The PhotoBook

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.

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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May 19, 2017

David Kregenow – At Eye Level. Photographers Photographed

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 4:51 pm

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Photographer:  David Kregenow (born and resides in Berlin, Germany)

Publisher:  The Unknown Books, Sintra, Portugal, © 2015

Essay: Preface by Wim van Sinderen

Text:  English

Stiff cover, HP Indigo printing, perfect-bound, 21×14.8 cm; 48 unnumbered pages, 21 black and white photographs; edition of 110

Notes:  Excellent portraits of photographers are rare indeed. We often see them portrayed in situational settings, in a mode generally known as environmental portraits, if formally posed at all, or simply in the process of doing their work. Not only that, but it is well known that many photographers often are more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of it. Thus there is some persuasion necessary to get them to pose at all.

We are fortunate that David Kregenow, who is well known for his urban and architectural work, has made it his special project to photograph other photographers, and has been persuasive to have a good number of them pose for him. As Wim van Sinderen describes in the preface to this book, Kregenow corners them as he meets them and ask them to pose for him. The resulting portraits are a treasure trove of formal portraits, done with a special sensitivity to bringing out their personality and style. The portraits are horizontal monochrome headshots, and it is fair to say that they add certain heroism to the subjects. We look straight into their eyes, in a pleasant and non-confrontational manner. One is reminded of the portraits of the old master Yousuf Karsh, who also posed his subjects against a neutral darker background to add a special dimensionality to the portraits.

In the meantime, Kregenow’s project has grown to at least 69 portraits of photographers, as shown on his website. In this volume we are shown 21 of them, all taken between 2011 and 2014, and cropped a bit in a few cases as dictated by the vertical format.  Five of these photographers are no longer among us (Baltz, Burri, Greene, Leiter, and Schmidt), so that these portraits are acquiring value for the history of photography as well. Since this volume has been issued in an edition of only 100 (plus 10 with special prints; collectors, please note!), I am hoping that a larger edition will follow, one that allows the portraits to shine fully on individual pages, without gutter intrusion.

A delightful introduction to seeing photographed photographers!

Gerhard Clausing

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January 11, 2017

Claire Felicie – Only The Sky Remains Untouched

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Copyright 2016 Claire Felicie

Photographer: Claire Felicie (born Breda, NL, resides Amsterdam, NL)

Self-published (the Nederland)

Essays: Claire Felicie

Text: English

Stiffcover book, sewn binding, quad-color (2 blacks, dark grey, warm grey) lithography by Colour and Books, printed in the Nederland

Photobook designer: Sybren Kuiper ( -SYB- )

Notes: Claire Felicie has undertaken a daunting task of investigating the dark inner psyche of war veterans who after engaging in terrifying military combat, have returned home with the invisible wounds of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Felicie carefully chose a symbolic location to stage her portraits, which is a former military weapons factory.  Her portraits and landscapes are subsequently mashed-up and interwoven together in an attempt create a more chaotic and disjointed narrative. The black and white photographs lean heavily into grey and dark tonalities, providing a very somber setting for this body of work.

Her subjects recline half-dressed on a minimalist and symbolic military style cot within a stark space. Some cannot confront the camera, needing to turn their backs to look away. The remaining gazes appear blank, dull, without energy and momentarily without resistance. Many of her portraits are truncated with the interleaving of pages, see images 2 and 3 below, and as well as images 5 and 6, visually revealing only a partial embodiment of her subject, as though that person is no longer whole and symbolically broken.

Many of portraits are paired with images of a decaying structure; a desolate and foreboding environmental context that seems well suited to the disturbing war stories her subjects share in the afterword. Her subjects have experiences that are difficult for a non-combatant viewer to fathom, even after reading about the events that have been witnessed. These are the experiences that subsequently result in sudden bouts of intense anxiety, fear, and sadness accompanied with a loss of trust and a sense of security. Thus pairing a portrait with an abstract marking that could be representative of a weeping wall, bottom image below, is a beautiful symbolic metaphor for a depressing sadness.

