The PhotoBook

April 20, 2017

Ellen Korth – CHARKOW

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

PublisherSelf-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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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

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