The PhotoBook

January 29, 2017

Left coast photobook news: Ruscha at OCMA

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Every Building on the Sunset Strip copyright 1966 Ed Ruscha

Currently OCMA (Orange County Museum of Art) is exhibiting Pop Art Design and included are a few works by Ed Ruscha, but probably the most interesting to those who enjoy photobooks is a very long display of Ed Ruscha’s 1966 Every Building on the Sunset Strip.

This is a deadpan photographic project in which a 35mm motor-drive camera with a bulk feed was used to photograph all the adjacent buildings while driving up and then back again on Sunset Blvd. This street was commonly called the Sunset Strip, thus Ruscha’s resulting photobook plays a visual  pun of the street nickname by creating a long continuous strip of images. On the top of the pages is one side of the street and positioned below this in reverse is the other side of this street.

This photobook design was very innovative for its time with stiff covers and the interior was bound to display as an accordion (also known as Leporello or Concertinas) layout, which is to say each page was connected and continuous. A very long strip of photographic images. As a part of the Pop moment, his book was also meant to be a very inexpensive, which is apparent in the rough and uneven gluing of the accordion page binding.

My photographs of this exhibit were a grab shot and dose not do the Ruchas’s photobook enough justice, thus I recommend for you to go check it out and see the real thing!

The OCMA exhibition runs thru April 2nd, 2017.

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January 8, 2017

Barbara Kyne – By Fire

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Ph­otography:  Barbara Kyne (Oakland, California)

Fall 2015, self-published. Softcover book with 32 pages, not numbered; 10 duotone photographs; 8.75 x 7.25″; $20. Marketed by Norfolk Press  and by the photographer.  For a limited time included as a bonus upon purchase of the second book, A Crack in the World, to be reviewed here shortly.

Essay:  “On Contemplation and Perception” by Barbara Kyne

Text:  English

Photobook design: Yon Sim

Notes:  By Fire is a fascinating seminal volume that has as its goal creating a connection between severe personal tragedy and the universe of nature as a sphere of continuity and as a context permitting some healing. In ten well-chosen images that have also been given intriguing titles, Barbara Kyne allows the viewer to enter a foreboding yet promising atmosphere: we can project events that have fundamentally affected our lives into a series of fiery depictions of nature. These often include a shadowy figure – a stand-in and ethereal spirit, hinting at a gutsy universality beyond the comprehension of any one individual being, as well as pointing toward some solace and an understanding that we are not alone.

Barbara Kyne has a keen interest in pursuing the deeper meaning of reality and discovering clues to the great existential questions, using her photography to serve as a conduit to understanding “the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, often and surprisingly connecting pathos and joy.” Regarding this volume, she states, “If we move through the metaphorical fire with awareness, we may find that facing mortality creates expansion and renewed life.” Indeed, there is a mysterious and mythical quality to her photography that envelops and fascinates the viewer, inviting several types of discovery.

Barbara Kyne is continuing her important photography in further volumes. We admire her work and are looking forward to further illuminations.

Gerhard Clausing

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January 6, 2017

Young-hwan Choi – BABEL

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Copyright 2014 Young-hwan Choi

Photographer: Young-hwan Choi (born & resides in Seoul, South Korea)

Self-Published (South Korea)

Essays: Young-hwan Choi, Dong-sun Jin, Sang-yong Shim

Text: Korean & English

Stiffcover book with tipped in image, perfect binding, four-color lithography, printed by Photonet in South Korea

Photobook designer: Photonet, South Korea

Notes: Choi’s self-published photobook BABEL is a tall, thin collection of black and white photographs that investigate a towering urban landscape in which the vegetation is either attacking a structure or attempting to conceal it, as though a futile potential reclamation is in process.

This is a dark poetic and surreal allegory about the pursuit of happiness by means of accumulating power and wealth through the construction of tall looming structures, similar to the vain construction of the towers of Babel, is but a hollow chase. None of these structures has been able to truly reach heaven.

