The PhotoBook Journal

October 15, 2017

Dronescapes: The New Aerial Photography from Dronestagram

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Editor:  Ayperi Karabuda Ecer

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, © 2017

Essays:  Eric Dupin (foreword); Ayperi Karabuda Ecer (introduction)

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color printing, 288 numbered pages; 250+ captioned color images; 10×8.5 inches; drone user guide, author biographies, supplementary image references, index of photographers and websites, index of locations; printed in China by C&C Offset

Photobook designer:  Michael Lenz, Draught Associates

Notes:

It seems that drones (quadcopters and other multirotors) and images taken with them are everywhere these days. The website Dronestagram was founded in 2013 to provide a place where extraordinary images taken with such small aircraft by their owners/remote pilots/photographers can be shared. It should be noted that a few years later, when certain communities are severely restricting the use of drones because of some irresponsible owners, this website as well as this volume advocate and give instructions for their effective and safe implementation.

This printed volume of images selected from Dronestagram, edited by Ayperi Karabuda Ecer, provides us with some 250 bird’s-eye views of the world, in ways that might otherwise be impossible, since we do not have large birds that take us to the skies allowing us to ride on their backs to create such images, nor do most of us have access to personal mini-helicopters (yet!). Each image is accompanied by a short or expanded caption regarding its location and story if applicable, as well as the exact latitude, longitude, and altitude at which it was taken. The editor has divided the work into nine thematic areas, constituting chapters of the book, with the following titles: Drones Are Us (playful, humorous); Close (unusual angles); Urban; Fauna (animals); Probe (environment); Space; Pattern/Shadow (images emphasizing composition and seen as more artistic rather than straight-forward); Move (sports and leisure); and I Do (wedding photography). This is quite an assortment of topics to cover; examples are reproduced below, in the order of the chapters. At times, the volume provides biographical features on some photographers and further explanations as well.

The images include startlingly different ways of telling stories, often taken from directly above the subject(s) to provide dynamic perspectives, especially when making good use of shadows. Other images provide startling angles, for instance, combining a close-up of the top of a high-rise building with the ground below as background. Still others could also have been taken from a small plane or helicopter as well, if it were not for the safety issues already discussed. I would hope that as the use of this technology matures, sequences of shots would also be created to allow the viewing of a story from several angles (virtually) simultaneously.

A most interesting volume to give to someone who treasures this new form of aerial photography, as well as to others who appreciate seeing things from new perspectives! This book is a finalist in the 2017 Lucie Photo Book Prize competition.

Gerhard Clausing

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October 12, 2017

Tymon Markowski – Flow

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:32 pm

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Photographer: Tymon Markowski (born Kraków & resides Bydgoszcz, Poland)

Self-Published & Print Edition (400), Limited Edition (100): Bydgoszcz, Poland, copyright 2017

Text: English & Polish

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Hard cover, Leporello (Concertina) layout, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Chromapress (Bydgoszcz, Poland)

Photobook designer: Katarzyna Kubicka

Editor: Joanna Kinowska

Notes: Tymon Markowski’s self-published photobook Flow is a book design that conceptually emulates his subject, a leporello that unfolds almost as continuously as the Brda River. This is a classic design in which form follows function.

The captions for each photograph, English and Polish, are provide on the reverse of the photographs, and due to the leporello design, requires the viewer to physically flip from the front to the back (verso) to attempt to comprehend the photograph/caption relationship. As Markowski states “I wanted to hide the captions so you can follow the two stories – one created by the pictures, and second created by text….It was extremely important to me that the viewer first see the pictures that provokes questions and is is my habit to create a caption that may resolve a mystery

Markowski follows the small river Brda to capture the citizens of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship as this river meanders to the Vistula River in the city of Bydgoszcz, the eighth largest city in Poland.

This is an investigation of the culture of this region, frequently tongue-in-cheek, providing subtle humor as he gently pokes fun at his adopted city and adjacent country side. A fireman stands in the midst of a green forest with his limp hose line attempting to practice his trade of extinguishing a forest fire without benefit of either water or a fire to quench.  A kayaker navigates a stream of water that is so absurdly narrow that the Kayak barely fits and one wonders how he was able to get to this place and where he is going next. The accompanying captions provide documentation of these tasks in an understated matter-of-fact style that belies a dry wit.

