The PhotoBook Journal

September 13, 2017

Giles Duley – One Second of Light

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 11:04 am

00-Duley.jpg

Photographer:  Giles Duley (born and resides in London, UK)

Publisher:  Benway Publishing / EMERGENCY UK, London, © 2015

Essays:  Gino Strada, A.L. Kennedy, Melissa Fleming, Giles Duley; conversation with Giles Duley and Roger Tatley

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover; 172 pages, not numbered; four-color lithography, 117 images, numbered, captioned and with expanded background stories; list of organizations and charities; 28×21.5 cm, printed in the UK by Push, London

Photobook Designer:  Shaz Madani

 

Notes:

Here we are, sixteen years after 9/11, and the conflicts and “collateral” suffering are continuing. The longest war in the Middle East is being ramped up again, and an end to the violence is nowhere on the horizon. Only a few months ago I reviewed the strong contribution by Paula Bronstein, Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear, a work that has been well received and admired, especially in regard to the courage and insights shown by her, depicting a society in which the role of women is still more limited.

Giles Duley is a superb storyteller of places and people in times of armed conflict and violence as well. He too has shown courage beyond all expectation, at tremendous personal cost. You may wish to see and hear his TED talk for inspiration. As a triple amputee he has become “a living example of what war does to people.” This pivotal event has intensified and focused his work even more, and he serves as a strong role model to others who have suffered a similar fate. A tremendous journey for a photographer that started out in the fashion and music industry! His goal has always been for his storytelling to have an impact on those who can change things, and I suspect also on the vast audience that elects those who make decisions affecting the lives of others.

As his work covers not only people in Afghanistan, but also in many other conflict-laden locales as well, this book is an effective collection of stories (from 2005 to 2015) of many individuals affected by a variety of strife in a variety of places: Angola, Bangladesh, Syria, South Sudan, Jordan, and the Ukraine, besides Afghanistan. Orphans, child soldiers, victims of acid attacks, war injuries, and the refugee crisis are just some of the problems to which his first-hand account introduces us. The captions that accompany the images are mini-capsule introductions to people’s lives, further expanded through additional information for each image in the back of the volume. As Melissa Fleming states in her introductory comments, “One Second of Light introduces us to the people hidden by numbers […] Through these images we form relationships. We find empathy and connect; we discover the displaced as fellow travellers […] ­­­­We share moments of the most mundane intimacy.” And as the excerpted pages below show, a split second to take the photograph that allows us to view each person’s life, adding up to perhaps one second of time for all the photographs in the volume, represent a lifetime to those affected. As Duley states, “For those caught in these stories, the time and their suffering is a constant.” And Duley delivers sensitive and respectful glimpses into their worlds. The spirit of these individuals and groups against all possible odds is the focus of the stories told here, certainly also in the small moments of humor and happiness shown under very difficult circumstances.

An powerful and touching volume, highly recommended for all who care about the future of our world, and are seeking solutions other than violence! As Giles Duley says, “We can all make a difference!” His latest work, I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See: Photographs from the Refugee Crisis has been published this year.

Gerhard Clausing

01-Duley.jpg

02-Duley.jpg

03-Duley.jpg

04-Duley.jpg

05-Duley.jpg

06-Duley.JPG

07-Duley.jpg

08-Duley.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

wolin-00

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

wolin-01

wolin-02

wolin-03

wolin-04

wolin-05

wolin-06

wolin-07

wolin-08

wolin-09

June 15, 2017

Richard Humphries – Kingdom’s Edge

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 1:40 am

edge00.jpg

Photographer:  Richard Humphries (born St. Albans, UK; resides Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Publisher:  Richard Humphries Photography, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK, © 2016

Essays:  Foreword and captions by Richard Humphries; Introduction by Gerard McDermott

Text:  English

Sewn cloth-bound hardback with 200 numbered pages, 79 captioned color images and 2 maps; 25×16.5 cm; printed in Italy

Photobook Designer:  Helen Kudrich Coleman

Notes:

We are in the midst of increasingly unacceptable acts of intolerance, escalating from verbal to physical violence. Today’s event on a baseball field near the U.S. capital is just the latest example. When will they ever learn: VIOLENCE DOES NOT SOLVE PROBLEMS! And so this book is another very important example to demonstrate this point, as was the work by Paula Bronstein on Afghanistan, which I reviewed here as well.

Strife in the south of Thailand goes back many centuries, but violence has intensified in the 21st century due to clashes based on some extreme interpretations of beliefs. Gerard McDermott in the volume’s Introduction supplies an extensive account of historical developments affecting this region of Thailand, a monarchy with a military government, especially the border area between Thailand and Malaysia, a difficult region that we have heard much less about than other difficult areas around the world.

Richard Humphries has visited this area, which presents a mix of Buddhists and Muslims, Thais and Malays, over a period of eight years; he speaks the local languages, and currently lives in this area of Southeast Asia as well. A seasoned photojournalist as well as a storyteller, he has used this background very effectively. We are able to see the historical and the modern aspects of this part of Thailand, the old and the new, the various activities that sustain both livelihoods and belief systems and traditions, in both somber and light-hearted moments. Some of the images are literal and stark, some metaphorical and mysterious, and his approach suggests that all these aspects could well coexist peacefully, if only some levels of greater tolerance were part of the mix. A particularly attractive feature of this volume is the fact that both ordinary and extraordinary images are included so that we see both everyday life and the unusual side by side. The detailed captions supplied by the photographer for each image are also very helpful for the viewer’s understanding. A highly recommended volume for those interested in global strife and its cultural contexts, as well for anyone who wants to enjoy excellent photojournalism!

This volume was juried into the Photo Independent Photobook Competition and was subsequently on display at the Photobook Salon.

Gerhard Clausing

edge01.jpg

edge02.jpg

edge03.jpg

edge04.jpg

edge05.jpg

edge06.jpg

edge07.jpg

edge08.jpg

edge09.jpg

 

May 25, 2017

Cheryl Dunn – This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 11:48 pm

00-CDunn.jpg

Photographer:  Cheryl Dunn (born in Old Tappan, NJ; resides in New York City, NY)

Publisher:  Deadbeat Club Press, Los Angeles, CA; © 2017

Stiff cover, saddle-stitched; 52 unnumbered pages with 43 black-and-white and color images; digital offset printing, 6×9 inches, edition of 300.  (Deadbeat Club #53)

Notes: 

For all those who are wondering what the United States is currently struggling with, this is a very timely volume of telling photographs. Cheryl Dunn is a photographer from New York City who effectively visualizes both heart and soul of this divided country and turns it into a brief but iconic presentation. No wonder, she has a strong record in editorial and advertising work, as well as portraiture, and has also directed an amazing feature-length documentary film on street photography in New York City, Everybody Street, seen through the eyes of well-known photographers (details on her website, as linked above). NYC can certainly be considered a most representative amalgam of cultures and therefore of opposing viewpoints as well.

So in this very important volume we see the forces of a healthy democracy at work. There is a divisiveness fueled by particular political interests, by economic needs, by the crude realities of long-standing military strife, by the marginalization of and disdain for minority groups, and other factors. Here we see a visualized panorama of opinions, driven by many emotions, such as anxiety, fear, anger, dismay, and sadness – of the groups opposing the election of a government by a minority of voters due to electoral college rules and some voter lethargy, of the groups that find themselves at minimal existence levels and are hoping for government magic, while blaming the “others” for their woes, of the young people who as a more accepting population segment are hoping for a better future with less violence and hatred, and with more varied economic opportunities. Some representative double pages are shown below. The pacing of the volume and the pairing of images are designed to keep the viewers curious and interested throughout. Observations of minute detail that shows everyday life as it transpires everywhere under any circumstances are also refreshing. Well done!

Congratulations and thanks to the photographer and Deadbeat Club for making such interesting work available at such an affordable price, and kudos for encouraging the use of film-based photography as well!

