The PhotoBook Journal

February 21, 2018

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet – Le Naufrage

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Photographer:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet (born in Chicoutimi; lives in Québec City, Canada)

Publisher:  Les Éditions du renard, Montréal, Canada; © 2017

Text:  Poem “Dompter le naufrage” by Fabien Cloutier

Language:  French

Illustration:  Frédérik Lévesque

Hardback, sewn; 108 pages with 55 images, paginated; 9 x 10.5″; printed in Canada by Deschamps Impression; edition of 500 and special edition of 30

Photobook Design:  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet and CRITERIUM

 

Notes:

I recently reviewed a book by Gerald Boyer from Catalonia, in which the main emphasis was childhood recollections and family connections around the rugged terrain along the northeastern coast of Spain. Part of those recollections concerned the camaraderie of going fishing in “the cove.” In the present work, things get much rougher.  Charles-Frédérick Ouellet has been documenting the very traditional work of the fishermen of the Quebec/St. Lawrence River area and its connected bodies of water, men who earn their livelihood by braving rough waters and other natural turmoil to bring home their catch; they follow in the path of ancient traditions.

The title of this volume is Le Naufrage (The Shipwreck), and that title certainly makes us wonder if the specter of tragedy and unforeseen events are in the minds of such men pursuing their rugged trade. And sure enough, in the back of the volume there is a fitting poem by Fabien Cloutier entitled, “Dompter le naufrage” (“Dodging the Shipwreck,” perhaps with the implication, “Against all odds”), which lets us in on the images floating about in the fishermen’s minds: separated from their people, they will brave the storm, overcome their fear of disaster, and get back safely to the land and their loved ones again…

This narrative of fishermen is well photographed and handsomely presented. Ouellet rode along on the boats for several years and got to know the men well, pitched in when needed, and was subject to the same adverse conditions as they were. Thus they fully accepted him; he was able to obtain honest views of both calm and rough moments. There is some effect of pictorialism to the work, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. The overall feeling of nostalgia, survival, and temporality is generalized through choices of light and composition that nudge the work toward the abstract and support its strong graphic impact. The longing for the safety of the land exists along with the urge for excitement; the romantic veneer has been removed and the images show the best photojournalistic vision that is enveloped in an artistic presentation. The segment of images taken on the water is surrounded by an initial and a final portion that show terra firma and recollections of nature as a kind of “before”and “after,” which complete the contexts these men experience. The use of small Leica film-based rangefinder cameras on the water, and large-format film cameras for the landscapes and clouds, was a very effective strategy that provided Ouellet with technical ruggedness when needed and an overall artistic look. We are put in the midst of the action in well-composed images and nicely sequenced scenic views. The ever-changing weather conditions certainly also provide a strong background for this narrative. Paisley endpapers, a very pleasing matte paper stock for the printed pages (both ivory and gray), a bound bookmark, and a painting showing rough waves also support the elegant appearance of this book.

A most enjoyable volume!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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February 3, 2018

Donald Weber – War Sand

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Photographer: Donald Weber (Toronto, Canada & resides in Amsterdam, The Nederland’s) http://donaldweber.com/

Microscopy: Donald Weber and Kevin Robbie

Published by Polygon, Nederland, copyright 2018 https://shop.donaldweber.com/products/war-sand

Essay by Larry Frolick, Kevin Robbie and Donald Weber

Text: English, French, German

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Stiff covers, map insert, perfect bound (sewn & glued), block trim, four-color lithography, D-day Glossary, printed by Fine Books in Nederland’s

Photobook designer: Teun van der Heijden, Heijdens Karwel

Color management & Lithography, Sebastiaan Hannekroot, Colour & Books

Notes: War. As I have stated before; I don’t understand it and fortunately I have not had to experience it, although my house is built on an old WWII bombing range. I think Donald Weber’s War Sand is a similar multi-medic type of publication that has much in common with Louie Palu’s Front Towards Enemy beyond the fact that both are investigating an aspect of war; Weber looking at the traces of World War II’s D-day invasion on the coast of France and Palu is grounded in the present in Afghanistan. Whereas Palu utilizes multiple types of publications for his collective narrative, Weber provides his multi-media story within one set of covers.

