Niall McDiarmid on ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’, a personal reflection

Thanks to Niall McDiarmid for this personal reflection, for those that do not know Niall, you can check out his fantastic ‘Crossing Paths’ project here. And follow on twitter here – @niallmcdiarmid

In the late 90s I picked up a first edition of Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency in a well-known secondhand shop on London’s King Road. Surprisingly it was only £6, a bargain as it transpired, piled among other reduced to clear gardening titles.

I had read of it but in those pre-internet days, not seen the work.  It seems odd to think that book dealers would overlook such a collectable title now but on a quick glance, it’s easy to understand why. The book has the feeling of a self-published, 5 year long personal photo-diary of a group of 20 somethings having a hedonistic lifestyle that started as fun but ended a little dark and dangerous. Snapshots, direct flash, sex, drugs, drag queens, domestic violence, good times, bad times are all there.

Although most of the pictures are captioned, I found myself flicking through trying to work out who was who, what the relationships between the characters were, how they happened to end up in New York, London, Brighton, Berlin etc. I have the feeling that over the 5 years there were many shots taken but the editing is really well done and it sits together like it all took place over a couple of weeks

There are echoes of predecessors like William Eggleston and Gary Winogrand in the work but to me really it seems like a new direction in photography that led to many others well-known names such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Terry Richardson, Corinne Day and Ryan McGinley.

Anyway, it’s a great book and worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

– Niall McDiarmid

©NAN GOLDIN

 

 

Share your thoughts on Nan Goldin’s ‘Ballad of Sexual Dependecy’

Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency‘ is by no means an undiscovered work, and as we will highlight, has been discussed and talked about many times, in many formats before. But this book never fails to invoke response from those who have either seen it 100 times, or those who are viewing it for the first time.

And we would really love to here from as many members of the Photo Book Club community as possible, so feel free to share your views in Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section below. We are also happy to post any personal reflections on this blog (these do not have to be in praise of the book!) just leave your reflection in the comments or in email to matt@photobookclub.org.

– Matt Johnston

©NAN GOLDIN

 

 

Matt Johnston on ‘Invisible City’, a personal reflection

The first thing I said upon seeing the ‘Invisible City’ in it’s entirety was simply, “wow”, unfortunately at the time I was across the table from Ken Schles himself who had kindly agreed to lend the Photo Book Club a copy. It was a ‘Frasier-like’ moment when I really wished I had something more intelligent to say.

I also wished that I had a memory of this time and place depicted in such dark tones within Ken’s images, I wanted to layer my own history onto Ken’s page and relive a particular time through different eyes. But I have no memory of Ken’s subject and so Invisible City was new for me, allowing me to search without reference and without the worry of reality or history. It was like reading a book as a kid, each character would come to life and create a movie in my mind. There are books in which the authorial presence is constant and reassuring, in Invisible City I felt I was left alone to wander and explore Alphabet city, a fascinating, daunting, exciting and entirely unfamiliar place to be.

To me, Invisible City is not just a poem to the night (As Jeff Brouws commented) but a poem to the book, a reminder of how powerful the book as a medium can be. Single images are erased from my mind as I follow the darkest black tones from page to page, much like a shadow stretching across the entire spread of images. A photobook is a selection of images, and a good photobook is a fantastically sequenced and edited selection of images. Invisible City is just one, single, poetic image.

– Matt Johnston

©KEN SCHLES

 

 

Ken Schles appearing in:

Ken Schles is a busy man! As well as contributing a great amount of his time to this special Photo Book Club month, Ken will be appearing and exhibiting at a number of great events over the next few months. Hopefully our discussions have inspired you to hear more of Ken’s thoughts on photobooks or to see ‘Invisible City’ and Ken’s new book ‘Oculus

A list of upcoming events is shown below:

30/09/2011 – 02/10/2011
NY Art Book Fair PS1 (advance copy of Oculus will be there, and so will I)
Preview of the limited edition at the Charles Lane Press booth Sat Oct.1 at 2pm. A very LIMITED number of copies of the trade edition will be at Dashwood books at the NY Art Book Fair —get there early for the trade edition.

