Blog zur zeitgenössischen Fotografie
und digitalen Bildkunst
Books - Foam List No. 7, December 09
von Sebastian Hau
Ellen Lupton et al., ed., "Indie Publishing", Princeton Architectural Press 2008
If it is true what insiders claim, namely that public interest is shifting away from mass media to independent and small productions, then this book is both a good start and a helpful guide for artists who are producing their own books. Developed by a team of students and professors, it gives readers both confidence and an overview of small publishing houses and artist books. It also explains necessities such as ISBNs and marketing in the book trade and describes in short steps the use of InDesign and how to create hand-crafted artist books. And since this book itself originated from a workshop on book design, every page is a pleasure to behold, and excellent visual solutions are found for all types of difficulties. In recent years, niche products, at least on the photobook market, have gained the trust of buyers and now command more space on bookshop shelves. More and more, the independent nature of publications is inversely proportionate to the size of their publishing house.
David Chickey et al., Ed., "Beaumont’s Kitchen", Radius 2009
A cookbook? No, this volume is more than that. Radius Books has published the best recipes of Beaumont Newhall who, in addition to being the first director of the photography department at MoMA in the 1940s, appears to have been an excellent cook for much of his life. As a book, this publication is a subtle ode to classicism and tradition, with tipped-in black-and-white pictures by a range of photographers from Ansel Adams to Edward Weston, with a refined variation of an old Baskerville type, and printed on heavy matte paper that has a creamy tint similar to recycled paper. The stories told about the thoroughly elitist circle of friends and the stimulating recipes make this book an enjoyable volume with photographic and culinary appeal. Overall, this production is a masterly achievement in publishing.
Whether he is discussing fundamentals or difficult sauces, Beaumont Newhall has an elegant, learned and concise style, which is the reason his essays on photography are so readable.
Mariken Wessels, "I want to eat", Wessels 2009
In recent years, it has mainly been female photographers who have expanded the spectrum of photobooks. They have done so in small publications, above all with stories close to home. Photographs and documents are used in a variety of ways to serve the purposes of the artist. Wiebke Loeper, Liza Nguyen, Wytske van Keulen, Bertien van Manen and Rinku Kawauchi all come to mind in this context. Mariken Wessels has self-published a small gem about which Jeff Ladd was full of enthusiasm when he told me about it a few months ago. A collection of anonymous photographs, most of which circle around a female protagonist and which may come from a variety of albums, is juxtaposed with a collection of letters and an odd, heart-rending, and strangely melancholic story is spun which could be true or false, imagined or created by the artist. The photographs appear to be from the seventies. They have been enlarged and are thus reminiscent of Tichy or Fieret. They tell the story of a family, or fragments from the life of a young woman, and can only be understood with empathy and interest on the part of the reader.
Cat Tuong Nguyen, "Underdog Suite", Scheidegger & Spiess 2009, 9783858812377
Time and again in catalogues and on the web, I have come across pictures by this artist, who was born in Vietnam but now lives in Switzerland. I am happy to now be holding in my hands his first publication. When compared to the recently published “The Great Unreal” (Edition Patrick Frey) by his fellow students TONK from Zurich, who use similar methods, this book has a more formal appearance. This is because the artist has used photography for the first time in order to determine his place in the world. His trips, his encounters, many things are documented and later used in his collages. Small typologies such as street altars in Vietnam, short photo essays, and bathers and kissers all can be found here in addition to newspaper clippings and overpainting. Sculptures with great presence, which are in turn the subject of photographs, treat the subjects of death and destruction in strange dream-like games. Scheidegger & Spiess have made a soberly designed book that both orders and satisfies this complex art.
Petra Stavast, "Libero", Roma 2009
This story of a family spans two continents. The photographer found several pictures from a family album in an abandoned house in Italy. She photographed the house and the pictures and made contact with the people in the pictures, an Italian family that had lived in New York for several decades. The parents of this family had sent pictures of their children to relatives still living in Italy. The son and daughter in these pictures, now grown up, were then then subject of portraits by the photographer. The book has a sober layout and as an object rests well in the reader's hands. The direct approach taken leads to a straightforward story, and gaps are either filled by interviews or left open. On the whole, this is a convincing and restrained production.
Wolfgang Scheppen et al., Ed., "Migropolis", Hatje Cantz 2009
A workshop of the University of Venice studied working conditions and migration in this city. These two volumes contain diagrams, interviews, stories and a number of photographs. The photographs are afforded more space than usual and are more than mere illustrations. The volumes present a complex view of Venice, in which tourism and commerce play an equally significant role. This publication is comparable to the Koolhaas books and the EndCommercial project; here, too, photography is used to avoid stereotypes about urban life and to force us to take a closer look at this city. The authors and students took the photographs themselves and in the end invited Jörg Koopmann to contribute a few impressions such as the picture on the cover. Harking back to Canaletto, this image shows a gondola transporting four street vendors with stuffed blue garbage bags.
Fabio Barile, "Diary No.0, Things that do not happen", 3/3 2009,
I really enjoyed this small publication from Rome by a pupil of Guido Guidi. The pictures tell nothing about the author, who has photographed his friends with great sensitivity. It is unimportant to me whether the bright, clear and slightly desaturated photographs reflect personal impressions or are playful mannerisms as in the work of Mike Sack. The pictures play on photographic memories, somewhere between Stephen Shore, Rinku Kawauchi, and the masters of Italian colour photography. This economical, elegantly edited, and at the same time brave little book is a perfect receptacle for these images.
John Stezaker, "3rd Person Archive", Koenig Books 2009
For more than thirty years, the British artist John Stezaker has collected photographs and used them in collages. His most recent book is a collection of a collection. Stezaker has taken a 1920s almanac and cut out pictures of people, mostly individuals walking. These pictures are sometimes smaller than a fingernail but never larger than the palm of one's hand. On the left pages there is a code that indicates the location of the picture in Stezaker's archive; on the right is the picture. Great pains have been taken to publish this book and it exerts a strange effect on the reader: the silhouettes of the passers-by and the streets bleed into one another, bodies disintegrate almost completely, and an archetypical walker appears before our eyes. Regardless of how we choose to understand this work, I found its use of photography and the solitary appearance of the people to be extremely stimulating.
Jacqueline Hassink, "Car Girls", Travel Edition, Aperture 2009
This is the first time I have held in my hands the smaller soft-cover version of this book and I like it better than the larger edition. Working at international automotive trade fairs, Hassink has documented the performers who promote sales by acting as objects of desire alongside the vehicles on display. She has also developed a taxonomy that allows us to order these women according to vehicle type, trade fair city, colour of hair, and ethnic origin. This system actually works quite well on her website, but this little book functions like a key to its virtual counterpart. In terms of design and execution, it too is reminiscent of an item for sale. The photographer plays with the market; the book follows the rules of the market and at the same time counteracts it. Concept and documentation come together in a relationship in which both parts benefit.