The PhotoBook Journal

October 12, 2018

Max Sher – Palimpsests

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Max Sher Palimpsests, Copyright 2018

Photographer: Max Sher, born St Petersburg (then Leningrad), resides Moscow (RU)

Published by Ad Marginem with support from Heinrich Böll Foundation (Germany/Russia), 2018

Essays: Kate Bush, Maxim Trudolyubov, Nuria Fatykhova

Text: Russian, English

Hardcover book, embossed cloth over boards, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by IPK Pareto-Print, Russia

Photobook designer: Veronika Tsimfer

Notes: This is a study of the current urban landscape of modern Russia, now called a post -Soviet period that reveals the underlying layers of the older Russian architecture driven by its economy and social order. The book’s title, Palimpsests, is a very old term for recycling, dating back when precious parchment writing materials were scraped off to create a new writing surface, yet contain faint traces of the older writing. Likewise Sher documents the new “modern” post-Soviet architecture sitting on the bones of the Soviet era brutalism, while yet traces of the earlier Romanov-era layer are still slightly visible.

As a topographic study of this immense region, Sher uses a slightly elevated view point similar to a few of those included in New Topographics; Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape and other contemporary social-landscape photographers such as Robert Adams and Simon Roberts. One aspect of the visual subtly of Sher’s urban landscape study is that until recently many of his subjects were strictly forbidden landscape topics; bridges, harbors, certain restricted cities and even an elevated view point. These are subjects that one did not document or photograph as it related to the “security” of the government.

Frequently Sher creates a juxtaposition with his image paring throughout his book; on one side is an earlier Soviet/Romanov mash-up while contrasting on the facing page spread is a shiny, bright new modern structure, that has all of the visual trappings of European and America commercialization. Sprinkled throughout are traces of a vaguely familiar mint-green or a green shade of turquoise, another visual trace of the earlier Soviet decor.

We become a witness to the older Soviet era architecture that appears to contain a sense of design that might be characterized as Soviet-Communistic. This architecture was meant to be a no-nonsense, basic to needs, utilitarian, inexpensive (the relator code word for “cheap”) and quickly constructed structures for the common-man. In other words; dreadfully boring, on the verge of in-human and barely inhabitable.

The “new Soviet order” appears to sit on top of the previous urban structures of the Romanov period, which are agrarian, religious, crude, rustic, individualized, and private within the confines of what was acceptable to the czar. It is this architectural mashup that Sher investigates as symbolic of the underlying social, economic and political turbulence within Russia. Similar to Simon Roberts continuing attempts to capture the essence of the British, Sher creates a similar indirect portrait to take a pulse of this broad expense known as Russian, his homeland.

Max Sher’s photobook A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz was previously reviewed on TPBJ.

Cheers,

Douglas

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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; moving to 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 volume, 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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August 16, 2018

Michael Kolster – Take Me to the River

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Michael Kolster – Take Me to the River

Photographer: Michael Kolster (born Milwaukee, WI, resides Brunswick, ME, USA)

Publisher: George Thompson Publishing (USA) 2016

Essays: Michael Kolster, Alison Norström and Matthew Klingle

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, tri-tone (black & white) lithography, including 10 gatefolds, printed at ESB, Verona, Italy

Photobook designer: David Skolkin

Notes: Contemporary landscape photograph as an artistic genre sits on the edge of a delicate two edge sword; part objective documentary evidence and part artistic (subjective) personal interpretation. Perhaps vexing is that these two descriptive attributes usually co-exist in the same body of work. I think in an attempt to engage the potential subjective artistic aspects, Michael Kolster for this landscape project deferred to the use of making ambrotype (wet-plate photographic process characteristic of the mid-1800’s) photographs.

Unlike the digital photography, as well as the use of film, the ambrotype is a direct process that requires the preparation of the glass plates on-site immediately prior to exposure, then a rapid return to the chemicals required to fix the image. As evident in this body of work, the process has elements of chance and the inclusion of serendipity as to how the coating process was completed and the resulting visual effects; no two images are alike. To further complicate this process, the emulsion is very UV sensitive, requires long exposures and without any effective means to calculate the proper exposure in advance. The exposure is by educated guess and until the glass plate is developed, the artist does not know if they were successful in their attempt. The resulting glass plate is actually a negative that does not reveal its essence until layered on top of a black background, thus the reason for the black printed pages in the book (although not really required as the glass plates were scanned for this publication, while the black pages provides a symbolic background consistent with viewing a proper ambrotype).

