The PhotoBook Journal

October 4, 2018

Ernesto Esquer – In No Time

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books, Photographers — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:05 pm

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Photographer – Ernesto Esquer – In No Time, 2017

Photographer: Ernesto Esquer, resides Tucson, AZ, USA

Publisher: Dark Spring Press (Tucson, AZ, USA)

Introduction: Ken Rosenthal

Text: English

Stiff-cover book with side sewn stitching, four-color lithography, printed in Arizona

Photobook designer: Andy Burgess and Ernesto Esquer

Notes: This is a slim volume with a series of understated, elegant images framed with an expansive amount of classic white margins. The photographs are a combination of toned and hand colored silver gelatin photographs in which the subjects appear to be only casually related without a real sense of a specific narrative.

The contemplative images as sequenced evoke a state of visual mediation. Each photograph appears to be carefully arranged, composed and then paired with a slightly contrasting image. I sense a cross-over of the early modernism of Minor White within a more contemporary framing and yet perhaps a hint of the still earlier Camera Work published by Stieglitz.

These images have a slight hint of the surreal, such as the floating glass vase of flowers that appear to be illuminated by the glowing light that emanates just off the side of the right border. A pensive and delicate set of images that are housed in a similar style softcover book, where the physical form appears to echo the visual style.

Cheers, Doug

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September 28, 2018

Saskia Groneberg – Büropflanze (office plant)

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 6:53 pm

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Photographer:  Saskia Groneberg (born in Munich; lives in Munich and Berlin, Germany)

Publisher:  Edition Taube, Munich and Zurich; © 2017

Essay:  Thomas Seelig

Text:  German and English

Hardback, thread-stitched; 76 pages, unpaginated; 21.5 x 29.5 cm; printed by Longo A.G., Bozen/Bolzano, Italy

Photobook Designers:  Saskia Groneberg and Jonas Beuchert

 

Notes:

Studying this photobook, one can see that plants in the office seem to be beloved companions of office workers, perhaps as a pleasant, silent partner who calms you down in an artificial and stressful environment. Office plants can make neutrally-painted mundane surroundings more personal and pleasant, almost like a mini-extension of home (and of the owner’s personality and/or wishful thinking), and thus it can make working more bearable when one can look at greenery and possibly flowers too. They might also represent an often-felt longing for vacations in far-off warmer lands, and thus be chosen for their exotic nature, to remind the office employee of the (hopefully temporary) freedom from work that will be on the horizon sooner or later, such as a vacation.

Saskia Groneberg shows a well-honed sensitivity for this project. She approaches the subject with the people in mind that brought the plants to their locations and also nurture them. She writes:  “Even when provided by the company as a decorative element, the office plant is something that is allowed to unopposedly thrive and blossom: A tiny bit of anarchy amid the rigid clockwork, something amorphous among the geometric forms, a spark of life within the mechanisms of control. In contrast to […] other attempts to personalize the impersonal office architecture, plants are prone to change and grow – sometimes utterly unnoticed, and sometimes under close observation and loving care – up the ceiling, around and behind the heater and encroaching through the blinds. Plants can only be controlled to a certain extent, yet they are utterly dependent; they must be watered and cared for to survive in such an arid and artificial habitat.”

These are environmental portraits of plants, analogous to human environmental portraits. They may tell us more about the humans than about the plants. Naturally, the human owners do not appear in these images; rather, we observe bits and pieces about their choice of work as well as about the alteration or humanization of the work environment through their plants. Thus the stature of the “lowly” office plant has been substantially elevated through these images. The locations range from corporate offices to small spaces that either are or at least were arranged to look like home offices. The images in this mysterious and delightful volume makes us wonder about who owns each plant as well. Just like people, some of the plants seem to be thriving and others are merely eking out a minimal existence, that’s life for you!

