Category "Photography Books"

This Week In Photography Books

- - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

If, like me, you have a kid, you’re likely to have re-discovered your adoration for Dr. Seuss. That man, crazy as he must have been, could most definitely spin a yarn. And I just love the way his stories and sentences always seem to find a balance. (On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool…) Not too messy, not too clean, not to cutesy, not to tough. Just right. So with that in mind, I thought I’d follow up last week’s selection of big, cloth-bound, heavy monographs with a couple of small, taut, poetic little books. (And of course, they’re by female photographers to balance out all the previous guys. As promised.)

Just in time for Halloween, “Dondoro,” is a soft cover, perfect bound, slim little booklet by Estelle Hanania, published by Kaugummi Books. It’s a creepy, trippy set of images of Japanese masks, dolls and dancers that has the feel of a ancient funeral procession. A head stone image and the general melancholic tone hint that the color photos metaphorically depict lament and sorrow. As the French-only text offers up “En mémoire d’Hoichi Okamato 1947-2010,” I feel pretty comfortable with that guess. I’m not a scary movie guy, to be frank, and when I saw that Japanese horror flick with Sarah Michelle Gellar a few years ago, I almost crapped my pants. But this book is cool, and I’ve found myself opening it and closing it a lot since I picked it up from photo-eye. It must be the time of year, because everyone likes getting the heebie-geebies in late October, but this is a book that I think will stand the test of time.
Bottom Line: Disturbing, but in a good way.

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Dondoro

 

“Hurricane Story,” offered by Broken Levee Books, (via Chin Music Press,) is a colorful little hard cover by Jennifer Shaw. I confess that I really haven’t seen anything like this, and neither have you. Ms. Shaw, a New Orleans resident, was one week from giving birth when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. She tells the story of her and her husbands’ evacuation and subsequent displacement, which I admit is a tale we’ve heard before. And of course, there have been a hundred natural disasters since, each of which pushes Katrina a bit further into the background. In this book, however, the story is re-created using toy props, shot dreamily and lusciously with a Holga. Each page uses a single sentence to illuminate the narrative, and the technique enables the viewer to read the story both in words and pictures simultaneously. It’s lovely, witty, poignant and original. Definitely a book you want to have in your collection.
Bottom Line: Just right

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Hurricane Story

 

Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye if you find this feature useful.

This Week In Photography Books

- - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

So before anyone points it out, I’d like to note that this column has thusfar been a bit male-centric. My apologies. Today’s offering is no exception: all dudes. Fortunately, I’ve run through my addictive photo-book stash, and need to hit photo-eye for a re-up. I’ll make sure to find a better gender balance going forward. The collection of books to be reviewed today have a few things in common. All are beautifully produced, cloth-bound hardcovers, and ought to satisfy last week’s commenters who yearn for something less derivative. Lest I be accused of pandering, however, I’ve had these books waiting in the queue for a month or so.

“Ernst Haas: Color Correction” is a gray cloth-wrapped book from Steidl, with bright red text accents jumping off the cover. Mr. Haas, for those of you who are unaware, was a highly influential commercial and editorial photographer (and Magnum member) who holds the distinction of having the first show of color photographs at MOMA. According to the book, he fell out of favor after John Szarkowski took over the MOMA photo department, and his fine art images, or personal work, have not been given proper appreciation until now. So I’d suppose that might be enough of a reason for some of you to grab a copy, given that many of these images have never been seen before. (They went through something like 10,000 slides to make the edit.) But for most of you, it comes down to the pictures, not the backstory. This volume is teeming with extraordinary color images that collectively create a serene, quiet tone, despite the loud and audacious palette. Abstraction plays a large role, but we get to see people, places, and things, all mashed up with reflections and visual obstructions. Personally, I fell in love with a photo of a man holding a pomelo behind his back in on a NYC street, and a poignant little image of an abandoned necklace, nestled on the ground among some dead leaves.
Bottom Line: A Classic Career, Re-imagined

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Ernst Haas: Color Correction.