Gerhard Clausing

01-CDunn.JPG

02-CDunn.JPG

03-CDunn.JPG

04-CDunn.JPG

05-CDunn.JPG

06-CDunn.JPG

May 5, 2017

Manca Juvan – Guardians of the Spoon

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:27 pm

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_cover

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_slip_cover

Photographer: Manca Juvan (b. & resides Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Publisher: ZRC Publishing

Essays: Manca Juvan, Sasa Petejan, Urska Strle

Text: English (Slovene e-book edition is available)

Hardcover book with slip-cover, ring binding, four-color lithography, split pages, Fascist internment timeline, printed at optimal media, Germany

Photobook designer: Prapesa (Sara Badovinac & Peter Zabret)

Notes: The opening photographs are dark with each succeeding photograph allowing more light to illuminate and reveal a bit more tantalizing information about the unfolding landscape. This visual metaphor for secrets and concealed information becomes more apparent as the viewer confronts portraits and personal testimonies of events that occurred during WWII (1939 – 1943) by the Italian Fascist. Probably for political reasons and since the Italian Fascist camps were not as horrific as the Germany Nazi counterparts, these camp sites and the events that took place are not well known.

From the authors regarding the concept of this book; “Acknowledgement of Italian war crimes in the larger international context today, is as uncommon as it is inconsistent. Indeed a survey of various references and encyclopedias rarely turns up any mention whatsoever of the many Italian concentration camps that served as instruments of political and racial persecution. While the most notorious Nazi camps have become widely embedded in popular culture and our collective imagination, history has little if anything to say about the Italian Fascist camps.

Juvan’s photobook was a recent winner of the Photo Independent International Photo Book Competition that I was a jurist for. I was immediately taken by the four elements we use as criteria to evaluate the book submissions; photography, project concept execution, book design and book production. One design element I found brilliant was within the body of the book, most of the interior pages are horizontally split, which allows the reader to change and modify the sequencing and pairing of the page spreads, thus the narrative. This book design is an excellent physical metaphor relating to the fragmentation of memory, that memory can be incomplete and jumbled with time. Likewise, this book design speaks to ability to alter facts and change meanings.

Juvan has confronted an uncomfortable subject and with the current political turmoil in the world, I feel that it is a danger that we must continue to remind ourselves about and guard ourselves against. Recommended

Other book review we featured for Manca Juvan, Unordinary Lives – Afghanistan

Cheers

Douglas

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_1

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_2

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_3

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_4

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_5

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_6

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_7

Manca_Juvan-Guardians_of_the_Spoon_8

 

April 21, 2017

Christian Nilson – The Swiss

00-swiss-cover.jpg

Photographer: Christian Nilson (born Lerum, Sweden; resides Zürich, Switzerland)

Publisher:  Scheidegger & Spiess, Zürich, Switzerland, © 2016

Essay:  Jon Bollmann

Text:  English and German

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover with debossed circles and cut holes; 96 numbered pages, four-color lithography, 67 images, not captioned; 19.5×26.5 cm, printed in Germany

Photobook Designer:  Greger Ulf Nilson

 

Notes:

The essay by Jon Bollmann makes reference to Robert Frank’s The Americans (1956); we are also reminded of Rene Burri’s Die Deutschen (1962+); both of these forerunners are Swiss. And way before that, the German photographer August Sander’s approach to the portraiture of a nation’s people is also well known. While it does not seem possible to capture all the characteristics of a people in a single project, there are always particular reference points and points of view. (Frank and Sander were reviewed here previously: Robert Frank; August Sander.)

