The PhotoBook

January 23, 2016

Marcin Grabowiecki – Babie Lato


Marcin Grabowieckibabie lato (Indian Summer) Copyright 2013

Photographer: Marcin Grabowiecki (born Gliwice, resides Warsaw, PL)

Published: Muzuem in Gliwicach with Czytelnai Sztuki (Poland)

Essay: Marcin Grabowiecki

Text: English & Polish

Stiff cover book, embossed cover, stab-sewn binding & string closure, edition of 300, four-color lithography, printed in Poland

Photobook designer: Marcin Grabowiecki

Notes: The subject of Grabowiecki’s babie lato (Indian Summer) is an investigation of his identity in the context of exploring the rites of a family summer’s vacation that has evolved over time. He is using his own family photographs culled from a span of over sixty years.

Grabowiecki states “Even though the photographs included in the book come from different periods, they are linked by a common, nostalgic mood. Regardless of the passage of time, we remember summer holidays in a similar way. Time influences the shape of our memories, and it doesn’t spare photographic materials, exposing their fleeting nature mercilessly.”

I am very intrigued by projects that look back at family photographs as visual fragments of events not possible for the author to have experienced. Photographs can become a  melancholy document that point to past events that once those subjects present in the photographs are no longer with us, can only lead us to speculate on what might have been. I find that looking at these, as might the reader, spins me back to my own family history and the unknown stories which are now forever lost.

The book production of 350 copies (300 numbered) borders on being an artist-book; part high production printing partnered with the stab binding and the use of the extended strings to function as a book closure. It has the appearance of a collection of prints, thus the form follows function creating a very nice book object. Well done and on my list of interesting photobooks in 2014.


Best regards









January 13, 2016

Adam Voorhes – Malformed

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Malformed – Forgotten Brains of the Texas Mental Hospital Copyright 2014 Adam Voorhes 

Photographer: Adam Voorhes (born San Jose, CA, resides Austin, TX, USA)

Publisher: powerhouse Books (USA)

Essay: Alex Hannaford

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: DJ Stout & Stu Taylor (TX)

Notes: I obtained this book due to my own fascination with memory and our attempts to preserve it. The brain is where memory both occurs and resides and memory essentially defines who we are. With physical defects of the brain resulting from issues at birth, personal choices we make, an accident or perhaps a disease or condition that had been lurking which has become fully manifest, the ability to have an effective memory in conjunction with cognitive thinking can be at risk. Interestingly, while photographing his subject, Voorhes metaphorically found that many of the his subjects had identification labels that could no longer be read, thus representing a true lost memory.  While these elegant photographs may be difficult to view, both due to the morbid nature of how the brains were obtained and the state that his subjects are in as well as the fact that being examples of deformed brains, these beautiful photographs challenge the viewer to reflect on the lives and memories that these individuals attempted to have.


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January 10, 2016

Julia Borissova – DOM



Copyright 2014 Julia Borissova

Photographer: Julia Borissova (born Talinn, Estonia, resides St. Petersburg, RU)

Self-published artist book, signed and numbered edition of 100

Text: English & Russian

Stiffcover book with stab-sewn booklet and multiple gatefolds, naked-sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Russia

Photobook designer: Julia Borissova

Notes: Borissova investigates home and identity in a subtext of the Document Object Model (DOM) in this complex, layered and very creative self-published photobook. DOM is an acronym from the programming world and is a cross-platform application convention for representing and interfacing with objects using a structured and logical organization. The design of the book’s extended cover allows it to be constructed as a cube and with the full bleed printing; the results can appear like a small model of a house. Borissova has subsequently photographed this model house in a number of environmental situations which she uses for the interior gatefolds of her book. These gate folds open to reveal interior photographs and smaller pages of text by her subjects as to what constitutes a “home”. She has utilized this same model house as a planter for the interior photographs of the accompanying booklet, which as the book progresses, the plant continues to grow and soon overflow the planter.  Combining the concepts of programming organization and logic with inherent messiness of a creative investigation as to what is the meaning of “home” is brilliant. I highly recommend this book if you can still find a copy.

Other photobooks by Julia Borissova that have been featured on The PhotoBook: address & Running to the Edge.









December 29, 2015

Ken Schles – Invisible City


Copyright 2014 Ken Schles

Photographer: Ken Schles (born & resides in Brooklyn, NY)

Publisher: Steidl (Germany)

Excerpts: Lewis Mumford, George Orwell, Jorges Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Jean Baudrillard

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Ken Schles and Jack Woody

Notes: This is a new Steidl version of Schles photobook Invisible City, which was first published by Jack Woody and his Twelvetrees Press in 1988. In an interview with Ken, he states:

Long story on the prints. I’ll go back to when I first made the work and the struggles I had with the material. I always saw myself as a fairly accomplished printer. I built a dry darkroom in a boarded up room in my old tenement from cobbled parts and pieces of old Omega D2 enlargers. I worked as a custom printer for the likes of Magnum photographers Gilles Peress, Eliott Erwitt, Burt Glinn, Erich Hartmann and others who were quite exacting. After the landlord abandoned the building I added filtered running water to the mix.