Interestingly, an aspect that keeps me returning to these intriguing images, is the nature of the wet-plate photography process which introduces unanticipated swirls and flow marks that are wonderful visual metaphors consistent with his subjects; four rivers of the eastern coast of the United States. Likewise, the longer durations required for the glass plate exposure allows the things that will move, the water, tree limbs, grass blades or individuals in close proximity, to leave a ghostly blurred image. This blurring provides for me an inherent dynamic element to these images as a departure from a quick fraction of a second that could result in a very static appearance.

A really nice book to consider for the summer, as his subjects were all captured in the duration that spans spring, summer and into the fall. Although the ambrotype process results in black and white images, there is a perceived lushness within these landscapes photographs. His subjects capture not only the beauty of “nature” inherent in these river pathways, but includes a mash-up of the man-built urban landscape that is representative of the early settlements adjacent to most of these vital water ways.

Another subtle element in this project is that the four rivers featured, the Androscoggin, Schuylkill, James, and Savannah, were until the Clean Water Act of 1972, essentially extremely polluted chemical cesspools. The rivers are all in much better condition today, although still not pristine yet, but now potentially rivers that are in a state of renewal (or at least these were at the time of this publication in 2016, prior to the recent American elections). Nevertheless, this book is a story about environmental hope.

Cheers, Doug

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July 22, 2018

Cat Gwynn – 10-Mile Radius

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 8:17 pm

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Photographer:  Cat Gwynn (born in Glendale, CA; lives in Los Angeles)

Publisher:  Red Bird Books, Los Angeles, CA; © 2017

Essays:  Notes by Cat Gwynn; Quotes

Text:  English

Hardcover, sewn; 136 pages, paginated; color photographs; 10 ¼ x 10 inches; printed in Canada

Photobook Designer:  Kathy Martens

Notes:

Occasionally I have written about the value of art as an important way of getting in touch with yourself and about its therapeutic value, for instance in my review of Rose Lynn Fisher’s The Topography of Tears. In the case of Cat Gwynn’s 10-Mile Radius, we are privileged to accompany a courageous photographer on her journey (that touches many emotions as well as the intellect), in which her visual explorations contributed strength during the tribulations of cancer treatments, leading to a successful outcome of full remission.

An avid devotee of meditation, Cat was diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer in 2013, and, as the therapy treatments progressed, found that her habit of photographing daily allowed her to strengthen both her resolve to succeed as well as to engage with the world out there, to notice objects that might previously have seemed peripheral, and also to make new friends that she encountered on the short walks her energy allowed. Cat Gwynn’s strength was the authenticity she aimed for – true to herself and with a vision to give the situation a substantial dose of optimism, regardless of momentary difficulties. I would like to quote at length from what she wrote to me, because the advice she gives contains important lessons for all of us:

My 10-mile radius creative process had many layers of meaning to it. Primarily it was one of the only things I had any control over – everything else in my life was so much out of my control and this daily photo making practice was my way of sitting with immense uncertainty and settling into the present moment of ‘what is’ and finding beauty despite everything else. It was also a brilliant ’seeing’ exercise. We tend to not look at the things in our life that scare us or make us uncomfortable so I discovered over time by looking closely at life around me without filtering what I saw it helped me look at the very thing that threatened me with more courage and in doing so it actually helped me be with this illness more fully which opened my heart to myself and helped me heal, and my oncologist and therapist both felt that was true also. As I say to other people I meet going through a serious life threatening illness – you don’t have to be positive, it’s much more important to be authentic. Some days you will be down and that’s okay, feel down. And other days you will feel great and be with that and appreciate it. The most important aspect of being with all of your feelings is you learn they will pass and there’s no need to stay attached to any of them or shame yourself for thinking if you’re not always positive this will bring back the cancer. It won’t. Just be authentic.

