I'm pleased to welcome back PhotoBook Journal with selections from Gerhard Clausing, Douglas Stockdale and their team of Contributing Editors on books that explore our theme, That Which is Absent.
© Jason Francisco, 2021
Alive and Destroyed by Jason Francisco
Publisher: Daylight Books, Durham, North Carolina
Review by Steve Harp
Where to begin with Jason Francisco’s Alive and Destroyed? Where does one begin considering, weighing, wrestling with a volume as unsettling and provocative as Francisco’s images of “small and forgotten” sites of the Holocaust across Eastern Europe, made between 2010 – 2019? One place to begin might be with the opening of the “Afterword” by Menachem Kaiser, who writes, “Holocaust photography is not like other sorts of photography. The rules, you might say, are different . . . “ Indeed. As one who has photographed sites of the Holocaust and spent the following years simultaneously baffled and daunted by the images arising from those projects, these words resonate. The question continually bedevils as to how meaningfully, intelligently and reverently to represent that which has been both overrepresented, yet never adequately represented.
Remember Me by Preston Gannaway
Publisher: Publisher: GOST Books, London, UK
Review by Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing
As I was contemplating this photobook and its narrative, I became more and more engrossed and found it to be a very moving experience. A professional photographer, Preston Gannaway, follows the life of a young kid as he grows up, covering all the formative years following the loss of his mother. The photographer is both an outsider of sorts to the family and yet becomes an insider through years of documentation, concern, and caring. It is clear from the details in the interview with the boy’s father that she became very much emotionally involved; she knew the mother and certainly has come to know the family well.
Remember Me presents images spanning a time of approximately 16 years in the life of Elijah (‘EJ’), from 2006 to 2022. The interview with Rich, EJ’s dad, in the back of the book relates many details about EJ’s life, especially the confusion and early anger after his mother’s death, much of it unspoken. This is where the images of Preston Gannaway come in: the reader/viewer can detect moments of sadness and anger that mirror the feelings of the mother who had to depart from their lives early on.
© Preston Gannaway, 2023
Body as a Negative: Sensations of Return by Izabela Jurcewicz
Publisher: Yoffy Press, Atlanta, Georgia
Review by Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing
Those of us who have undergone operations know about the many forms of mental and physical anguish these entail, as well as about the stamina, fortitude, and patience we as patients are expected to muster during the whole process, before, during, and afterward. When it comes to very serious operations of many hours that remedy a very rare form of an inter-organ tumor, the stakes are all the greater and everything seems all the more overwhelming. Cellular changes leave their mark.
Izabela Jurcewicz experienced all this, came out of the process successfully, and now shares the whole journey with us in this gripping photobook; she also gained the strength to support her father in his newly diagnosed situation. All of this is presented in a very open manner: the cover has a window that lets us view a portion of the patient on an operating table contemplating her body and her fate, leading to a full-age image when you open the book. The binding is open as well; nothing is hidden, you can see the stitching, and the lay-flat approach made possible by the binding lets us see all the details of every image.
© Izabela Jurcewicz, 2022
Signs by the Roadside by Miro Kuzmanovic
Review by Steve Harp
In considering Miro Kuzmanovic’s Signs by the Roadside, one would do well to keep in mind the title while moving through the book. For what does a road sign do but orient the traveler to where one is and where one may be headed? The traveler depends on signs for guidance and direction, to get one’s bearings, to understand where one is.
The difficulties in understanding one’s surroundings – where one is and the meaning of what one is seeing – are central to Kuzmanovic’s monograph. In a brief introductory statement (printed, along with two essays and an afterward in a separate softcover booklet), Kuzmanovic describes his photographs as those of one “who sets off on a dangerous journey, marking his path with signs in order to not lose his way.” With these sign-photographs, Kuzmanovic aims to navigate a personal journey through traumatic memory – through “fragments of my reality” – in order to more fully understand not so much the why, but the how of the collapse and devastating conflicts in what had been known as Yugoslavia (now Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia) and the consequences of these conflicts...
© Miro Kuzmanovic, 2022
© Sarah Malakoff, 2023
Personal History by Sarah Malakoff
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag
Review by Steve Harp
When visiting unfamiliar homes in what now seems a distant age – at a time when bookshelves in homes contained books that were intended to be read, rather than simply to function as design statements showcasing one’s domestic “brand” — I always enjoyed surreptitiously investigating which books people had included in their personal libraries. I would think about how the interests and tastes reflected there matched (or diverged from) my own and what conclusions (or speculations) I could draw about my hosts from their books in the context of their lived environments of objects and decor.
I felt myself drawn back to this practice while looking through Sarah Malakoff’s monograph, Personal History. Malakoff’s compelling photographs of approximately 40 different living spaces present portraits of their dwellers in absentia, who are not only living in spaces of their own creation but are also, in a very real sense, living in times or histories of their own creation as well. As a medium, photography purports to re-present a very thin, specific moment or sliver of time, an instantaneousness, but these images eloquently show how we all continually dwell in overlapping complexities of times, as reflected in this compendium of images of historical pastiche.
© Sandy Sugawara & Catiana Garcia-Kilroy, 2022
Show Me the Way to Go to Home by Sandy Sugawara and Catiana Garcia-Kilroy
Publisher: Radius Books, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Review by Wayne Swanson
As current events continue to remind us, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is all too often the land of the repressive and the home of the intolerant. Sandy Sugawara and Catiana Garcia-Kilroy explore one shameful example of this dichotomy — the incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II — in Show Me the Way to Go to Home.
A little over two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sanctioned the “relocation” of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. Sugawara and Garcia-Kilroy, photographers who focus on capturing memory through landscapes, have documented what remains of the 10 internment sites — more accurately described as concentration camps — that resulted from the order.
Sugawara’s personal connection was a major impetus for the book. Her parents and grandparents had been sent to the camps, but like many of the imprisoned, they seldom talked about the experience afterwards. Then Sugawara’s mother’s dying words and a box of her father’s mementos from life in the camp helped open up a world she had been shielded from for most of her life.