PhotoBook Journal

photobookjournal.com

The last showcase inclusion of photography books was such a success that I'll be continuing it for this year. Many thanks to Douglas Stockdale, photographer, founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal for once again, curating a wonderful set of photography books where how the artist works with color is an important element.

All of the Places I've Ever Known by Harvey Benge

Publisher: Kehrer Publishing, Germany

Review by Douglas Stockdale

My first impression of Harvey Benge’s  photobook All of the Places I’ve ever Known was that this book is meant to be autobiographical.  It is also a statement of the obvious: that you cannot take a photograph of a place unless you have been to that place. Cheeky.

Benge has self-published numerous photobooks and in his usually style he provides his readers with a minimum of textual information to help the reader relate to his photographs. He is a bit of the minimalist in terms of providing some potential insight. You can make of what you want from his titles which usually has a healthy amount of ambiguity. In this book, he provides an interesting quotation from Longchen Rabjampa (1308 – 1364); “Since everything is but an apparition, