Seeing the name Paris scream across the cover of Krass Clement's newest book Paris: Carnet de Recherche I braced myself for disappointment. The "home" of street photography has produced numerous books in the past which find themselves amounting to little beyond "greatest hits" collections of images offering syrupy nostalgia and no surprise. Clement is well aware of those familiar trappings - perhaps that is why the cover image printed right on the book's cloth shows a romantic Paris metro X-d out by a couple of steel girders. His is an uphill battle which I am delighted to see proves he is an artist who tests our expectations.
As in the best of Clement's books, Paris: Carnet de Recherche is a personal journey. Starting with a suite of images entering the city by train, we pass by cold landscapes of factories in dense grey light. Upon arrival, the city itself and its citizens appear weighed down and sluggish. Light seems to fight to illuminate the architecture and streets. It is hardly a warm arrival - our first destination - an empty cafe.
Photographed in both 35mm and square formats, Clement weaves through the city lingering for moments on small sequences of images - a woman improvises a dance in a bar that briefly lightens the mood; a protest in the streets led by youth. Interspersed are a few intimate images of women in hotel rooms, perhaps we are not traveling alone but our wanderings in the streets seem perceived through the eyes of someone longing for connection. Less for connection to place but for people.
In many of Clement's books of the past there is an obvious filmic quality. The repetition of images allows the subtlety of events to play out with surprising result without feeling indulgent. Following the gestures of a man swallowing a drink while two women gossip in the background is resonant in its simplicity. There is less of that "step by step" quality here which I find often so powerful, but I suppose it is due to when these images were made in his life as a photographer. Photographed in the 60s and 70s these would consist of early works of Clement's perhaps done before he was fully conscious of the methods he would employ in his later work and bookcraft. Here the sequence at times feels like a stream of jump-cuts and can appear sporadic. This might have been a fatal flaw to the book had Clement not been the great photographer he is. Still, he finds the connections between the individual frames to form links that, for the observant, will not disappoint. The end picture of a sequence of nighttime streets protests of youths burning a car is of a small wedding party where the wedding dress and veil reflect the previous conflagration. In another pairing, a woman on a subway hangs on the arm of a lover while on the facing page, a woman supports a dress she is offering for sale at a street market.
Bookwise, Paris: Carnet de Recherche is beautifully done. The publisher Gyldendal which releases many of Clemen't books has again done a superb job with design and printing. One relief is that there is no introductory text nor afterword - the photographs are allowed to stand on their own as an open-ended journey.
Clement's Novemberreisse from 2008 was one of my favorite books of the year and I was happy to see Paris: Carnet de Recherche appear as a "best of" suggestion by a couple people in the comments of my 2010 list. It was a steady contender for inclusion on mine as well but it has taken me some extra time to fully appreciate its nuances. Like most of Clement's best, it is a slow and quiet burn that lingers long after the covers are closed.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." - Thomas Wolfe
In 2005 I agreed to make some photographs for a non-profit organization concerned with returning veterans who were facing homlessness. For various reasons they had fallen through most societal safety nets after being denied their military benefits and were then living in shelters or worse, on the streets of New York. I was put in touch with a man living on Staten Island who's disability benefits had been revoked. What he did initially get in benefits from the government was now being asked to be paid back. Broke and unemployed, he and his young family were facing eviction from their home.
We talked and smoked cigarettes on his front porch while I made a handful of pictures. He was 29 and had spent two tours of duty in combat in Iraq. He spoke openly and even with excitement about his friends who were still serving as if he had just returned from an amazing and successful fishing trip. He asked if I would like to see some of his photographs.
On his laptop he previewed for me hundreds of images; his friends posing with futuristic weaponry and displaying a bravado that belied any apprehension. Interspersed were dozens of images of bodies of Iraqis strewn along the roadsides and in ditches. I say the word "bodies" but they looked more like rumpled bedsheets of skin with a limb or bone protruding indicating it was once a human being. He revealed no emotion but his pace slowed to half time, lingering on the photos of the bodies longer than his friends. I masked my inability to stomach his slideshow by staring at his hand working the computer mouse. I asked him if he looked at these pictures often and he said "all the time." Almost sounding hurt he added that his wife wouldn't look at them with him. He also mentioned he wished he could go back and serve a third tour or longer. He had found something inside himself there that he seemed to long for now that he was safe at home. I think of that man as I look through Thomas Roma's book Dear Knights and Dark Horses published this year by Powerhouse.
How photographers shape their personal protests vary greatly. Some book a flight and search out access to war to photograph directly and other do so in a more nuanced way. Roma is not a photojournalist. His book is a quieter, less immediately sensational protest, but none the less powerful. For those unaware, Roma has been photographing in Brooklyn for thirty years and is a prolific bookmaker. He is not a world traveller and rarely leaves home to make photographs. What connects him to home, his values, and desires, is woven into the texture of his pictures.
In January of 2004 Roma photographed Army National Guardsmen of the 258th Field Artillery Regiment as they were about to be deployed to Iraq from Jamaica, Queens in New York City. He pairs these portraits with a collection of pictures of coin-operated pony rides that can be found outside of many convenience markets and drug stores in his home city of Brooklyn. Divided in the book - the pony rides first, then the soldier portraits afterward - the pictures metaphorically comment on bravery, past youth and the moment felt when required to leave home. It avoids glamorizing war and bravery, instead concentrating on the individuals without depicting them with pity. These are the same men we sit next to on the subway, stand in line behind at the bank, or work beside.
If we associate youth with going to war, one will be surprised to see that a majority of these portraits are of men who appear to be older than expected. Perhaps some signed up for the National Guard with the intention of taking advantage of college money or a paycheck, playing the odds that history wouldn't thrust them into combat. Decked out in fatigues and loaded down with equipment, there is a weighty sluggishness present in the postures which I find unsettling. They are momentarily frozen like their dime-store counterparts waiting to be set into action. In front of Roma's camera, they look off towards an uncertain future while background details sometimes foreshadow their vulnerability. In one image, a ghostly disembodied leg marches through Roma's slow exposure.
The size, the sing-song title, and the simplicity of presentation of Dear Knights and Dark Horses, share qualities that might bring to mind it is book meant for children. One could argue it is. It is a parable of how experiences change our lives. Most of us will never go to war, our lives will change and our perspectives shift through less life threatening means. War however seems to change people like a blunt instrument. Like the man I met in 2005, they come back changed forever.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 2:15 PM
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Year three of 5B4 has now passed and it is time for my Best Books of the Year list. There have been several books that will wind up being life long keepers so here are my top picks for 2010.
