The PhotoBook Journal

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. Oh, it also won the photobook competition as well)

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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October 4, 2013

Douglas Stockdale – Pine Lake

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Pine Lake copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale self-published Limited Edition Artist Book

I am very thrilled to announce the publication of my hand-made artist book Pine Lake. Thus post is not intended to be a book review, as I need to let others provide more objective assessments. This is just blatant self promotion.

Pine Lake is sequenced as a semi-fictional story about an American multi-generational summer rite, a weekend fishing trip.

As to how this project came about, it started with my recently discovered family photographs of my grandfathers fishing, a passion of which was unknown and totally foreign to me. Thus the small, worn vernacular photographs I found became talismans for the lost memories and stories of my family.  This has led me to create this artist book to tell a story of what might have been. Pine Lake is another of my on-going series that investigates memory and its preservation.

The interior flip-book is formatted in a style reminiscent of a promotional processing book common in the 1960′s produced by Kodak and Ansco, which could be purchase with a film processing order. The book is accompanied by a small collection of preserved ephemera that represent the memorabilia that might be saved after a favorite vacation.

The stiff cover book contains 17 black & white photographs. The outer cover is fabricated from a sheet of 120 gm Canson Mi-Teintes paper, hand trimmed to size and inkjet printed which is then hand inscribed.  This cover is bone creased, hand hole punched and an aluminum prong binding is attached to manually bind the interior pages. The book resides inside a hand inscribed poly slip-cover (a zip-lock bag) accompanied with three pieces of ephemera; a fishing stamp, a fishing notice & a section of fishing line with small weight attached mid-way.

The book and ephemera are housed in a hand-made wood frame with a printed cover constructed from 110# Daler-Rowney Canford paper, cut to size, ink-jet printed, hand bone crease and glued to the frame to create a gate fold flap, and has an elastic band closure.

Exterior size is 8 1/2″ x 10″ x 7/16″ (210 mm x  250mm   x 100mm)

The photographic images are anonymous and from my family archive and have been re-photographed and modified to provide a consistent appearance to illustrate this short visual story. Pine Lake is produced in a Limited Edition of 25, with a price of $150.00 USD per book plus shipping (and taxes where applicable).

I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers!

Notes:

price increase to $250 on 2/01/2014 as edition is almost sold out. For the three remaining editions, the price is now $350.00 each.

August 18th, 2017: Pine Lake is now available from Arcana: Books on the Arts (Culver City, CA)

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October 13, 2012

Cristina de Middel – The Afronauts

Copyright 2012 Cristina de Middel (Puch), self-published

Christina de Middel created a historical novella with her artists book The Afronauts about what might could have been. In 1964 Edward Makuka Nkoloso created the Zambian Space Program with the goal to fly twelve astronauts, including one girl, and ten cats to Mars. He was convinced that he could beat the United States to Mars and place Zambia on the forefront of the technology frontier. Cristina de Middel has re-told the story of this humorous series of events with her own pluck and style.

It is interesting that de Middel was not tempted to seize upon the more humorous documented events surrounding this misadventure, the 17 year old girl who during her training became pregnant, the desire to include the ten cats in this program, the training simulations involving the trainees swinging on a rope during which Nkoloso would cut the rope to provide a sense of weightlessness, as well as having the trainees tumbling inside a large drum as they rolled down a hill.

The book is an enjoyable mash up of her photographs, simulated documents, found photographs and her artwork. The weaving of these elements creates a complex reading in which it is necessary to open gatefolds that result in concealing photographic plates and perhaps in the process creates a confusing mess. Perhaps similar to attempting to understand Nkoloso’s Space Program. I liken the experience of reading this book to Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood.

De Middle incorporates a number of translucent pages that read similar to vellum used for technical drawings and specifications, providing a sense of authentication that this might be real in the face of the absurdity. She also incorporates poignant mythology, such as a photograph of a bird’s wing lying on the ground, a referent to the hubris of Icarus.

The book has a reinforced stiff cover with a simple stitch sewn and a visible book block. The book is bound with various single gate-fold inserts and one double-page gatefold. The printing on matte papers reduces the contrast of the color interior images but does not affect the re-telling of this narrative. The essay is by Kojo Nuge.

Note: I selected this book for the 2012 Fotografia di Roma photobook exhibition’s theme of “Work” and subsequently short listed by Aperture for First Photobook award.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

March 23, 2012

Harvey Benge – Still Looking For It

Copyright Harvey Benge 2011 courtesy of the artist, self-published

I think that this book is best said by Benge:

These photographs follow my recent four part series AS IT IS? Here I continue to question the nature and substance of the things I see and the idea of ITness itself.

August 14, 2011

Harvey Benge – Eat Me

Copyright Harvey Benge 2010 FAQEditions

At first reading, Havery Benge’s self-published “Eat Me”, is a photobook that documents the results of cooking peaches as a family treat. It even includes the recipe for cooking peaches.

In typical Benge style, there is a minimum of text to provide guidance as to what you are viewing. In this case, a series of color abstract photographs that might be peach halves that have recently cooked. The subject is made a little more abstract by placing it on a black background that also appears to accentuate the deep colors. Likewise this is not a normal cookbook illustration as the external context to a kitchen or serving plate is not established. The flat lighting continues to abstract his subjects, which does not provide any modeling to provide depth, roundness or weigh. Nevertheless, there is some hint of texture.

Thus with his subject disassociated from any external context, the viewer is free to construct their own meanings and memories with these photographs. For my take, let’s just say that his photographs could be a Freudian equivalence to one of Edward Weston’s shell photographs.

About the book object, it is a thin stiff cover book with saddle stitch binding, printed in color. The book was published in April 2011 in an edition of 75 signed and numbered copies. The text, in English, is the recipe for the cooked peaches.

And although Benge recommends vanilla ice cream, I would suggest that it should be a French vanilla ice cream. yum.

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