The ability to spread out the book’s interior photographs, a key attribute of the book’s Leporello design, also signifies a potential interconnectedness of this large community and points to the underlying social order.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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October 6, 2017

Alejandro Cartagena – A Guide to Infrastructure and Corruption

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Photographer: Alejandro Cartagena (born Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic & resides Monterrey, Mexico)

The Velvet Cell: Berlin (Germany) copyright 2017

Essays by Ximena Peredo

Text: English

Pair of books; hard cover, embossed exposed boards, sewn and taped binding, and a stiff cover, saddle stitch, both four-color lithography, Edition of 450, signed and numbered, printed in Taiwan

Photobook designers: Alejandro Cartagena, Fernando Gallegos & Eanna de Freine.

Notes: I was fortunate to meet up with Alejandro Cartagena while he was visiting in Los Angeles for his exhibition opening shortly after the release of this book. Part of his artistic practice is to document what interests him and allow that body of work to accumulate over time to speak to him.

He has been watching the urban sprawl that transforms open country side into suburbia which eventually is assimilated by every the expanding cities. Mexico, as in the In the United States, when freeways, railways and other public works have been determined to be necessary by the city planners, this construction takes precedent over individual land ownership and rights, the eminent domain rules are evoked.

Thus a nice home or thriving business may find itself beset with an emerging and unplanned esthetic, if not economic, crisis. Regretfully this is not a new cultural issue and photographically this type of social-economic urban transformation was documented by Atget in Paris as early as the late 1800’s.

Once a back yard that was open to the neighbors, now has a view transpired to that of the freeway wall or into a highway underpass. With the proximity of a new roadway is the accompanying noise, traffic, litter and related personal safety concerns of a high traffic location. All for the greater good or as stated by Cartagena, “Their view is a permanent view of “progress””.

The publication is divided into five chapters, four of these in the larger book, the fifth in the smaller accompanying book; The Road you Take, The Dispossessed, Where to Cross, Structural Corruption and Epilogue. The viewer is taken on an irregular journey of the landscape of change, the social impact of the resulting changes, ugly personal overpasses meant to help resolve the social changes and the closed walls of the city planners the implied blindness to the changes that are either contemplating or implementing. The Epilogue has gruesome images of people who have been hung from the overpasses, which are difficult images to look at, images that have more tolerance in being displayed in the Mexican media, but perhaps no more terrible than the new man-made urban landscape that is subtly attacking the social fabric.

In conclusion from an interview of Cartagena with Eanna de Freine; “The new infrastructure needs to be built and nothing will stand in its way. No house, business or group of people. It cuts through the landscape and urbanscape to impose its progress. There is a power in infrastructure. Power imposes things on those without power… I was also interested in showing how the new eats up what was there before, i.e. the buildings, advertisements, roads and parking lots.  The new infrastructure doesn’t care for anyone but itself.”

Other books reviewed include: Rivers of Power, Before the War, and Carpoolers

 

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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August 31, 2017

Algis Griskevicius – TADA

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Copyright 2016 Algis Griskevicius

Photographer: Algis Griskevicius (born & resides Vilnius (Lithuania))

Publisher: NoRoutine Books (Lithuania)

Essay: Leonidas Donskis

Text: Lithuanian and English

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Hardcover book, sewn and exposed tape binding, black & white lithography, glued insert booklet (saddle stitch), contact proof print, printed by UAB Druka, Klaipeda, Lithuania

Photobook designer: Gysis Skudzinskas

Notes: Algis Griskevicius includes in his artistic practice both paintings and photography, and his photobook TADA (THEN) is a series of photographs created between 1985 and 1995 as potential source material for his paintings. Some of the photographic prints have been altered to further refine Griskevicius’s visual concept for a painting, although from the essay by Donskis, the paintings may not have ever been completed. Thus the question Donskis raises; are these photographs works of art or unfinished works in progress, such as incomplete works by the paintings and sculptures of the early masters?