1. Lewis Baltz: Works
Long awaited box set finally released and is better than my already high expectations.
2. For Now by William Eggleston
Just received a copy right in time for the list. Great edit by the film-maker Michael Almeryda.
3. A New American Picture by Doug Rickard
My biggest surprise of the list. This work will be discussed for years to come.
4. Foto en Copyright Volume II by GP Fieret
Volume II of Fieret's life long passion for sensuous women and everyday life in The Hague.
5. Parse by John Baldessari
6. Quatorze Juillet by Johan van der Keuken
A few rolls of old film added with book smarts by Willem van Zoetendaal equals a near perfect little book.
7. Broken Manual by Alec Soth
Soth's approach to book-making is getting better with each title. My personal favorite of his so far.
8. Desperate Cars by Sebastien Girard
A follow up to Girard's Nothing But Home and as good. Can't wait for the third volume...
9. Mexican Suitcase: Robert Capa
A ton of material assembled into a fine form. What more do you want?
10. The Pond by John Gossage
It's a reprint with three extra plates and a new essay. One of my all time favorite books so it needs to be on the list!
11. In Numbers Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955
Smartly assembled by Philip E. Aarons, Andrew Roth and Victor Brand.
12. Four Cowboys by Richard Prince
Only four images which aren't his? And a best of the year?
13. 720: Two Times Around by Andrew Phelps
It's not just because of my nostalgia for skating...
14. How Terry Likes His Coffee by Florian van Roekel
A fine first book. Looking forward to his follow up...
15. Michael Schmidt 89/90
Michael Schmidt, enough said...
What were your faves of the year?????
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 11:03 PM
Friday, December 3, 2010
While in Prague last Spring I found a facsimile reprint of Jindřich Štyrský's Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu (Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream) published by Torst in 2001.
Originally published in 1933, only approximately 20 known copies remain of Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu. Štyrský was a painter, poet, photographer, collage artist and editor. A founding member of The Surrealist Group of Chechoslovakia he edited for the Erotiká Revue that included illustrations by well-known Czech artists and had an imprint called Edice 69 (Edition 69) where Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu appeared as volume 6.
Štyrský was fascinated by dreams and recorded his own through writing, and later, drawings. For him, the dream state was a storehouse of motifs that he would join together in collage and painting until his death in 1942.
Styrsky's imagery is a blurring between the erotic and the morbid. Using hardcore porn clipped from German and English stereo-cards and books, Styrsky disassociates sex from procreation and conceives of it from a purely pleasure giving point of view. The incongruous elements of plant details, a parachute and starry backgrounds emphasize the orgasmic while skeletons, men in gas masks, coffins and disembodied eyes draw a more sinister tone. Styrsky may have been poking fun at puritans who certainly would have been enraged by the montages by including the darker elements. As Bohuslav Brouk wrote in his afterword for Emilie; "People who hide their sexuality despise their innate capabilities without being able to rise above them. They deny their mortality...Any illusion to to their animality, not only in life, but also in science, literature and art, wounds them because it disturbs their day-dreaming."
This reprint brings together 12 photo-montage, the introductory erotic dreamscape written by Styrsky about Emilie, the afterword by Brouk and a modern essay by Karel Srp written in 2001. The original edition included just 10 photomontages, Styrky's story and the Brouk afterword. Two plates from the series which were edited out of the original might have been excluded because of suspected child pornography. Those two have been included here.
The book is printed on paper I imagine was chosen to reflect the original, it is matte in finish and the typesetting seems to also reflect the older edition as well. The original however consisted of the ten plates tipped onto the page and not printed.
Another edition I discovered of Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu was printed for the Ubu Gallery in 1997. This edition features a black cover, is slightly larger in size than the original (only about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in height and width) and is printed on a glossier paper stock. This edition includes the same texts as the original translated into English. The original texts were in Czech. This edition also includes the two additional controversial plates. It was published in an edition of 1000.
Note: Thanks to Charlie Rhyne for informing me about the Ubu Gallery edition.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 9:29 AM
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The older notions of photographers physically exploring their world may have in some ways come to pass. The Egglestons, Shores, Levitts, Winogrands ventured out with perhaps only the loosest intentions or framework of a "project" and allowed the world to provide. It is common now for artists to conceive of a project first and then impose that view almost filter-like upon what they are looking at. I would never argue that one approach is better than the other as long as - in the case of the latter - the work doesn't become a mere illustration of an idea. For me, I learned photography through an ability to trust in the world and a rather strong distrust of "ideas," so clever frameworks rarely excite unless the work from image to image surprises and transcends. Doug Rickard's work in his book A New American Picture has me excited, perhaps a bit disturbed, and completely captivated.
Rickard's work on this project has a clever framework. He has been exploring the world through Google street views. Google has been mapping the world from the vantage point of the center of its streets. The camera, tethered to a GPS system, is mounted on a car and takes wide angle images every twenty feet or so from a fixed height of about 7 feet. The user of Google's street views can not only pan 360 degrees but pan up and down and zoom in on a part of the image. The final images are run through facial recognition software which attempts to blur the faces of people unintentionally recorded when the camera car passed by.
Surveillance cameras in banks or on city streets have the potential to record an image which is as worthy of high praise as any made by Frank or Evans. So is the case of the billions of snapshots made around the world every day from amateurs. Rickard has been sifting through Google's images to - like any photographer working in the streets - find interesting things to stare at and photograph them off of his computer monitor. In terms of street photography, several factors have been taken away; one is timing as the photographs are triggered by the GPS system when the car passes over a specific coordinate and the second is vantage point, so the usual "finding out where to stand" element is off the table as well.
In A New American Picture, which through its title and chosen locations I sense a nod towards Evans's American Photographs, you will find hints of the historical reference points which have certainly informed Rickard's work. The photographers I mentioned in the first paragraph are brought to mind and Rickard's attraction to a certain color palate is common to the 1970s photographers working in color, especially Eggleston.
