The PhotoBook Journal

December 3, 2018

MAGNUM China

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Magnum China, Edited by Colin Pantall and Zheng Ziyu

Published by Thames & Hudson, copyright 2018

Essays; Colin Pantal, Zheng Ziyu, and Jonathan Fenby

Text: English

Hardcover with dust jacket, 376 pages, 350+ photographs and illustrations, printed and bound by Pacom, South Korea

Notes: As a child raised on her American grandmother’s stories of moving to China in the early 1920s who then followed in those footsteps with a post-college English teaching job, to say this reviewer was eager to get her hands on a copy of MAGNUM China would be a major understatement. Having arrived just a few months prior to what became the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, I left abruptly on the first passenger flight out in early June 1989 and have not returned since.  China has remained, in my mind and in my dreams, an unresolved puzzle, left yet to be finished on the kitchen table, as if one got up to answer the phone and never came back. Thus I turn the pages of MAGNUM China with hopes of finding all the missing pieces

Like the country itself, the photobook MAGNUM China, is an impressive thing to behold, one that will demand revisiting time and time again in order to take in the full scope of its riches. Featuring the high caliber of imagery that one can reasonably expect for any Magnum publication, this 376 page book includes work of more than 25 of the world’s best photographers, spanning 80 years, from 1938 to 2017.

In fact, as is noted in the section featuring Robert Capa’s 1938 documentary work in Hankou, the language barriers and surveillance challenges he faced provided Capa the time to contemplate not only his own work as a photographer, but to develop the idea of a collective of photographers that would become Magnum. This became the premiere photo agency founded by Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, among others, in 1947. Thus the argument could be made that without China there might not have been a Magnum, and without Magnum, there would be a less historically significant and culturally influential record by which the world can understand China, and China can understand itself.

The introductory “conversation” between China based photo Editor and Curator Zheng Ziyu and the English writer and photographer Colin Pantall offers insight not only to the selection of images that follow, but also to the shifting perception of China. Once considered an exotic/closed off society rarely seen by Westerners, today’s understanding of China is a more nuanced portrayal in which Chinese photographers, writers, and historians have more authorship over their own story.

MAGNUM China is divided into four sections: A Time of War 1938-1949; The Mao Zedong Years 1950-1976; The Deng Xiaoping Years 1977-1992; and The Era of a Global Superpower 1993- present.  Each section begins with an informative multi-page introduction by Jonathan Fenby which provide context to the images that follow; a timeline of significant political and cultural events during that period, and a list of in country travels for the photographers, a sampling of whose work is then presented.

It is tempting to gorge on all the finely printed photographs in one sitting. However, like an all you can eat image buffet, a bit of pacing and restraint is advised. There is much to satisfy the hungry viewer’s appetite, such as the late 1940s work of Henri Cartier Bresson, the gorgeous color work of Eve Arnold’s sympathetic portraits of the late 1970s, and the confection of Martin Parr’s commissioned portraits of the nouveau riche of 21stCentury Hong Kong. However, it is well worth pausing between courses, to digest the work of each photographer, and read the text for an understanding of their unique relationships to this vast and complicated country. Learning when they first visited China, how often they went, what their impressions were, which publications (if any) they were shooting for, enriches one’s appreciation for the subjects these world class photographers chose (and did not choose) to focus on.

The first section “A Time of War” has the most limited range of work, just that of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier Bresson, due to difficulty of travel and access in the pre-communist era of the late 1930’s-40’s. Here you will see Capa’s work for LIFE magazine, depicting a China still battling Japanese invasion, and Cartier-Bresson’s late 1940’s documentation of the fall of the ruling Kuomintang and the subsequent victory of Mao Zedong’s invading army. Especially moving is the image of “A bewildered old man searching for his son…” as the new recruits are called up and marched off to a certain defeat. The worried man in his black hooded robe tugs on his long white beard, his shadow stretching out behind him to the young soldiers who smile in the background, both the old and new era unaware they will soon be obliviated by the advance of the Communists.

