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.

Lessons from Morocco

I spent the first weekend of the month running a Photobook workshop in Casablanca, Morocco funded by Coventry University’s DMLL and with a great group of students. Some of these participants were photographers, some had studied at art schools, some were passionate amateurs but all were super engaged and I learned a lot…

Images by Daniel Donnelly

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The desire to make is great
– while there is some critique of a maker culture which undervalues curation and debate in favour of production, it was clear that the transition from screen to paper and images into book brought about genuine excitement.

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Sometimes sharing is separating
– Daniel Donnelly (with whom I ran the workshop) and I were keen to involve an online and social element to the project –  to tweet particular moments, Facebook particular questions etc – a way to engage with communities beyond the room. It was apparent though that this took away from the intense experience of the session, removed participants and their attention – it was instead used as refference and record for the ‘real life’ experience. We didn’t push it, and I now notice how these spaces have become a great repository – extending the project longitudinally.

 

Competition isn’t healthy
– competition pushes us, it is a useful element of the learning process – I call bullshit – it was so refreshing to see people truly pleased for one another and their works. I want to find out how to inject some of this into an education system that constantly seeks to place people in competition – either by age, institution, or through high fees and low employment options.

These were exciting books
– it is hard to say without appearing patronising, getting giddy over the exotic or promoting the location-based photobook mining we have seen over the last ten years BUT these were exciting books. Techniques and structures were used without knowledge of their reference to previous works – they were used as they were appropriate. Images were treated as possibilities in the book and the book was treated as a possibility for the images.

11952006_10206688515225138_2471930423207877283_nThese folks would love some books
– it isn’t easy to come by photobooks in Casablanca, in fact it is almost impossible, yet their is a community hungry to see new works and old. I have been sending books to Morocco for some time, and will continue to do so, but maybe think about the next time you send out X% of your edition to reviewers and collectors – send some to a library, community or school – it will likely be far more useful.

 

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World #PhotoBookDay in Coventry

To celebrate Photobook Day here in Coventry we will be hosted by the newly opened ‘Big Comfy Bookshop‘ at Fargo Village which ticks all sorts of boxes for a great meeting place – beer, coffee, cakes, books and sofas!

A suggestion from Lucy Bartlett will see members bringing books from as many different countries as possible and at the same time we will be having the homecoming of the ‘Box of Books’ which has just returned from it’s around-the-world journey.

If you are interested in attending this event on October 14th please email me – matt@photobookclub.org 

Details:

Tuesday 14th October
Big Comfy Bookshop
Fargo Village
Far Gosford Street
6pm – 8pm

Midwest Dirt by Nathan Pearce

Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hand. I can see for miles.

For over a year now I have been working with Nathan to bring this fantastic project into corporeal existence and with the aid of Akina Factory who who created the book concept and design, the result is beautiful.

One of the toughest elements of editing this work is something Nathan has pointed out in a recent interview with Darwin Magazine – how the projects needed to move away from cliched depictions of the rural midwest but at the same time not disown culture and environment. While the geographical location rooted in the midwest, this project for me has always been about home, about home as a constant for good and bad. For this reason I hope it appeals to many.

If you are interested in buying the book you can head here.

To see more from the series, head here.

Midwest Dirt
Nathan Pearce

Edited by Matt Johnston
Book project by Akina Books Factory
Edition of 135
Hand sewn binding

The Second Meeting of the Photobook Club Hong Kong

Great to hear of the success of the first Photobook Club Hong Kong meeting as well as details of the next meeting (via Sarah Van Ingelgom) …

Photo Book Club Meeting
Saturday 10th of May 2014 | 4 pm
at the AO the Photo Book Center
Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip Street

Theme: the Japanese Photo Book
Moderator: Mark Pearson (from Zen Foto Gallery, Tokyo)

After the success of the first one, we are glad to announce our second Photo Book Club Meeting.