In writing about Choi’s photograph, Sang-young Shim states “the excessive deficiency of light, which often comes close to absence. Sometimes all light is extinguished except for the minimum required for perception. Even that is reflected light, with the light source nowhere to be seen. The main tones range between grey and black, but as the darkness advances to the extreme level, it often threaten the middle tones as well…the plant is a place that should be brighter, for sure. One should poke a hole through the sky cover in ash-colored clouds. The ominous grey that pressed down should be covered with brilliant colors. But the signs of dawn are too faint.”

I met Choi at Photo Independent last spring in Los Angeles and I was impressed with his photographic exhibit and his two self-published photobooks, this and his earlier REQUIEM (published in 2011).

I find BABAL’s visual narrative to be extremely relevant to the current global events, especially those occurring in the United States. Anyone who builds large and tall structures with their name bronzed in large letters across the front for all to see (hoping for admiration) is indeed pursuing a dark folly that was characteristic of Babel.

Best regards

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December 16, 2016

Early bird discount for photobook workshop ends this Saturday

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LACP Introduction to Photo Book Design, photo Douglas Stockdale

The early-bird registration discount of 20% for my Introduction to Photo Book Design workshop that I will be leading next April over two weekends will be ending midnight this Saturday, December 17th. This creative workshop is sponsored by Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP).  So if you plan to be in the Southern California area (aka best-coast), time to check this workshop out and take advantage of this discount.

Could also be a wonderful Christmas present for someone special ;- )

Just saying…

your wonderful Editor.

December 8, 2016

Kenneth O’Halloran – Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing

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Copyright 2016 Kenneth O’Halloran 

Photographer: Kenneth O’Halloran (born Corofin, Country Clare, resides Dublin, Ireland)

Self-published (Ireland)

Essay: Presidential Announcement speech, 2015

Text: English

Hardcover book with printed belly-band, sewn binding, four-color lithography, edition of 500, printed by Mirex, Gdansk (Poland)

Photobook designer: Mac & Ken

Notes: This documentary style project occurred in Los Angles on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2016 during the United States presidential election. O’Halloran’s perspective was that of an outsider looking into an on-going political process, visiting this Southern California region from his native Ireland.

O’Halloran documented the raw emotional reaction of his subjects when confronting the name of one of the candidate’s bronzed in the sidewalk. His portraits of his subjects are tightly composed which appears to add an additional layer of tension to the emotional charged environment surrounding this location.

It might be an understatement that most of his subjects did not appear to react favorably to this landmark, as this candidate went on to lose the popular vote in the election by over two and half million votes as of this writing, while still becoming president-elect.

Best regards, Doug

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November 5, 2016

Alex Van Gelder – Mumbling Beauty Louise Bourgeois

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Photographer:  Alex Van Gelder (now based in Paris)

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, 2015

Essays:  Foreword by Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Ever Louise” / Introduction by Alex Van Gelder

Text:  English

Hardcover book with 112 pages, not numbered; 81 color photographs without captions; sewn binding; cloth cover with dust jacket, printed and bound in China.

Photobook designer: Béatrice Akar

Notes: This photobook presents 81 extraordinary collaborative images taken during the last three years of life of the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who came to the US in 1938 and was primarily known for her sculptures and installations, but also for her paintings and prints. Her art received the most attention from the 1970s on, and she was also a strong fighter for artistic freedom and social justice. Alex Van Gelder, the photographer now based in Paris, became her friend and, from 2008 to 2010, was repeatedly invited to her home in New York City in order to participate in the creation of this personal yet public reality of a highly creative and spirited individual. As Van Gelder says in the foreword, “She became a consummate performer in front of the camera.”

In viewing the images, we can literally experience the joy of the artist in the process of creation, as well as the pain of aging, perhaps foremost among them her inability to move around as freely as possible, as she was paralyzed from the hip down. The photographer uses a variety of techniques to show the difficulties of both artistic creation and old age, such as distortions and long exposures with the resulting blurred appearances: self-reflection through visual ambiguity. The viewer is not only reminded of the work of John Coplans, but also of Cindy Sherman: Louise Bourgeois here assumes many roles (some with disguises) in a number of settings within her house. A very creative look at the last few years of this artist as a result; she is shown working in her studio on paintings, posing with some small sculptures, as well as in mundane settings of everyday life.