One of the joys of this book is the inclusion of layouts from magazines that first published these images. The reader is able to thus experience how Western audiences first saw what this historically closed society looked like.

The second section “China, 1950-1970” includes not only the fine work of Werner Bischof’s Hong Kong series of shanty towns and growing skyline from the early 1950s, the observation of humanity in Marc Riboud’s first trip to China in 1956 at the dawn of the Cultural Revolution, and the early years of China’s re-engagement with the outside world as shown in the 1973 photographs of Bruno Barbey, among others. Also included is ephemera such as Riboud’s press pass and Bischof’s wrinkled caption list for his series The End of the Road. One can feel the impact of the typewriter keys hitting the page before being sent off to the Magnum office in Paris, giving the viewer the sense of being not only in the midst of China’s momentous changes, but in the mind of the photographer as they documented them. Pity there was no way to include the short 16mm films shot by Swiss photographer Rene Burri, though his early work (his was a 30 year “love affair” with China) is nicely represented with his photographs of young pioneers marching in the snow, and dead lotus flowers reflected on a lake that evokes the modernist line drawings of Picasso.

Of particular interest to this reviewer are the photographs in the third section, “The Deng Xiaoping Years, 1977-1992” as they include glimpses of the China familiar to visitors of the post cultural revolution/pre Tiananmen era, a vast society on the cusp of great, though not always comfortable, change. Of equal interest is the inclusion (at last!) of the work of two female photographers, Inge Morath and Eve Arnold, hinting that it was not only China that was opening itself up, albeit ever so cautiously, to the outside world. Perhaps Magnum too was expanding itself to welcome new perspectives; however limited the opportunities, they were long overdue.

Inge Morath’s work from the late 1970s offers fresh, “optimistic” view of everyday life, be it the 6:30am bicycle commuters passing through the dappled light of a roadside tree, or soldiers seated on the mountainside carving of a laughing Buddha, or her husband Arthur Miller directing a 1983 production of his play Death of a Salesman.  Immediately following Ms. Morath’s black and white images comes the saturated tones of reds and greens in Eve Arnold’s well traveled portraits of communes, factory and domestic workers, and farmers on the plains of Mongolia. The text describes the difficulty that Arnold had in photographing common people not yet accustomed to the sight of an independent Western woman, but she “came out of the country with fresh, original and life affirming images” symbolizing the end of tragedies and “changed the way the world viewed China.”

In the early 1980s photographs of Patrick Zachmann, one can begin to feel the presence of the outsider’s gaze and China’s gradual courtship with long forbidden Western influence. Close up faces of average Chinese citizens smile with curiosity back at the camera, actors prepare for film-shoots, young couples waltz in private apartments, and somewhat disturbingly, a bare breasted prostitute sits on a rumpled bedspread, staring directly at the lens, or perhaps the man behind the camera. Subsequent images of modern Chinese culture flaunting their newly acquired bling carry the same troubling impact as this photograph. The prostitute, unlike the old man in Cartier-Bresson’s 1948 image of the old man searching for his son, seems very much aware of the bleakness of her position, and has resigned herself, like her country, to a reality in which the pursuit of money is the new game in town, and everyone is a potential whore.