Saskia Groneberg’s work received the German Photography Prize “gute aussichten – new german photography 2012/2013” and several other types of recognition. Check out her website for more about the larger scope of this project.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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September 6, 2018

Jurek Wajdowicz – 67/11

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 10:48 am

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Photographer:  Jurek Wajdowicz (born in Cracow, Poland; lives in New York City)

Publisher:  EWS Press, New York, NY; © 2017

Hardback, sewn binding; illustrated cover; 72 pages, paginated, full color; 7 ¾ x 11 ¾ inches (20 x 30 cm); printed in the USA

Photobook Designer:  Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios

 

Notes:

Letting go of one’s remaining parent and of one’s parental home is a formidable task. Suddenly feelings of abandonment may emerge, and childhood memories become conscious again. When combined with making arrangements for the funeral and gazing upon what remains in that home of moments now past, and from the perspective of another country which has become a second home, we are prepared to sense multiple layers of memory and recollections, as well as cultural and personal perspectives in glancing back on so much detail of a shared life.

Jurek Wajdowicz is up to that task and then some. A highly regarded designer and fine-art photographer based in the US, he traveled back to Lodz, Poland, to pay final respects to his mother, and now allows us to participate in that process through his eyes, his mind, and his emotions.

The result is this touching photobook of observations. House number 67/11 – is it all a dream, what of it is still real, and what is there that catches his attention that represents moments of a life that was so shared and special, and how not to lose the memories of it all… Traveling with the photographer through time, we are shown photographs that he took over a period of a few days of the memories in the place that had so much meaning for his mother and himself. A deep-rooted sense of belonging is mixed with feelings of loss and not wanting to let go. The tones of the images are mostly subdued, yet light shines through in many places, through patterned glass and drapery, around furniture. We are able to glean a variety of items that represent his mother’s life – old glasses, books, suitcases, the stove that was the site of many shared meals that were prepared on it, apples on a window sill that were saved and gradually are withering… We also see portraits of son and mother in the shadows.

Wajdowicz has a great skill for designing his narrative with a creative sensitivity that not only allows him to effectively share his personal journey but also lets us relate it to our own lives. This visual tribute through recollections stands out as an excellent example of how fine art photography and one’s personal journey can be combined and offered to all of us as an appealing shared experience!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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August 9, 2015

Pawel Bownik – Disassembly

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:55 pm

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Copyright 2012 Pawel Bownik

Photographer: Pawel Bownik (resides Poland)

Published & copyright: 2013

Publisher: Mundin Sp. Z o.o.

Essays: Andrew Berardini

Text: English edition (stiffcover insert, saddle stitch binding)

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Poland

Photobook designer: Honz Zamojski

Notes: Bownik first disassembles his plants and flowers then reconstructs them, documenting the results. A bipolar mix of engineering, scientific investigation, botany and artistic exploration with mystifying visual results.

Cheers, Douglas

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June 26, 2013

Meme Bartels – monochrome

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Copyright 2012 Meme Bartels published by Sequence Publishers (Amsterdam)

When I received Meme Bartels first publication, mononchrome, it was difficult to sort out, is this presentation a book, a collection of booklets & bits or as Bartels has stated; an exhibition in a box? Each component of this collection is intended to provide a unique presentation, but collectively it creates a layered investigation about the routine aspects of living as well as the act of seeing.

The title of this publication, monochrome, means one color, or a single color, such as a green, yellow, black or red. Perhaps one color but she examines the variation and possibilities of a series of single colors. Bartels states “through the use of photography and colour the daily routine becomes a thing of intrigue”.

Her subjects are very close to home, or in the case of the bread slices, in her home as an aspect of her daily life (routine). She investigates the causal, perhaps the looking as described as non-looking, views of everyday life, versus a more focused and intense act of seeing, to observe all of the subtle and variations that occur about her from morning into the night.

Nevertheless, this publication is a collection of bits that are exhibited as single projects; Sesame whole wheatbread, Black Paradise, Non-chronological yellow tree and Shades of Green, etc. As a collection, it is a complex read as this contains a booklet, a reversible poster, a concertina folding and separate individual photographs, as well as being layered; as these are interrelated and intertwined around her general theme of the act of looking.

