The PhotoBook

November 24, 2016

Indie Photobook Library moves to Yale University

Filed under: Photo Books, Photo Book NEWS — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:13 pm

Ciociaria published by Edizioni Punctum, now in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Just announced by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University that the Indie Photobook Library (iPL) has been just incorporated into their collection. The collection includes more than 2,000 photobooks from around the world along with related ephemera, archives of the iPL’s history, and Larissa Leclair’s personal collection related to self-publishing. The iPL  had focused on self-published photobooks, imprints independently published and distributed, photography exhibition catalogs, print-on-demand photobooks, artists’ books, zines, photobooks printed on newsprint, limited edition photobooks, non-English language photography books, and more. This collection covers the period of indie photobooks starting in 2008 through 2016. These volumes build on an already great strength of this library and will surely be used extensively by scholars and students at Yale and beyond for a long time.

In conjunction with this change, the iPL will cease operations and no longer be accepting any more book submissions.

November 5, 2016

Alex Van Gelder – Mumbling Beauty Louise Bourgeois

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Photographer:  Alex Van Gelder (now based in Paris)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, 2015

Essays:  Foreword by Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Ever Louise” / Introduction by Alex Van Gelder

Text:  English

Hardcover book with 112 pages, not numbered; 81 color photographs without captions; sewn binding; cloth cover with dust jacket, printed and bound in China.

Photobook designer: Béatrice Akar

Notes: This photobook presents 81 extraordinary collaborative images taken during the last three years of life of the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who came to the US in 1938 and was primarily known for her sculptures and installations, but also for her paintings and prints. Her art received the most attention from the 1970s on, and she was also a strong fighter for artistic freedom and social justice. Alex Van Gelder, the photographer now based in Paris, became her friend and, from 2008 to 2010, was repeatedly invited to her home in New York City in order to participate in the creation of this personal yet public reality of a highly creative and spirited individual. As Van Gelder says in the foreword, “She became a consummate performer in front of the camera.”

In viewing the images, we can literally experience the joy of the artist in the process of creation, as well as the pain of aging, perhaps foremost among them her inability to move around as freely as possible, as she was paralyzed from the hip down. The photographer uses a variety of techniques to show the difficulties of both artistic creation and old age, such as distortions and long exposures with the resulting blurred appearances: self-reflection through visual ambiguity. The viewer is not only reminded of the work of John Coplans, but also of Cindy Sherman: Louise Bourgeois here assumes many roles (some with disguises) in a number of settings within her house. A very creative look at the last few years of this artist as a result; she is shown working in her studio on paintings, posing with some small sculptures, as well as in mundane settings of everyday life.

This book confronts the viewer with his or her own aging process and creativity. It is a stark yet supportive and positive, even optimistic presentation, at times with some humor as well. As the artist is shown active even at the very end, we get the idea that she is creative and hopeful in spite of it all. Since Louise Bourgeois considered much of her work autobiographical, based in part on childhood traumas, these portraits give us a glimpses of the relationships between the artist and her art, and many other dimensions to reflect on as well. The human body, with its fragile and temporary nature, was a main theme in her art, and this is certainly well represented in this visceral yet elegant collaborative photographic study.

Gerhard Clausing

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October 28, 2016

Yanina Shevchenko – Crossing Over

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Copyright 2013 Yanina Shevchenko

Photographer: Yanina Shevchenko (born: Russia – resides: Barcelona, Spain)

Publisher: The Velvet Cell (London, Taipei)

Essays: Yanina Shevchenko

Text: English

Stiffcover book, saddle-stitch binding, four-color lithography, printed in Taiwan

Photobook designer: Velvet Cell Graphics

Notes: In America a “road-trip” in which one wants get up-close and personal with the land is usually by accomplished by means a car. To cross an even greater expanse of Russia and attempt to create a personal relationship with the land, a road-trip one usually associates with is by means of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This photobook is Yanina Schevchenko’s narrative using a documentary style and resulting from riding the rails over a duration of fourteen days; from Moscow to the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway and then immediately returning. Her subject was the expansive rural and intermittent urban landscape of Russia in an attempt to investigate the regional culture along this route.

As a reader who has traveled by railway in both the United States and Europe, what can be observed in Shevchenko’s photographs appears similar in one aspect but not all-together different; stretches of open and frequently monotonous rural landscape with short duration’s of the urban industrial landscape. I also found myself recently returning to this book as I am now make frequent commutes to a laboratory space about an hour and half away that involves a long drive with a short stretch of stop and go traffic. During the drive, the ensuing landscape is a soft blur, but due to the serendipity and chance of where I made the brief stops in heavy traffic, the adjacent landscape takes on a startling clarity. These are similar elements that Shevchenko captures in her investigation. Perhaps some of the structures of the steppes are a bit unique, but the land adjacent to a noisy rail line is a place that is not usually attractive but can still be a very interesting to contemplate.