Despite the quantity and caliber of photographers that covered the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and the brutal crackdown in which “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of peaceful demonstrators, a majority of which were idealistic University students, were killed, MAGNUM China offers surprisingly few pages devoted to this world event. Thankfully included is an image by photographer Abbas which shows the early student gatherings mourning the death of beloved Communist party official Hu Yaobang. For those who know that these gatherings were the start of what became the Tiananmen demonstrations in the weeks preceding the official state visit of Mikail Gorbachev, (thus the world press arrived in Beijing and broadcast an embarrassing political moment that highlighted internal power struggles), this image is an important inclusion in the Portfolio. (Full disclosure, this reviewer had the honor of meeting Abbas on the day this image was taken, and his comment “This feels just like Iran”, referencing the start of the Iranian revolution, sent chills down my spine). The significance of this gathering is not fully conveyed by the placement of Abbas’ image opposite Patrick Zachmann photo of a theatrical student writhing on the ground as she “performs the pain of the Chinese people”. Real people died, brutally, and it was well covered. The avoidance of those images is, to this viewer, the only disappointment of this otherwise magnificent book, and despite the inclusion of Stuart Franklin’s view of the famous “Tank Man” on the wide boulevard leading away from the bloodied square, causes one to reflect on the compromise that countries and cultural entities alike have made in order to continue to do business with and in the economic powerhouse that is now China.

However, in the final section “The Era of a Global Superpower, 1993-present” there are hints that it is not only the photographers (Ian Berry, Stuart Franklin, Jim Goldberg, Chris Steele Perkins, among others) who are conscious of the price China’s citizens have paid for its ascent to the top of the global ladder. So too the editors of MAGNUM China, in their choice of image sequence, make the subtle point that while some Chinese now enjoy luxuries such as fancy cars and amusement parks, others have lost their homes to the development of the Three Gorges Dam.

In a particularly moving series, Taiwanese photographer Chien-Chi Chang documents mental patients who are literally chained together, forcing a level of cooperation that may neither be sincere nor lasting. These haunting black and white images immediately follow Martin Parr’s bold color work focusing on rapacious consumption, which with all Parr’s work, are very strong on their own merit. But taken in as the editors intend, one senses that not everything about China’s great success has been without great cost. Chien-Chi Chang also documents North Korean defectors who must hide their identities from the authorities as well as the camera while traveling through mainland China en route to what they hope is freedom in South Korea. China may have many riches, as beautifully demonstrated throughout this book, but freedom is not yet one of them.

Highly recommend.

Enjoy!  Melanie Chapman

Editor’s note: This photobook was selected as one of the “Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2018” by The PhotoBook Journal editorial team.

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November 26, 2018

Manfred Heiting photobook collection – Woolsey Fire 2018

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Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, 1882, 1st edition, English, cloth cover

As some of you know, Manfred Heiting’s extensive photobook collection was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) in 2012 and was destined for their Hirsch Library. His photobook collection was approximately 22,000 volumes, of which 5,828 photobooks were relocated to the museum while the remainder resided at Heiting’s residence in Malibu, California.

The recently Woolsey fire in Southern California swept through parts of Malibu and recent reports are that Heiting’s residence and the remaining collection was impacted.

This is the statement from MFAH (issued 11-21-18)

On Friday, November 16, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow received a message from collector Manfred Heiting. Mr. Heiting reported that he had learned that his Malibu house and collections had been destroyed in the Woolsey fire, including most likely books, photographs and ceramics that were destined for the Museum. Thankfully Mr. Heiting and his wife, Hanna, were not on the property and are safe. Neither of them has been able to see the property to verify the extent of damage.

In 2012, the Museum had committed to the acquisition of these collections, still in formation, with an agreement that they would ultimately be transferred to Houston by 2023. These include 22,000 books related to the history of photography, and approximately 100 photographs. Since 2012, Mr. Heiting has been in the process of cataloguing and photographing each volume that was destined for the Museum. This has been a years-long process that has already yielded authoritative scholarly publications on Soviet, Japanese, German and Czech photobooks. While 5,828 volumes have already been relocated to the Museum, the remainder are presumed destroyed.  All of us at the Museum are profoundly saddened by this devastating loss to the field and to history. Until the extent of the damage has been determined, we will have no further comment.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that the results are not as bad as feared.

Note, the two titles included in this article are safely located at the MFAH Hirsch Library. Photo credits; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Best regards,

Doug

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Man Ray, Photographs by Man Ray, 1979, 1st edition, English, cloth cover, paper dust jacket

 

October 16, 2017

The PhotoBook Journal interview – Alejandro Cartagena

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:07 pm

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Alejandro Cartagena, Los Angeles, 2017 Douglas Stockdale

Alejandro Cartagena first jumped on my photobook radar when I obtained his Suburbia Mexicana, a monograph that was published jointly by Daylight Books and Photolucida in recognition of Cartagena’s Critical Mass submission award in 2009. Suburbia Mexicana is an interesting mashup of portraits, urban landscape and developing urban sprawl, a condition that does not appear to bode well for this region in Mexico. Following this photobook was his self-published Carpoolers in 2014, Before the War in 2015, Rivers of Power (Rios de Poder) in 2016 and now his 2017 publication A Guide to Infrastructure and Corruption in conjunction with The Velvet Cell (Eanna de Freine) imprint. Each of these photobooks were very creative and exhibited a lot of thoughtful consideration in the design, layout and production. We had just missed each other a couple of years ago while he was in LA for his exhibition at Kopeikin Gallery, but I was able to recently catch up with this busy photographer and self-publisher for his follow-on exhibition at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles. What follows is a photobook discussion that was as fascinating as it was a bit overdue.

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DS Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography and in particular, book making?

AC I’ve lived in Mexico since 1990 but before that I lived in Dominican Republic in a small industrial town were everybody worked for the sugar factory. Here in Mexico I´ve lived in another industrial town called Monterrey, which is just two hours south of the US-Texas border. I started in photography after 10 years in the service industry. I just didn´t want to work in hotels and restaurants anymore and started taking random photography workshops and I found something there that really got to me and so I quit and 12 years later here I am. Books became something important right at the beginning. I felt lost at first and photobooks made me see a way you can make photographs into these cohesive projects. At first I wasn´t doing or focusing on doing books but then a workshop with Paul Graham made understand how the book could be the work, the piece you work for. So that shifted things in my projects and made me see how the images are more like words and phrases that complied add up to something unique. Not storytelling per se but photography telling; beauty, contradictions, wholes, incomplete narratives, suggestions and gut.

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DS Can you tell us about your bookmaking process? I know from our conversation today in talking about the next edition of Carpoolers, that this is evolving process.

AC Well yes it is always changing. It always start with the project, the idea. What is it that I want to suggest viewers read from these images and how can I combine design, pictures, typography, paper, sequence to approximate that notion and sometimes even imply a political stance on the subject matter. When I was in grad school, the process of doing a research thesis really made me think of process and how things accumulate to become something new. So I bring that to my bookmaking in that I am assuring the viewer that all parts of the book combine harmoniously to suggest and offer an understanding of the subject mater. Everything is backed up or is referenced and so the books feel complete and in dialogue with the history of photography, design ideas, the state of things in the world and with other photobooks and materials used in the past. I also try to bring in things that are alien to photography or the project itself, sometimes through design or through text. I feel that creates contrast and a self questioning of the object. It’s a bit of vulnerability that offers an edge the wholeness of the book.

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DS What do you look for and consider when developing a new photobook?

AC I think the most important thing is that it should feel like the project works in that form (book). If the making the project into a book has no other meaning than just to publish a group of images and I can´t justify to myself why this sequence, size, set of the images and object make a bigger point than the images by themselves then I don´t pursue the possibility of the book. Sometimes it is in the sequencing stage or in the physical dummies were I realize that it´s not working, so I stop.

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DS As a workshop leader for photobooks development, do you have advice for photographers thinking about creating a photobook?

AC Buy photobooks. Live with them and try to understand why that object exists. Try to crack down the decisions made to make it the way it is. Question everything you see. That process I think opens up possibilities and parallels to your work. Once you find those things you like and feel you understand, maybe it is time to think of your work as a book.

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DS What are some of your proudest achievements?

AC Just being able to do a book. To create a wave in the way we citizens see the world that can counterbalance the main narratives coming from those in power.