Weber’s book is a series of sections in which his investigation changes formats, styles and viewpoints to explore the complexity of his subject; the D-day landing zones. The “introduction” is a lyrical study of the sky, clouds and into the heavens above and then the viewpoint progresses to include the landing beaches (code names: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) until drilling down (literally) and then into the sand itself. The attributes of sand of these beaches was in of itself a secret commando mission that Weber’s grandfather had partaken in 1943.

A scientific section on microarcheology of current sand samples from the various D-day beaches reveals in minute detail the finding of what was expected as well as some things not expected, while disturbingly some very small shrapnel debris that is no doubt related to this intense battle that began on June 6th.

Weber has created a number of very intriguing set of dioramas to tell the story of his grandfather’s commando raid to get beach samples. The book concludes with a visual storyboard that is a combination of D-day movie stills and archive WWII photographs. Although the latter is an interesting read, it may be the weakest aspect of this multi-layered book, nevertheless for a visual book investigating a complex subject I applaud Weber for taking an artistic risk by including this last section.

The clever book design includes a sleight-of-hand with the utilization of a few Japanese folds that are printed on the concealed interior pages referring to the secret codes names created for the D-day invasion. The cross-word puzzle printed on the interior page of the fold provides a ghostly image with the thinner paper stock, barely discernable of the outer pages in this section of his photobook. The books little secret visually hints at all of the many secrets surrounding this WWII event and indirectly the reason for the book’s creation.

The higher key lyrical coastal photographs provides an alternative viewpoint and belies the horrors that had occurred at these same locations on that stormy June 6th day in 1944. The casualties for the Allied landing forces on D-day alone include 2,700 British, 946 Canadians and 6,603 Americans. For Germany, the number of casualties are still unknown, but is estimated between 4,000 and 6,000. The Battle of Normandy that resulted from the invasion incurred 425,000 Allied and German troops that were either killed, wounded or went missing. Perhaps not often mentioned are the number of French citizens caught in the middle of this battle which has been estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 casualties. Some of the many statistics of war that this narrative only hints at. That my father landed on D-day plus 3 with the U.S. Second Armor on Omaha beach and at the war’s end came home is something I am grateful for as otherwise I would not be here to delight you with this review. It was also a dark event that my dad refused to talk about, so indirectly I think of this book as being part of his story.

What really intrigues me about this photobook is that as a visual object it is similar to my thought processes and the way I think about a subject; a constant jumble of ideas mixed with various kinds of facts, different memories and recollections that seem to oddly cross-paths. In turn this process creates ideas about things that I want to dig into and tangential thoughts that then result. It makes book development challenging in trying to decide what the narrative should be and how to present it. I enjoy how Weber’s multi-faceted investigated of this complex subject resulted is a photobook that is an visual interesting, nicely organized and a delightfully layered narrative.

Weber states “The war-relics presented here create an immersive experience on the theme of collective memory. They include WWII spy-craft and old Hollywood movies, dioramas and drone-mounted cameras, private post-war memoirs and wistful seaside photographs. These artifacts reveal war’s quantum traces. And they expose our civilization’s longing for a final victory over death.”

Other book by Donald Weber that is reviewed on TPBJ: Bastard Eden, Our Chernobly.

Cheers!

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January 25, 2018

Louie Palu – Front Towards Enemy

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Photographer: Louie Palu (born Toronto, Canada & resides Washington DC)

Published by Yoffy Press: Atlanta, GA (USA) copyright 2017

Essay by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu

Text: English

Stiff cover Zine with metal saddle stitch binding, Cards, Leporello (Accordion), soft cover Newspaper, folded without binding, exhibition insert, housed in printed chip-board folder with cover flap, four-color lithography, printed in Turkey

Photobook designer: Jordan Swartz

Notes: War. I don’t understand it and fortunately I have not had to experience it, although I live on an old WW2 bombing range, that’s another story. Louie Palu in his new multi-media publication (can we really call this a photobook?) Front Towards Enemy provides a version of a photo-documentary that resulted from a self-assignment investigation of the war conflict in Afghanistan. This is a very complex region; socially, economically, politically and environmentally that Palu has tried to emulate with an equally complex and layered print concept.