The one booklet of the Sesame whole wheatbread is interesting due to her selection of paper.  The paper is not entirely opaque, in that the printed image bleeds through the back of the paper. Thus while reading the photograph on the following page (on the right spread), there is a ghost image that lurks on the left page of the spread. It is as if one is looking so intensely, a latent image is imprinted on the retina that is still retained after one looks away.

Whereas she investigates the daily routine, this collection is anything but routine.

As a book object, the outer portfolio casing is a stiff-cover paperboard folding enclosure that is fastened with a loose ribbon. Inside this portfolio is a booklet (soft cover, Japanese stab binding), a  reversible poster printed on two sides, a concertina folding printed on two sides, six separate photographs with while margins on three sides, and a text insert (two sheets, folded, not bound) which in my copy was a text by Bartels printed in English.

Published by Sequence Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook

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July 22, 2009

Jerry Burchfield – Primal Images

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Copyright Jerry Burchfield, 2004 courtesy Laguna Wilderness Press

I am very fascinated by the photographic prints created by Jerry Burchfield (1949 – 2009) for his two recent books, Primal Images: 100 Lumen Prints of the Amazonia Flora,  published in 2004 by Laguna Wilderness Press and subsequently Understory, published this year (2009) also by Laguna Wilderness Press. Burchfield has used a camera-less photographic process that harkens back to the beginning days of photography to create these wonderful images of plants and flora. So to set the stage for his latest book Understory, I need to begin with Burchfield’s earlier book, Primal Images.

Although Burchfield calls his resulting photographs “Lumen” (light) prints, his camera-less process is almost identical to that utilized by William Henry Fox Talbot, a salt print process that Talbot invented in 1841. Talbot called his resulting prints calotypes and this was the first step he made in creating the photographic process that we know today. The calotype, as are Burchfield’s Lumen prints, is a “negative” image created by the shadow of an object on the photo-sensitive medium. When Talbot contact printed his negative salt print to another salt paper he created the first “positive” image.

These camera-less photographic process prints have been given many names, including calotypes, photogenic drawings, photogram, sun prints, contact prints, and numerous others. Regardless, it is amazing that one of the oldest photographic processes in the hands of a photographer, such as Burchfield, still has the capability to provide plenty of artistic potential today.

For Primal Images, Burchfield made three trips to the Amazon River basin to collect plants and other organic samples to create his Lumen prints. In many ways this was a daunting task, because of the conditions to collect and create his Lumen prints on site, and not finish the print processing until his return to Southern California. He was able to “post-visualize” his work in-progress but only at the end of the day after his Lumen printing was completed. If his Lumen print did not turn out has he had hoped, he had to search for another specimen the following morning and start the printing process over again.

To add to the complexity of his process, the results of his photographic process can not be duplicated as each print is an original. Each print is unique due to the quality of light (e.g. if clouds were to occur, which they do, as well as rain and changes in relative humidity), the nature of the sample (organic leaves will shrink and wilt after they have been cut) and what light sensitive material that he had available. For his first trip the printing process must have been a series of trial and error but the immediate visual results must have been amazing.

The resulting lumen prints are the result of a combination of experience, with the printing process and materials under the conditions of the Amazon, with serendipity and chance, as Burchfield could not fully predict the results. Since the prints are but shadows of the specimens, another difficult factor to consider was the amount of translucency of the specimen. Would Burchfield’s specimen block all of the light for his Lumen print and provide just a hard outline of his object? Or would a partial amount of light be transmitted, thus creating a soft shadow? With some experience, I am guessing that Burchfield could anticipate that certain aspects of his printing process might yield a range of effects. Burchfield could control which specimens he selected for his lumen prints and how these specimens were arranged on the light sensitive materials. After that he was at the mercy of the environmental conditions of the day and the interaction of the sunlight, his specimens and how the light sensitive material progressed on that specific day.

Burchfield also varied the size of his prints as a result of the wide range in the size of his specimens, although most were able to encompass an 8 x 10” paper.  But there were specimens, such as the Lemore Rana that spanned a sheet of 11 x 14” paper (third print below), or specimens that required a 16 x 20” sheet of light sensitive paper or even multiple sheets to expand the image size to 33 x 28″, such as when he was working with a giant lily pad.