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DS What is some unexpected that we don’t know about you?

AC I´ve worked since I was 10. First selling oranges and grapefruit from my family’s orchard in DR. I then worked cleaning shit in pig dens when I was 12. I sold skateboards when I moved to Mexico. I sold clocks in a flea market for two years.  I´ve worked as a construction worker, a gardener, waiter, hotel manager, and a restaurant manager and in McDonalds.

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DS Any last thoughts as we close?

AC What a crazy year this has been.

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DS Alejandro, thank you for this opportunity to discuss your interesting artistic practice.

Bio: Alejandro Cartagena, Mexican (b. 1977, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues. Cartagena’s work has been exhibited internationally in more than 50 group and individual exhibitions in spaces including the the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris and the CCCB in Barcelona, and his work is in the collections of several museums including the San Francisco MOMA, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Portland Museum of Art, The West Collection, the Coppel collection, the FEMSA collection, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the George Eastman House and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and among others.

Alejandro is a self-publisher and co-editor and has created several award winning titles including Santa Barbara Shame on US, Skinnerboox, 2017, A Guide to Infrastructure and Corruption, The velvet Cell, 2017, Rivers of Power, Newwer, 2016, Santa Barbara return Jobs to US, Skinnerboox, 2016, Headshots, Self-published, 2015, Before the War, Self-published, 2015, Carpoolers, Self-published with support of FONCA Grant, 2014, Suburbia Mexicana, Daylight/ Photolucida 2010. Some of his books are in the Yale University Library, the Tate Britain, and the 10×10 Photobooks book collections among others.

Cartagena has received several awards including the international Photolucida Critical Mass Book Award, the Street Photography Award in London Photo Festival, the Lente Latino Award in Chile, the Premio IILA-FotoGrafia Award in Rome and the Salon de la Fotografia of Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Mexico among others. He has been named an International Discoveries of the FotoFest festival, a FOAM magazine TALENT and an Emerging photographer of PDN magazine. He has also been a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio Award and has been nominated for the Santa Fe Photography Prize, the Prix Pictet Prize, the Photoespaña Descubrimientos Award and the FOAM Paul Huff Award. His work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers such as Newsweek, Nowness, Domus, the Financial Times, The New York Times, Le Monde, Stern, PDN, The New Yorker, and Wallpaper among others. He is represented by Patricia Conde gallery.

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August 15, 2017

CLAP! – Contemporary Latin American Photobooks

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 1:45 pm

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Edited by Olga Yatskevich, Russet Lederman, Matthew Carson & Michael Lang

Published by 10 x 10 Photobooks (NY) copyright 2017

Text: English & Spanish (Español) & Portuguese

Stiff cover with folded dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Index, List of Photographers and Editors, printed by SYL, Barcelona, Spain

Photobook designer: Richardo Baez

Notes:

This is another collective survey of photobooks by the 10 x 10 photobooks team, Editors Olga Yatskevich, Russet Lederman, Matthew Carson & Associate Editor Michael Lang, this time with a focus on what has been published in and by Latin America(s) between 2000 and 2016. These Latin photobooks were selected by 18 photobook specialist who study or follow the publications by photographers in this region. This survey is an interesting, broad and diverse teaser of publications by Latin photographers and photographic oriented artist. Likewise, the subject matter is equally broad, with many photobooks that might be termed having a strong Latin orientation.

CLAP! has a very creative design layout which unlike the earlier 10×10 American Photobooks I found be a challenge to determine what the true orientation of the referenced interior book spread, thus a bit confusing as to what the photobook may actually look like. The accompanying CLAP! Photobook Index of the book’s covers is a more traditional design and layout as well as a delight to cruise and speculate what might be lurking within the covers.

In our efforts for this journal to provide a broad discussion of international photobooks we have previously reviewed some of the photobooks found in CLAP!, thus we can help provide a little more in-depth examination of what is occurring in Latin America. Our book reviews include those by Alejandro Cartagena, Before the War and Carpoolers, Mariela Sancari, Moises and Guilherme Gerais, Intergalatico.