Essentially all conceptual projects, although especially portraits, attempt to find ways to explain the unexplained and visualize the invisible. Books and photographs become a silent witness. Nevertheless, I find her photographs of these veterans sequenced among the moody rural and urban landscape photographs elicits a perceived sadness emulating from her subjects and although I don’t know the extent of their pain, it feels palpable.

The surrounding forest, although rendered darkly, is steadily reclaiming the man-made structures, thus offers hope for a slowly regenerative healing for her subjects and mankind as well.

In closing, a beautiful book object that results from the creative collaboration of Felicie with the smart book designer Sybren Kuiper and the beautifully lithography by Sebastiaan Hanekroot at Colour and Books. Recommended.

Cheers

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December 8, 2016

Kenneth O’Halloran – Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing

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Copyright 2016 Kenneth O’Halloran 

Photographer: Kenneth O’Halloran (born Corofin, Country Clare, resides Dublin, Ireland)

Self-published (Ireland)

Essay: Presidential Announcement speech, 2015

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, edition of 500, printed by Mirex, Gdansk (Poland)

Photobook designer: Mac & Ken

Notes: This documentary style project occurred in Los Angles on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2016 during the United States presidential election. O’Halloran’s perspective was that of an outsider looking into an on-going political process, visiting this Southern California region from his native Ireland.

O’Halloran documented the raw emotional reaction of his subjects when confronting the name of one of the candidate’s bronzed in the sidewalk. His portraits of his subjects are tightly composed which appears to add an additional layer of tension to the emotional charged environment surrounding this location.

It might be an understatement that most of his subjects did not appear to react favorably to this landmark, as this candidate went on to lose the popular vote in the election by over two and half million votes as of this writing, while still becoming president-elect.

Best regards, Doug

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November 5, 2016

Alex Van Gelder – Mumbling Beauty Louise Bourgeois

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Photographer:  Alex Van Gelder (residing Paris, France)

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 7, 2016

Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius – Mangini Studio

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Copyright 2014 Terry Brown & Gordon Stettinius

Photographic collaborators: Terry Brown (resides Richmond, VA) & Gordon Stettinius (resides Richmond, VA) USA

Publisher: Candela Books (Richmond, Virginia)

Essays: Dr. Manuel Moore, Terry Brown, Gordon Stettinius

Text: English

Hardcover book, embossed and tipped-in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, index, printed by Worth Higgins & Associates, Richmond, VA

Photobook designer: Sarah Rowland

Notes: This photobook is a humorous eight year collaboration between of two photographers, with Terry Brown making the exposures of her subject, Gordon Stettinius (perhaps an alter-ego series of selfies?), with Gordon having the opportunity to play a variety of roles. This conceptual project also reminds me of the work of Cindy Sherman, another photographer/artist who is very adapt at playing a variety of roles for her lens. The reader has an opportunity to really get to know the wild and crazy side of Gordon Stettinius. I will admit, not realizing that this project was underway or knowing Stettinius, it was pretty perplexing to figure out just who Stettinius actually was when I found some of these portraits on-line over the last couple of years.

These interesting, albeit playful, series of studio portraits also has a serious undercurrent that investigates perceived roles and identities.The viewer cannot help in reacting to the various visual persona’s that are represented in this portfolio; hippie, dork, right-wing conservative, left-wing intellectual, low-life, ex-military, skin-head, artist, politician, country musician and even a cross-dresser. I find that this project pokes fun at many of the stereotypes of our society (regretfully pre-Trump), while subtly confronting some of the cultural issues we face today.

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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July 28, 2016

Christoph Lingg – By The World Forgot – Portraits of the Indigenous Peoples of Asia

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Copyright 2014 Christoph Lingg

Photographer: Christoph Lingg (b. Schoppernau – resides Vienna, Austria)

Publisher: Editions Aufbruch (Austria)

Essays: Christoph Lingg, Diana Vinding

Text: English, Deutsch

Hardcover book with wood veneer (8 options to choose from), sewn binding, four-color lithography (black and white images), pagination and geographical chapters, Reading List, printed in Czech Republic, covers produced and bound by Lingg in Vienna.