 

 

“Joel Sternfeld: First Pictures” makes a great complement to the Haas book. This one is also offered by Stiedl, in white, with a classic 70’s Americana image affixed to the cover. If you think that the title and that photo give you a sense of what’s in store within, you’re right. They do. This collection of photographs was made between 1971-1980, and it shows. The last words in the book’s essay are “This book is a time capsule,” and I didn’t need them to tell me that. It’s obvious. But wow, could this guy find the symbolic moments of that decade that we all love to love. (Yes, that was a Donna Summer reference. Deal with it.) This is a large book with lots of photographs, and like the Haas book, many of which you’ve never seen before. They have a wit, pathos, and dexterity with symbolism that are as enjoyable as the cultural references. A yellow wheelchair chained to a sign post follows an image of a old lady counting her dollars at the counter of a NYC diner, the empty soup-cracker-wrapper catching the light from the flash just so. Then he drops an image of a bunch of cigars and some horned-rimmed black glasses in the pocket of a 70’s polka-dotted polyester shirt. Boom. What a tripych. He closes the narrative with a series of images shot in malls around New Jersey in 1980, (yes, I was looking for anyone I knew) that perfectly anticipates our contemporary fascination with Jersey Shore, while also capturing the spirit of 80’s teased hair and un-ironic mustaches. This book is a keeper, for sure, and I’m sorry I have to return it.
Bottom Line: Unapologetically Awesome

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Joel Sternfeld: First Pictures

 

I thought I’d finish up with another set of color images that attempts to take a fresh look at the world. We jump a few decades to the present for “Suburbia Mexicana,” a gray cloth-bound hard cover that was published jointly by photolucida and Daylight books.  I’m a big fan of Alejandro Cartagena’s work, and I’m probably at the back of a long line, as he’s been honored by just about everyone for this project. Mr. Cartagena set about to take a closer look at the cookie-cutter, mini-muffin style concrete micro-homes that have sprouted up around the Mexican industrial city of Monterrey, where he is based. (Though the phenomenon exists around Mexico.) The images can be read ironically, like, look at those ridiculous little monsters debasing the environment at the base of some desert Mountain-scape, or earnestly, like, look at what happens when a Third world country begins to develop a middle-class, and people can finally afford a decent place for their families with a TV and indoor plumbing. Regardless, “Suburbia Mexicana” captures the essence of a global movement that has seen the American middle class struggle while hungry, desperate people around the world claw towards a better way of life. Those of you curious to see what’s going on in our neighbor to the South, (aside from the gruesome drug war and absurd permanent spring-break tourist culture) will get a unique vision of an issue super-relevant to our times.
Bottom line: Insightful

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Suburbia Mexicana

Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye if you find this feature useful.

This Week In Photography Books

- - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

If you’ve read any of my travelogue/art criticism articles on APE, you’re aware of my willingness to speak frankly and critically about photography on the wall. This feature, though, is a little different. Our goal is to highlight some cool and interesting books that have been recently released out into the wild. So consider anything you see below to be recommended for purchase.

Ed Panar’s “Same Difference” was recently released by Gottlund Verlag, in an edition of 100. It’s an orange and brown colored hardcover monograph, and the color scheme evokes a fall day in the Pocono mountains. (I believe the publisher and artist both have ties to PA.) I probably have a soft spot for this work, given that I shot many a similar image when I lived in San Francisco, back in the day. (Cracked sidewalks, geometric patterns on a Mission St Victorian.) It’s a long collection of seemingly random moments, shot in the seemingly random travels of the 21st Century hipster artist. Individually, they give the sense that anyone could have grabbed a shot here or there after a long night of boozing, or a long day of wandering around the neighborhood. (When you don’t have a real job.) Collectively, they draw one’s attention to the infinite varieties of abstraction and emotion embedded in the every day, and resonate that endorphin-rich feeling we all get, occasionally, when we feel like we’re living in a Wim Wenders movie. Each double-paged spread becomes a diptych, and the juxtapositions are thoughtful. “Same Difference” is a great example of why the book can become the work of art, as opposed to the individual image.
Bottom line: Well-seen

Visit Photo-Eye To Purchase “Same Difference”.

