This Week In Photography Books – Evzen Sobek

by Jonathan Blaustein

I used to live in Albuquerque. Great town. It’s like a big chickenwire grid of concrete, wedged between some mountains and volcanoes. (Bisected by the Rio Grande to boot.) I’ve always seen it as a smaller, cooler, much poorer LA. (Cooler b/c it’s perfectly unpretentious, poorer b/c it lacks natural resources, unless you’re counting dirt.)

I might still be living there if it weren’t so soul-crushingly hot in the Summertime. 5000 feet above sea level, once it cracks 90 degrees, people get angry. (I call it “angry hot.” Creative, no?) From May through September, you can see waves rising off of the melting asphalt, and insanity rising off of peoples’ brains. Just driving down the street, you become hyper-aware of the pissed-off lunatics zipping around, looking for trouble.

Many years ago, I recall losing my sh-t in mid-October, well past the “normal” season for heat-induced misery. A friend and I were hiking in the mountains East of town, and it was all too much for me. The unrelenting burn on my skin, well into Autumn, sent me into one last seasonal rage. I shook my fist at the sun, like the old grandpa who used to mutter and curse at Dennis the Menace. (Mr. Wilson?) “Damn you, Sun. Enough already. I’ve had it. Get off the stage and let Fall have some time, will you? Stupid Sun. You’re not even a big star. No one would care about you if you didn’t, you know, provide for all life on Earth. Asshole.”

My rant had no effect. We made it less than half a mile up the trail before I quit, seduced by the allure of air-conditioning on the car ride home. Oh well.

Most people, across the world, have developed a sure-fire way to beat the heat. Get out of the city in the Summer. Duh. Go someplace with some cold water, and hunker. Genius.

Just the other day, I was dodging rocks, submerged in some small rapids in the Rio Grande. Beautiful, majestic, and less than 10 minutes from my house. Yes, it was convenient, but really, I would have driven a lot further to circumvent my sweat glands.

Given that it’s pure Summer now, with even the 4th of July behind us, (mmm, hot dogs,) I thought the least I could do was offer you a virtual respite from your own version of Summer hell. (If you’re in India, Australia, or Argentina, feel free to dismiss me as a hopelessly ethnocentric American. My apologies.)

Today’s journey comes courtesy of Evzen Sobek. His 2011 book, “Life in Blue,” was published by Keher Verlag, and ought to transport you somewhere entirely new. (If you have, in fact, Summered in the Czech resevoirs of Nové Mlyny, then you’ll have to visit another website. Maybe Colberg has something fresh today.)

The volume, square and solid, meanders through the subculture of people who ring this collection of lakes. The palette, no surprise, is suffused with blue, and yes, we see a lot of thick, shirtless Eastern European dudes.

The images are tightly composed, and indicate the use of blazing flash into the sun. Both are pretty standard tropes of contemporary art photography at the moment, mainly because they work. They give a viewer pause, as there’s an import to images that are so carefully crafted, and the added light gives additional vibrance to any and all color.

Some photos are witty, like the guy holding the sausage sculpture, or the dim-bulb-looking dude, in a camo T-shirt, staring at a newly constructed book shelf like it contained the secrets to the Universe. (Despite the implied narrative that he built the damn thing.) Others are poignant, like the swans coasting through the misty water, or the shore-line memorial to someone who must have drowned.

Most, though, fall somewhere in between. Curious and thoughtful, they encourage careful contemplation. Not because they’ll “change your life,” but because it’s a pleasurable experience. The cool blue, the gentle breezes, the crackling of fish skin on the barbecue. Let’s leave it there, shall we? Hope your Summer is going well. If you’re chilling on the water somewhere fabulous or absurd, feel free to tell us about it in the comment section below.

To purchase “Life in Blue” visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. After a year of these book reviews we will know Jonathan’s complete life story but at least for this one you kept the naval-gazing shorter and ran more photos. They’d be even better reviews if you wrote about the books instead of your self-indulgent self.

    • Agree 100% with Null.
      The images themselves have a (non)style shared by thousands of other image makers.

      • Hey Bob,
        It’s been, what, 6 months since you graced us with your “haterdom”? Nice to have you back. I still can’t figure out why you read my stuff, given how much you dislike it. Maybe try TIME or Newsweek or something. How about one of those magazines with photos of nature? Birds and lava and such.

        Best wishes,

      • john mcd.

        Hey , we’re not talking A.D. Coleman or Fred Ritchin here. It’s just a blog, which anyone is free to do and which the author can write in any style he chooses. Even if I agree with some of the criticism I do find the information presented about the books and photographers to be interesting and useful and even the author’s highly personal style can sometimes be amusing.

  2. I’d be content if they just published a book reviewer who at least had a handle on the basic rules of syntax and punctuation. This very bloggy style of personal writing is difficult enough to pull off when done by good writers, particularly when an actual critique of the book doesn’t seem to be the primary consideration (although obviously it would be nice if it were). I just skip to the photos, otherwise I’m mentally uncapping a red pen every other line.

  3. Reviews of art are inherently subjective, right? To get the opportunity to see some of Jonathan’s thought process as to how he came around to what he thinks about the book is as interesting to me as the thoughts on the book itself. Maybe I’m a little more process-obsessed, but I like this approach and find it much more interesting and revealing than the typical book review.

  4. john mcd.

    Maybe Joe Klamar should have packaged his portraits as a fine art photography project and done a book…the pictures would be the same but perhaps the reaction might have been more positive, less savage.

    • I have to agree with you John. The fact that joe klamar didn´t take those photographs for an a Nike ad as he says was totally overlooked. Look at frank´s The American or William Klein´s New york. Sometimes you just need to have the right people to praise your work, everybody then jumps in and you are a hero.

  5. I found the copy to be rather entertaining and a great lead-in to the photos. The book itself looks beautiful. Thoughtfully laid-out, and a great vision. Kudos to Evzen!

  6. Seen the book and found it very much equal parts beautiful and depressing, brilliant and hokey- not unlike those optical illusions that constantly shift your vision from one form to another.