A grid of these images are on display at the new Le Bal museum in Paris alongside Anthony Hernandez, Lewis Baltz, Chauncey Hare, Walker Evans and others and I was struck by how the splayed perspective of the camera-car's wide angle lens (which seems to be around a 24mm in 35mm terms) echoed Hare's interiors or the field of view from Hernandez's Los Angeles bus stop images. This wide field of view presents interesting photographic problems that fascinated artists like Garry Winogrand - one of which is asking the question of how small can an element such as body language or gesture be and still carry some of the weight of an image. In most of Rickard's choices people are reduced to basic features which rely on such elements for meaning.
The places he has chosen to "google" were often spots Rickard has physically traveled to at one time or another and then when back at home, looked for that same place on street views. Most often he is drawn to the outskirts of cities where the fabric of society is being tested by poverty and run down infrastructure. A majority of the citizens caught in his frames are black, the homes bring to mind the bleakness of Evans's descriptions of depression era houses - an appropriate concentration on the part of Rickard considering the recent economic blight in America.
If I find flaw in A New American Picture, it is with the edit. I happened to see a talk on this work with David Campany and Sebastian Hau at Le Bal and if my memory serves me, there were several images I found captivating in that slideshow which are missing here in the book. The book does have a page noting Plates 1-69 which seems to hint at further volumes and Campany mentioned editing the Le Bal exhibition from over 300 of Rickard's images. This edit favors more images of a single person alone in the landscape which I find a bit repetitive.
I have heard that there might be a larger publisher planning a different book of this same work but either way, it is books like these which show that the history of the photobook is still moving forward and Parr/Badger should start working on volume III.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 8:33 AM
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I know that I have been starting each of my very sporadic postings with an apology for the silence but I am finally back in NYC after attending Paris Photo, the Offprint Paris Book Fair, and spending several days press checking the new Errata Editions books in China. I wasn't able to blog while on press just like last year because the Great Firewall of China is still blocking access to blog sites. I promise to be resuming my posts regularly. My "vacation" is now over.
This time around I was five days on-press as we were doing five books (four new and a second printing of Walker Evans: American Photographs). I survived on little sleep and lots of what I now call a "Wall-Mart Espresso" (3-5 packets of powdered Nescafe coffee in a half cup of hot water stirred with the body of a Bic lighter). As exhausting as the press checks are, I am pleased with the results and hope you'll be too. The new books are:
Books on Books #9 Paul Graham: Beyond Caring. Published in 1986 Beyond Caring is now considered one of the key works from Britain’s wave of New Color photography that was gaining momentum in the 1980s. While commissioned to present his view of ‘Britain in 1984,’ Graham turned his attention towards the waiting rooms, queues and poor conditions of overburdened Social Security and Unemployment offices across the United Kingdom. Photographing surreptitiously, his camera is both witness and protagonist within a bureaucratic system that speaks to the humiliation and indignity aimed towards the most vulnerable end of society. Books on Books #9 presents every page-spread of Graham’s controversial book along with a contemporary essay by writer and curator David Chandler.
Books on Books #10 Zdeněk Tmej’s Abeceda duševního prázdna (The Alphabet of Spiritual Emptiness) published in 1946 enables a rare look, from a captive’s perspective, inside a Nazi forced labor camp in Breslau, Poland during World War 11. It is remarkable that Tmej, a Czech citizen made to work for the Nazi war effort for two years, was allowed to photograph at all, let alone describe the psychological stasis of his experience with the poetic voice that these portraits and still-lifes convey. Books on Books #10 presents every page spread from this extremely rare and fragile document including the original texts by Alexandra Urbanová translated for the first time into English. Czech photo historian Vladimír Birgus contributes a contemporary essay on Tmej called Zdeněk Tmej’s Conscripted Labor in Germany.
Books on Books #11 Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet. Published in 1945 is one of the most legendary of photobook masterpieces. While already established as a leading influential art director and graphic designer, Brodovitch turned his photographic talents towards rehearsals and performances of ballet companies visiting New York stages. Shot in 35mm and disregarding traditional conventions of “good” technique, Brodovitch pushed the boundaries of description to create a panorama of images that perfectly captures the motion and spirit of dance. Books on Books #11 reproduces every dynamic page spread from this rarely seen volume along with a contemporary essay written by leading Brodovitch scholar Kerry William Purcell.
Books on Books #12 László Moholy-Nagy’s 60 Fotos sets forth the framework and ideas behind the ‘New Vision’ of modern photography from the legendary Bauhaus teacher and key figure in early experimental photographic practice. Published in 1930 as the first book in the planned Fototek series on ‘New Photography,’ 60 Fotos evoked a complex and multi-layered dialogue using some of Moholy-Nagy’s finest examples of ‘straight’ photographs, negative prints, photograms, and photomontage. Books on Books #12 reproduces every page spread from this classic treatise on photography along with a contemporary essay from the noted photo-historian David Evans.
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Pre-order your set of the Limited Editions of Books on Books #9-12 here.
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Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 9:57 AM
Monday, October 25, 2010
Have you ever had a night of pure gluttony? Ever sat down, watching for instance the playoffs for the World Series - seeing both your hometown and adopted town lose - on your lap is a half gallon of ice cream and in your right hand, a spoon. You keep making a mental note that you shouldn't have anymore because the carton is three quarters empty and the edge of your spoon-hand is practically a plaster cast of sugar. Yet you take another spoonful and press the substance to the roof of your mouth making those little half swallows like a baby suckling a breast. While savoring the flavor, the coolness or the slight grit to the ice on our tongue, your hand automatically motions downward for another shovel full. You feel slightly disgusted with yourself. That is how I felt as I kept methodically turning pages of every book in my first choice for Book(s) of the Year - the Lewis Baltz: Works box set from Steidl. I couldn't stop. Just one more picture. Then another, and another, and another, as if the books would disappear off my shelf the following morning.
It probably comes as no surprise that I have been a fan of Lewis Baltz since art school and have sought out his books over the years. I saw him speak once in the late 90s where he recounted a story about showing John Szarkowski of the Museum of Modern Art his New Industrial Parks photographs. While looking at the photos John had made three piles of pictures - when he was finished he showed Lewis the prints the museum would want to purchase. Lewis said he was a bit offended and said they would have to buy all of the set or none - it wasn't divisible.