Christian Nilson’s viewpoint is different. As a Swede who has lived in Switzerland for over a decade, he shows what the country means to him, in color and in a modern style. There are touches of street photography (somewhat reminiscent of the in-your-face type of work by people like Bruce Gilden). Nilson also often uses flash, even in sunlight, to illuminate every corner of those shots. This gives the images a bright and cheerful appearance. He also has a strong eye for detail, along with humorous juxtapositions and overviews. One detects a sense of respect and wonder, which rubs off on the viewer, and allows an appreciation of his work as fine art photography as well. Nilson displays many of the expected clichés: mountains, traditional folk costumes and local customs, and others that we expect to see when we think of Switzerland. And for good measure, the designer has added a simulated cheese cover with actual holes, and cheese wrapping paper for the special edition! At the same time we see modern everyday life that is not any different than that in other countries – people in their rooms, eating, shopping, and similar daily activities.

The layout of this volume is also varied and keeps us alert. We find a variety of small and large placements of the images, at various aspect ratios, all the way to totally flush double page spreads. The result is that the viewer can puzzle over many of the pictures, trying to figure out the location and meaning of the activity in which the subjects are engaged, as well as their juxtapositions. There is no particular social criticism or political agenda that the author seems to have in mind. The idea we get is that Switzerland is a mixture of old and new, like any other country. It is just that the particulars of the “old” are different (in this case, based on a history of many centuries), while the elements of contemporary life seem universally shared. Thus, for instance, we find adults playing Batman or Superman for their children or for each other’s cosplay amusements, and the vendor of apricots, “Apricot-Andi,” uses techniques of modern marketing, such as his selfie, at his stand, while the stout townsfolk are seen in their expected traditional rural appearance, engaged in the life of country folk. And all of this coexists quite normally, to constitute the contemporary Swiss mix of country and city life, of historical customs and everyday mundane continuity in a modern society.

A thoroughly enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

01-swiss.jpg02-swiss.jpg03-swiss.jpg04-swiss .jpg05-swiss.jpg06-swiss.jpg07-swiss.jpg08-swiss.jpg

March 26, 2017

Klaus Pichler and Clemens Marschall – Golden Days Before They End

00-Pichler Cover.jpg

Photographer:  Klaus Pichler (Austrian, lives and works in Vienna)

Publisher:  Edition Patrick Frey, Zurich, Switzerland, © 2016

Essay and quotes:  Compiled and edited by Clemens Marschall

Text:  German or English (translated by Charlotte Maconochie and Clemens Marschall

Hardcover book, sewn binding; 250 unnumbered pages; 120 color photographs; German and English editions; including 100/96 pages of text, with quotes by owners and patrons, list of venues, and glossary; printed and bound in Austria; 29×23 cm

Photobook Designer:  Roland Hörmann

 

Notes:

This work contains a pictorial portion of 120 color photographs by Klaus Pichler and four interspersed text portions totaling 96 pages (English edition) and 100 pages (German edition), bound in four segments within the picture sections. These text portions consist of a huge number of quotes (collected and edited by Clemens Marschall) that give fascinating insights into the lives of both the owners and the patrons of small Viennese bars that are the subject of the photographs, as well as a list of these 70 or so venues that the authors visited and depicted, a glossary of some of the choice phrases and terms from the quotes (how about “Baucherl” and “Strizzi” for starters!), and the customary publishing information. The German text portion is slightly larger because it includes an expanded glossary of choice local dialect and colloquial expressions. Wherever the images contain relevant language material, a translation is thoughtfully provided below the picture. An impressive collection of visual and textual data!

So here we have Vienna (not Hamburg as in the case of Anders Petersen’s Café Lehmitz), a documentation of not just one but many similar small bars, often on the brink of financial disaster and destined for a subsequent demise, and patrons that derive a “good time” both from the liquid refreshments consumed as well as from a shared coexistence marked by comfort and camaraderie. As for the photographic documentation, Pichler ably demonstrates the efficacy of color for this stark documentary work, where formerly monochrome images were the standard. Color is just fine for the impact that is required for this in-your-face dramatic presentation of people tableaus and “barscapes.” The horizontal format predominates. In 2013, Doug Stockdale reviewed a previous work by Klaus Pichler that also demonstrated his eye for the unusual.