01/10/2011 – 03/10/2011
Platform LA (advance copy of Oculus will be there, but not me)
A limited edition of Oculus can be seen at the Lapis Press booth #121 (I will not be in attendance due to the NYABF, see above)

15/10/2011 – 19/10/2011 (opening 14th)
Bursa Photo Festival: at least two talks –one on my work and one more about the process of making photo books. There will be an exhibition of Invisible City. Probably the largest installation of the work to date.
This is the first showing of Invisible City in 7 years and only the third time it’s had an exhibition print showing (the Museum of Modern Art showed the book as an object in its More Than One Photography exhibit in 1992). I will be giving a talk on my work and a separate hands on talk specifically about making my photo books.

22/10/2011 – 11/12/2011 (opening 21st)
Noorderlicht Exhibition of Oculus and release – The Netherlands

3/11/2011 – 05/11/2011
Society for Photographic Education North East and Mid-Atlantic Conference
Keynote: Alec Soth, Honored Educator: Doug DuBois, Featured Speakers: John Gossage, Mary Virginia Swanson, and Andy Adams, General Speakers Include: Colette Copeland, W.M. Hunt, Paula McCartney, Ken Schles, Tate Shaw, Anne Whiston Spirn, and more…

3/11/2011 – 06/11/2011
The Edition Art Book Fair: (Lapis press will have the limited edition of Oculus –but I will be up at the SPE Conference)

10/11/2011 – 13/11/2011
Paris Photo
3 very definite events in the main pavilion:
1. Harper Books will have the newly created, commissioned for the fair Invisible City inspired project: Invisible City: Nightwalk, Fragments and Alternates (book dummy);
2. there will be a book signing with Schaden.com on Saturday November 12 for Oculus (with the limited edition also available and on view)
3. Markus Schaden is doing this very interesting  project, (for which I contributed a piece).

This year Paris Photo will have a new space dedicated to publishers and specialist booksellers with the presentation of this year’s novelties, but also old books, rare books or limited editions. Book signing sessions on the stands will provide the public with an opportunity to meet the photographers.

The full programme of signing sessions will be posted on-line at the end of September.There is a strong possibility that Noorderlicht will be at the Paris Photo off-print (to be confirmed), in which case, I will do a book signing there as well.

 

 

Jeff Brouws on ‘Invisible City’, a personal reflection

Our sincere thanks to Jeff Brouws, photographer and author of ‘Approaching Nowhere’ and ‘Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations’ amongst others, for offering this personal reflection on Ken Schles’ ‘Invisible City’.

Ken Schles Invisible City was a lonely, cold toned poem to the urban night, capturing equally the alienation of those unsanctified city spaces while simultaneously calling forth the glee of anonymity and free flight found only on the street. The size of the book was perfect, the design perfect, and its printing perfect: matt, coal-black, sheet-fed gravure. Bleed upon bleed: images interrupting and overflowing onto, and into, one another.

©KEN SCHLES

This was a fragmented, elliptical narrative. With tenderness sprouting on one double spread, and bouts of cold-hard fucking amongst the decay on another. Blighted beauty. Naked nightscapes. Unkempt, dimly lit details of fast and forlorn self-pleasure make themselves known. Revelations pour down from our daily stage production, the audience a lone camera. Metonyms and metaphors for all that ail humanity.

This was a grainy, lens wide-open, manly photography: when a fellow had to know how to push film. Had to know the proper darkroom alchemy in which to conjure and coax delicate, thinly sliced images from cooked celluloid.

©KEN SCHLES

A bit of William Klein, Meatyard and Brassai. R. Frank roaming internal America instead of its hinterlands. A Tom Waits tune or Bukowskian turn-of-phrase made visual; the threat of the acrid, hot city beckoning, or blowing itself up, or perhaps imploding. Who knows in all that darkness?

Schles’ Invisible City photos hold all tension and dance with it. We catch our breath for the briefest of moments and then seek solace in movement again.

