The PhotoBook Journal

May 18, 2018

Richard S. Chow – Distant Memories

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 2:11 pm

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Photographer: Richard S. Chow (born Hong Kong & resides Los Angeles, CA)

Self-published 2016, Edition of 50

Text: English

Stiff covers, perfect bound, black and white, printed by MagCloud (div. Blurb)

Photobook designer: Richard S. Chow

Notes: Richard S. Chow came to Southern California as a sixteen year old when his family emigrated from Hong Kong, which is a difficult transitional age in of itself for a teenager, least being thrown into a completely different culture.

This project and self-published book, Distant Memories, originates from a desire to “capture the childhood that I could have experienced, those weekend forays to museums, outings to the waters edge with family, friends and a picnic basket filled with ingredients for a perfect day. Like finding shells on the shore, I am collecting memories.”

Memories are equally fragile and critical to a person’s identity. Thus sometimes we may not have the wonderful memories we would like and similar to a dreamer, we can try to recreate new memories that are more aligned to one’s hopes and desires. Chow’s project is an investigation of memories that are not perfect and are a bit slightly skewed, reflecting on the imperfect nature of memory or perhaps how a memory could be reimagined.

I had an opportunity to talk with Chow about his project and is experimental/play as to how this project came about. He was randomly playing with some tourist pay-for-use telescopes found on the public piers of Southern California and he was finding the resulting photographs to be very interesting. These non-professional scopes created indistinct and truncated images that had an immediate personal appeal. One photograph lead to another and the idea developed of how these ambiguous images resonated with Chow as a potential metaphor for memories.

These are imperfect images of individuals, groups and other beach scenes that avoids the typical lyrical qualities usually associated with the Southern California beach photography. Similar to other street photography, there is also a bit of an uncomfortable voyeur aspect to his use of a very long lens to capture individuals in the midst of their beach activities.

That these photographs are created in a graphic black and white further abstracts his beach landscapes and provides more opportunities for the viewer to re-imagine their own memories of playful times and summer holidays.

Cheers,

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April 26, 2018

Pre-order; Douglas Stockdale – Middle Ground/En Medio Tierra

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Middle Ground/En Medio Tierra (book dummy) 2018 Douglas Stockdale

As I just announced on my personal photo-blog Singular Images, I am very excited to accept pre-orders for my artist book Middle Ground/En Medio Tierra! Which is one of the reasons that I have not been providing book reviews for the past couple of weeks. The other wonderful reason for my absence is that the book publication will occur concurrent with the exhibition of this body of work at Fabrik Projects, a gallery located in Los Angeles (adjacent to Culver City), which opens May 5th and runs through June 2nd, 2018. The artist reception will be on Saturday, May 12th, so if you are on the left coast at that time, I hope you can join me from 6-8pm on the 12th.

Also, I was just notified by Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP), that two of the photographs from this project were selected for their third annual Fine Arts exhibition which will exhibit concurrently. This is a new experience for me!

This project investigates an urban landscape in a documentary style. Although this project was initially developed as a political satire to create a parody of “bigley” wall on the America”s southern border with Mexico, it has come to symbolically represent some issues that are more universal. This American landscape is a metaphor for political, economic, social, and cultural barriers and walls that people create to impede the progress and acceptance of others. If you are building or maintaining walls, you are not building bridges to acceptance. Aesthetically, this project has already been likened to a mash-up of Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” with Christo’s “Running Fence”.

The books will be ready to ship by the middle to end of next month. I am doing the leporello binding and it may take me a little while to complete each of the dozen connections required for these artist books.

So here are the artist book publication details:

Self-published, publication date; May 2018 (concurrent with exhibition at Fabrik Projects, Los Angeles, CA)

Stiff covers with flap-over French fold, Leporello book design

Pages: 66 pages (blank verso)

Photographs: 31 Images, color

Printing: 4 color lithographic printing

Leporello binding: hand-bound by the artist

Book design and layout by the artist

Artist book, edition size 99 + 5 A/P

Book trim size: 6-1/2” x 8-1/4” (165mm x 210mm)

Acknowledgements & Colophon, without essays, captions or pagination

Text: English and Spanish

Cover paper: 18 pt C1s Tango

Interior paper: 80# GPA Uncoated Text (Gloss)

Retail price: $59.50 USD (CA residents add sales tax)

I can process your book orders through Paypal. Until May 5th, for those in the United States, the price will include my shipping costs. For outside the U.S. I need to add an additional $15.00 to the cost of the book for shipping (if it turns out that it is more, I will absorb it).