PBC was initiated in the UK as an initiative for informal gathering for photo book lovers to share their enthusiasm. Each meeting, guests are invited to bring their own favorite photo book or borrow one from the bookshop (please come a bit earlier if you wish to do so). Each guests will introduce the reasoning for their choice which typically unfolds into lively discussions. This is not a course or a workshop, nobody is wrong or right. PBC meetings aim to learn from each other and explore in a friendly interactive way. Photographers and photo book fanatics are very welcome but its not a must… just your enthusiasm is already appreciated a lot. Moreover, the meetings are FREE of charge.

For the first gathering we will choose ‘the Japanese photo book’ as a theme. The Japanese Photo Book is a unique genre on its own with a style of photographing unseen and very different than how it was done in the West until then. Leaders in the field were Araki and Daido Moriyama but there are also a lot of other famous and more obscure talents to be discovered.

Moderator will be Mark Pearson. Mark has been active in both exhibiting and publishing projects with Japanese artists through Zen Foto Gallery; a Tokyo based gallery specialize in Japanese photography.

Attached some pics of the first meeting…

Midwest Dirt by Nathan Pearce, ed by Matt Johnston – looking for support

I mentioned briefly when it was launched that I have been working with a talented Midwest photographer Nathan Pearce to bring his story and vision of the Midwest to more people in the form of a beautiful photobook.

If you want to help fund the project or find out more, you can do so on the indiegogo page but what I would really love is for you to listen to Nathan…

It was not lightly that I took on this project and there have been a number before and since that have simply not been a good fit but I am very interested to hear from anyone who may be interested in working alongside me on book projects or photography or any other medium provided it provokes memory or emotion.

– Matt

Cosecha 2013 – Bring/send your dummies!

News from Juan Cires of the Photobook Club Madrid that they will be holding a meeting on July 23rd inviting artists to present their photobook dummies – and if you cant make it, you can send via post – think I will get onto this myself! More…

Hi from the Photobook Club Madrid. We are organizing a new activity called Cosecha 2013 (Harvest 2013) with the Ivorypress bookstore. We will have a meeting of photobook artists on July 23rd to show bookdummies created this year. We will also have an exhibition at Ivorypress in September of the participating dummies. The event is open.

Ideally, the dummies should be presented in person by the author, but if anyone wants to participate but can’t make it to Madrid on July 23rd, it is possible to submit book dummies by post. Please e-mail info@photobookclubmadrid.com for instructions.

Thanks,

Juan.

Midwest Dirt, A Photobook by Nathan Pearce, edited by Matt Johnston

Dear all,

For a while now I have been working with photographer Nathan Pearce to edit his ‘Midwest Dirt‘ project into what will be a photobook towards the Autumn of this year. Nathan is seeking a modest amount of funding to realise the work as a physical artifact in exchange for some awesome Midwest rewards and I would love anyone interested to check out the project in more detail below.

I will have more on the work, and the process soon but for now, enjoy having a look

Matt

When I was 18 years old I packed my bags and left rural Illinois. It had been my home my entire life, but I thought in leaving I would find the perfect place for myself elsewhere. In the city everything and everyone I knew was very different from what I knew back home and yet at the same time familiar. The wild and restless days of my youth were in full swing. But when I awoke those mornings I still expected to see my old midwestern life.

Where I was living wasn’t exactly the wrong place for me, and at its core my life wasn’t drastically different, but it wasn’t home.
I came back home to live almost a decade later. I still have no idea if this time I will stay for good, I don’t know if that will ever happen.
The wild restless days and nights haven’t ceased.

Some nights when I lay down in my bed and close my eyes I fantasize that I didn’t ever return. I dream that I could get right back up and go over to my corner bar in the city and have a drink looking out on the crowded street.

But I’m not there. I’m here. In the country.

Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hands. I can see for miles.

This project is about a time in my mid twenties when I can feel the tension between home and away.

– Nathan Pearce