His multi-media conceptual photobook immediately reminded me of Alejandro Cartagena’s 2015 self-published Before the War, which in retrospect, I have found so complex at the time as to be visually overwhelming. There are similar aspects about Palu’s publication as well.

Palu’s photobook has four major components and then each of these break down or expand from there. Part newspaper, The Void of War, part zine, The Fighting Season, part leporello, part a pack of picture cards and finally an insert that suggests how to assemble of this into a exhibition. Wow.

Rebecca Senf in her assay discusses the parallels between Palu and W. Eugene Smith as to how Smith after his tiff with Life magazine about his Albert Schweitzer photo essay left the magazine and went independent. As Palu was self-assigned for his Afghanistan project, likewise he did not have to conform to the norms of a picture editor, but completed his project on his own aesthetic terms. We do not always see his subject but are provided indirect evidence of his subject’s presence; a cast shadow, an out of focus form, heads bowed, truncated feet, legs and arms. A photo-documentary that attempts to connect with the heart.

Newspaper; The Void of War; interior pages with images that are an impressive 8-1/2” h x 21-1/2” w; the ultrawide format of the camera lens creates a distorted visualization that echos the frequently un-nerving human situations that are in a state of progress. The photographic quality of the newsprint has low contrast with muddled blacks, typical of an area of newspapers and harken back to newspaper coverage of the Vietnam War era.

Zine; The Fighting Season, saddle stitch binding, with the essays by Rebecca Senf and Louie Palu and includes the book’s colophon. A mix of the trauma of warfare with the background of the human element, the children and adults with their animals who try to survive in the region amidst the war.

Leporello (Accordion); 14 continuous panels, printed full bleed that when unfolded extends 13 feet, with the photographs on one side and the caption printed on the reverse. The physical manipulation of the leporello to look at the images and then read the corresponding caption is awkward and not meant to be an easy act. The last image (or depending on how you fold the leporello, the first image) of a seriously wounded Afghan solider in a Medevac helicopter’s blue light is incredibly haunting.

Cards, individual prints, which are printed full bleed, 11”h x 7-1/2”w, on heavy card stock. Captions are provided on the reverse side. These are tightly cropped portraits of his subjects who are soldiers that are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.  I find their eyes and gaze visually riveting.

Single page insert: Instructions and suggestions on how to create one version of an exhibition with this publication.

As one moves from one part of the publication to another, there is a feeling of messiness, an interesting feeling, perhaps a simulation of the awkward and strained social and environmental conditions that Palu is encountering. Another dimension of this body of work.

Palu has stated that although he has experienced some aspect of war, his photographs cannot provide the reader with the full experience of what this is. Similarly, this review is an attempt to describe a complex publication, but cannot provide the reader with the full experience. Highly recommended you obtain your own copy.

Other books published by Louie Palu that have been reviewed on TPBJ: Cage Call

Cheers!

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December 17, 2017

Matthew James O’Brien – No dar papaya

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Photographer:  Matthew James O’Brien (born in San Mateo, California; resides in San Francisco, California)

Publishers:  Icono Editorial, Bogota, Colombia and Placer Press, San Francisco, California; © 2014; introduced in the United States in 2016

Essays:  Juan Alberto Gaviria Vélez; Matthew James O’Brien

Text:  English and Spanish

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color printing; 129 numbered pages; 190 photographs with time and location identification and map; 9.5×12 inches; printed and bound in Spain by Artes Gráficas Palermo, Madrid

Notes:  The Spanish phrase “No dar papaya” has a special meaning in Colombia, something like “Don’t be an easy target.” In a country that has seen much strife and turmoil and has only slowly come to a more reasonable overall existence, this is good advice, as the photographer Matthew O’Brien describes in his essay “Expect the Unexpected,” based on his own experiences in that country. As the gallery owner Juan Alberto Gaviria Vélez states in the introduction, the people of Colombia have a collective desire to live in peace one day. O’Brien’s overall approach focuses on the positive; this volume can be considered a love affair with Colombia’s people, who in general seem very welcoming and approachable.

O’Brien visited Colombia a number of times, as a student, photographer, and as a teacher of photography, during the years 2003-2013. He decided that the softer, somewhat dreamy look of vintage color Polaroid was the ideal vehicle for presenting a more optimistic view of a people striving for a better future. At one time, when there still was a more plentiful and affordable supply of these materials (manufacture of this specific Polaroid material ceased in 2008), he could also take a second shot and give it to his subjects on location as a memento. In any case, this medium requires a more considered approach.