The book Cat has created is full of authentic moments, and I also detect much optimism. The excellent fine-art images and well-chosen interspersed quotes allow us to share an astute observer’s inner and outer worlds and the connections between them. Tension, anxiety, calm contemplation, and moments of enlightenment and joy are all connected in such a journey. Some of the titles she gives to her images give you glimpses of her process as well:  “Hung Out to Dry” – “Hit the Wall” – “Connected” – “Belonging” – “At Peace with the Obvious.” We are also privileged to read several essays dealing with her experiences and with the significance of visualization and grounding. We are able to share many observations that we might otherwise not be able to find out about. For an artist, such “moments of creation” have a significant impact, in that the world out there and what is inside of you can merge to provide some meaningful bits of closure. We also are pleased to see and read about some of the Angelenos she met and befriended on her walks. Thus we not only are able to enjoy this photobook, but can also share in her profound journey.

An amazing experience to share this volume and its meanings on many levels!

Gerhard Clausing

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June 27, 2018

Yehlin Lee – Raw Soul

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Gerhard Clausing @ 9:40 pm

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Photographer:  Yehlin Lee (born and lives in Taipei, Taiwan)

Publisher:  Akaaka Art Publishing, Kyoto, Japan; © 2017

Afterword:  Yehlin Lee

Text:  Japanese, Chinese, English

Hardback, sewn, with debossed illustrated cover; 118 unpaginated pages with 76 color photographs; 26 x 26 cm (10 ¼ x 10 ¼ inches); printed and bound in Japan by Live Art Books

Photobook Designers:  Yehlin Lee, Kimi Himeno, Hisaki Matsumoto

 

Notes:

Haven’t we all tried to make sense of our environment many times over? Lucky are those of us who can use our photography to help us provide access to how the rhythms of our environment flow. Those who also have a connection with and a touch for more than the visual mode, such as sound, music, film, to guide their instincts, have the good fortune to be inspired in more ways than one.

Yehlin Lee from Taipei is one of these lucky people who are guided by more than one modality. Having an artistic connection with sound, with a career as a sound artist (check out some soundscapes on his website), he is guided toward special moments where sounds give him cues for locating and interpreting the visual moments that he chooses to share with us. As he states in his latest artist statement, “My way of looking is deeply influenced by my past experience in listening – unconditional acceptance. Like a submarine, I try to feel without bearing any intention and dive into the collective consciousness of Taiwanese as well as mine. When sound is heard from within, I click the shutter.” Lee’s goal is, as he states, to capture “a certain suppressed force of life, a spiritual intensity …”

And indeed, the photographer has produced a very special and sensitive journey into the heart and soul of a very complex metropolitan region. Raw Soul reminded me a bit of the film Into the Night (1985), in which the character played by Jeff Goldblum searches the night for meanings and encounters various cultural layers. Taiwan, with many customs and belief systems that have a history going back many centuries, is a multifaceted conglomeration of cultures and backgrounds. To capture its spirit and flow in a mere 76 images is quite a feat.

We see many hidden places and mysterious juxtapositions of nature and man, such as a sharp plant leaf and a culturally interesting knife. We get glimpses of ancient remnants and current practices and combinations of these; we see a variety of age groups, old and young, and some interaction. Many of the folks shown are not readily identifiable or are shown as a small portion of a larger universe; thus we are able to project ourselves into this world in which the photographer immerses us. Mysterious figures behind glass, young folks in various roles, subject to influences of old and new, East and West, spiritual and mundane … a respectful look by an artist that understands the layers and the sublayers as well. Yehlin Lee also makes excellent use of selective focusing and unfocusing and blurring/longer exposures to add mystery. The layout and sequencing keep us in suspense from beginning to end. We, the observers, share in the artist’s resonating moments that let us in on a very special metropolitan area.

A complex work, attractively presented – highly recommended!

Gerhard Clausing

 

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June 16, 2018

Simon Roberts – Merrie Albion

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Photographer: Simon Roberts (born & resides Great Britain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2017

Text: English

Introduction by David Chandler and essays by A L Kennedy, Alex Vasudevan, Carol Ann Duffy, David Matless, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Ian Jeffrey, Irenosen Okojie, Nikesh Shukla and Tristram Hunt.

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography, detailed captions, pagination, printed by Petit S.K. Lublin, Poland

Photobook designer: Ben Weaver

Notes: Urban and cultural landscape photographer Simon Roberts photobook Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island is another visual investigation of his homeland, the encompassing urban landscape of the United Kingdom. That he chose a title which in old English would mean Merry Britain might imply that he is investigating the heritage of this country, perhaps with a nod towards the evil spirits of Nationalism. Happily it is anything but.