I shyly asked Lewis about this after the lecture because I didn't understand why he was so offended about John choosing images. I asked "isn't that a curator's job to chose images etc." Baltz responded with a few elegantly worded sentences, 50% of which I couldn't understand because of my stunted vocabulary but what I did comprehend without a dictionary was the idea that dividing up the work could contextualize it differently than if it were kept together. Would a painter cut a canvas if the curator only wanted a section? (Ray Johnson would but who else?). Baltz asked if we could continue the conversation outside so he could smoke but I took the opportunity to slink back into the crowd and disappear being that, although he was extremely nice (Michael Schmidt once described him "with oriental politeness"), I felt completely intimidated by him.
I think I partly respond so strongly to Baltz and Robert Adams and maybe to a lesser extent, Gossage, because the describe landscapes that seem so familiar because I grew up in Arizona where construction/expansion and destruction are linked. Where ideas of money outweigh all common sense. I would ride my bike through entire neighborhoods with paved roads and cul-de-sacs but no homes to be seen - the investors pulled out just before any foundations were laid.
The dividing line between nature and suburb was defined by where paved roads bled into dirt and the no-mans-land strip where people would drag their refuse into the desert for illegal dumping. To come across a sun-blistered washing machine miles from the nearest home in the desert feels like stumbling across a crime scene - violence sensed in the shimmering heat off its surface.
Three books of this ten volume set were released a few years ago through the Whitney Museum and RAM - The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California, The Prototype Works, and The Tract Houses. This set includes; Park City, Nevada, Maryland, San Quentin Point, Sites of Technology, Near Reno and Continuous Fire Polar Circle. The only large body of work that is missing is Candlestick Point which I assume was excluded because it is Baltz's only book which is not in a square format.
In comparing some of my older first editions to these some differences can be seen. Firstly, the printing always looked good to my eye with Baltz's books but compared to these new Steidl printings, the plates are more open and yet retain their richness revealing more detail. In Park City, Baltz has moved the captions opposite the images much like in his New Industrial Parks book rather than as a list before the plates start. He also replaced the Gus Blaisdell essay - in the original edition, a "Foreword" which appears afterward - with a newer essay by Hubertus van Amelunxen. Maryland, which was released originally as a booklet from the Corcoran Gallery of Art as a part of the 1976 exhibition The Nation's Capital in Photographs, shows all of the images from the exhibition in their correct order since the catalogue, for whatever reason, is sequenced out of order. Nevada, a 1978 Castelli gallery catalogue I never owned so I cannot compare but this version contains 15 images and I imagine is the same.
All follow the same design and size, all are covered in cloth the color of freshly poured concrete. It was printed in 1100 copies all of which are signed and numbered. I had heard this will be a quick sell out so I hope some of you that can afford the price can still manage to get a set.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 1:43 PM
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Swiss-based media company Ringier founded in 1833 has for several years published over 400 fine art books under their imprint JRP Ringier with the likes of Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Louise Bourgeois, Fischli and Weiss and others. What some might not know is that Ringier commissions an artist each year to spice up the corporate droll of their annual reports. Some of these titles are later released for sale (minus the company's financial graphs and information) as artist books but recently I picked up a few of the actual annual reports. Often these differ slightly from the "released" version of the book but they are interesting none the less.
The first is the latest from 2009, John Baldessari's Parse. As you know from some of my past postings I am a big fan of Baldessari and Parse is a new favorite. Working from a large and seemingly endless archive of film stills he "processes" the images by cropping, clipping and juxtaposing them into new visual realizations. Often full of humor and absurdity, they create new narratives like a badly acted B movie.
Within the "chapters" of Parse, Baldessari reveals the original picture in its un-cropped fullness. This can have the effect of a mental flashback where the viewer rests for a moment on the "real" context of the original yet recognizes that the original is as strange as his processed edited version. The way Baldessari designed each page in Parse makes for a fascinating panorama of images where the flow of his fragmented language compels the viewer to make connections.
This "report" edition varies from the released artist book in paper stock and binding. This version is softcover with a thick cardstock covers which for this somewhat thick book makes for a flimsy shell. This is not really a criticism, as it's drooping and floppy nature, for me, is as enjoyably unruly to hold as his images are to decipher.
The second I received is a report from 2005 created by Richard Prince called Jokes and Cartoons.
Made up of clippings, paintings and emails, Jokes and Cartoons repeats a hand full of old gags based on social cliches and expectations engendered by the cultural mainstream. As Prince has said of his material: "Jokes and cartoons are a part of any mainstream magazine. They're right up there with the editorial and advertisements and table of contents and letters to the editors. They're part of the layout, part of the 'sights' and 'gags.' Sometimes they are political, sometimes they just make fun of everyday life. Once in a while they drive people to protest and storm foreign embassies and kill people."
The third report is the oldest from 2002, HELLO... created by the artist Alexandra Mir. If the Baldessari is my favorite, this one runs a close second.
Mir, in trolling through the picture archives of Ringier has created a daisy chain of images where each picture, often a family snapshot or press image includes two people. The person on the right side of the frame connects to the following image where that person appears with a third person which connects to a fourth person and on and on and on. As Ringier is a company has been family owned from its beginnings, this chain work starts with a picture Hans and Annette Ringier on the cover and moves through a world of public figures including the artist herself. Eventually, the chain comes full circle where the last photograph include Hans Ringier again, of course on the right side of the frame connecting him to the cover image - and round and round we go a second time.
This report over its 60 pages makes only a couple hundred connections but the structure of this could potentially amount to a lifetime's work of connections made that encircle the span of the world's photographed population. Skiing is a repeated motif which, for me, appropriately accentuates the ease in which Mir presents these often cleaver connections of people.
Other reports that haven't been released for sale include works by Josh Smith, Richard Phillips, Matt Mullican, Christopher Williams, Liam Gillick, Harold F. Müller, and Christian Philipp Müller.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 10:44 PM
Thursday, October 7, 2010
This year I was invited to contribute a couple essays to books that are currently available. Since blogging is more or less pressure-free, I accepted these challenges with great apprehension but I'm fairly happy with the results. You be the judge.
The larger of the two is a brick-like catalog from the NRW Forum Dusseldorf called Der Rote Bulli: Stephen Shore and the New Dusseldorf Photography. This is an exhibition curated and edited by Christoph Schaden and Werner Lippert on the occasion of Dusseldorf's Quadrennial 2010 that examines the generations of photographers that have studied at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf under Bernd and Hilla Becher. At its heart, is the transatlantic dialogue between Germany and the United States that rose due to the influence of Stephen Shore's work that would appear in his landmark book Uncommon Places.