Printing my own work, given the limits I was pushing the slow film material at the time, printing had its challenges. Working in low light, the resultant negs were thin and contrasty by nature. The photogravure printing of the first edition of Invisible City gave the work another dimension that was hard to replicate (and played nicely off my very contrasty prints). After the work came out in book form, the work became known in that way. A funny thing to say, but I even identified the work with that gravure printing technique. The fact was that the original/traditional silver gelatin prints didn’t look like the gravure and the gravure didn’t have qualities of the silver prints. The look of the book was something I tried to replicate with available silver papers, largely failing. I shouldn’t say failing: it was simply different. A different interpretation. Over the years I sometimes moved radically far in that interpretation. For a time I used a very warm Hungarian paper called Fortezo. I tried matte papers.

When it came time to work with Gerhard on the reprint he asked how I would like to work the images. We could do a facsimile by two methods: I still had a set of prints the original book was made from and we almost went with that. We could also scan an extant copy of the original book as Gerhard did so wonderfully with the reprint of Fabrik. In that facsimile reprint he reproduced not only the original images, but the structure of the original gravure technique.

But even though I wanted the feel of the original gravure, I didn’t want to scan from the book. That certainly would have been easiest for my situation. But after spending so many years struggling to get the prints just so, I knew there were better solutions to be had with the original printing of Invisible City. Back when I made the original prints papers were slower and burning and dodging laborious. I knew the negs had more information to give up. And while the original IC had a great quality to it, I wasn’t convinced that simply porting it to a new edition using contemporary technology would be the answer either. Contemporary printing is quite better. More detail, more precision …what looked good in 1988 using what was, even then, an archaic process (albeit beautiful process) might not work so well now. I decided to scan everything and work from there. This way I was able to shift a few things… get more detail in the blacks, more detail in the highlights without the image blowing out or getting too flat. And I was able to use the same files to make pigment prints so now there is consistency even across media: pigment prints, offset prints and screen images.

The images look different in the different media and have a different presence, but there is a thread that unites the images now, provided by using the same base scans. But even saying that, the final decision to make the exhibition prints using scans and printing with pigment inks wasn’t a predetermined outcome. Working with Howard Greenberg we explored most every silver paper available, even tested making negs from the digital files and Lama printing onto silver paper. I think we all wanted the traditional “wet” silver materials to work. In the end we came back to the pigment prints I had made myself. They seemed the most direct and “honest.” And then tested all variations of ink jet papers available. In the end I went with the Harman Baryta Gloss: it doesn’t have a strange “artsy” texture to it and doesn’t feel too glossy. Surprising how hard it was to find a paper that simple and clean. In the end I made several hundred prints: for the exhibition for Howard Greenberg and the large show at Noorderlicht in The Netherlands. The prints look fantastic. And I think the years of work I put into fine-tuning shows. Prints were just acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MoCP in Chicago, Museum of the City of New York and the Chicago Art Institute for their permanent collections.

As for the Steidl printing: we used the book that Gerhard printed of Koudelka’s Gypsies as a reference point while on press (that Aperture book was where Gerhard felt he perfected this five plate quadratone technique to replicate the feel of the old gravure process). I’d pull a sheet off press and compare. I think we did a better job with my book. I told Gerhard that. He said, “Well, you hope to get better the more you do it. The Koudelka book was the breakthrough.” He’s been perfecting the technique since and it shows.

Now to compare the two editions? They each use their respective technologies to ultimate ends. I was able to correct a few things in the original after 26 years. But the original has a real quality to it as well. I still love to flip through the two together and compare the differences in printing. Some are obvious, some subtle. Some only I notice. But both printings sing and they sing loudly.


When I curated Schles Invisible City into the 10×10 American Photobooks exhibition (2013), I stated:  A gritty documentary project that brought the essence of Robert Frank into the city. A photobook that is a classic and a wonderful example of the progression in photobook publishing.

Other Ken Schles photobook reviewed on The PhotoBook: Oculus









December 28, 2015

Alejandro Cartagena – Before the War



Copyright 2015 Alejandro Cartagena

Photographer: Alejandro Cartagena (born Dominican Republic, resides Mexico)

Publisher: Self-published (Mexico)

Text: English & Spanish

Multiple components, variable sizes, unbound in a heavy printed board folder, black & white lithography (newsprint), printed in Mexico

Photobook designer: Alejandro Cartagena & Fernando Gallegos

Notes: For Cartagena, “in 2008 the war against the drug cartels erupted in México. The State of Nuevo León in northeastern México became an increasingly violent place. The book project is a compilation of images and texts that obsessively revisit places where the war was eventually fought and look for signs of an evil that lay underneath but was invisible to everyone´s eyes at the moment these images were shot.” This complex project is indirectly a critique of photography itself which questions the “meaning” that photographic images seem to hold for the viewer. What do we really know by looking at a photograph of a landscape or a portrait at a given moment in time?

