Photobook Journal
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As always, many thanks to PhotoBook Journal for curating a set of reviewe on handmade/self published artists' books. Please make sure to use the link at the end of each segment to see the full set of imagery from the books...obviously I could only include a few images...but it was a hard choice!

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©Julia Borissova, 2018

Let Me Fall Again by Julia Borissova

Self Published: St Petersburg Russia

Designer: Julia Borissova

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

It was not until I had a chance to spend time with Julia Borissova’s latest photobook, Let Me Fall Again, did I reflect on the act of what constitutes “failure” for an artist, versus the perspective of the corporate/business person. For a business venture failure is the worst possible event. I will have to admit as a person who has been involved in the development of countless pharmaceutical drugs that researchers are probably more in alignment with artist in that a “failure” can considered to be on a path to success.

She states in her artist statement, which is complexly folded and partially hidden within the book, …this word (failure) means something else in the art world. The gap between the initial intention and realization of artwork can be seen as an artistic failure. However, if unsuccessful attempts are not regarded as the final result, it encourages artist to work more and gives them opportunities to grow.

 

The subject of her book is Charles Leroux who was an early (1890’s) adapter in the act of parachuting, which eventually led to his early demise in Estonia (Russia). The book is complex and lots of parts are mashed together, a continuous series of small and large gatefolds that reveal text, posters, images and illustrations... Use this link to read the rest of the review, see additional imagery and information.

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©Pamela Landau Connolly, 2021

Fly In Amber by Pamela Landau Connoly

Self Published, New York

Graphic Designer: David Connolly

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822 – 1865) was a 19th century British photographer who photographed her adolescent daughters, frequently incorporating the use of mirrors and other reflecting surfaces creating multi-faceted portraits and visual narratives exploring self-reflection and introspection. Interestingly little is known of her life, who remains a mystery and what is suspected is pieced together from her 800 photographic oeuvre, mostly of her children. That Hawarden focused primarily on three of her daughters was another parallel that inspired Pamela Landau Connolly’s photobook Fly in Amber, for which her own three adolescent daughters are her main subjects.

Connolly’s title, Fly in Amber, resonates with an act of capturing a moment in time, to preserve a memory for the future, like an insect that has been preserved for all time in amber. Likewise, Connolly recognizes that the life of her three daughters, as well as her own, are about to move rapidly through the transitions into adulthood and all of the welcoming, yet daunting changes that are about to occur.

The book is organized into a dedication to Hawarden in conjunction with eight loose chapters, each as a stand alone leporello folded sheet, with ambiguous titles; Eight Day Clock, Shadow Catcher, Brick-A-Brac, Hook & Eye, Two Pair Back, Looking Glass, Permanent Autumn and Magic Lantern. The photographs are a mash-up of portraits with environmental elements and objects that provide context for the lives of Connolly and her daughters. Use this link to read the rest of the review and see additional images and information.

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©Cathy Immordino, 2017

Through the Looking Glass by Cathy Immordino

Self Published, USA

Designer: Cathy Immordino

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

In Lewis Carol’s fantasy novel Through the Looking Glass, the reader embarks on a curious journey that takes them to strange and wondrous events, as if in the Twilight Zone, into a mysterious parallel world. Likewise Cathy Immordino taps into another mysterious experience with the design and layout of her complex and layered artist book of the same title.

She states “The book explores the different uses of lenses in a steampunk manner. From space helmets and ships to submarines, robotic birds and fish, lens growing trees, robots and interior design and more. Through the Looking Glass further explores the possibilities of lenses in another reality”.

As observed in the top view of her book below, the book can be experienced by folding, refolding and examining the contents from various perspectives. In the process one finds some mysterious and wonderfully hidden content. Similar to Carol’s narrative, Immordino invites the reader to take a “trip” to consider how one experiences reality and the many possible alternatives to view one’s life perspective. Use this link to read the rest of the review and see additional images and information.

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©Anna Karaulova, 2020

Rapid Eye Movement by Anna Karaulova

Self Published, Moscow, RU

Designer: Anna Karaulova

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

Sleep. A period of time that is an opportunity to refresh oneself and then to start a new day. During that time asleep, we may also dream, perhaps something delightful occurs or this evolves into a frightening experience. Frequently what is recalled upon wakening is a series of odd and mysterious fragments that seem to be jumbled together. What I find fascinating about Anna Karaulova’s artist book Rapid Eye Movement is how uncannily it reflects my own dream-world experiences of random moments that are mashed together that really make little to no sense.

The book’s intricate and layered design are a beautiful physical representation of the exasperating complexity of dreams, although this same layering design creates a challenge to read (as well as re-photograph for this review). The pages are printed and then folded together that delightfully conceal her images. These pages have not been entirely trimmed which constricts how these are subsequently unfolded in an attempt to read, a wonderful metaphor for how difficult it can be for us to try to interrupt or understand our dreams. 

Another confounding aspect of her page design is than when the page is unfolded, there may be printing on the bottom side of the fold-out page, thus requiring a reader to flip the book over in an attempt to gain the “full picture”. Much like the topsy-turvy dreams we experience and the many times the seemingly and total illogic experience of what we try to recall. That one of the reverse pages is all about Secrets in which the type for the letters has small space breaks and is incomplete is brilliant. Use this link to read the rest of the review and see additional images and information.

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©Melissa Lazuka, 2019

Fly Away by  Melissa Lazuka

Self Published, Ohio, US

Designer: Melissa Lazuka

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

Melissa Lazuka’s second self-published artist book Fly Away continues her narrative on the transient nature of her children’s life and her self-awareness that they are very quickly growing up, perhaps way too fast. It is a sequel to her brilliantly conceived artist book Song of the Cicadas that I reviewed last fall.

Lazuka has stated “There is a very short period of time that everyone is a child, and only so many summers we can experience as a child.” As an adult we can appreciate how her perception is not shared by her child, but watching children grow over the seasons, the memory pangs of their younger moments can become acute. We almost want to shout; Stop growing up! Meanwhile the child continues to chase after the things that still might be.

Fly Away triggers for me the story line of the movie version of Peter Pan. Regretfully I always seem to quickly progress to this story’s bittersweet ending when Peter once again returns to a now adult Wendy. During their encounter Peter asks about her brothers only to find out that Michael did full fill his military dreams, but yet he did not survive the outcome of those wonderful boyhood aspirations. Use this link to read the rest of the review and see additional images and information.

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©Laila Nahar, 2021

I Have Been Here Before by Laila Nahar

Self Published, Folsom, CA

Designer, Laila Nahar

Reviewer: Douglas Stockdale

As we mature it seems that old family photographs become more bittersweet. Or at least these seem to me. We observe that the many individuals depicted have aged, if not passed, and that our memories of them and related events become more indistinct, as though lost in a midst of time. For artists like Laila Nahar, the transitory nature of memory can become more acute and complicated when she no longer lives in the same region or even on the same continent, having been born in Bangladesh and now living in the North American state of California. 

In her handmade artist's book, I Have Been Here Before, her photographs are paired with her and others’ poetry about self-reflection and the trickiness of memory. Her visual and written narrative circles around the photographic talismans that elicit emotional and memory triggers. The photographs vary from a documentary style capture of a passing event, color fragments of a structure, black and white archival portraits, an impressionist moment, found documents and other places that have a significance to the past. The poetic quality of many of her photographs are wonderful, if not complicated, metaphors for the complex feelings she is attempting to investigate. Use this link to read the rest of the review and see additional images and information.