A world that is not always so observable is shown here. These small bars are mostly very funky and idiosyncratic. Their customers are depicted in various stages of inebriation and sometimes acting out or clowning for the camera – they are being themselves and sharing their special world with us. In control of themselves or not, they do not seem to feel shame to show us their definition of togetherness and belonging. As outsiders looking in on them, we marvel at their narrowly defined bit of paradise. One of the intriguing tasks for the viewer is to imagine who said what, since the quotes articulated by owners and patrons, though attributed, are not assigned to any specific individuals depicted in the picture section, but they do allow us to study a variety of insider perspectives to complement the visual documentation.

I consider this comprehensive volume a most enjoyable new classic!

Gerhard Clausing

01-Pichler.jpg

02-Pichler.jpg

03-Pichler.jpg

04-Pichler.jpg

05-Pichler.jpg

06-Pichler.jpg

07-Pichler.jpg

08-Pichler.jpg

March 13, 2017

Bronx Photo League – Jerome Ave

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_cover

Copyright 2016 Members of the Bronx Photo League

Photographers: Bronx Photo League (Bronx, NYC)

Publisher: Bronx Documentary Center Editions, Bronx, NY

Essays: Mike Kamber, Ed Murphy

Text: English & Spanish

Hardcover book, linen covers with tipped in image, sewn binding, 93 Black & white photographs, duo-tone printing with spot varnish, captions, member biographs, printed by Fort Orange Press, NY

Photobook designer: Bonnie Briant & Katie Khouri

Notes: Jerome Ave is an investigation of a community within the Bronx of New York by a group of young, budding photojournalist that have come together as the Bronx Photo League. Their purpose and intent is not all-together different from than that of the Photo League of the 1940’s; a collective of inspired photographers who want to learn their craft in conjunction with documenting the local environmental, economic and social changes that surround them.

This hard cover book is a result of one of their recent projects; attempting to document the pending changes to an area of the South Bronx. This is currently one of the city’s poorest regions, much of it situated under the elevated “4” train, a “gritty two-mile stretch of low-slung buildings where thousands of immigrants work in small stores, factories and car repair shops.”

Their focus is principally on the individuals who work and live in this small region to narrative this study, usually including some environmental context that provides clues to the working conditions, thus creating an indirect portrait of the South Bronx. It is evident to the reader that these photographers know their subjects very well by the close and tightly composed portraits, not a quick snap-shot from an impersonal distance.

The manual process of the photographic methods is also a nice metaphor for this project and their subjects who are predominantly providing manual labor to make a living. It appears that another consistent requirement for the photographers is to pay close attention to the framing of their images keeping in mind that there will be no cropping of the negative (a luxury that will come later in their photojournalistic lives).

One nice design aspect of this book that unifies this collective body of work together by the various photographers is the image/page layout; each photograph is framed by the negative’s exterior (yes, old school Tri-X film and manual processing). This design provides a consistency in the reading of the images that I think works very well to illustrate their project.

Cheers

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_1

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_2

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_3

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_4

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_5

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_6

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_7

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_8

Bronx_Photo_League-Jerome_Ave_9

February 25, 2017

John Loengard – Moment By Moment

00-Loengard-cover.jpg

Photographer:  John Loengard (American, born and lives in New York City)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, © 2016

Essays:  Preface by John Loengard

Text:  English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding; 152 numbered pages; 135 duotone photographs, titled and captioned; name and place index; printed in China; 10.1 x 12.9 inches

Photobook Designer:  Laura Lindgren

 

Notes:

John Loengard is a photojournalist with many decades of experience. As part of his distinguished career with Life magazine and beyond, he has photographed many notables and others along the way. Thus one will find among the 135 photographs in this volume some interesting shots of singers such as the Beatles (as shown on the dust jacket) and Judy Garland, of visual artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Annie Leibovitz, of politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, and many others. The well-known are often shown in conjunction with less well-known individuals across various locations and times. All of the photographs are well-reproduced duotones, since Loengard considers black and white “often more convincing” than color. He sums up his approach to photography as follows: “The shutter opens briefly to let the camera marry reality to form. Their union gives the picture structure and defines the moment that lives on” (Preface).