Previous Alejandro Cartagena photobooks reviewed on The Photobook: Carpoolers











December 23, 2015

Alec Soth – Songbook


Copyright 2015 Alec Soth

Photographer: Alec Soth (born & resides Minneapolis WI, USA)

Publisher: MACK (UK)

Text: English

Embossed hardcover book, sewn binding, Photographic Index, black & white lithography, printed by Ofset Yapimevi in Turkey

Photobook designer: Alec Soth & Gregoire Pujade-Lauraine

Notes: The black and white photographs in this photobook are extracted from a photo-reportage style collaborative project, The LBM Dispatch, a newspaper like series of publications that Soth and Brad Zellar created as they toured various states, such as Michigan, in the USA. The photographs emulate a small newspaper documentary style, attempting to capture the daily local events that would be of interest to the community. In a newspaper the photograph would have a well-documented caption and probably related to an accompanying story. Many of Soth’s photographs appear more like out-takes that a newspaper editor would round-file. His photographs move between ambiguous & awkward faceless individuals, to full-faced frontal portraits that appear to describe a person. This is the stuff of local news including that which is not fit to print and without the normal newspaper provided context, all together a strange brew.

Other Alec Soth photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: Kin Subscription number two (Hido, Mueller, Soth, Nolan), One Day – Ten Photographers, Le Belle Dame sans Merci & Michigan










December 22, 2015

Lukas Felzmann – Gull Juju


Copyright 2015 Lukas Felzmann

Photographer: Lukas Felzmann (born Zurich, CH, resides SF, CA, USA)

Publisher: Lars Muller Publishers (Switzerland)

Essays: Lukas Felzmann,

Text: English

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed and bound by Kosel in Germany

Photobook designer: Lukas Felzmann & Integral Lars Muller

Notes: Much like his scientific subject, Felzmann provides a well organized investigation of a unique place, a bird and animal sanctuary located on Farallon Island off the coast of California. It is an introspective study, probing a place where birds roost, mice have gone wild, and the scientific man is interested in how all of the elements and animals thrive and seemingly co-exist over time. Felzmann states “My own work is an archive, formed through an emotional relationship to place and the photographic possibility of creating a metaphor….observing the scientists, I realized that working together in a system or as a community is a creative act.”

Previous Lukas Felzmann photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: Swarm (2012), Waters in Between (2009)










November 23, 2015

Sally Mann – The Flesh and The Spirit


Copyright 2010 Sally Mann

Photographer: Sally Mann (b. & resides in Virginia) USA

Publisher: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) & Aperture Foundation

Author: John B. Ravenal, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

Essays: John B. Ravenal, David Levi Strauss, Anne Wilkes Tucker

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Exhibition History, Bibliography, Index, printed in Singapore

Photobook designer: John Hoar

Notes: This is a photobook that although bears similarities to a retrospective, is a collective body of work by Sally Mann that was earlier exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. To paraphrase the book’s author, “One of the apparent paradoxes in Mann’s work is her desire to show what lies beyond vision by using a medium invented to record reality’s surfaces”. Mann’s recent work with the Ambrotype and Collodion wet plate photographic processes provide her with more opportunities for “chance events” to occur that push her images further into abstraction. For me, there is a strong undercurrent of melancholy in her photographs that span the last forty years, while Mann states that her contemplation is on “Memory, Loss, Time and Love”.











November 13, 2015

Rachael Jablo – My Days of Losing Words


Rachael Jablo  Copyright 2013

Photographer: Rachael Jablo (born USA resides in Berlin, Germany)

Publisher: Kehrer Heilderberg Berlin Verlag (Germany)

Essays: Robert Wuilfe and Dawn Buse

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, List of Plates (photographs), printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Katharina Stumpf

Notes: An introspective study about Jablo’s own personal medical condition and the resulting impact on her life and lifestyle. She investigates the question of what do you do when there are things that are out of your control which subsequently, and dramatically, changes your life for the worse. In Rachael’s situation she found herself suffering from chronic migraines with acute issues of light sensitivity as a side effect, a difficult condition for a person who was a landscape photographer up to on-set of her migraines.









November 5, 2015

Martin Toft – Atlantus


Martin Toft Copyright 2015

Photographer: Martin Toft (born Denmark & resides in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK)

Photographic Archivist: Gareth Syvret (resides in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK)

Publisher: Self-published in conjunction with Societe Jersiaise

Essays: Gareth Syvret

Text: English

Collection of Five (5) softcover zines (Atlantus, Portraits, Precious Galinthia, The Atlantic World, The Transoceanic Journey), unbound, four-color Flexographic printing, printed by PlatformP, Netherlands

Photobook designer: Kummer & Herrman (Utrecht, Netherlands)

Notes: This is a layered, fragmented and intriguing attempt to compare two complex cultural and geographic regions, the island of Jersey, Channel Islands, UK and the state of New Jersey, USA. These two places face each other across the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and trace their roots back to a historical, but related, past. Billed as a multi-functional newspaper and DIY exhibition as some assembly is required. Btw to assemble a complete exhibition of this work, two copies of Atlantus are required. Nicely executed.

Cheers, Doug







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