CLAP! provides wonderful evidence of the diversity and high energy going into the development of photobook by Latin photographers and this catalog provides ample opportunity to explore the many Latin photobook possibilities.

Previous 10×10 Photobook publications featured on TPBJ: 10 x 10 American Photobooks

If you found this review of interest, you may also want to check out America Latina Photographs: 1960 – 2013.

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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July 20, 2017

Penny Wolin – Descendants of Light. American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:29 am

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Photographer: Penny Wolin (born Cheyenne, Wyoming; resides Sebastopol, California)

Publisher:  Crazy Woman Creek Press, Cheyenne, Wyoming, © 2015 Penny Wolin (portions by others)

Essays:  Alan Trachtenberg, Yale U.; Penny Wolin; various quotes, interview segments, and background details

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover with illustrated dust cover; 244 numbered pages, four-color and duotone lithography; 14×10 inches, printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California

Designer:  Bunne Hartmann

Notes:

“The camera was an affirmation of the miraculous.“  Abe Frajndlich, p. 52

“Exploring other people’s identities took me to exploring my own.“  Lori Grinker, p. 64

Telling stories about storytellers is not an easy task, but Penny Wolin excels at it. This book is a painstakingly researched and intelligently thought-out compendium of ideas and visual content along several dimensions. It contains cultural information and stimuli, drawing on the featured photographers’ shared cultural history and beliefs that provide the basis for a rich universe of creative thought and stimulation, against a background that also is tinged by discrimination and suffering. Dozens of influential photographers are featured: their biographical and bibliographical information, challenging interview segments, portraits of many of them by Penny Wolin, and also photographs by the photographers. This publication is the result of a project encompassing many years of passionate research and collaboration, and was partly crowd-funded.

The book is divided into several sections that complement and enhance each other. First there is an introductory section that contains Penny Wolin’s rationale and procedure, Alan Trachtenberg’s essay on the Jewish eye (an illuminating gateway to the subject), and other pieces of wisdom. Part 2, “The Photographers,” is a rich resource of quotes and interview reactions in response to Penny Wolin’s questions regarding family background and personal and professional influences and beliefs. At times she interviewed the photographers’ descendants in the case of those deceased; wherever possible she created very astute photographic portraits of the photographers as well, as shown in the excerpted visuals below. Some images from the photographers’ past often are included, in order to also give a visual glimpse into their background. Part 3, “Questions about Answers” is guided by major concerns (injustice, anti-Semitism, and others) that are related to group identity and the possibilities of group visibility or invisibility, and the benefits of having a feeling of belonging. Part 4, “The Work,” contains a well chosen photograph by each of the photographers, along with some select bibliography for each. The volume concludes with a detailed index, further bibliography, and a glossary that explains cultural and other special expressions. The book is superbly printed by Dual Graphics in Brea, California, a firm with a distinguished printing record going back to Ansel Adams, as described by Douglas Stockdale. In the same way that the printer is devoted to technical excellence, so is Penny Wolin – her portraits were made on medium format film and scanned from silver-gelatin exhibition prints.

Suffice it to say that all the pages in this book are fascinating. Each time you pick up this volume, there are new things to discover. The artists included constitute a virtual encyclopedia of creative forces that have allowed us special views of the world through their informed creative eyes. Just to name a few:  Sid Avery, Lilian Bassman, Bruce Davidson, Robert Frank, Lauren Greenfield, Philippe Halsman, Claudia Kunin, Annie Leibovitz, Helen Levitt, John Loengard, Joel Meyerowitz, Melvin Sokolsky, Arthur Tress, Joel-Peter Witkin, and many, many more (the complete list is shown in the last image below). It is the kind of project that invites the reader and viewer to share, both intellectually and visually, in a rich cultural framework and its creative visual output. In the section below, I have chosen to juxtapose a few of the photographers as featured in Parts 2 and 4, so that you see Penny Wolin’s portrait of the photographer first and the photograph by the photographer second. Beyond that, I will leave it to you, the reader and viewer, to obtain the book and discover the many gems of wisdom and insight for yourself.