There is a rawness to the printed images, appearing unfinished and the additional marks adds to the mystery. When viewing Griskevicius’s paintings (not included in the book), there is evidence that some aspects, whether the composition, shapes or lines have made its way as a latent image. The worn photographs have a vernacular appearance, as though these were not intended to be “artistic” and indeed the raw recording of something of interest. The glued in booklet of 35mm black and white negative contract prints confirms Griskevicius’s interest in graphic shapes and lines as one of the constant themes that threads its way through the small images. This is an intriguing collection of thoughts that could be referenced as a potential source of imagination for the artist to draw on at a later date.

Cheers

Note: Recognized in a Lithuanian Book Completion as one of the Most Beautiful Lithuanian Books 2016 in the photo book category.

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August 5, 2017

KayLynn Deveney – All You Can Lose Is Your Heart

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 1:39 pm

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Photographer:  KayLynn Deveney (born Albuquerque, New Mexico; resides in Northern Ireland and New Mexico [summers])

Publisher:  Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg & Berlin, Germany; © 2015

Essays:  KayLynn Deveney, Jean Valjean Vandruff, Hank Stuever

Text:  English

Cloth-bound sewn hardcover; 128 numbered pages, 62 full-color illustrations; 20×24 cm, printed in Germany

Designer:  KayLynn Deveney and Kehrer Design

Notes: 

The “typology” approach – series of objects that are similar yet different, and their interesting variations – has been around in photography since the exhibition and publication of New Topographics in 1975. Here at The PhotoBook Journal, we reviewed the industrial typologies of the Bechers in 2009, dealing with the works  At Museo Murandi  and Basic Forms of Industrial Buildings, as well as applying the same principle to other man-made structures in landscapes in our 2010 review of New Topographics (an excellent short overview of some of the genre’s history). That work was mostly monochrome, thus visually somewhat removed from our everyday life as we experience it in our current super-saturated current world of smartphones and selfies.

So here we find ourselves in the era of typology revisited – photographer KayLynn Deveney visits “storybook ranch houses” in the Western United States more than half a century after they were built, in order to observe what has happened in the meantime, resulting in a typological study of latter-day user treatments. This is a documentary and a sociological assignment, to be sure; many of the houses have changed hands a number of times in the interim, and a variety of people have left their mark on these buildings that once represented the homes that middle-class buyers were encouraged to dream about. As she states in the introduction on page seven, “the photographs of the houses come to stand in as metaphorical family portraits.”

It seems that color images are the best way to document these changes: plants (some of which outdo the relatively drab structures in color and size), seasonal decorations, cars and trucks, pets or statues of pets, and pottery, add some warmth to a generally alien and distant architecture of kitschy sameness that nevertheless has the effect of conveying or providing some simulated folk-world-related comfort. We marvel at the variety of ways that residents have added touches of individual meaning to their homes. In addition, there are a few double-page spreads featuring two similar houses in different locations, or two treatments of portions of the same house. The locations of the homes are noted in their captions.

This volume also greatly benefits from an essay by Hank Stuever on “Dream Homes” that explains the architecture from the perspective of the culture of its time, and delves into the application of a fairy-tale approach to people’s homes in an age of nuclear anxiety. The essay gives us an idea regarding the dreams and hopes of buyers of times gone by, and how the dream-fulfillment was orchestrated by architects and builders of the middle of the 20th century, as well as how it was implemented in several areas of the United States. “All you can lose is your heart” was an advertising slogan meant to entice families (especially the “lady of the house”) to purchase such homes that were somewhat at odds with the environment for which they were built. The comments by the architect, Jean Valjean Vandruff, regarding the concept and history of these “Cinderella Homes,” along with reprints of the original advertising and an exterior design drawing, also provide some important background information.

A very interesting study indeed! I am hoping that KayLynn will apply her formidable visual scouting prowess to similar projects of homes and their culture in Northern Ireland and other places!