Cheers

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September 30, 2016

Arion Gabor Kudasz – Memorabilia

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Copyright 2014 Arion Gabor Kudasz

Photographer: Arion Gabor Kudasz (born, Hungary and resides in Budapest)

Publisher: Magyar Fotografusok Haza Nonprofit Kft (Hungary)

Essays: Arion Gabor Kudasz, Gabriella Uhl, Emese Kudasz

Text: Hungarian, English

Stiffcover book, sewn naked binding, four-color lithography, printed in Budapest, with poster

Photobook designer: Nora Demeczky

Notes: A complex and layered personal photographic project that investigates the memory of his mother, which in turn becomes an investigation on the act and process of attempting to capture a memory. One layer is the process of documenting what remains; the objects, places and traces of a person who has passed. Another layer is attempting to understand if these subtle traces can hold and/or trigger memories? Still another layer; if and for whom will these memories occur?

The photographs are printed on an in-expensive paper stock with a low contrast printing process and are in a documentary style, abet, resembling a catalog or inventory of objects. There are no captions with the pages although a listing of some notes are located at the conclusion of the book. The significance of each of the objects photographed remains a mystery, thus allowing the viewer to construct a personal narrative from the evidence provided.

For me, this is a book that is heavily infused with melancholy. When you are old enough, you live beyond your grandparent’s lifetime and then one day even your own parents. I am emotional touched by this photobook, a wonderful combination of photographs and words/text that is a talisman for my own family’s memories. This photobook is also a gentle reminder to not take your friends and family for granted, as time is relentless and at sometime all too soon you have only memories.

Best regards

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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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September 9, 2016

Julia Borissova – Dimitry

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Copyright 2016 Julia Borissova

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

Self-published by the artist, signed and numbered edition of 100

Essays: Julia Borissova, Alexander Fokin

Text: English

Hardcover book, hand-sewn naked binding, digital printing in Russia

Photobook designer: Julia Borissova

Notes: Julia Borissova in her recent artist book, Dimitry, investigates the Russian Tsar Dimitry Ivanovich, the youngest and last son of Ivan IV the Terrible, a child of eight who died under “mysterious circumstances” in 1591. What results is Russian intrigue & speculation, perhaps not unlike in the US about who all killed President Kennedy or was responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. The story of Dimitry Ivanovich is further confounded by the whispers that he narrowly escaped the murder attempt and that he and his descendants still live on, again perhaps similar to current sightings of Elvis.

Borissova states in her introduction “I was intrigued by how the story can go on without the actions of a hero and how his absence can play a major role and catalyze the further development of the story. It is absence that creates legends and turns them into a myth over time.”

There is little known about this young boy Dimitry, and apparently even less about the events that occurred in 1591 and since, thus leaving ripe the narrative of his sad saga and the lingering effects on Russian culture. Her narrative is based on a small part of reality, large doses of myth and all wrapped in an enigma. To develop her elusive narrative Borissova has creatively leaned into photo-collage, montage, and layered images interwoven with some documentary style landscape photographs. The photo-collages and montages are initially jarring, appearing almost crude in the stark lines of the constructed objects, but are also poetic, abstract and wonderfully metaphoric. Her interior images remind me of the style of the Russian abstract montage artist of the 1920s.

Thus Borissova’s narrative has been symbolically ripped from the pages of a Russian 1920’s version of People magazine. She continues to be a Russian photobook artist to watch.

Other artist books by Julia Borissova featured on The PhotoBook: DOM, address, Running to the Edge

Cheers

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September 1, 2016

Susan Burnstine – Absence of Being

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Copyright 2016 Susan Burnstine

Photographer: Susan Burnstine (b. Chicago, IL  & resides Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Publisher: Damiani Editore (Italy)

Essays: Text by Del Zogg, Chantel Paul, Susan Burnstine

Text: English

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Biography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Masumi Shibata

Notes: Susan Burnstine’s second photobook Absence of Being is a collection of singular poetic black & white photographs, which are dreamy and mysterious landscapes. These photographic images result in part from her photographic equipment, a series of homemade photographic contraptions she created that utilized medium format film, but to a larger extent the concept and visions she is cathartically engaging. The overall darkness that engulfs her moody photographs hints at the underlying tension of her poetic narratives, what has been described has “an idiosyncratic and deeply personal visual landscape”.

Another visual theme woven in this body of work, more so than her first monograph, is the presence of a singular person or vehicle, which can be found in the midst of these landscapes. This is a strongly autobiographic element that visually places her within these narratives. Her subjects appear to be engaged in a journey, a dark metaphor that relates back to her night terrors as the source of her artistic endeavors and the mystic road she alone is traveling.