This book also draws on the time of his earlier investigating English rituals in 2007 that resulted in We English, subsequently the outer edges of the British urban landscape in Pierdom, as well as his time when he was commissioned to photograph the U.K elections of 2010. The book contains only photographs that until now have been unpublished. This is a compilation body of work that attempts to take a straight forward pulse on the many social changes that create the current fabric of this island nation. The on-going flux of those coming to this country from other places, a process which can trace its roots to the early colonial age of this nation, thus creating a melting pot of cultures. The pending political and economic changes of its disassociation from the European Union (E.U.).

Suffice to say, what might constitute current Britain is mash-up of the old with the new. As has been noted in the accompanying essays, Roberts landscape photography has attained a subtle trademark look; using a large format camera, non-romantic (aka factual, dead-pan) framing and frequently a viewpoint from a higher elevation that creates an interesting depth to his landscapes. The later due mostly in part to his use of the top of his motor-home as a camera platform. This camera position provides a pictorial framing that is broader in scope, but conversely, such as the Download Festival at Castle Donington, can also make him the center of attention.

The resulting photobook is complex and visually layered, much as his subject Merry Britain, and a delight to read. Recommended.

Other photobooks by Simon Roberts featured on The PhotoBook Journal: Pierdom, and We English.

Cheers!

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May 31, 2018

Douglas Stockdale – Middle Ground / En Medio Tierra

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Photographer:  Douglas Stockdale (born in Butler, PA; living in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Self-published artist book of 31 images hand-bound by the artist in an accordion (leporello) presentation, yielding 66 pages (blank verso), attached to stiff covers with flip-over French fold; 8.5×6.75 inches; printed in four-color lithography by Dual Graphics, Brea, California; edition of 99 plus 5 artist proofs; © 2018

Text:  English and Spanish

Photobook Designer:  Douglas Stockdale

Notes:  This innovative artist book by Douglas Stockdale brings to mind the parable “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka, in which a man is confronted by what seems to be an overwhelming obstacle and fails to overcome it, even though he could have, as we who are the readers readily understand. How often in life are we confronted by small barriers that can easily become seemingly overwhelming …

Here is a volume of innovatively presented and artfully sequenced freeway observations. The 31 photographs that Douglas Stockdale has arranged in leporello (accordion) fashion constitute a panorama of barriers. We sense the static moments of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic, repeated moments sufficient to take photographs of dividers put up for traffic purposes, with ‘beautification’ planters placed behind them. There is the aggravation of heavy traffic along the Interstate 5 route toward the border in San Diego; there is the annoyance and challenge of being separated from that which lies beyond the barriers. And we observe details: some houses, some palm trees, the national flag almost beyond reach, and other structures to which we can’t immediately relate. And yet there must be other people there … who and where might they be? And some of the barriers are much less than perfect, they show damage or are surrounded by debris. It is a less than perfect, seemingly endless constructed landscape.

So we can consider this project, which is a typology of barriers, a metaphor for the barriers and separators of all kinds that people wish to throw between and among us. Especially in our current moment in time there are many whose main task is to foment social, racial, and/or economic anger and pin it on the “others,” whether we are talking about ethnic, social, economic, or other groups.

Can we overcome these barriers? Of course we can. Look at Stockdale’s images: there are gaps one can squeeze through, there are small boards or a bit of sand to help us take the first step beyond, to let the middle ground lead us toward reaching a better understanding of those that may be different, yet almost within reach. In every country there are many ethnic, economic,  religious groups or segments of the population with somewhat different belief systems, individual preferences, or somewhat different shades of skin color that some wish to marginalize or not give the full respect they deserve. It is important to overcome such barriers and to take the all-important steps toward others. Truly united societies require respectful collaboration rather than splintering into subgroups, and Stockdale’s visual compendium can be an impetus toward overcoming barriers and obstacles.

