BOOKS

Photobook Reader Reviews: ZZYZX

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Disclaimer: book received without payment, requested from MACK.

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XXYZX
Gregory Halpern

XXYZX is immediately recognisable as a Halpern book, and, for someone who is equally fond and curious of it, this is no bad thing. It is also quickly apparent that we are on the move with Halpern as structures of images and evidence of transport direct us to carry on our west-bound journey (at least according to the book layout, perhaps the reverse on maps). It is a sense of pilgrimage aided by the ‘characters’ of the location who appeared to me co-travelers, not passing interests. The quest to quench thirst is a clear motif or theme of the work but it’s willingness to show itself does not make it any less interesting as we unpick this thirst in multiple ways — work, water, money, mate. There is a similarly present strategy to abstract the subject of many photography, to photograph through a natural frame, border or even lens, whether this alludes to the varied histories and representations of LA/California I do not know.

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There is one image in this book that resonates beyond the narrative as a whole, an image that shows us a frame and explicitly references the film industry without romance. In fact the unromantic and only loosely aestheticised image is of interest for just those reasons. An iphone held in a hand, playing what we assume from the Warner Brother’s logo to be a film was a shock amidst a book which appeared to be somewhat timeless, eschewing the flat screen, the digital billboard, the neon light. It was most welcome and brought a potentially unwarranted but enjoyable belief in what Halpern was doing. One last note only to say that while this book was unmistakably Halpern’s, I found it extremely hard not to see images that were so closely related to the work of American contemporaries that it seemed a conscious choice. Alec Soth, Katy Grannan, Ron Jude, Joel Sternfeld and Todd Hido can, by my eyes, be seen quite in focus. This shouldn’t detract from the work by any means, particularly when it is the collection and rhythm of the work which is its primary appeal.

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2015; A Year in the Photobook’s Life

2015; A Year in the Photobook’s Life
A survey of photobook-specific happenings in the US and Europe.

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You can access a visualisation of the following research as a jpg here or as a PDF here

This survey intends to visualise and in a sense, flatten, the many events, competitions and workshops that are taking place around the photobook right now. In doing so, a lineage — or at least a chronology — can be established, demonstrating a growth of interest and increasing institutional support in the medium.

It has been put together with the view that it will act as a record not just of 2015 but the new age of the photobook (golden or otherwise). This research is concerned only with photobook specific events and only covers the US and Europe. This is not because these geographical areas can be seen as the home of the photobook – not by any means, but because this is both the focus of my broader research project, and provides an opportunity, through networks, to realistically claim confidence in correctly recording and listing the vast majority of appropriate events. The choice to begin with the year 2015 is similarly beneficial. While of course many events have run in earlier years, or are starting up in 2016, the single year provides a baseline from which to work back in establishing the aforementioned chronology and origin.

Only photobook-specific events have been recorded — a choice which, if aiming to build a picture of the variety of spaces in which the photobook is present, would be disastrous. Here, art book fairs and non-medium-specific zine workshops for example, have been excluded. In doing so it is hoped that clarity is improved and subjectivity removed.

Fairs and festivals are subject to a further limitation in that they must be multi-day events. Once again a choice of clarity and confidence and not a suggestion that single day events are not a part of the photobook world. Many single day events have been arrived at during this research, the transient and often independent nature of which have on many occasions presented quite different ideas on what the photobook, and what a photobook event should be.

A list of thanks can be found on the right hand side of this visualisation — these are people who have contributed to this survey and without whom many omissions would have been made. There are likely still some errors or misses so please do get in touch if you have any: matt@photobookclub.org. A scroll of this document will be produced in Autumn of 2016 on lightweight poster paper, if you are interested in having a copy, please email the above address.

Matt Johnston

A brief note on design: in case unclear, the black lines traveling up the page from events is an indication that the event will be repeated at some point in 2016.

KayLynn Deveney – All You Can Lose is Your Heart

Transparency – I was sent a review copy by Kehrer Verlag

KayLynn Deveney’sAll You Can Lose is Your Heart’ looks at ranch-style dream homes in the American Southwest, built in the 50’s and 60’s. It is intended that the images inside, presented as a close-to-typological study is able to act as a metaphorical portrait for ‘those living inside’ that tells us about ‘a fading vision of the American Dream’. For some reason the press release seems keen to stress that this is the ‘first time these houses are the subject of a published photographic work’ – something that on its own should be nearly inconsequential.

©KayLynn Deveney – Bellehaven, Albuquerque, New Mexico

What is a well trodden path though is the visual and verbal discourse of the American Dream and its health – it’s dead, it’s alive, it’s dead, it’s alive. It’s dead. So, important then that Deveney brings something of value to the discussion. This is certainly the case for the images presented in the book, which, despite learning more about their production in the accompanying interview with architect (and marketeer) Jean Valjean Vandruff, are still charmingly sweet. The mix of straight-cut timber with ornate, curved detailing on acutely angled roofs is only made more compelling for the pick up trucks and light-up reindeer that now block the view. Here is the strength of the work (not the book) – in plainly evidencing the augmentation or destruction of an historical ‘ideal’.

©KayLynn Deveney – Vandruff Cinderella Home, Orange County, Southern California

As I tend to find with almost all photobooks from more established houses, there are too many images here, and some focus is lost in the edit – it is a struggle to really feel as though we are seeing much of the occupant’s lives in these photographs. We should also ask whether we gain any insight into the wellbeing of that elusive American Dream – to an extent perhaps but greatly aided by the interview and essay at the rear of the book.

©KayLynn Deveney – Princess Jeanne addition, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The sequence and edit of content (not only images) is my main issue with the reading – which feels somewhat cumbersome and in need of some rearranging. Using the essay and interviews as well as original marketing material and blueprint to break up sections of the photographs might simultaneously create a more sure delivery.

