experience. I am guessing that once the reader downloads this app, that they should even be able to scan the photographs in this review and interact with the music. Cool.

Cheers

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December 8, 2016

Kenneth O’Halloran – Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing

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Copyright 2016 Kenneth O’Halloran 

Photographer: Kenneth O’Halloran (born Corofin, Country Clare, resides Dublin, Ireland)

Self-published (Ireland)

Essay: Presidential Announcement speech, 2015

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, edition of 500, printed by Mirex, Gdansk (Poland)

Photobook designer: Mac & Ken

Notes: This documentary style project occurred in Los Angles on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2016 during the United States presidential election. O’Halloran’s perspective was that of an outsider looking into an on-going political process, visiting this Southern California region from his native Ireland.

O’Halloran documented the raw emotional reaction of his subjects when confronting the name of one of the candidate’s bronzed in the sidewalk. His portraits of his subjects are tightly composed which appears to add an additional layer of tension to the emotional charged environment surrounding this location.

It might be an understatement that most of his subjects did not appear to react favorably to this landmark, as this candidate went on to lose the popular vote in the election by over two and half million votes as of this writing, while still becoming president-elect.

Best regards, Doug

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October 7, 2016

Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius – Mangini Studio

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Copyright 2014 Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius

Photographic collaborators: Terry Brown (resides Richmond, VA) & Gordon Stettinius (resides Richmond, VA) USA

Publisher: Candela Books (Richmond, Virginia)

Essays: Dr. Manuel Moore, Terry Brown, Gordon Stettinius

Text: English

Hardcover book, embossed and tipped-in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, index, printed by Worth Higgins & Associates, Richmond, VA

Photobook designer: Sarah Rowland

Notes: This photobook is a humorous eight year collaboration between of two photographers, with Terry Brown making the exposures of her subject, Gordon Stettinius (perhaps an alter-ego series of selfies?), with Gordon having the opportunity to play a variety of roles. This conceptual project also reminds me of the work of Cindy Sherman, another photographer/artist who is very adapt at playing a variety of roles for her lens. The reader has an opportunity to really get to know the wild and crazy side of Gordon Stettinius. I will admit, not realizing that this project was underway or knowing Stettinius, it was pretty perplexing to figure out just who Stettinius actually was when I found some of these portraits on-line over the last couple of years.

These interesting, albeit playful, series of studio portraits also has a serious undercurrent that investigates perceived roles and identities.The viewer cannot help in reacting to the various visual persona’s that are represented in this portfolio; hippie, dork, right-wing conservative, left-wing intellectual, low-life, ex-military, skin-head, artist, politician, country musician and even a cross-dresser. I find that this project pokes fun at many of the stereotypes of our society (regretfully pre-Trump), while subtly confronting some of the cultural issues we face today.

Cheers

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September 23, 2016

No Photobook book review this week

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:17 pm

Hello photobook friends,

Regretfully no photobook review will be published this week as I am in the midst of curating a potential photographic exhibition and under a bit of a deadline for the gallery submission.

So ample opportunity for you to look at the past 395 photobook reviews that are available on this site. Use the inquiry box on the right to see if your favorite photographer has a photobook for your reading pleasure.

Cheers!

September 15, 2016

Lisa Elmaleh – Everglades

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Copyright 2016 Lisa Elmaleh

Photographer: Lisa Elmaleh (b. Miami, FL & resides in West Virginia, USA)

Publisher: Zatara Press

Essays: Ann McCary Sullivan & Lisa Elmaleh

Text: English

Hardcover book with wrap around cover with interior pocket, Smyth-sewn binding, interior booklet saddle stiched, lithography, without captions or pagination, printed in Richmond, VA

Photobook designer: Andrew Fedynak and Lisa Elmaleh

This photobook, Everglades, by Lisa Elmaleh is a beautiful sonnet about the Florida Everglades and a testimony to her vision and patience. I had enough issues with a 4×5” camera with sheet film on dry land, least taking on the use of huge 8×10” camera (aptly named Fitzgerald Fitzwilliam Fitzgeorge) and the finicky wet collodion glass negative process while stomping around in a swamp. If you are not familiar with the wet collodion process, which dates back to 1851, it requires that the glass plate be prepared and exposed while still “wet” and immediately developed with acid on site after exposure to further complicate her photographic process even more.

Her landscapes photographs of the Everglades wilderness are lyrical and haunting. The resulting imperfections of the wet collodion process add a measure of serendipity and chance, while creating mysterious poetic images, from all that I am told, not unlike the complexity of the Everglades itself. Due to the limitations of her process, this body of work is not meant to be an exacting documentary style investigation of this massive location, but more attuned to capture the emotional essence of her experience.

The hardcover book has contemporary elements in the binding and inclusion of the introductory booklet while the photographs are sequenced and laid out in a classic style, each plate with ample white margins. The plates have an additional coating that provides a very nice sheen that adds to the visual quality of these beautiful black and white images. The Smyth sewn binding allows the book to almost lay flat upon opening that make this book a delightful experience to read.

The photographic titles and date of exposure is available on Lisa Elmaleh’s web site.

Cheers!

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August 25, 2016

Rania Matar – L’Enfant-Femme

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Copyright 2015 Rania Matar

Photographer: Rania Matar (b. Lebanon – resides Boston, MA, USA)

Publisher: Damiani (Italy)

Essays: Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Louis Lowry, Kristen Gresh

Text: English

Hardcover book with tipped in photo, sewn binding, four-color lithography, captions and pagination, Plates, printed by Grafiche Damiani in Italy

Photobook designer: Jesse Holborn, Design Holborn

Notes: This is Rania Matar’s third book, L’Enfant-Femme (French: The Child Woman) is a continuation of her previous feminine exploration, A Girl in Her Room, of young girls on the cusp of womanhood. Likewise, this is also a study of the similarities and subtle differences of two geographic regions and their associated cultures; Northeastern U.S.A. and Lebanon, places that Matar knows equally well.

Her young subjects have a direct gaze towards the photographer and her lens, thus a direct connection with the viewer. As pointed out in essay by Kristen Gresh, Matar’s analog photographic methods do not provide the immediacy of visual feedback that her subjects probably have become so accustomed to. We view their meditative gaze, not smiling as requested by Matar, but sometimes I can still detect the hint of a smile in the corner of their mouths or in stark contrast, a guarded, if not defiant stare.

Matar’s captions provide a minimum of information about her subjects; age at the time of the portrait, and the young girl’s first name, although to dispel some of the ambiguity about her subjects, the location of each photograph is provided in the concluding page of Plates. To further reveal that these young women are in a stage of rapid transition, the concluding section has a series of facing pages with her subjects at the age of when this project began in in 2011 and then close to its conclusion in 2015.

As elegantly stated by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan “work that inspires the viewers to reassess their stereotypes of girls and women, particularly in the Middle East. In calling these boundary-building preconceptions into question, Matar brings emphasis instead to what is both unique and universal, and thus to what connects us all.”

Like many great photographers, this photobook also provides a glimpse into her latest on-going portrait project in which she is working that I expect will be published soon (hint: daughters and their mothers).

Rania Matar has been previously featured on The PhotoBook: A Girl in Her Room (2012) and Ordinary Lives (2009).

Cheers

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