The PhotoBook Journal

November 18, 2018

Ekaterina Solovieva – The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero

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Ekaterina Solovieva, The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero, 2018

Photographer: Ekaterina Solovieva, (Born Moscow, lives in Hamburg, Germany)

Publisher: Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, copyright 2018

Essay: Ekaterina Solovieva

Text: English, Translation by Diego Benning Wang

Softcover, Swiss Binding, 141 pages, 68 images B&W, 7 1/4 ” x 9 1/2″ x 2 inches, printed in Stuttgart by Offizin Scheufele

Art Direction and Design: Konstantin Eremenko, Moscow

Notes: The cover image of this intriguing photo book is of a bearded man with long hair blowing in the winter wind, looking back over his shoulder with fences of a small village dividing the landscape behind him. Thus we begin to know the subject of this book, a “punk” Moscow seminary graduate who traveled to this remote Russian village with friends searching for the meaning of life, ultimately rebuilding the local church that burned down 40 years previous, in the process revitalizing the spiritual community and binding him to the villagers and to the land.

The photographer, Ekaterina Solovieva, whose work primarily focuses on country folk-life in the former Soviet Union with a special emphasis on religious customs, also provides text to accompany her poetic black and white imagery.  This book takes a bit of time to absorb and fully appreciate. On first viewing, the presentation of the images is compelling: some pages filled entirely with a borderless single image, some images printed on black pages, the next on white. The book is divided into nine segments with titles such as “Easter”, “Fall- Grape of the North”, and “The Interlude to Winter”.

Solovieva’s images convey the essence of this small rural community: bundled up children, older women wearing traditional scarfs inside to keep warm, small shacks barely visible through the brush, abandoned fishing boats swallowed up by the weeds, simple log homes illuminated by window light and candles, some heated with the consumption of strong vodka and late-night conversation, wet mud roads, the metallic shine of cooking pots, the unadorned beauty of apples spilled onto a wooden table.

Solovieva photographs a place and people without pretense, a digital free environment unpolluted with branding on clothes or advertisements dominating the streets. Kolodozero the village seems to exist beyond the reach of commercialism or the creep of digital technology, the villagers lacking in the self-consciousness of modernity. Solovieva photographs the details and intimate moments that give the viewer an understanding of why a young Muscovite seminarian transformed into the village priest and why, unlike friends “who came here and left their hearts and souls” yet “found the strength to return to normal life”, he says of himself “I am the weak one, as I am unable to leave.”  These final lines of text, written in white on a black page like snow falling into a black night, compel the reader to reverse course and view the images of this remote village and the priest who fell in love with its landscape and inhabitants, from back to front, and then front to back again, each time slowing the pace, like the spiritual journey of Father Arkady himself, absorbing the beauty of this chosen life more deeply.

Best regards! Melanie Chapman

Postscript from Ekaterina Solovieva:  Several days after the book was published, on February 12th 2018, I have got sad news from Kolodozero. Priest Arkady Shlykov suddenly died after a heart attack. He was 45 years old. All the years he lived in Kolodozero he took all the problems and sorrows of the people of the village very personally, helped them selflessly. He used to spend hours hitchhiking to the remote communities to baptize, read the funeral service or just serve in the temple. And at some moment his heart gave up. A new priest has been already appointed to the church in Kolodozero. But he won’t be able to serve regularly, and people are yet to get used to him. – Ekaterina

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November 9, 2018

Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne

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Dave Jordano – A Detroit Nocturne, 2018

Photographer: Dave Jordano (born Detroit, MI, USA resides Chicago IL, USA)

Publisher: powerHouse Books

Essay, Foreword by Karen Irvine

Text: English with captions and pagination

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

Photobook designer: Sam Silvio

Notes: The investigation of an urban man-built landscape can be a sociological study of those who live in it as part of a photo-documentary practice. Dave Jordano adds another couple of more layers to the study of his subject, the city of Detroit.  His visual framing of this urban landscape is from the adjacent byways of this city, a version of street photography which in this case only a few individuals are observed. Second is the time of day he creates this urban investigation, or perhaps more succinctly, a project created in the wee hours between sunset and when the sun rises again. A time when things might go bump in the night.

For the most part of this study Jordano focuses on the aging structures of Detroit that are illuminated by a variety of lighting, both the natural moon lite sky as well as the various industrial, commercial neon, residential and street lights. The combination of lighting sources creates interesting color palette to an already colorful city and the occasional sharply delineated shadows make for an overall strangeness to his photographs. The night time lighting creates graphic shapes of this urban setting as the structures appear to flatten and visually break down to basic shapes, masses, blocks of color and lines. The overall effect might be best characterized as being surreal.

The capture of these lonely night-lite structures as a documentary practice attempts to reveal the underlying social order of this area. I am struck by a combination of visual humor mixed with moments of melancholy, as many of these photographs seem to reveal an underlying sadness about what is occurring in this region. Like Jordano, I grew up near these same locations many years ago, so viewing these mostly dated, sometimes seriously deteriorating, structures remind me of my own aging and mortality.