Der Rote Bulli - The Red Bully - refers to the red Volkswagon van that appears in Stephen Shore's photograph Church Street and Second Street, Easton, Pennsylvania, June 20, 1974. This image was made on the first day Shore used an 8 x 10 camera that he had been given by the influential Metropolitan Museum curator Weston Neuf after Shore set off to the industrial regions of Pennsylvania. He had made only one previous photograph before setting up his tripod on Church street, a straight on portrait of Easton resident Nicholas Bader wearing an unbuttoned pink shirt. In that image, Bader stares directly into the lens with a questioning gaze, presumably a mirrored reflection of Shore's own expression as he was depressing the shutter - figuring out how this new tool would greatly shift his approach to photographing.
In Schaden's book and exhibition, the Church street image becomes an important marker that would connect the German and US dialogue on current practice. One year after the Church street picture was made it appeared in the legendary New Topographics show in Rochester. The Becher's, who were the only European photographers to have work in the show, had seen the image and eventually purchased a print of it for their own collection soon thereafter. Whatever the presumed attraction they might have had to that particular image, one superficial link is interesting to note, they had also owned an identical red VW van in which they had logged thousands of miles documenting industrial architecture until Bernd's death in 2007.
In examining Shore's influence on the Becher students of the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, Schaden has chosen a smart edit of images from the expected stars (Gursky, Struth, Ruff, Hutte, Hofer), but more importantly, from unexpected or less familiar artists like Volker Dohne, Wendelin Bottlander, Tata Ronkholz, Andi Brenner, Claus Goedicke. This is an important inclusion since the Becher's taught almost 80 masters students between 1976 and 1998.
Several texts accompany this 344 page book, including essays by Christoph Schaden, Maren Polte, Gerald Schroder and mine on the reception of the Becher's work in the United States between 1968 and 1991. My essay is based on, and indebted to, the in-depth two year research by Christoph Schaden on the various ways the work was perceived here in the US which often ran in opposition to how the Bechers saw their work.
The exhibition in Dusseldorf will be on-view at the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft in Dusseldorf until January 16, 2011.
The other book I contributed to is Eyes Look Through You from the Brooklyn-based photographer Ted Partin who was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Germany.
For the last decade Partin has been photographing his friends and extended tribe in Brooklyn and elsewhere with the lush description from an 8 x10 camera. His subjects, mostly thirty-somethings around the age of Partin himself, persuade us to see their individualism in these intimate portraits. Neither completely real (Partin often directs his subjects) nor consciously conceived fictions, his pictures sit within a territory where the dividing line between the innocent and perverse, reality and fantasy, is often blurred.
His subjects aren't fearful of presenting their personal idiosyncrasies to his camera or the larger world in general. They tattoo their bodies and modify themselves in the hopes of shaping their personal identities. In the image that graces the cover, a boyish-looking young woman lays on a table as the tattooist's gun, barely perceptible, works on her shoulder. She gazes as calm as if simply deep in thought. Pain has become a commonplace experience that is endured, perhaps even invited. This is one thread which links many of Partin's photographs; life is full of discomfort, arm yourself and adapt, get used to it.
Partin acknowledges that sitting before a camera creates a level of discomfort for most of his subjects, so why not work within this emotional space and use the effect to the picture's advantage? This sentiment is felt by noticing how many of Partin's subjects find themselves posing upon uncomfortable looking surfaces. Tabletops, asphalt rooftops, sidewalks, iron gratings echo of the world's hardness.
What do we ultimately take away from Partin's pursuit? His pictures persuade us to see individuals, giving them volume and weight. Beyond age difference, tattoos or clothing we enter a common human exchange as if meeting someone face to face. Their image is to be considered and though photographs do not allow us to fully "know" these people in any real sense, we draw a resounding connection through their poignancy, in hope of knowing just a little more about ourselves through their presence.
Eyes Look Through You is hardcover and includes two essays and a transcript of an interview between Partin and Sylvia Martin, the exhibition's curator.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 9:03 AM
Monday, September 27, 2010
I am not dead and neither is 5B4. I have just been swamped with two months of preparing the next four Errata Editions books to be press-ready for November. Those of you that have published your own books understand how much time and effort goes into their production – try doing four at once. I will announce what they are this coming week.
There is a small stack of books here that I have been wanting to write and now that life is getting more manageable I can get to them. The first is Florian van Roekel’s How Terry Likes His Coffee which I discovered a few months back during the Arles festival.
The book is subtitled: A Photo Odyssey into Office Life. I have never had a desk job, worked 40 hours a week for a paycheck, nor wanted to and I have a strong sense that I wouldn’t be a good fit in such an environment. I believe in the adage Do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life, so it is my hope that there are millions of people out there who love sitting in conference rooms, talking on phones, and passing the hours reading excel documents, otherwise this can get too depressing.
How Terry Likes His Coffee opens with a few pages of white, lined paper upon which people have doodled, perhaps somewhat unconsciously while on the phone or performing some other task that can’t quite take full control of their mind. These pages prepare you for the expected – the staleness of office drudgery. They are hopeful but ultimately fleeting reminders of an alternate dreamlife and the need for an active mind to be stimulated. Coffee might be the other need. The first photograph, as hopeful as the drawings but as sad, describes flaccid balloons and party decorations hanging from a drop ceiling. One balloon is marked with the number 50 and one might suspect these are the remnants of an improvised birthday celebration that will be taken down and thrown away by the office cleaning crew.
That photograph is followed by a few somewhat predictable still lifes of file boxes and water coolers. Things get more interesting for me a couple pages later as Roekel describes suit jackets draped over the backs of chairs. They seem to sway to some unexpected breeze – a flurry of movement disrupting stale air.
The monotony of work, especially in front of computer or while on the phone has been a common theme in photography. One might think of Friedlander’s brilliant repetition of people staring into computer screens which were published as multiplying grids in the catalog Three on Technology from the mid-80s. Roekel engages a similar strategy through repetition, photographing the backs of people’s heads as they go about their assigned tasks, the crispness of his lighting highlights hair-styles as a subtle marker of personality in each person.