This wonderful body of work is sequenced with a single image per double page per spread; the left edge is run into the gutter with an edge bleed on the right, accompanied with a facing pagination and caption. The layout is metaphoric, with the binding providing the central source from which the pages and photographs radiate, while the bleed off the end of the page implying that her narrative does not simply end on this page. There are two styles of captions that reflect the two different states Burnstine deals with her dreadful night terrors. Also interwoven through the body of work are handwritten excerpts from Burnstine’s personal dream journal that provides some insights to the internal dialogue she is working against.

Burnstine’s photobook is a beautiful object and her wonderful luminous interior images are printed on a warm coated paper with a spot coat of luster varnish that emulates her photographic prints. Viewing this photobook is very similar to the experience of studying her print portfolio, which I was fortunate to do this last spring when we had adjacent tables at Photo Independent and the final galleys for her book were being completed. Recommended.

Susan Burnstine has been previously featured on The PhotoBook: Within Shadows (2011)

Cheers

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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August 13, 2016

Robert Adams – The New West

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Copyright 2015 (Steidl Edition) Robert Adams

Photographer: Robert Hickman Adams, Ph.D. (b. Orange, NJ – resides USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany) (first published by Colorado Associated University Press, 1974)

Essays: John Szarkowski & Robert Adams

Text: English

Hardcover book with illustrated dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, pagination and captions, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Paul Weaver

Notes: This is a Steidl version of Robert Adams 1974 photobook of the same title which is a published photographic project resulting from his 1973/74 Guggenheim grant. Black and White photographs selected from this same project were also included in the now famous 1975 “New Topographics” exhibition at the George Eastman House (NY). There is not any overlap of the images in this book with the Eastman exhibition. Both this book and the Eastman exhibition share similar dispassionate urban and rural landscape images and I find it interesting to look at both of these bodies of work to grasp the larger context of Adam’s work at the time. And yes, I was drawn back in again to re-read Steidl’s 2009 edition of New Topographics, which I enjoy doing from time to time anyhow. Also interesting to note that Robert Adams was on the fence about participating in the Eastman exhibit as he was a fan of Ansel Adams’s environmental work at this same time.

Regretfully I do not own a copy of the 1974 version of The New West to compare with this version, but from prior experience with Steidl’s republication of seminal photobooks, I expect that it is equal to and potentially better in printing and binding than the original (which was clothbound with illustrated jacket). I also do not have the $1,000 plus to purchase a 1974 copy either.

This now classic book is divided into five sections that lead the viewer from the rural to the urban and concludes in the mountains; Prairie, Tracts and Mobile Homes, The City, Foothills, Mountains. You also get a subtle glimpse of Adams wry sense of humor as he usually seems to avoid signage, but apparently he could not resist with the house being built on the corner of Darwin Place. The body of work is a series of an anti-Modernist landscape images which document mankind’s encroaching developments in the New West of Colorado, providing what Adam’s calls “a normal view of the landscape”. And in the process Adams became a part of the continual process of redefining what “normal” is in the context to the landscape photography.

My only minor gripe is that each image has a huge white margin around it on the page and if the margins were reduced, could have allowed these wonderful images to be printed larger.

Recommended for those interested in the historical context of contemporary landscape photography.

Related photobook reviewed on The PhotoBook: Steidl’s edition, New Topographics 

Cheers

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August 4, 2016

Alejandro Cartagena – Rivers of Power

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Copyright 2016 Alejandro Cartagena

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

Archive images: Fototeca de Nuevo Leon

Publisher: Newwer

Essays: Ximena Peredo, Gonzalo Ortega

Text: English and Spanish

Stiffcover book with printed slip cover, naked-sewn binding, printed insert, four-color lithography, printed in Spain

Photobook designer: Alejandro Cartagena & Fernando Gallegos

Notes: Rivers of Power is Alejandro Cartagena’s recently released photobook that explores the relationship between man and nature and the futile attempts by man to try to control nature, which in this case is the Catarina River running through the Mexican city of Monterrey.

His story reveals an empty and seductive river bed that seems to beckon entrepreneurs to take advantage of the unobstructed wide open spaces. A story about how mankind soon forgets that the usually trickle of river water can be deceiving evil in the face of the next horrific hurricane advancing in from the Caribbean.

Cartagena mixes historical photographs of the early riverbed construction to control this waterway to set the context for his story, then introduces his investigation using a documentary style of color photographs. The brilliant design of his book is a wonderful metaphor for his subject; the flexible interior book, like the river water, is encased in a hard shell, much like the conducts and pipes to control the water, which almost collapses when the interior book is removed. The stiffcover naked-binding allows the book to lay flat and in conjunction with the photographs printed full bleed across the two page spread, creates an enjoyable reading experience. Recommended.

Other Alejandro Cartagena photobooks previously featured: Before the War and Carpoolers.

Cheers

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