 

Rinko Kawauchi’s “Illuminance” is a hardcover monograph, by Aperture, that manages to glow in a manner suggested by the title. The spine is separated from the book, which is a little quirky, but the inside of the cover is more easily seen this way, and it introduces the trippy, day-glow, space-age palette that one finds within the plates. Nice touch. Not unlike Mr. Panar’s aforementioned book, “Illuminance” is a collection of seemingly disconnected images. But it differs distinctly, as these images are anything but random and dry. Page after page, the photographs scream “art,” with light, and color, dynamic compositions, and the impact of surprise. The kaleidoscopic pinks and purples, black cats and costume jewelry, desert wanderers and dead bugs, and of course the requisite light cascading through cherry blossoms. Ultimately, she builds a cohesive vision through the narrative. Symbols begin to repeat, and colors emphasize their meaning. The folks at photo-eye told me that Ms. Kawauchi has a huge following and her books always sell well. I can understand why.
Bottom line: Gorgeous.

Visit Photo-Eye To Purchase “Illuminance”.

 

Like the fall bible of a fashion magazine, “Der Rote Bulli”, published by NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, takes its time getting to the good stuff. Plates begin on page 93, and many of you will probably not bother reading the voluminous text that precedes it. I believe the gist is that the wave of German photography that took over the photo world found it’s inspiration in the work of Stephen Shore and his fellow “New Topo” colleagues. I’m guessing we already knew that. But what the sturdy hardcover offering lacks in innovation, it more than makes up with a terrific collection of high-level reproductions of so much important work. All the usual suspects are well-represented (Shore, the Bechers, Ruff, Struth, Gursky, Höfer, Esser), but there are some nice discoveries as well. Andi Brenner’s portraits of package-hugging, speedo-wearing swimmers set against the tackiest 70’s wallpaper you’ve ever seen…awesome. I’d say this is a must-have for anyone who loves the German aesthetic, (replete with ironic representations of the American West.)
Bottom line: Classic photographs, well-constructed

Visit Photo-Eye To Purchase “Der Rote Bulli”.

Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye if you find this new feature useful.

 

 


This Week In Photography Books

- - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

I live an hour plus North of Santa Fe, so I visit often. As such, I spend quite a bit of time at photo-eye, which has one of the world’s best inventories of photo books and ‘zines. We’re kicking off a new feature where I’ll be doing quick reviews of new releases, to give you a sense of what’s new and interesting on the market.

“Presences” is an over-sized, perfect bound soft cover exhibition catalogue of Richard Learoyd’s work recently released by Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. Mr. Learoyd works with a room-sized camera obscura, and a very sharp lens, to create razor-sharp nude and clothed portraits of women, (primarily,) bathed in Dutch Master-style light. The ladies look like a cross between a Julia Margaret Cameron subject and the geek-chic type lovely twenty-something you might see in a record store circa 1979. (Or a café in the Mission District circa 2011.) They’re lovely, but not in a lascivious way. Just a fantastic collection of very well made photographs. Bottom Line: Seductive.
Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Presences


Peter Granser, an Austrian photographer, recently released a new perfect-bound soft-cover book, published by Super Labo in Japan. In a bit of amusing, literal titling, it’s called “Sun City/Austria/Coney Island/Deutsche Cowboys/Elvis Tribute Artists/Signs. 2000-2007.” If you surmised that the lengthy name gives you a pretty good sense of what the pictures are about, you’d be right. The dry “German” style is evident, true, but the images also have a wickedly ironic sense of humor, poking fun at some of the absurd and optimistic elements of the American character. (A suite of retired ladies dressed up in their old cheerleading costumes. An stooped-over-old, ridiculous Elvis impersonator dancing symmetrically in dueling portraits.) This little narrative captures the real sense of humorous adventure inherent in a good road trip: you never know what’s coming when you turn each page. Bottom Line: Witty.
Visit Photo-Eye to purchase Peter Granser…

OK, I promise I won’t write about this guy again for a while, but for those of you who couldn’t get to MOMA by September 5th, you can get your own copy of Boris Mikhailov’s genius insanity in “The Wedding.” From the looks of it, this time he hooked up with a couple of alcoholic street folks, and managed to photograph their makeshift wedding in a vacant lot. Highlights include the blushing (or at least red faced) bride holding a big dildo over her husband’s head; their smiles as wide as a Nebraska tornado storm. It’s a hardcover in white, edition of 1000 from Mörel Books in London, in case you’re wondering. Highly recommended, if you like that sort of thing. (Brilliant but disturbing. Nudity, but not the fun kind.) Bottom Line: Twisted.

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase The Wedding

Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye if you find this new feature useful.