The fourth “chapter” for me becomes the most interesting section as Roekel creates facing page diptychs of the workers on the phone. Often nearly identical pictures with only slight difference in the shift of the eyes or hand gestures. The workers are not speaking but listening. Their eyes seem to make clear that they are in the midst of digesting what is being said yet we might read deeper realizations are taking place.
The office space as absurdist comedy has been effectively done before by the likes of Tunbjork and there is a sparseness to this work I like throughout the book. Roekel boils down the images to simple close-ups. There are almost no photos that establish what this business is, nor the layout of the larger space. They keep you focusing on small details for their meaning. They are claustrophobic and the way his artificial light falls off quickly to darkness brings an ominous tone which can be stifling.
The last chapter is a suite of pictures outside of the building where a managed landscape of trees transitions the corporate from the natural. Again Roekel keeps his camera close and doesn’t offer much by way of escape. He photographs the trees much in the same way he photographed the suit jackets – slowly swaying in the silent breeze that has blown through his exposure.
How Terry Like His Coffee was published in an edition of 500 hand-numbered copies.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 11:35 AM
Friday, August 13, 2010
The book that won Best Photography Book of the Year at PhotoEspana is Editorial Lampreave's facsimile of Alexander Rodchenko and Vavara Stepanova's Soviet Aviation originally published in 1939. This was one of the famed "World's Fair" publications (along with a series of small booklets) created to show off the Soviet Union's advances in science, technology, and all great affairs of the State structure. Rodchenko and Stepanova were assigned the task of designing three which also included Moscow and A Pageant of Youth which featured sports and athleticism as its subject. With seemingly endless amount of money flowing from the State into such publications the design and craftsmanship that went into some of these propaganda books is now known to be extravagant. Often with die-cuts, gatefolds, use of different paper stock and fine art printing, the results can be breathtaking.
The genesis of Soviet Aviation apparently happened at breakneck speed. According to the dates and terms of the original publishing contract, Rodchenko and Stepanova had only eleven days after signing onto the project to show a complete mock-up of the final book and had less than one month to fully realize and present final art work to the printer - much of it requiring heavy retouching to the original photos.
Rodchenko was in charge of design and Stepanova handled the "object" and "story," but Point 8 of their publishing contract terms effectively erased public knowledge of their authorship by stating "the artist will not declare any right to intellectual property." In all three books, neither Rodchenko's nor Stepanova's name can be found but rather a credit that these books were simply, "printed in the Soviet Union."
Soviet Aviation is a beautiful book with many page spreads that show Rodchenko's brilliance towards dynamic layouts. Some pages have stand alone images which are perceived as simply pictures in an album while other spreads form incredible photomontage and graphics we have come to be familiar with in other Rodchenko and Stepanova collaborations like Moscow Under Construction, First Cavalry, and Ten Years of Uzebekistan.
That said, Soviet Aviation is also one of the simpler books in terms of it bells and whistles. There are no die-cuts or gatefolds and unlike several other publications that employed the use of different toned inks in their printing, this one is printed in a uniform monochrome blue making it in comparison much less dynamic. Of course, this makes it a curious choice of all of the Rodchenko and Stepanova books to reprint but ultimately the most practical. The cost to a modern publisher (surely not working with State monies) to reproduce all of the extravagances of those other titles would be certain to strain the budget to the breaking point.
Soviet Aviation present the entire original book in full scale - standing 15" high. Included are two contemporary essays in the back - one written by Rodchenko's nephew Alexander Lavrentiev - that discuss the history of the book and the Soviet Union's advances in flight. Both are well written and vastly informative.
Printed over seventy years ago, the original was meant to be a celebration of flight and innovation created by the anonymous hands of a collective society. That voice, carefully crafted by two geniuses of book objects and design, may have wanted to appear to be spoken from a unified nation but the nuance of language belongs to just Stepanvova and Rodchenko.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 8:37 AM
Thursday, August 5, 2010
While in Koln Germany recovering from the Kassel festival burnout I made many non-photobook discoveries, one of which was a series that Verlag Lars Muller published in the mid-90s reprinting facsimiles of great graphic design from the 20s and 30s.
These are cardboard slipcased boxes of loose material, often magazines, pamphlets, posters and single sheet replicas of letterhead or company advertising created by El Lissitzky and Max Burchartz and others. Individual boxes are dedicated to the work of one designer. I believe there are four in the series. Two others I saw but didn't buy are on the pamphlets and prospectus from the architect Hannes Meyer, and reprints of the architecture magazine from the Bauhaus, ABC which was published from 1924-28 (edited by Hans Schmidt, Mart Stam, El Lissitzky and Emil Roth).
The first that caught my eye in the Walther Konig's bookstore is a box that contains reprints of El Lissitzky and Ilya Ehrenburg's Vesc magazines. It debuted in 1922 with the aim of acting as a "link between two neighboring communication trenches" - that of young Russian and western European artists triangulating Berlin, Paris and Moscow. Constructivist in agenda it featured art and writing, "whose task is not to embellish life but organize it."
Its emphasis on literature, art and music contained divergent attitudes and viewpoints partly due to the editor's openness to include of a wide variety of contributors but mostly because 1922 was a watershed year when Dadism was splitting into new camps rational and irrational tendencies - constructivism and surrealism. Contributors included; Lissitzky (of course), Fernand Leger, Boris Pasternak, Le Corbusier, Nicolai Punin, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Raoul Hausmann, Harold Loeb, Juan Gris and dozens of others.
This box includes the three issues of Vesc in two booklets (the original issues one and two were combined into a single volume) and a larger book of translations and essays on the magazine's history. There are relatively few illustrations with the articles but the typography and layout are visually exhilarating. The contemporary book of comments and translations (which thankfully includes English) has a fine essay by Roland Nachtigaller and Hubertus Gassner.
The second box from this series I picked up is even better than the first, Max Burchartz: Typografische Arbeiten 1924-1931. If the Lissitzky and Ehrenburg box seems a little empty since it is only three booklets, the Burchartz box is virtually overflowing with material.
Although he never reached the level of fame attached to other designers, Burchartz is now considered a pioneer of modern design. His beginnings in painting and advertising expanded into typography, photography and furniture design. Admired by Jan Tschichold, some examples of his page layouts appeared in Tschichold's classic The New Typography in 1928. His theories of color control for building interiors that he developed while working with the architect Alfred Fischer were thought groundbreaking but ultimately forgotten until recently.