Note: since the book will not been printed until next week, the book images are from my book-dummy.

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November 7, 2017

Frank Cancian – Lacedonia – An Italian Town, 1957

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:12 am

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Photographer: Frank Cancian (born Stafford Springs, CT and lives in Irvine, CA)

Self-Published (350): Irvine, CA, second edition copyright 2017

Essays: Franco Arminio, Rocco Pagnatiello and Frank Cancian

Text: English

Stiff cover, perfect bound glued binding, digital lithography, printed by Hemlock Printers (Canada)

Photobook designer: Doug daSilva

Notes:

As an anthropologist by training and a photographer as a creative passion, these two elements were fused together in 1957 when Frank Cancian investigated a small Italian hill-top community located east of Naples. This body of work would also pass for a photojournalist story found in either LIFE or LOOK magazines of this same period. It is now a photobook of memories about social and economic conditions that have since evolved.

As a trained observer of culture and society, Cancian’s process did not allow him to remain aloof and at a distance, but to directly interacted with his subjects, catching them in self-reflection as well as allowing them to boldly face his lens. For a small Italian town, an Italian-American stranger with a camera was an oddity, thus his presence was conspicuous. Nevertheless, over time he was able to blend in and become more of an objective observer.

The book is divided into four sections; The Town, The Piazza, Procession of Our Lady of Graces and The Farm, all important elements to life in this region following WWII. The double page spread of a wedding progression as it snakes along the hilltop road winding through the town is beautifully composed. The light drizzle adds an interesting atmospheric effect. Cancian includes in the edge of the frame in the foreground a small knot of townspeople who although are not part of the wedding procession, are still very interested in this local event. Likewise the humorous pairing of the padre and the individual with the up cast eyes could be a metaphor for good and evil, as we suspect the good intentions of the padre, but are not sure of the sly look of his other subject.

The first Edition hardcover book was published by Delta 3 Edizioni, copyright 2013, who regretfully chose a lithographic printer that either had inadequate color management or was asleep at the wheel while this book was being printed; major color shifts that are too noticeable, especially when these occur with a photograph spanning a page spread, with one page in one color, while the other half is another color. To Cancian’s credit he felt compelled to self-publish this book in a second edition under his direct publishing control for the US market. There are 20 additional photographs and the Italian text was not provided in the second edition. Regretfully as with most glued perfect binding, this book design does trap some of the image content in the gutter diminishing the visual effect of photographs that are a double page spread.

Cancian is a first generation American whose family had emigrated from Italy, thus his project is part autobiographical. Cancian’s Lucedonia is a Finalist in the recent Lucie Photobook Awards for this self-published edition.

The first edition of Cancian’s book was reviewed previously here: Lucedonia

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

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August 12, 2017

Harvey Benge – The Month Before Trump

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Photographer: Harvey Benge (resides Auckland (NZ) and Paris (FR))

Self-Published & Limited Edition with signed print (Edition – 50): New Zealand copyright 2017

Text: English

Stiff cover, saddle stitch binding, four-color lithography, printed NZ

Photobook designer: Harvey Benge

Notes: x

Harvey Benge’s The Month Before Trump is a collection of photographs made in the United States, specifically San Francisco and New York in October 2016, the month before the presidential elections. As a New Zealander who spends equal time between Auckland and Paris, he provides a sophisticated outsider’s eye which reminds me of a contemporary Robert Frank and his 1950’s seminal photobook The Americans.

While I believe Frank is a bit more searing in his vision, I find Benge to be a bit more subtle, while both photographers provide a unique while sarcastic view of the American urban landscape. As in earlier Benge photobooks, the paring of the mostly horizontal images create wonderful dialogs while usually sharing a spot of color or tonality to complement the resulting juxtaposition narrative.

Benge explains;

My pictures explore the strange anthropology of cities. The unusual and overlooked in the human landscape. I am asking the viewer to question the idea that photographs as documents are complete representations of subject. I’m interested in the universality of life and the idea of parallel lives – when one thing is happening here, something else is happening over there. The democracy of non-places fascinates me, in the knowledge that inevitably nothing is as it seems.

While the making his observations of the morphing American landscape was at a time prior to knowing the political outcome, the subsequent editing for his book was with the full realization of who had inadvertently landed a White House job. Thus perhaps the reason for what I perceive as an underlying dark edginess to his urban investigation.

Other photobooks by Harvey Benge that have been reviewed on The PhotoBook Journal; Sri Landa Diary, Birds, Against Forgetting, Eat me, Still Looking for It, All the Places I’ve Even Known, One day – Ten Photographers.