The resulting lumen prints are wonderful and I can see why he returned again and again to continue this project. Likewise, almost a hundred years earlier, Talbot after all that he had invented for the photographic and printing processes we are in debt for today, had returned back to his calotype prints of plants and flora as his primary expressive photographic process.

Burchfield states that he was surprised by the range of colors that his “black and white” light sensitive materials yielded, as am I. With a black and white enlarging paper I might not expect to have a broad range of color images. The resultant broad range of colors is also a similar effect that Talbot experienced with his salt prints in the mid 1800’s. The resulting colors, patterns, shapes, tonal graduations and lines within each of these prints is very unique and captivating. I understand that the content of his prints is unpredictable, but to Burchfield’s credit, he remains open to the process and the results.

The resulting images do not actually provide very much descriptive details of the plants, foliage or flora and it would be difficult to identify them in their nature habitat. I find that Burchfield’s lumen prints do provide a visual description of the spirit of these plants and hint at their essence. The slight traces of these plants on the prints are almost eerie in their lack of substance and seem like abstract line tracings. As a result I find that most of these lumen prints are just outright magical to look at. The specimens just seem to dance on the surface of the print leaving only an every so light touch of their physical presence behind.

The forward was written by Wade Davis and the introductory essay was provided by Johnathan Green. In the afterword written by Burchfield, he discusses his experience in completing this project, which is a very interesting read. Jerry Burchfield is a co-founder of Laguna Wilderness Press as well as a professor of photography and the director of the photographic gallery at Cypress College, Cypress, California.

Note: This book review was completed shortly before Burchfield passed away at age 62.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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By Douglas Stockdale

April 17, 2009

Steve Pyke – Earthward

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:39 pm

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Photographs copyright of Steve Pyke and courtesy of Nazraeli Press

Upon looking at Steve Pyke’s recent published body of work Earthward published by Nazraeli Press I immediately thought of the earlier found still life photographs of Irving Penn.  Both photographers have created a new context for their found subjects when isolating from their normal environmental states. I believe it was Owen Edwards when earlier discussing Penn’s photographs wrote:

 “the purpose of the still life is to allow us time to contemplate the beauty of objects by holding them aloof from time”

There is something beautiful about these basic landscaping tools when held “aloof.”  Perhaps beyond the strangeness of some of these which are not the ones I usually see the in neighborhood gardening supply store. These are photographs of worn tools that have been held and handled repeatedly to complete utilitarian tasks.  Likewise these implements were designed and manufactured for some very specific tasks in which design follows function.  The names of these tools, provided in the accompanying captions, also provide a sense of speculation: Emmet Cutter, Newcastle Draining Tool, Whimble, Garden Dibbler, Mattock or Tybill.

Some of these hand tool photographs evoke recent memories of planting rose bushes and ground cover. They recall the smell of warm, pungent earth, or the physical impact of digging through the dirt.  Maybe these photographs recall earlier days visiting the family at the farm, the smell of cut hay or strolling through the barns and sheds.  These tools have many memories as well as evident of patina of age or the scars resulting from heavy use. Thus they have become part of recorded history reflecting the hand of man, hard labor and surrogates for the land itself.

These words are from the publisher, and express my sentiments exactly, thus worth repeating;

Their handles and prongs are beautifully worn, perfectly in keeping with the hard work and dedication involved in the making of this universally admired landscape. So much of what we see in the workplace today is about distancing ourselves from the end result of our labors; these garden tools, although depicted on their own, against a pale backdrop, convey an intense sense of physical engagement.

Due to the method of photographing these tools Pyke has created objects that are devoid of scale even if we think we know how large these are. Many of these tools are still difficult to decipher which allows us to look at them for what they are and appreciate their lines, mass, shape and textures. Like the earlier work of both Penn and Avedon, these are stark and direct photographs – uncompromising.

The case-bound book has a tippe- in image and measures a nicely sized 9 x 12″,with 50 duotone beautifully printed plates on 64 pages in an edition of 1,000 copies in 2008. The introduction was written by Fergus Garrett, Head Gardner, Great Dexter, where these tools remain.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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