One of the most exciting inclusions in this box are a series of company pamphlets he made for the steel fabrication company Bochumer Verein. Bold use of color schemes, photography and typography beautifully illustrate offerings of bells, springs, railroad tracks, mining tools, crankshafts, and mechanisms used for ship propellors. One might imagine that much of the design greatness of these 10 folios from 1925 went perhaps unnoticed by the tradesman who they were aimed to entice.
Other items included are a couple of advertising pamphlets for a door handle company called Wehag which feature some door handles Burchartz designed himself, a theater program booklet and theater schedule poster from 1925, a poster from a vacuum company called Orion, as well as personal designs for his letterhead and calling card.
The paper stock and printing used for these boxes reflect the original materials. All in all there are 26 items to Typografische Arbeiten, all of which are produced at 1:1 scale. Also included is a booklet on Burchartz's personal history but unfortunately for me, it is in German with no English translation.
These reprint boxes are modestly priced at around 60-80 dollars and luckily from what I see through used book listings they haven't really jumped in price a great deal since their initial publication. If early design and typography is your thing then these are well worth a look.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 11:54 PM
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
My last posting on the sweep of awards for Japanese books in Arles leads me to mention the new edition of Takuma Nakahira's For a Language to Come just published by Osiris.
Originally appearing in 1970, Kitarubeki Kotoba no Tameni is Nakahira's jarring description of a dark world - a landscape where the natural order of light and shadow, distinctions of space and time, is upset. From the opening image, the descriptive qualities of Nakahira's approach set a tone of brooding, where even the brightest burst of light can't seem to penetrate the shadows. His staggering vantage points seem envisioned by someone wounded or intoxicated by their surroundings. The apocalypse is nearing or has passed, that is unclear, but the physical impact of the environment on this wanderer couldn't be clearer.
The stifling claustrophobia of space in this world is extreme. Nakahira purposely condenses his tones and contrast to foreshorten space leaving little opportunity to breathe in the landscape. At night, spotlights and fluorescents offer little depth as if the speed of light was dragged to a standstill. When in natural light, we are often oppressed by a weighty haze of grey sky pushing down on the horizon line. The few pedestrians we encounter seem like sluggish sleepwalkers aimlessly going through the motions of life. This is not the dark but invigorated vision of Moriyama but a slowed pulse, the occasional images of lolling waves setting the pace.
This reprint follows the same edit and sequencing of the original. The original jacketed softcover wraps have been changed to a hardcover with a new design by Hattori Kazunari (a new interpretation of the idiosyncratic original by Tsunehisa Kimura). The original rich gravure printing, since now an extinct process, has given way to a finely handled offset. The paper is slightly glossier than the original.
In questioning how photography functions as either a language or something that exists "on the reverse side of language," Nakahira would ultimately re-examine his work in 1973, find it shackled by "expression" and shifted towards the attitude that photography must be like "an illustrated dictionary...[which]... consists only in clarifying the fact that material things are things." This would lead to his burning much of his past work on a beach near his home.
Now that this new edition is presented to us after so much has been written about it - essentially confirming its status as one of the masterpieces of Japanese photography - it is interesting to question how it will be seen, apart from scholarship, within a contemporary viewpoint. Considering Nakahira's initial attempt to reject and destroy it, a level of historical value has won out. 40 years has passed since Nakahira revealed this world and questioned what is photography and what is language, now it can be tested again and see how his "thoughts" stand against time.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 11:51 PM
Sunday, August 1, 2010
A month ago marked the start of the 2010 Les Rencontres D'Arles smoking convention which I attended for a few days. I found a small number of books (still trying to show restraint) which I will mention in the upcoming weeks. The main draw for me is the competition which names one "contemporary" book and one "historical" book as "best of the year" - the winners get 8000 euros each. Last year I entered the first Errata Editions books for the historical prize and we didn't fair very well. The judges that year were extremely critical of the concept of my books and not for the reasons you would think. (See my report from last year for more details).
So this year I entered the new Errata books with no hope of a prize but purely to help introduce them to a new audience. That Saturday, the day I was leaving, they made the final decision on the two awards and I was excited, not to mention surprised, to hear that this year's judges liked the series so much they were considering them for the historical prize. Their final decision went to Japanese Photobooks of the 60s and 70s from Aperture instead, but I am pleased to say that during the award ceremony that evening, they gave Errata Editions a special runner-up mention.
The winner of the contemporary book went to Only Photography's fine book Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74. Only Photography is Roland Angst's independent publishing house in Berlin. Their books are beautifully produced with a strong care towards design and printing and the Takanashi book is their best so far. Past titles have been Ray K. Metzker's Automagic and Frauke Eigen's Shoku.
This hardcover book presents an edit of 41 images from Toshi-e in a large vertical format and the selection corresponded to an exhibition of mostly vintage prints that was on display at Galerie Priska Pasquer in Cologne, Germany. This marked the first solo showing of Takanashi in Germany. One of the gallery directors, Ferdinand Bruggemann is a specialist on Japanese photography and contributes a fine essay on Takanashi and his masterwork, Toshi-e. A second essay by Hitoshi Suzuki, who was an assistant to Kohei Suguira the book's designer, provides a personal remembrance of discovering the book in Seguira's design studio while it was being created. A short preface from the gallerist Priska Pasquer opens the book.
Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74 is beautifully realized with three different cover images silk screened onto the cloth of the boards. A yellow translucent dustjacket wraps the book and the color I have been told reflects the tone off an exhibition poster from the first solo exhibit of this work in Japan in the 1980s. The printing of the plates is also exquisite - a modern offset interpretation of the original's lush gravure which remains rich and clean. The design reflects the twisting and turning of the original (horizontals oriented vertically) but with additional gatefolds for a few of the horizontal pictures. It was printed in an edition of only 500, 30 of which come signed and numbered with a print. An additional 100 were signed and numbered by Takanashi. I strongly recommend this book if you can get one. They are a bit pricey but I assure you it is because these books were expensive to produce.
So this year was a clean sweep of awards nodding towards Japan (it was also our study of Toshi-e that had gotten the main attention from the jury). My congratulations go to Aperture and Roland of Only Photography, I don't mind coming in second when the competition was that strong.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 12:03 AM
Friday, July 30, 2010
“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential.” - CR Stecyk
"Richard Armijo was kicked out of Whittier (skatepark) again for the last time. Maybe his hair was too short, maybe it was his attitude, maybe he just doesn't care. Things are different this go around because Richard and his friends say they're not going back...Ever." - CR Stecyk
The only other thing I was ever good at in my life before photography was skateboarding. I spent nearly everyday from 1980 to 1989 throwing my body around like a dishrag in roughly paved drainage ditches and halfpipe ramps in Arizona and later New Jersey and New York. Those hardcore years are scarred into my hips and shins. After art school, a part of my life has been spent struggling to stay connected with the feelings I had skating back then. I still kick around a bit and tell myself I "still skate" but it is more in my mind than reality. I was never good enough to gain sponsorship, never liked competing, and now, at 41, suffer a bad knee and the worst of traits a skater can feel, fear. I hold on by watching videos of new generations perform feats on the streets and ramps that my generation couldn't have thought possible. It is a passion, like photography, I imagine I will take to the grave.
I make strong comparisons between skating and photography. Both require large amounts of passion, attention to your surroundings, perseverance and risk taking. I see a skater's line as artistic and improvisational as anything William Forsythe choreographs, as sculptural as Richard Serra, or as mind bending as Matthew Barney. It has creates its own language, both in words and form that is as unique as Kurt Schwitters or John Cage.
There are many books on skateboarding but most fail because they suffer from the same trait that I have succumbed to, nostalgia. Powerhouse Books just published Full Bleed which is a compilation of images from the 70s through the 2000s of east coast skaters tearing up NYC. It's an interesting highlight reel of greatness but nothing more. It leaves me in the past like so many now distant memories, where as Andrew Phelps' newest book 720 (Two times around), a small self-published, spiral-bound book of 16 pictures in an edition of 100, holds more of the actual spirit of skating than any image of Huf or Gonz caught at the apex of a trick.
While photographing in Austria, Phelps discovered an abandoned corporate building which had been infiltrated by skaters. They set up makeshift ramps and obstacles with the aid of a few power tools and ingenuity. Left behind doors unhinged from their frames and upturned desks transform into a playground within the wasteland of empty offices and corridors of failed big business.
There are no skaters present, no "tre-flips" or "blunt slides" being performed. Their presence is felt by the wheel marks on walls and blackened, waxed edges of ledges. The improvisation of construction and the lingering excitement of what must have been felt upon the first run up any of these obstacles hangs in the air. Graffiti on the walls marks a list of the fleeting accomplishments. "Mario bailed" but Phil pulled a "backside crooked grind." That unique language again. For the uninitiated it is nonsensical, but to see a backside crooked grind, that is a universal language.
720 (Two times around) is dedicated to both Mike McGill and Robert Adams. Mike McGill revolutionized skating in the 80s with the invention of a spinning 540 degree air performed 5 feet above the lip of Del Mar skatepark's keyhole bowl. It was a spectacle which stunned onlookers and marked a turning point in skating - perhaps like Adam's The New West marked a turning point in photography. As Phelps concludes in a brief afterword, "When I dream of skating, I'm Mike McGill. When I dream of photographing, I'm Robert Adams." Two very different sources of inspiration, one spectacular and the other deceptively not, both meeting the same outcome to push a medium of expression forward for new generations.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 10:02 AM
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The last artist book Mariken Wessels published was a narrative of found material she discovered in an Amsterdam shop. Elisabeth - I Want To Eat is an assemblage of old photographs, postcards and letters that describe a young woman's life budding and then, rather shockingly, leading towards depression and, what I read as, an implied suicide. It is a reconstruction which blends some fact with loads of interpretation.
In one of the letters translated from Dutch, Elisabeth's aunt, in an attempt to help Elisabeth think differently about her life writes, "But unpicking yourself, that can be done, why am I doing this, couldn't I do it better (for me and for everyone else) in a slightly different way? Each little thing builds the whole. In accordance with the same system as all matter is built up from molecules and atoms." This suggestion of parsing and twisting the events of her life is also the strategy Wessels employs in these works. We grapple with trying to understand this life presented to us through only a few pieces of ephemera which insists that our own twist of psychology intervene.
Wessels' newest artist book, Queen Ann. P.S. Belly Cut Off from Alauda Publications is a look into a life of a woman named Anneka.
Anneka appears to be a woman haunted by loneliness and obesity yet she puts forth a fun-loving and warm, if at times slightly demented, demeanor. When we are shown recent images of her, she (or the artist) has painted their surfaces with adornments such as brightly colored hats or veils or cut out parts of herself in the pictures with shears. In some, she adds a second coat of lipstick or nail-polish that transforms her into an over-the-top eccentric where we might question her sanity.
In one image from which the title refers, she writes, "In a way I really do feel like a "Queen." I think that fits. Although lacking the wealth but perhaps like our image of famous queens, Ann is also slightly lonely, unsatisfied, and displays vengeful violent streaks which in this case, she plays out on her own image rather than others. She seems to mock even her own ideas of beauty in how she "improves" the picture makes herself presentable - all ribbons and bows with make-up dripping from her eyes.
In both Queen Ann and Elisabeth, sexuality is an overt presence. In Elisabeth a suite of scratched nude photos (think G.P. Fieret) is presented, perhaps made as self-portraits or by a lover. In Queen Ann, photography as a somewhat transgressive act is also included - that of what appears to be a middle interlude of stills from a sex film (with Ann as the star?). This is followed by a more recent image of Ann holding an image of herself as a young attractive teenager - the weight of wishing for the past is felt.
Although melancholy in overall tone, Ann's unique character and playfulness outshine her underlying problems with aging and self image. The last images, shot on super-8 film, show her running and twirling, arms outspread, in a forest. A smile is sensed through the grainy and blurred image just before she disappears behind a stand of trees.
As with many contemporary books from The Netherlands, both of these are beautiful objects. The care and attentiveness to "the book" is felt but never trumps the content. In Elisabeth, English translations from Dutch type-written on green tissue paper are loosely laid in are a wonderful touch, and Queen Ann includes a sealed glassine envelope of 4x6 inch snapshots. It isn't clear if this last element, the glassine, is meant to be torn open or whether the images are meant to be viewed through the translucent paper (the metaphoric haze of memory?). You decide. Maybe in that case, collectors should buy two.
Posted by Mr. Whiskets at 12:03 AM