This important volume about these influential figures in photography should not be missing in the library of anyone who wishes to gain an appreciation of what inspired these artists to inspire us. Highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

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February 28, 2017

LA Art Book Fair 2017

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:04 pm

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Copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale & Gerhard Clausing

Our report (Gerhard Clausing, Contributing Editor, and myself) from last Saturday’s LA Art Book Fair 2017. As in the past this Fair can be overwhelming and it is truly difficult to see the entire Fair in one day, least to have emphasis on just the photographic books. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with photographers, publishers and designers and discuss their recent publications. It does not help that the Fair guide book I purchased subsequently went missing. Sigh.

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Noted this year that the upper mezzanine where the photographic book focus is usually located was enlarged this year, but still not enough room for everyone, such that Nazraeli Press and a few others were still on the ground floor catacombs. I think that there are some larger traditional photobook publishers, such as MACK, that were present this year in part due to the demise of the Paris Photo LA fair, thus making the LA Art Book Fair more of the go-to for photographic book Fairs on the West coast. As a result, there was a larger and diverse group of photobook publishers and photographic groups present, such as the Russian Independent Selfpublished, AROK (Lithuania) and a larger contingent of publishers from Switzerland to name only a few.

One of the benefits of attending this Fair is looking at the broad and diverse publications and other types of art, no matter how extreme, as it provides ideas of where the pulse of published art is evolving.

Needless to say, the exhibit space was jam packed and by noon so were all of the aisles. Fortunately Gerhard & I arrived early. Slow Culture and the Deadbeat Club hosted the Fotomat for the film lovers and the food trucks met the immediate needs of the foodies.

Below is our photojournalist report of the photobook exhibit spaces where we spent some quality time at (which usually meant we acquired some photobooks!).

Cheers!

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Esther Levine with Winfried Heininger of Kodoji Press

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Tricia Gabriel & Mike Slack of the Ice Plant

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Danielle Mericle of A –Jump Books

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Russian Independent Selfpublished: Natalia Baluta, Elena Kholkina, Alla Mirovskaya

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Andrew Miksys of Arok Books

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Clint Woodside (Photobook: Undercover Cars) of Deadbeat Club

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Editions Patrick Frey featuring Klaus Pichler’s photobook

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CPress

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January 29, 2017

Left coast photobook news: Ruscha at OCMA

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Every Building on the Sunset Strip copyright 1966 Ed Ruscha

Currently OCMA (Orange County Museum of Art) is exhibiting Pop Art Design and included are a few works by Ed Ruscha, but probably the most interesting to those who enjoy photobooks is a very long display of Ed Ruscha’s 1966 Every Building on the Sunset Strip.

This is a deadpan photographic project in which a 35mm motor-drive camera with a bulk feed was used to photograph all the adjacent buildings while driving up and then back again on Sunset Blvd. This street was commonly called the Sunset Strip, thus Ruscha’s resulting photobook plays a visual  pun of the street nickname by creating a long continuous strip of images. On the top of the pages is one side of the street and positioned below this in reverse is the other side of this street.

This photobook design was very innovative for its time with stiff covers and the interior was bound to display as an accordion (also known as Leporello or Concertinas) layout, which is to say each page was connected and continuous. A very long strip of photographic images. As a part of the Pop moment, his book was also meant to be a very inexpensive, which is apparent in the rough and uneven gluing of the accordion page binding.

My photographs of this exhibit were a grab shot and dose not do the Ruchas’s photobook enough justice, thus I recommend for you to go check it out and see the real thing!

The OCMA exhibition runs thru April 2nd, 2017.

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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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