You can buy the book here from the publisher Kehrer Verlag

I like it, what is it? Ron Jude’s ‘Lago’

Disclosure note: I requested and received a review copy of Lago from the publishers, MACK

Ron Jude’s ‘Lago’ is a bit of a mystery to me, but one in which intrigue manages to outweigh frustration. Putting aside the typical blurb/statement that either whets your whistle or grinds your gears for its high score on the bullshit meter…

If one considers these traces to be a coded language of some sort, Jude’s act of photographing and piecing them together becomes a form of cryptography – like a poetic archeology that, rather than attempting to arrive at something conclusive, looks for patterns and rhythms that create congruity out of the stuttering utterances of the visible world.

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… the work itself is really worth a look. There are few similarities with Lick Creek Line, at least in relation to sequence and rhythm of the book, instead it might bring to mind Gregory Halpern’s ‘A’ – seemingly disjointed, somewhat claustrophobic and reading a little like the stream-of-consciousness-style books we have seen becoming popular of late. What interests me most in the photobook are the separations of images, structure of the book and the repetitions of subjects and image styles – as I spent time with the work I felt more and more that the order dictated by Western reading (left to right) was a convenience as apposed to necessity.

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This book read like the internet – loosely structured and waiting for connections to be imposed. Saying this, it is certainly not as try-hard in its random nature as the likes of Roe Ethridge – Jude has, through recognisable American photographic tropes and attention to shape, texture and colour, given small links and suggestions throughout. It is though, the sound recordings that accompany the book made by Joshua Bonnetta that really bring it to life…

Accessed via a download from the MACK site, these two soundscapes (a side A and B) offer an immersive experience, giving voice to characters suggested in images and overlaying what I can only describe as a more ‘homely’ and relatable narrative onto the rather desolate images. The recordings pose so many questions about ‘reading’ that it is hard to know where to start or whether I should even be attempting to answer them – for starters, each recording is just over 20 minutes – am I taking shortcuts by spending less time with the book? The two sides – should I read the book one time with each? Sides A and B – reminding me perhaps to flip the book – start one at one end and one at another? Should headphones be used? How important are these recordings? The must be downloaded from a link so they automatically remove us from an isolating experience with the book.

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I appreciate some of these questions are stupid, the use of the audio is of course open to interpretation, but some discussion surely must be present. Not least for me because my burning question from the Lago experience is – what is it? The experience I had in reading and listening was greater than the parts – but it was also disruptive as I navigated the book and sometimes skipped sections of audio on the computer. I wonder why this isn’t a photofilm, and then I wonder whether a photofilm would have held attention for the time the book does.

I found this a really exciting project and one which I really hope will generate some lively discussion both from readers and from those involved in the publication itself.

The Box of Dummies in Alicante!

The Box of Dummies, which has been touring for over 6 months now, will be in Alicante on April 8th with the Photobook Club Alicante and the Photobook Club Granada at the Contemporary Art Museum of Alicante. If you can get to the meeting you will be able to get your hands on these great prospective works and if not – check out the website with video flick-throughs.

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Thanks to José Carlos Robles and Carlos Aguilera who are organising the event for the details and the images of previous meetings shown below…

 

PLACE : MACA  (Contemporary Art Museum of Alicante)
Date: April , 8.
Hour: 18:30 p.m.

You can check the latest news in our web in this link.

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The Natural Collection at the Monash Gallery of Art

I am really excited to announce that the Photobook Club’s ‘Natural Collection’ which now includes over 40 books, will be heading to the Monash Gallery of Art in Australia to be displayed as part of the ‘Light Reading’ exhibition and in conjunction with Photobook Melbourne.

nat_col_montage1The show, which celebrates the relationship between reading and photography will run until 1st March 2015. The Natural Collection will be available to see (and touch and read!) from mid January onwards but an exact date will be posted shortly.

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Thanks to all who have submitted work so far to the collection, to co-curator Lucy Johnson who I have worked on this project with and to Stephanie Richter of the Monash Gallery for the collection invitation.

Before more information is available, here are a few images from the collection…

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Natural Collection: http://collection.photobookclub.org/ 

Light Reading Exhibition: http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/173 

Photobook Melbourne Festival: http://photobookmelbourne.org/ 

A ‘Report From the Field’ in Aperture’s PBR 007

I was asked recently to provide a report from the field for the Fall issue of Aperture’s ‘Photobook Review’. The report sits alongside the likes of Larissa Leclair, Markus Schaden and Rebecca Senf and talks mostly about the need to expand our community to greater benefit a wider audience.

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The newspaper is available with a subscription to Aperture magazine but can also be found at a good number of bookshops and galleries and likely if you went to Paris – you already ave a copy. If you can’t get hold of a copy and would like to read the report, just drop me a mail. 

– Matt

#PhotoBookDay Eve

It is #PhotoBookDay eve and all over the world people are preparing to celebrate with books tomorrow, in fact only hours away for the meetings in Australia.

Remember to check out all the fantastic offers available at bookshops as well as seeing where the nearest meetings are to you by heading over to the website.

If you aren’t near a meeting but still want to share the booklove…

  • Post a #PhotoBookDaySelfie on social media: an image with you and your current favourite photobook.

  • Discuss your love of photobooks via the twitter hashtag #PhotoBookDay

  • Donate a self-published photobook or photozine to your nearest public library or school library. Where we can we will publish a list of public libraries accepting donations this day.

  • Buy a photobook. Many bookshops and publishers will make special discounts for the day. We’ll publish a list of them.

And lastly before retiring to bed in preparation for this joyous day, a big welcome to the Photobook Club Lima organised by Eneka Fernandez who will hold their inaugural meetup tomorrow to coincide with #PhotoBookDay. You can find out more here.

– Matt