Photobook designer: Christoph Lingg

Notes: Over the past years, Christoph Lingg has been creating black and white portraits of the Indigenous People in the broadly defined geo-region of Asia, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Mongolia, Siberia, Myanmar, India and China. This is not an attempt to be fully inclusive investigation of the cultures of Kalasha, Dani, Buriad, Nenets, Palaung, Apatani, Yao and Hani to name a few that are featured in his book.

His subjects are frequently backed with a simple white cloth and I am reminded of the earlier on-location portraits of Irving Penn. It is a technique to isolate the subject from their environment and which focuses the viewers on the individual captured in front of the lens. Interspersed are environmental portraits in which his subjects are situated in their local cultural elements to provide more context about their living conditions.

Frequently the viewer is met by a weary gaze at or a slightly off-lens look that is telling about the economic and political conditions that could be considered characteristic of Indigenous people, a cultural sub-group within a larger population. Lingg may have only been among his subjects for a short time and due to language and custom barriers, probably not sufficient time to establish or develop a really deep and open relationship. Nevertheless the portraits are powerful and well presented in this hardcover book, although the decision to print on a warm matte paper creates a lower contrast image lacking deep blacks.

Christoph Lingg’s photobook, Shut Down, was previously featured on The PhotoBook.

Cheers

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July 7, 2016

Susan S. Bank – Piercing the Darkness

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Copyright 2016 Susan S. Bank

Photographer: Susan S. Bank (b. Portsmouth, NH and resides in both Philadelphia, PA & Portsmouth, NH USA)

Publisher: Brilliant Press, Exton (PA)

Essays: Susan S. Bank, John T. Hill

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, List of Plates, printed by Brilliant Press in USA

Photobook designer: Jesse Holborn

Notes: As I had stated in an earlier review, there will be a number of photobooks forthcoming about Cuba. Nevertheless, there are a few photographers, such as Susan S. Bank, who is investigating the island, people and subsequently the culture of Cuba for an extended period.

This is Bank’s second book about Cuba and for this poignant project she is focusing on the people of Havana. She has carefully chosen to photograph her subject utilizing analog black & white with her Leica to get up close and personal. She is an urban photographer who can capture the various Havana street activities as well as someone who appears to be able to gain trust and probe inside the cultural boundaries to observe life as it unfolds. All the while Bank steers clear of the potential Cuban clichés to dive beneath the veneer and focus on capturing quiet and intimate personal moments. This is a gritty photobook that connects with me and I feel provides a real sense of who the people are that reside in Havana. Recommended.

Cheers

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June 23, 2016

Lorne Resnick – CUBA

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Copyright 2015 Lorne Resnick

Photographer: Lorne Resnick  (born Toronto, Canada, resides Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Publisher: Insight Editions (USA)

Essays: Lorne Resnick, Brian Andreas, Pico Iyer, Gerry Badger

Text: English

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

Photobook designer: Leah Bloise

Notes: In conjunction with the opening of travel by the United States into Cuba, a Caribbean island which due to trade embargos has an economy and physical infrastructure that appears to be frozen in time, there is suddenly an overflow of photographic books that attempt to investigate this charming island.

Resnick is not a stranger to Cuba having started his 50 or more visits to Cuba in 1995. This thick monograph of lyrical photographs by a veteran street photographer using a documentary style has an interesting mix of color and black white photographs. His subjects are a mash up for portraits, landscape, details and social events. I have extensively worked as well as vacationed in the Caribbean, thus I find Resnick’s investigation appears to reveal similarities to but yet awkward differences with its Caribbean island cousins. In attempting to provide a wide view of Cuba, he occasional treads close to some potential Cuban clichés while yet infusing his book with humor, potency, intimacy and the exuberance portrayed by his subjects. Included is a nice book element with poetic text printed on translucent pages that intermittently layers his photographs.

Resnick also has a limited edition version of this book that includes a 60-song Cuban music collection. nice.

Cheers

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