Gerhard Clausing

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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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March 26, 2017

Klaus Pichler and Clemens Marschall – Golden Days Before They End

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Photographer:  Klaus Pichler (Austrian, lives and works in Vienna)

Publisher:  Edition Patrick Frey, Zurich, Switzerland, © 2016

Essay and quotes:  Compiled and edited by Clemens Marschall

Text:  German or English (translated by Charlotte Maconochie and Clemens Marschall

Hardcover book, sewn binding; 250 unnumbered pages; 120 color photographs; German and English editions; including 100/96 pages of text, with quotes by owners and patrons, list of venues, and glossary; printed and bound in Austria; 29×23 cm

Photobook Designer:  Roland Hörmann

 

Notes:

This work contains a pictorial portion of 120 color photographs by Klaus Pichler and four interspersed text portions totaling 96 pages (English edition) and 100 pages (German edition), bound in four segments within the picture sections. These text portions consist of a huge number of quotes (collected and edited by Clemens Marschall) that give fascinating insights into the lives of both the owners and the patrons of small Viennese bars that are the subject of the photographs, as well as a list of these 70 or so venues that the authors visited and depicted, a glossary of some of the choice phrases and terms from the quotes (how about “Baucherl” and “Strizzi” for starters!), and the customary publishing information. The German text portion is slightly larger because it includes an expanded glossary of choice local dialect and colloquial expressions. Wherever the images contain relevant language material, a translation is thoughtfully provided below the picture. An impressive collection of visual and textual data!

So here we have Vienna (not Hamburg as in the case of Anders Petersen’s Café Lehmitz), a documentation of not just one but many similar small bars, often on the brink of financial disaster and destined for a subsequent demise, and patrons that derive a “good time” both from the liquid refreshments consumed as well as from a shared coexistence marked by comfort and camaraderie. As for the photographic documentation, Pichler ably demonstrates the efficacy of color for this stark documentary work, where formerly monochrome images were the standard. Color is just fine for the impact that is required for this in-your-face dramatic presentation of people tableaus and “barscapes.” The horizontal format predominates. In 2013, Doug Stockdale reviewed a previous work by Klaus Pichler that also demonstrated his eye for the unusual.

A world that is not always so observable is shown here. These small bars are mostly very funky and idiosyncratic. Their customers are depicted in various stages of inebriation and sometimes acting out or clowning for the camera – they are being themselves and sharing their special world with us. In control of themselves or not, they do not seem to feel shame to show us their definition of togetherness and belonging. As outsiders looking in on them, we marvel at their narrowly defined bit of paradise. One of the intriguing tasks for the viewer is to imagine who said what, since the quotes articulated by owners and patrons, though attributed, are not assigned to any specific individuals depicted in the picture section, but they do allow us to study a variety of insider perspectives to complement the visual documentation.

I consider this comprehensive volume a most enjoyable new classic!

Gerhard Clausing

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August 13, 2016

Robert Adams – The New West

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Copyright 2015 (Steidl Edition) Robert Adams

Photographer: Robert Hickman Adams, Ph.D. (b. Orange, NJ – resides USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany) (first published by Colorado Associated University Press, 1974)

Essays: John Szarkowski & Robert Adams

Text: English

Hardcover book with illustrated dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, pagination and captions, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Paul Weaver

Notes: This is a Steidl version of Robert Adams 1974 photobook of the same title which is a published photographic project resulting from his 1973/74 Guggenheim grant. Black and White photographs selected from this same project were also included in the now famous 1975 “New Topographics” exhibition at the George Eastman House (NY). There is not any overlap of the images in this book with the Eastman exhibition. Both this book and the Eastman exhibition share similar dispassionate urban and rural landscape images and I find it interesting to look at both of these bodies of work to grasp the larger context of Adam’s work at the time. And yes, I was drawn back in again to re-read Steidl’s 2009 edition of New Topographics, which I enjoy doing from time to time anyhow. Also interesting to note that Robert Adams was on the fence about participating in the Eastman exhibit as he was a fan of Ansel Adams’s environmental work at this same time.

Regretfully I do not own a copy of the 1974 version of The New West to compare with this version, but from prior experience with Steidl’s republication of seminal photobooks, I expect that it is equal to and potentially better in printing and binding than the original (which was clothbound with illustrated jacket). I also do not have the $1,000 plus to purchase a 1974 copy either.