 

Jeff Brouws

 

 

Synopsis: Ken Schles – ‘Invisible City’

Title

Invisible City

Author

Ken Schles

Publisher

Twelvetree Press, 1988

For a decade Ken Schles watched the passing of time from his Lower East Side Manhattan neighborhood. His camera has fixed the instances of his observations, and these moments become the foundation of his invisible city. Friends and architecture come under the scrutiny of his lens and, when sorted and viewed in the pages of this book, a remarkable achievement of personal vision emerges.

For the next month we will be looking at Invisible City with its author Ken Schles adding comment and context throughout. After you have seen the book and text using the links below, perhaps you would like to put a question to Ken?

Getting a copy of Invisible City is not easy, hence our video and text posts, but you can get your hands on Ken’s latest release ‘Oculus’ from kenschles.com or from the publisher, Noordelicht here.

Resources:

Invisible City: The Images (VIDEO)

Invisible City: The Book (VIDEO)

Invisible City: the Text

Ken Schles’ Website

Review by Guy Trebay

Review by Thomas Beller

 

 

 

Put your questions to Ken Schles on the Photo Book Club

Throughout September we will not only be looking at Invisible City, but we will be hearing from its author Ken Schles who will not only be giving us a unique insight on how the book came to be, but also answering questions from Photo Book Club readers on the book, his practice and anything else that you would love to ask one of the most important photographic minds working today.

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Pop any questions to us via the comments section above, our Facebook page, using the #photobc hashtag on Twitter, or using the form below. We will collate questions and out them to Ken in September.

If you have not seen the book, it is online in it’s entirety right here

Meet-up Map – An update and improved ease of use!

The Photo Book Club Meet-up map has now had over 10,000 hits and a smattering of people adding themselves to the map in order to meet up with like minded ‘photobook-folk’. We also have the first few meetings shown on the map so make sure you check out if they are near you!

Some people have contacted me having trouble with adding themselves onto the map and so in order to make this smoother, I have created a form below and on the Meet-up page which when filled in, will be sent to myself in order to add you to the map.

If you are planning to host or organize a meeting, pop an email to matt@photobookclub.org and we shall add this to the map as well as publicize it on the website.

Note
The map is still public and can be edited by anyone, this public nature also means that the information you provide can be seen by other users. If you would rather, you can provide a website instead of direct contact information, and a rough location rather than your house!

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One half of the photo Book Club at London Design Festival

As already announced last month, I will be speaking at the London Design Festival’s ‘Story of Books’ event this September in London. The event has some great speakers lined up and will promote discussion around the future and changing form of the book.

I will be looking closely at the photography book in particular and ways in which I see it developing, as well as the huge support we have had for the Photo Book Club, and for the physical books and stores that we all love.

I would be keen to hear Photo Book Club readers thoughts on the state/future of books and so you can get involved with discussion via the twitter hashtag #storyofbooks or in the comments section below.

If you would like to attend, you can get your tickets from this website. The talk takes place on September 17th at the Department of Anthropology, University College London from 10.30am – 3.00pm.

– Matt

Invisible City: The images and the book

‘For a decade Ken Schles watched the passing of time from his Lower East Side Manhattan neighborhood. His camera has fixed the instances of his observations, and these moments become the foundation of his invisible city. Friends and architecture come under the scrutiny of his lens and, when sorted and viewed in the pages of this book, a remarkable achievement of personal vision emerges.’

As we have previously mentioned, come September we will be looking at Ken Schles’ ‘Invisible City’ with Ken himself agreeing to take part in the discussion and be available to answer any questions.

In order to do this we need to ensure as many people as possible can see this very rare and often expensive object. And so we have produced two videos which are shown below. The first displays all the images from ‘invisible City’ sequenced as they are in the book. The second video shows the book as an object in itself to give an idea of the layout, typography, size and feel of the book.

You can also flick through the book at your own pace with the slideshow at the bottom of the page (Click to advance)

We would love to hear first thoughts upon seeing the images and book as well as any questions which we can put to Ken when he joins us in September: email mail@photobookclub.org or find us on twitter – @photobookclub







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