This book confronts the viewer with his or her own aging process and creativity. It is a stark yet supportive and positive, even optimistic presentation, at times with some humor as well. As the artist is shown active even at the very end, we get the idea that she is creative and hopeful in spite of it all. Since Louise Bourgeois considered much of her work autobiographical, based in part on childhood traumas, these portraits give us a glimpses of the relationships between the artist and her art, and many other dimensions to reflect on as well. The human body, with its fragile and temporary nature, was a main theme in her art, and this is certainly well represented in this visceral yet elegant collaborative photographic study.

Gerhard Clausing

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September 30, 2016

Arion Gabor Kudasz – Memorabilia

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Copyright 2014 Arion Gabor Kudasz

Photographer: Arion Gabor Kudasz (born, Hungary and resides in Budapest)

Publisher: Magyar Fotografusok Haza Nonprofit Kft (Hungary)

Essays: Arion Gabor Kudasz, Gabriella Uhl, Emese Kudasz

Text: Hungarian, English

Stiffcover book, sewn naked binding, four-color lithography, printed in Budapest, with poster

Photobook designer: Nora Demeczky

Notes: A complex and layered personal photographic project that investigates the memory of his mother, which in turn becomes an investigation on the act and process of attempting to capture a memory. One layer is the process of documenting what remains; the objects, places and traces of a person who has passed. Another layer is attempting to understand if these subtle traces can hold and/or trigger memories? Still another layer; if and for whom will these memories occur?

The photographs are printed on an in-expensive paper stock with a low contrast printing process and are in a documentary style, abet, resembling a catalog or inventory of objects. There are no captions with the pages although a listing of some notes are located at the conclusion of the book. The significance of each of the objects photographed remains a mystery, thus allowing the viewer to construct a personal narrative from the evidence provided.

For me, this is a book that is heavily infused with melancholy. When you are old enough, you live beyond your grandparent’s lifetime and then one day even your own parents. I am emotional touched by this photobook, a wonderful combination of photographs and words/text that is a talisman for my own family’s memories. This photobook is also a gentle reminder to not take your friends and family for granted, as time is relentless and at sometime all too soon you have only memories.

Best regards

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September 9, 2016

Julia Borissova – Dimitry

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Copyright 2016 Julia Borissova

Photographer: Julia Borissova (born Talinn, Estonia, resides St. Petersburg, RU)

Self-published by the artist, signed and numbered edition of 100

Essays: Julia Borissova, Alexander Fokin

Text: English

Hardcover book, hand-sewn naked binding, digital printing in Russia

Photobook designer: Julia Borissova

Notes: Julia Borissova in her recent artist book, Dimitry, investigates the Russian Tsar Dimitry Ivanovich, the youngest and last son of Ivan IV the Terrible, a child of eight who died under “mysterious circumstances” in 1591. What results is Russian intrigue & speculation, perhaps not unlike in the US about who all killed President Kennedy or was responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. The story of Dimitry Ivanovich is further confounded by the whispers that he narrowly escaped the murder attempt and that he and his descendants still live on, again perhaps similar to current sightings of Elvis.

Borissova states in her introduction “I was intrigued by how the story can go on without the actions of a hero and how his absence can play a major role and catalyze the further development of the story. It is absence that creates legends and turns them into a myth over time.”

There is little known about this young boy Dimitry, and apparently even less about the events that occurred in 1591 and since, thus leaving ripe the narrative of his sad saga and the lingering effects on Russian culture. Her narrative is based on a small part of reality, large doses of myth and all wrapped in an enigma. To develop her elusive narrative Borissova has creatively leaned into photo-collage, montage, and layered images interwoven with some documentary style landscape photographs. The photo-collages and montages are initially jarring, appearing almost crude in the stark lines of the constructed objects, but are also poetic, abstract and wonderfully metaphoric. Her interior images remind me of the style of the Russian abstract montage artist of the 1920s.