This now classic book is divided into five sections that lead the viewer from the rural to the urban and concludes in the mountains; Prairie, Tracts and Mobile Homes, The City, Foothills, Mountains. You also get a subtle glimpse of Adams wry sense of humor as he usually seems to avoid signage, but apparently he could not resist with the house being built on the corner of Darwin Place. The body of work is a series of an anti-Modernist landscape images which document mankind’s encroaching developments in the New West of Colorado, providing what Adam’s calls “a normal view of the landscape”. And in the process Adams became a part of the continual process of redefining what “normal” is in the context to the landscape photography.

My only minor gripe is that each image has a huge white margin around it on the page and if the margins were reduced, could have allowed these wonderful images to be printed larger.

Recommended for those interested in the historical context of contemporary landscape photography.

Related photobook reviewed on The PhotoBook: Steidl’s edition, New Topographics 

Cheers

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September 20, 2015

Aapo Huhta – Block

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:31 pm

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Copyright 2015 Aapo Huhta

Photographer: Aapo Huhta (born & resides Finland)

Publisher: Kehrer Verlag (Germany)

Essay: Jenny Hollowell

Text: English

Hardcover book, folded text insert, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Aapo Huhta & Heikki Kaski

Notes: The context of Huhta photographs is ambiguous, obviously investigating a stark, urban landscape, although stated to be New York City; it could be any large megalopolis. The photographs are almost monochromatic, devoid of any color and providing an overall somber grayness to his subject. In the process of investigating a place, Huhta finds haunting touchstones that speak to the potential isolation and disassociation that can linger in a crowded, yet foreign, urban space.

Cheers

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April 4, 2014

Nico Bick – P.I.

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Nick Bick copyright 2011, self-published

Nico Bick’s P.I. is a study of what is purported to be the one of the most well-known prisons in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the Over-Amstel Penitentiary Institution locally known as Bijlmerbajes (Bijlmer Jail). Using a documentary style, Bick photographed the cells of prisoners, isolation cells, communal rooms and holding cells. Bick also include an area that is most relevant to the prison administration; the control rooms and an area equally important to the prisoners; the doors leading out of the facilities.

Interestingly, the book is unbound and the interior sheets are folded and tucked together. I think that there might have been initially some order to how these pages were arranged, but over the last couple of years, while I continued looking at these sheets I have managed to create a jumble in the presentation. I suspect that that was part of Bick’s plan to allow the reader to rearrange and create their own order out of the inherent madness associated with a tightly regimented prison system.

Perhaps with the exception of the prisoner’s rooms and control rooms, the areas photographed within this institution are ambiguous. The facility appears almost too clean and sterile with the exception of one type of room that seems to invite graffiti. The locations are photographed without the presence of the prisoners or their guards, but we sense that due to the nature of this place, someone maybe just beyond the scope of Bick’s lens. This is a man-built structure with a very specific purpose in mind.

In stark comparison to the photographs of the US jails and prisons interiors, in which the prisoners are living in a mass communal, the individual rooms appear to be only a slight departure from someone’s home residence. Each room appears to be designed for an inhabited by a single individual; each provided a window, blue curtains, a corner table with a small television and coffee maker and an adjoining chair. On the shelves above the single bed is a place to hold books, snacks, or a photograph. Some of these rooms look Spartan as though just occupied, other have the accumulated debris that comes with too much time. Bick’s photographs appear objective and not judgmental of the current situation and circumstances.

As a book object, it has tri-fold stiff cover, with the interior panels containing thumbnail photographs and captions that provide an index to the interior sheets. The four color interior sheets are folded and loose (unbound). An introduction is provided on another loose sheet by Frits Gierstberg while the book was designed by Joost Grootens.

Footnote: This is one of the photobooks that I received in early 2012 and which never seemed to make through my photobook review cycle. Nevertheless the book’s intriguing design in conjunction with the clearly seen yet stark photographs made a strong impression and this book keeping lingering in my memory as a book that needed to be discussed.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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