 

 

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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April 28, 2017

Douglas Stockdale – Bluewater Shore

Bluewater Shore limited edition artist book

Artist:  Douglas Stockdale (born Butler, PA; resides Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Publisher: Self-published, hand-inscribed, limited signed edition of 99; Copyright © 2017

Text: English

Stiff-cover book of 32 pages with 16 prong-bound images, unnumbered; in poly slip-cover; Fultone® digital lithography, printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California

Notes: Photobooks that present their images in a loose format, i.e., not permanently bound and sequenced but changeable, are still the exception. One such successful work was David Alan Harvey’s 2012 project entitled (based on a true story), dealing with life in Rio, with real and imagined storylines. That innovative volume (which received a number of important awards) was designed with double pages whose sequence could be rearranged to tell a different story from the viewer’s perspective, using the same images, but with new juxtapositions. A more recent predecessor to Bluewater Shore is Douglas Stockdale’s Pine Lake, reviewed previously; it shares a similar image presentation format with Bluewater Shore, which is its sequel.

In the case of Douglas Stockdale’s Bluewater Shore, we have a hand-inscribed and hand-assembled limited edition artist book presenting a simulated drugstore-issued set of 16 prints that take the viewer on an imaginary trip taking place in the 1940s: a young woman traveling to “bluewater shore” with her women friends. Since that was a time in which women were able to feel some greater sense of self and independence, they were not accompanied by males as might have been the expected practice in previous times. We see them on their journey, we see them at the beach in various activities, and – lo and behold! – suddenly males also appear in the pictures. That’s where the story gets interesting – we don’t know who they are, or what relationships there are between them and the women, but we can project our ideas into the pictures. There are also some children in the photographs, and we don’t know whether they are relatives, or bystanders, or symbols of things to come. Since the roll of film fictitiously presented in this publication is made up of only 16 pictures and the people depicted are not available, we are only able to guess what might be taking place. Consider it a story puzzle that allows us to participate vicariously. Creative photographic storytelling at its finest!

Douglas Stockdale has taken vernacular images from his family’s archives and has repurposed them for this semi-fictitious narrative as a new single set of 16. They have been appropriately aged and once printed slightly enlarged, prong-bound into a folder that simulates how prints were once delivered with processed rolls for a small additional fee (Kodak/Ansco flip-books). There is even a seemingly unintentional double exposure. Since they are bound with a prong that can be removed from the folder, the images can be rearranged and spread out on the table as might have once been the case if they were to be evaluated or placed in an album. Thus we can experience parts of a family history and relate what we see to our own history and our shared cultural past as well. A most enjoyable photographic puzzle of memories and times gone by.

This site has also featured Douglas Stockdale’s hardbound volume, Ciociaria.

Gerhard Clausing

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April 20, 2017

Ellen Korth – CHARKOW

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Photographer: Ellen Korth, (b. The Hague, Netherlands – resides Deventer (Netherlands) & Nordhorn (Germany)

Publisher: Self-published, Deventer (Netherlands), copyright 2016

Interviews by: Ellen Korth, Sybren Kuiper

Text: Netherlands, English & German

Seven (7) Stiff-cover books in slip-case, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Fine Books Weesp (Jos Morree) in Netherlands

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Photobook designer: Sybren Kuiper ( -SYB- )

Lithographer: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)

Notes: Ellen Korth’s CHARKOW photobook is a very layered and complex set of photobooks, both physically and in her narrative, in part similar to and driven by her mysterious and complex past. Essentially this is an investigation of the question of what constitutes “home”?

It is a collection of short visual stories that delves into the subject for each person or couple as to what is “home” (where their heart is) for them? Perhaps for Korth in attempting to understand how others sense “home”, it might be a therapeutic process for her to deal her own feelings of belonging. It appears to me that this photobook also investigate a related and equally beguiling question; how deep must one’s roots be to feel “grounded”?

Each of the thin books create a fascinating visual metaphor; as each successive full-bleed photograph becomes smaller, the outer framing of the previous photographs can be read as a background border to create a complex, layered environmental context for the developing narrative. The unbalanced trim of each page spread adds to the visual layering effect. Once at the center of each book, it is difficult to read the photographic spread, the only image with a small white margin, without noticing the Kaleidoscopic background framing that reminds the reader about how complex a person’s story might be. A wonderful analogy to the layering of skins surrounding an onion and the effort to peel each layer to get closer to the central heart. The reader imagines that that they are slowly delving deeper into the layers of her subject’s life to get at the core of who they might be as it relates to being “home”. Both visual tantalizing and emotionally elusive.