Thus Borissova’s narrative has been symbolically ripped from the pages of a Russian 1920’s version of People magazine. She continues to be a Russian photobook artist to watch.

Other artist books by Julia Borissova featured on The PhotoBook: DOM, address, Running to the Edge

Cheers

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September 1, 2016

Susan Burnstine – Absence of Being

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Copyright 2016 Susan Burnstine

Photographer: Susan Burnstine (b. Chicago, IL  & resides Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Publisher: Damiani Editore (Italy)

Essays: Text by Del Zogg, Chantel Paul, Susan Burnstine

Text: English

Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Biography, printed in Italy

Photobook designer: Masumi Shibata

Notes: Susan Burnstine’s second photobook Absence of Being is a collection of singular poetic black & white photographs, which are dreamy and mysterious landscapes. These photographic images result in part from her photographic equipment, a series of homemade photographic contraptions she created that utilized medium format film, but to a larger extent the concept and visions she is cathartically engaging. The overall darkness that engulfs her moody photographs hints at the underlying tension of her poetic narratives, what has been described has “an idiosyncratic and deeply personal visual landscape”.

Another visual theme woven in this body of work, more so than her first monograph, is the presence of a singular person or vehicle, which can be found in the midst of these landscapes. This is a strongly autobiographic element that visually places her within these narratives. Her subjects appear to be engaged in a journey, a dark metaphor that relates back to her night terrors as the source of her artistic endeavors and the mystic road she alone is traveling.

This wonderful body of work is sequenced with a single image per double page per spread; the left edge is run into the gutter with an edge bleed on the right, accompanied with a facing pagination and caption. The layout is metaphoric, with the binding providing the central source from which the pages and photographs radiate, while the bleed off the end of the page implying that her narrative does not simply end on this page. There are two styles of captions that reflect the two different states Burnstine deals with her dreadful night terrors. Also interwoven through the body of work are handwritten excerpts from Burnstine’s personal dream journal that provides some insights to the internal dialogue she is working against.

Burnstine’s photobook is a beautiful object and her wonderful luminous interior images are printed on a warm coated paper with a spot coat of luster varnish that emulates her photographic prints. Viewing this photobook is very similar to the experience of studying her print portfolio, which I was fortunate to do this last spring when we had adjacent tables at Photo Independent and the final galleys for her book were being completed. Recommended.

Susan Burnstine has been previously featured on The PhotoBook: Within Shadows (2011)

Cheers

Cheers!

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August 4, 2016

Alejandro Cartagena – Rivers of Power

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Copyright 2016 Alejandro Cartagena

Photographer: Alejandro Cartagena (born Dominican Republic, resides Mexico)

Archive images: Fototeca de Nuevo Leon

Publisher: Newwer

Essays: Ximena Peredo, Gonzalo Ortega

Text: English and Spanish

Stiffcover book with printed slip cover, naked-sewn binding, printed insert, four-color lithography, printed in Spain

Photobook designer: Alejandro Cartagena & Fernando Gallegos

Notes: Rivers of Power is Alejandro Cartagena’s recently released photobook that explores the relationship between man and nature and the futile attempts by man to try to control nature, which in this case is the Catarina River running through the Mexican city of Monterrey.

His story reveals an empty and seductive river bed that seems to beckon entrepreneurs to take advantage of the unobstructed wide open spaces. A story about how mankind soon forgets that the usually trickle of river water can be deceiving evil in the face of the next horrific hurricane advancing in from the Caribbean.

Cartagena mixes historical photographs of the early riverbed construction to control this waterway to set the context for his story, then introduces his investigation using a documentary style of color photographs. The brilliant design of his book is a wonderful metaphor for his subject; the flexible interior book, like the river water, is encased in a hard shell, much like the conducts and pipes to control the water, which almost collapses when the interior book is removed. The stiffcover naked-binding allows the book to lay flat and in conjunction with the photographs printed full bleed across the two page spread, creates an enjoyable reading experience. Recommended.

Other Alejandro Cartagena photobooks previously featured: Before the War and Carpoolers.

Cheers

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