The book presents many contrasts: country and desert scenes and seashore settings, cityscapes and many activities observed in all these varied locations, as the country itself is full of variety and contrasts – cities vs. countryside, jungles and deserts, agriculture and fishing, religion, the sensuous vs. the intellectual, the varieties of ethnic groups. The generously laid out and juxtaposed images are not always obvious as to their meaning; our interpretations can be given free reign, and perhaps that is a good thing, up to a point. On the other hand, I found O’Brien’s stories and anecdotes also very enlightening, especially regarding his personal experiences with the individuals depicted and referenced, and I would have liked even more of those personal and cultural notes to go with the images presented. The author is an excellent storyteller, both visually and verbally, and should not shy away from expanding the verbal explanations in a second edition or in future projects; it would be nice to have such further cultural enrichment to go with his images. The appendix contains a map of Colombia, as well as a complete list of the location and year each image was taken. One is reminded of the work of August Sander; this is a kind of “Colombians of the 21st Century” project, with the people portrayed facing the camera without pretense. The shots are well composed and pleasant to survey. The chronological presentation of images gives the book the feel of a family album, and perhaps that was the intent for this supportive portrayal of the people O’Brien encountered.

This volume is a refreshing and positive new view of a country about which we have received many decades of bad reports, and it allows us glimpses of all the good people who live there and are longing for a better future.

Gerhard Clausing

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November 22, 2017

Paweł Jaszczuk – Everything You Do Is A Balloon

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Photographer:  Paweł Jaszczuk (born in Warsaw, Poland; lives and works in Warsaw and Tokyo, Japan)

Publisher:  Lieutenant Willsdorff, Bordeaux, France, © 2016

Essay:  Sophie Knight

Text:  English

Hard cover with sewn binding and black nylon hosiery wrapper; four-color offset printing; 74 pages, not numbered; 44 images; 6×9 inches; printed in Poland by Drukarnia Klimiuk, Warsaw

Photo book designer:  Full Metal Jacket, Poland

Photo Editor:  Aga Bilska

Notes:

Photographing extreme, exotic, even “kinky” behaviors has been with us since photography began, and there are many instances in other art forms as well, especially in painting and sculpture, the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen being a good example. Take photography: Weegee (Arthur Fellig) made his livelihood chasing around New York for accident photos and other situations showing people in unusual circumstances (while on the side he also indulged himself producing fine art photography, by the way). Here at The PhotoBook Journal, we recently discussed images of customers in the bars of Vienna as photographed by Klaus Pichler in Golden Days Before They End.

When it comes to Japan, life in their densely populated “megacities” seems especially anxiety-producing, as for instance Michael Wolf has shown in his images produced in crowded subways. Others, such as Nobuyoshi Araki, have shown more intimate and gritty sides of life in Japan in stark monochromatic images.

Here we have Paweł Jaszczuk from Poland, who documents the leisure activities of some Japanese diversion-seekers. Their clothes vary: some indulge in cosplay by acting out different personalities or identities away from the constraints of their straight-laced everyday work existence; others shed their clothes to engage in a variety of activities that suit them. Based on some of the surrounding paraphernalia, we assume alcohol and other substances might also play a role at times. Fetish-based behaviors, involving latex, cross-dressing, uniforms, and other props, abound in the scenes that are shown. Some of the nudity is presented furtively, some of it is brazen.

This hard-bound volume is entirely in color, comes with a wrap-around piece of hosiery (for willful draping of the cover as shown above and/or other uses as the customer wishes!) and is a kind of artful-journalistic compendium of unfettered behaviors, it seems in response to the stress of the work week, as explained in Sophie Knight’s essay: “… you burst like a balloon. The weekend has begun.”

An interesting body of work, part of a genre with precedents, and yet in its own way seductively idiosyncratic and refreshing.

Gerhard Clausing

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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

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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.

A 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

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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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June 15, 2017

Richard Humphries – Kingdom’s Edge

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

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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

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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

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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

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May 5, 2017

Manca Juvan – Guardians of the Spoon

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

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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

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