For Korth, her personal story is cloaked in dark secrets and a sense of loss as to her family history. This may be in part as a result of her mother’s need for secrecy since fleeing from Charkow (Kharkov) during the absolute terror and chaos of the German invasion during WWII. Korth is dealing with the issues of an incomplete and hidden past and perhaps the unanswerable questions of how to resolve those feelings.

Highly Recommended! My basis: I was one of the jurist for the International Photo Book Competition sponsored by Photo Independent and I was absolutely blown away by this brilliant photobook and immediately knew that I had to provide this to the readers of The PhotoBook Journal. Oh, it also won the photobook competition as well.

Update: CHARKOW was a finalist in the first (2017) Lucie Photo Book Prize.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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April 17, 2017

Shane Lavalette – One Sun, One Shadow

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Photographer: Shane Lavalette (b. Burlington, VT – resides Syracuse, NY)

Publisher: Lavalette, Syracuse (NY), copyright 2016

Essay: Tim Davis

Text: English

Clothbound hardcover book, embossed with tipped in image, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Lithuania

Photobook designer: Lavalette

Notes: Shane Lavalette’s photobook is resulting from an earlier commission by the High Museum of Art (Atlanta, GA) for a exhibition series that they were working on in 2012 “Picturing the South”. Probably similar to Lavalette, I have visited the “South” on only a few occasions and realize that I have mind images of what constitutes this region of America. Perhaps other than one image of an alligator lurking in a pool of green mossy waters and another of fireflies, Lavalette avoided what I had imagined as topological stereotypes and created instead a poetic interpretation of what he experienced.

Lavalette states that he went looking for the music of the South, perhaps for some that might be a connotation for the Delta Blues, Smokey Mountain bluegrass or perhaps some kick-ass Georgia County Line country-rock. Regretfully for me I did not find this musical element in his photographs, but there are quiet, pensive moments that could lend to being lyrical, just not for in a musical sense.

Do I think that I know what it means to live in the South from this body of work? Perhaps not, as there are ambiguous landscapes and portraits that appear that these could have been found anywhere in the United States. Does it bust my stereotype image bank that I have about what is the South?  Most certainly and to further understand that the “South” is really not much different than many parts elsewhere in America. Perhaps this could be the source of the book’s title; One Sun, One Shadow; we are really the same regardless of where we are as we share this underlying sameness.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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May 5, 2016

Jan Brykczynski – Boiko

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Copyright 2014 Jan Brykczynski

Photographer: Jan Brykczynski   (born & resides Warsaw, Poland)

Self-published (Poland) with support by Sputnik Photos

Essays: Taras Prokhas’ko

Text: English on a double-gate spread with Polish and Ukrainian text insert

Hardcover book, embossed cover with magnetic closure, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Poland.

Photobook designer: Ana Natecka, Tapir Book Design

Notes: Brykczynski has uses a documentary style to photograph a small village in the Ukraine that is composed of a Boiko culture. This is a primitive region where sleds and sleighs are drawn by horses, animals are slaughtered on open tables exposed to the harsh elements, the floors of homes are mostly dirt and fields of grain are cut by hand. The portraits of those who live in the region portray a warmth and strong religious belief that belies the struggling economics. It appears that this region is in a transitional phase of old beliefs mixed with the new technology of electrical lighting, automobiles and contemporary clothing. A poignant study of an old culture battled by contemporary elements.

Cheers

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December 26, 2014

Alejandro Cartagena – Carpoolers

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Copyright Alejandro Cartagena 2014, self-published

“Carpooling” is an American, maybe Southern Californian, term for an occasion when multiple individuals ride in the same vehicle to the same destination. On the freeways of California the need to increase the quantity of carpoolers in order to relive the increasing congestion has raised the process and infrastructure of carpooling to an art form. Alejandro Cartagena (b. April 1977 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, now lives in Monterrey, Mexico) became aware of the American phoneme of carpools and diamond lanes on a visit to Southern California and riding on those congested freeways must have been an amazing experience compared to the highways of his home in Monterrey. Nevertheless this southern California experience created the seed of a conceptual idea that would play out later in Monterrey.