This project invites each viewer to engage with the presentation and to find individual meanings. It is my guess that this volume, which has been given a bilingual slant but no artist admonition as to its interpretation, will become quite a collector’s item. I would advise you to get your copy while you can, as the edition is very small. For those of you who can make it to L.A. this weekend, Stockdale will give an artist presentation about this work at the closing reception of the exhibition on Saturday, June 2, at 4-7 p.m., Fabrik Projects Gallery, 2636 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA (near Culver City).

The PhotoBook Journal has previously featured or reviewed the following other books by Douglas Stockdale:  Ciociaria, In Passing, Pine Lake, Bluewater Shore, and Guide to Self-Publishing an Indie Artist Book.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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May 25, 2018

Anthony Hernandez – Beach Pictures, 1969 – 1970

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Photographer: Anthony Hernandez (born Los Angeles & resides Los Angeles & Idaho)

Published by Silas Finch, NY, USA, 2016

Text: English

Printed chipboard over cloth end sheets, sewn binding, tri-tone black & white lithography, printed by Studley Press, Dalton, MA (USA)

Photobook designer: Kevin Messina

Notes:  A monograph of Anthony Hernandez’s earliest body of work created shortly after his two years of service in the U.S. Army, when he spent a tour of duty in Vietnam. His photographs appear humorous, poignant, yet there lurks a dark undercurrent. This body of work is not overtly political, but there are dark undertones as will it appears that his subjects are sleeping or resting, while incorporating enough ambiguity and lacking evidence that his subjects are actually still alive.

The prone individuals that Hernandez photographed on the beach may have been a cathartic response to his battle experiences in the Vietnam War. The wounded or dead soldiers & civilians would have had been laid out in similar prone positions. Even to the point that casualties in war have their faces covered similar in a very eerie way to those sunning themselves on the beach.

Hernandez is a west coast photographer who adapted a NYC street photographic style that is mashed with the west coast minimalist stylistic practice of Lewis Baltz. While working in Los Angeles on the left coast, he is thus perhaps lesser known than his East coast contemporaries of Arbus and Winogrand, yet still was anointed by Szarkowski at MoMA. As evident at this stage of Hernandez’s street photography career, he is using the full frame format of his 35mm film to great effect. Every square inch appears to be well thought out and visually working for the photographs selected for this publication.

Cheers,

Douglas

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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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March 14, 2018

Michael Dalton – The Great Falls

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:22 pm

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Photographer: Michael Dalton (born Marshfield, MA & resides in MA)

Published by Peperoni Books, Berlin, DE copyright 2017

Text: English

Hard cover book, sewn, printed by Wanderer, Germany

Photobook designer: Kiran Puri

Notes: I was fortunate to share a table at the Medium Festival in San Diego last October adjacent to one that Michael Dalton was hosting and able to leisurely discuss his first book, The Great Falls, in a little more detail. Thus learn that his beautifully rendered photographs were created with an 8×10” camera and that a number of the images in his photobook are essentially contact prints from those large sheets of film. And that the double exposures were created purposefully, allowing for some serendipity that results from this exposure experimentation.

This photobook is a gritty biography of a post-industrial city; Patterson which is located in a region of New Jersey that has seen better times. Dalton provides ample visual evidence that at one time Patterson was a bustling city of commerce that probably thrived on the flowing river and falls within its boundaries as evidenced by the large industrial size remnants.

His documentation of the debris, trash and abandoned buildings appear to haunt his urban landscape as he takes an unkind eye to his subject. Perhaps the city of Patterson is indeed in a deteriorating state and this project might be construed as another “ruin-porn” documentation common to post-industrial blight. Even his lyrical photographs have discerning elements; a rusting metal container, shattered glass, green slime and graffiti that belie a tranquil landscape.

Nevertheless, Dalton captures an undercurrent of resilience for this tough area, photographing individuals and couples who call this city home. Perhaps due to the fact that his subjects know that they are being photographed (hard to sneak a photograph when using a giant 8×10” camera), they do not appear to show the strain of living in the troubled environmental conditions that encompass this region. His subjects are standing amid the trash, perhaps in part resignation to the surrounding conditions, yet showing indications of affection and that provides some element of hope that these individuals will persevere.

Likewise, the book ends with a series of green and lush landscape photographs that implies that nature, and perhaps mankind, is slowly reclaiming this region and that that an order and balance may yet be restored.

This photobook is solidly produced, rendering the color photographs with clarity and dignity, a delightful book to hold and read.

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale

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