Often Loengard captures the viewer’s attention with unusual viewpoints: he depicts the Beatles in a swimming pool, the writer Philip Roth looks away from the camera to answer the question of a visitor who is not shown, John Updike is presented in a very minimalistic fashion: his eyes look back at the viewer in the rear view mirror of a car – thus the unseen helps define that which is seen, and the less familiar casts a new light on the seemingly familiar. The captions for the images merely have the function of supplying a few words of background information, rather than to diminish the viewer’s capacity to get involved in the story told by each picture.

While one could consider this volume merely an excellent retrospective of a renowned photographer’s work, it is much more than that: it also is a compendium of many delightful surprises. Where this volume especially shines, in my opinion, is in the exquisite juxtaposition of images on double-page spreads. Below I have excerpted a few to whet your appetite; some of the intriguing combination principles, besides subject matter from different times and places, are: shapes, patterns, movements, scale, among others.

Gerhard Clausing

01-Loengard.jpg

02-Loengard.jpg

03-Loengard.jpg

04-Loengard.jpg

06-Loengard.jpg

07-Loengard.jpg

08-Loengard.jpg

February 9, 2017

Paula Bronstein – Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear

00-Bronstein-Cover.jpg

Photographer:  Paula Bronstein (American, lives in Bangkok, Thailand)

Publisher:  University of Texas Press, Austin, 2016

Essays:  Foreword by Kim Barker / “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb / Afterword by Paula Bronstein

Text:  English

Hardcover cloth-bound book with 228 numbered pages, 114 color images with captions; sewn binding, printed in China. Louann Atkins Temple Women and Culture Series Book 42.

 

Notes:

Paula Bronstein is a courageous and committed photojournalist with a distinguished career. The cultural and political situation of a war-laden country is not easy to depict, and she does not shirk from a gutsy presentation that documents the Afghanistan situation from 2001 through 2015. In comparison to other book reviews I have done, this particular one has been a true emotional challenge. Paula Bronstein gets right to the heart of things; having received amazing access in difficult situations, she confronts the viewer with a very stark reality through stunning, in-your-face photographic documents, each of which is a story in itself, enhanced by situational details in the captions. The entire volume is a heart-wrenching documentation of America’s longest war. As she depicts a variety of problems, she also provides small glimpses of hope that point to possible solutions.

The volume is divided into three sections labeled “The Situation,” “The Casualties,” and “The Reality.” Besides the 114 color photographs comprising these three sections, there are also three essays: A foreword by Kim Barker deals with the photographer and the context. “Afghan Women” by Christina Lamb describes the background as well as the progress that they have made over the years. Paula Bronstein in an ‘Afterword’ (pp. 224-225) also describes some of the difficulties she faced in doing this work.

Subjects covered in this photographic journey include clashes between belief systems, cultural transitions under the influence of modernity, political and military strife, and the promise of educational opportunities for all, against a background of great turmoil. Both people’s fears and hopes are made relevant through the immediacy of the visual documents. Bronstein does her best to illuminate all the things that are often ignored or shoved aside, such as the byproducts of warfare euphemistically labeled “collateral damage” and the difficulties of oppression, be they cultural or religious: she shows the pain of it all, as well as some small joys and pleasures. As the sample double pages from the work shown below illustrate, military and political as well as social and medical challenges are included. Injuries depicted, both physical and mental, cry out for finding solutions to create a better world.

If ever there was a volume that shows the follies of strife and the need to make a huge effort to find peaceful solutions, this is the one. As I write this review, the press reports that the Afghan war killed 25% more children in 2016 than in 2015, as well as causing injuries to 23% more children than the previous year, affecting thousands of families (Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, p. A4), along with all of the equally lamentable adult casualties.

Gerhard Clausing

01-Bronstein.jpg

02-Bronstein.jpg

03-Bronstein.jpg

04-Bronstein.jpg

05-Bronstein.jpg

06-Bronstein.jpg

07-Bronstein.jpg

08-Bronstein.jpg

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.