The actual process of carpooling is a well-known practice outside of America, where vehicles can be rare, expensive to own as well as operate. Upon first seeing a family of five on an electric scooter in China a few years back was a bit of a cultural shock which quickly wore off when this sight became a common occurrence. Likewise, Cartagena observed how pick-up truck loads of workers were routinely traversing from dense urban sites to new housing and construction areas on the expanding outskirts of the Monterrey region. The carpooling of the Monterrey workers was an economic necessity for the reasons stated above; trucks are both expensive to own and operate and there are few reasonable alternatives to travel to these new construction sites.

Cartagena found a high advantage point, a pedestrian overpass, to create this topology project; a study in carpooling, in which he could look almost straight down into the passing vehicles. The resulting layout of these vehicles take on abstract shapes, a visual mapping that we do not frequently observe, and further reinforcing the topological nature of his project.

There exists both a sameness of his subjects; similar models of the pick-up trucks, organizational layout of the front hood, cab and the back bed of the truck, the differences in the paint and condition, the open bed in which there is a mash-up of workers, equipment and tools; that varied over time and season. It is evident that he became known for making this series of photographs with many of his subjects gazing back at the photographer and thus connecting also with the reader. Many of these photographs are humorous; worker stretched out sleeping during their trip, gazing up and interacting with the photographer, and others showing a bit of concern. His subjects frequently appear cold and huddled together to protect themselves from the windy, chilling ride.

The subtext is an investigation into identity and culture. There are the economic differences between the poorer construction workers providing the labor to the unseen nicer homes and estates of the upper class. Even within the photographs there is an economic narrative; the “first class” ride; which is inside the protected cab along with the driver, and the “economy coach” section, in the open and unprotected back bed of the truck.

To further understand his subjects, Cartagena took a similar ride in the back bed of a truck to see what his subjects were experiencing. Evident was the expansive blue sky marked by the occasional objects that were seen from this prone perspective; overpasses, signage, etc. Cartagena then intertwined these alternative viewpoint photographs to help break up the flow and cadence of his book that in turn provides more tension and dynamics to what could become a very static and repetitive sequencing.

The book layout provides one top view of a pick-up truck one each of the facing pages inviting the reader to provide comparison and take note of the subtle differences between them. The differences over time, who they are and where they are from, as well as where they are going and what are they going to do when they arrive. The interior of the truck bed provides some clues; equipment, tools, and the clothing of his subjects.

As a book object, the hard covers are constructed from raw boards, printed and die cut to reveal an interior pick-up truck that is the subject of the cover’s line drawing; creating an interesting three dimensional visualization. The heavy cover boards provides some heft and protection for the photobook and the color printing by a Mexico City press and bindery is nicely finished. The insightful Afterword essay was provided by Jessica S. McDonald.

Cheers!

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December 16, 2013

Paul Gaffney – We Make the Paths by Walking

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Copyright Paul Gaffney 2013, self-published

Paul Gaffney investigates a regional passion that is prevalent amongst the isles of Great Briton, that of walking. Whereas the leisure walks or foot journeys in the isles are usually of a short duration, Gaffney expanded the scope and range of his visual walking quest to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles). Gaffney’s viewpoint is close to midpoint, essentially minimizing the visual clues as to the actual location. This framing visually teases the reader to look closer and deeper into the image. The ambiguous images are contemplative and lyrical, sometimes looking ahead or the passing viewpoint as one might walk by.

A classic, yet well visualized, allegory for the journey of life, that while in transit there lays ahead a potential separation of the ways and one must chose one path over another. For a walker it is possible to walk one path and then return back for to the other, but in the passing duration, small atmospheric and chance occasions occur. Likewise a walker does not need to remain on a given path, but create one of their own making. His book ends with a crossroads, with the path in front dissolving into the distance, where the unknown lies in wait.

Reading We Make the Path by Walking just connects with me. I enjoy the photographs of his journey and the many options and possibilities that lie before me/him, while yet enjoying the view in transit. I find Gaffney’s book to be a wonderful metaphor for the messiness of living life.

Gaffney’s photobook is a text-printed stiff cover book that resides in a printed ¾ slip cover. The slip cover design suggests an individual’s pocket, representing a place for the small guide booklets that many walkers acquire to prepare for a walk in a specific region.

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The interior book block has an exposed binding due to the front endpapers are not attached to the cover. The block is affixed to the back cover by means of gluing the endpapers to the back cover and the end paper is included as a part of the last signature. The binding itself appears to be a Smyth bound with gluing, which allows the book to provide a lay-flat viewing, which I really enjoy. A book design with an exposed binding is intriguing as to the metaphoric intent. In this case the photographs, as well as the narrative, appears to be open ended and thus the journey is still not complete.

Gaffney complete the design and editing of this self-published book.

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook

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