Dave Jordano has been previously featured on TPBJ: Detroit Unbroken Down

Cheers, Doug

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October 29, 2018

Richard S. Chow – Urbanscape

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 5:34 pm

 

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Photographer:  Richard S. Chow (born in Hong Kong; lives in Los Angeles, California)

Self-published, edition of 50; © 2017

Text:  Notes by the photographer, in English

Soft covers, spiral-bound (Wire-O), 10.75 x 8.25 inches; 66 pages, unpaginated; black and white and color sections with 18 and 12 images respectively; printed by MagCloud (a division of Blurb)

 

Notes:

Having recently curated the ABSTRACT VISIONS Exhibition, I was very pleased to come across this work by Richard S. Chow. He is a prolific exhibitor in the Los Angeles area and internationally, has received a number of important awards for his work, and is also very active in furthering the exposure of other photographers through Open Show LA events, along with his colleague Jonas Yip, whose work I will be reviewing shortly.

This photobook by Richard S. Chow is entitled Urbanscape, and consists of some 30 photographic images, with two additional arrangements of three and six as collages. The work displays an astute vision, an impressive ability both to isolate shapes and lines and to combine forms into distinct and pleasing and/or riveting patterns and juxtapositions, both in monochrome and color. This work gives us the impression that we are contemplating architectural archetypes that have their own rules and aesthetic systems. As Chow himself states in his notes in the book, one of his main goals is to give the viewer a participatory projection experience as a member of the society whose architects and builders have created the distant beauty of these forms for their structures.

The first part of the photobook is comprised of 18 images in monochrome, while the latter part contains 12 color plates, well printed and of a good size; they also have interesting titles, such as “Between the Lines” and “Hip to be Square.” I was especially pleased to note that all double pages lie perfectly flat on the table with this kind of binding. All the images display a dynamic optimism, a sense of beauty that is characterized by distance yet beckons the viewer to get involved in the image in leisurely contemplation to get a bit closer. These are not the kinds of images that leave you cold, in spite of what may at first appear, and as might be one’s initial reaction upon first glance. The level of abstraction varies across this work; sometimes there are some natural elements or quirky human objects in the periphery (the sky with or without clouds, rain gutters and/or their shadows, and other such bits not so high-tech) that remind us of the human needs behind the structures. Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray might be pleased by Chow’s contemporary treatment of the abstractions that urban spaces present to us today. Most intriguing!

The PhotoBook Journal previously reviewed Richard S. Chow’s Distant Memories.

Gerhard Clausing

 

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October 24, 2018

Kranzler – Phelps – The Drake Equation

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Paul Kranzler & Andrew PhelpsThe Drake Equation, 2018 (book miss-printed 2017)

Photographers: Paul Kranzler, (born Austria, resides Linz,Austria and Leipzig, Germany) & Andrew Phelps (born Mesa, Arizona, resides in Salzburg, Austria)

Publisher: Fountain Books (Verlag), Berlin

Essay: Alard Von Kittlitz

Text: English

Without pagination or captions

Hardcover book, bronze embossed linen over boards, tipped-in image on back cover, sewn binding, bronzed page edges, one double gate-fold, four-color lithography, printed by Optimal Media, GmbH (Germany)

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Book Designer: Isabel Latza

Notes: The rural region of Green Bank, West Virginia is a modern paradox; a mash-up of ultra-high technology in the midst of an almost non-tech community, confounded by the fact that this situation is by careful design. Green Bank is the home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory built in the 1950’s. This high technology site with the astrophysicist who work there, is a series of highly sensitive radio telescopes that are searching the edges of the universe looking for signs of life. Operating this highly sensitive equipment requires the surrounding area is not disturbed by any form of radio activity, such as Wi-Fi, radio stations, cell towers and all forms of electro-magnetic energy, a region classified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a “radio-free” zone. This has become a region that uses dial-up land line phones, correspondence by letters and requires individuals to actually talk to each other.

Photographers Paul Kranzler and Andrew Phelps co-photographed this project, working together in such a manner that the identity of who actually activated the shutter for a specific image is inconsequential. Both photographers hail from Austria, while Phelps was born in Arizona and has resided in Austria since the early 1990’s and as I have noted in Phelps other photobook looking at the Arizona landscape that over time it appears he has acquired an outsider’s view point. The photographs capture a mash-up of high technology nestled within a community of non-technology, capturing both sides of the Drake Equation. The giant domes are observed facing outward looking into the furthest edges of existence while Kranzler and Phelps photograph those individuals who choose the simple basics of a lifestyle that might be considered the near side of existence.

The visual attributes of the high technology are stunning; the huge organic sculptural shapes of the radio telescopes situated in the sparse rural landscape; massive contradictions of size, shape and mass. These round shapes appear similar to what we think of what alien spacecraft should look like, lurking eerily in this desolate landscape.

In contrast are the intimate studies of those individuals who make this region their home; although there are hard to miss hints, such as the young woman with an off-the-chart iridescent blue hair, that their collective understanding extends beyond this rural community. Nevertheless they create a portrait of a white rural community; a young person cradling a chicken, another young man firing his rifle at something, ball caps, pizza, big belt buckles, camouflage fashion-wear and taxidermy trophies lining the walls.

The writer Alard von Kittlitz’s essay delves into this photographic study of a small region of America as a surrogate for the greater whole. So might Green Bank be a micro-cosmos, a representation of the greater America as postulated by von Kittlitz; I think not. I speculate that Green Bank might have more in common with a David Lynch story that is an odd mix of the surreal with the common, thus it appears like a very mysterious place. Perhaps an interesting place that I would really like to visit if given the opportunity.

Other photobooks by Andrew Phelps previously featured on TPBJ; Not Niigata, and Haboob.

Cheers, Doug

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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; 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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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 photobook 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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