PhotoBook Journal

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And now for something a little different... I thought it would be interesting to include photobooks where text has played a strong role in the project.  Douglas Stockdale, photographer and founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal has kindly helped out and put together the following list.

The Earth Will Come to Laugh and Feast by Gabriele Tinti and Roger Ballen

Publisher: powerHouse Books

Review by Gerhard Clausing

One person’s nightmare is another person’s reality. Sometimes the two realms are connected in mysterious ways. Roger Ballen is certainly the great master of showing us the seemingly absurd that impinges on the everyday, and here we have another, even more complex journey into Ballen’s universe. This time there is a notable added component: poetic writing in Italian and English by Gabriele Tinti. I have never seen as strong a connection between the visual and the verbal arts as is evident in this extraordinary book.

This project contains four sections: In this house, at night, it is best to hide / It’s like being in front of a mirror, isn’t it? / If there is anything left to look at, look here / … the earth will come to laugh and feast. Each of these themes is embedded in further verbal complexities before you are confronted with the visuals and their poems. Another way to describe these sections might be that they represent encounters with roles and figures, unique portrayals, and the challenges within surroundings and contexts, especially self-deception and the inconsistencies of expectations and the dishing out of fateful events.

Use this link to read the rest of the review,  additional images and information.

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©Gabriele Tinti & Roger Ballen, 2020

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©Julia Boissova, 2014

DOM (Document Object Model) by Julia Boissova

Publisher: Self Published

Review by Douglas Stockdale

Borissova investigates home and identity in a subtext of the Document Object Model (DOM) in this complex, layered and very creative self-published photobook. DOM is an acronym from the programming world and is a cross-platform application convention for representing and interfacing with objects using a structured and logical organization. The design of the book’s extended cover allows it to be constructed as a cube and with the full bleed printing; the results can appear like a small model of a house. Borissova has subsequently photographed this model house in a number of environmental situations which she uses for the interior gatefolds of her book. These gate folds open to reveal interior photographs and smaller pages of text by her subjects as to what constitutes a “home”. She has utilized this same model house as a planter for the interior photographs of the accompanying booklet, which as the book progresses, the plant continues to grow and soon overflow the planter.  Combining the concepts of programming organization and logic with inherent messiness of a creative investigation as to what is the meaning of “home” is brilliant. I highly recommend this book if you can still find a copy.

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On Abortion by Laia Abril

Published by: Dewi Lewis Publishing

Review by Douglas Stockdale

The extended title of Laia Abril’s new book is A History of Misogyny, Chapter One, On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Access, which is a bit more informative as to her extended photojournalist investigation. The key word is repercussions, as she provides ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities.

Abril has not shy’d from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like subject. Abril and her co-designer Ramon Pez have incorporated this multi-layering theme into the design of the book which incorporates narrow interior pages that create overlapping pages. These narrow pages when turned  then reveal additional text and images to further inform the reader. The book design reinforces their narrative as to state; nothing is very easy or as straight forward as it might first appear.

In her earlier book The Epilogue, she weaved sharply delineated family archive photographs of her subject in with her own documentary style photographs, while in this book the archive photographs of her subject are frequently less defined. In many instances there is only a hint of a potential likeness of her subject, perhaps due to confidentiality.  Nevertheless I find the abstracted portraits to create more visually expansive images and allowing the reader to reflect on their own version of this story. Does it really change the impact of her narrative if we see the actual likeness of someone who has passed away as a result of some botched medical procedure or social/cultural taboo?

This book is a call to action and the subject is still extremely slippery, while she makes a strong case that we as a society need to reexamine many of our cultural and moral beliefs as to these difficult situations for women.

Use this link for additional images and information

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©Laia Abril, 2018

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© Katherine Longly, 2018

To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit by Katherine Longly

Publisher: Self Published

Review by Douglas Stockdale

Food. For some a real love – hate relationship. For others it’s just basic fuel to keep the carbon bio-mass moving that day. It’s a complex subject with volumes written about it each year; from describing the preparation of complex epicurean delights to the many ways to manage a diet and hopefully inspire someone to become a slimmer new person. For Katherine Longly, her past issues related to food created some emotion baggage and the reason behind the concept for her artist book. Essentially poking the food boogie-man right in the eye.

First, this is a complex artist book, in part using curated photographs created by Longly’s subjects as they use an inexpensive disposable camera to document their food and eating experiences. The twist is that that their camera use analog film, not an instant feed-back digital capture; first the camera’s are used by her subjects in Japan, then mailed to Longly for processing in Belgium. No careful visual editing by her subjects, thus many of these photographs have that rawness in composition and framing we think of when viewing vernacular photographs. In our current camera-phone or digital capture cameras age it seems we have become very conditioned to view the immediate visual results and then make some instant on-the-fly compositional adjustments for the next exposure.

Use the link to read the rest of the review, additional images and information.

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©Duane Michals, 2021

The Idiots Delight - Plaisirs Ridicules by Duane Michals

Publisher: Editions Bessard

Review by Douglas Stockdale

It may not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Duane Michals extensive photographic career spanning 50+ years that he is visual storyteller with a wicked sense of humor. His latest photobook of visual puns, The Idiots Delight – Plaisirs Ridicules, is a brilliant concept and complemented by an equally brilliant book design that utilizes the inclusion of Michals' handwritten text, an aspect that is a part of his visual processing.

The book’s design conceals the puns captions; thus, the reader has an opportunity to first guess as to what each pun is before opening the short inner pages to reveal the answer. In my opinion, many of the initial puns are not as hard to guess but these become more complex and difficult to fathom as the book progresses.  Similar to a book of crossword or Sudoku puzzles, easy at the beginning and then increasingly challenging. I suspect that this large book could become a favorite party game, a fun and humorous ice breaker. This book is Smyth sewn, thus a lay-flat presentation that will make it easy to use for the party crowd. There is an element of kitsch in his visual theater, leaning into what constitutes ‘Camp’ art that is over-the -top as so obvious, and per our friends at Wikipedia, a visual style that is closely associated with gay culture, that dates back to the early 1900’s.

Use this link to read the rest of the review, view additional images and information

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©Sal Taylor Kydd, 2020

Landfall by Sal Taylor Kydd

Publisher: Datz Press

Review by Douglas Stockdale

Landfall is a term to describe an approach to or a sighting of land that signals an arrival at one’s destination at the end of a journey across the sea. Landfall is a physical event, or in Sal Taylor Kydd’s recently released artist book, Landfall, it is both a physical as well as a metaphorical occurrence.

Kydd’s narrative is focused on a few of the many small island communities off the shore of the Maine coast that requires being transported over the sea by public ferry, boat or mail plane. Her poems and photographs take us on the journey, as mirrored in the book sections that follow, titled crossing, landfall, presence, benevolence, kin and onward. In her foreword, Kat Kiernan recounts the names of the small places out at sea: Monhegan, Vinal Haven, Deer, Matinicus, Eagle and North Haven. Those who live on these islands full time are dwindling in numbers, and it is much of their past spirit, their presence, that Kydd appears to be connecting the reader with.

Her artwork has a very lyrical, if not pictorial, quality. The narrow depth of field and slight movement and blurring in the edges of the frame imply transitory moments. The sea wind is almost tangible. Kydd’s photographic images avoid the cliché of the Maine island and costal landscape, and are imbued more with a sense mystery and a dose of surrealism. 

Use this link to read the rest of the review, view additional images and information.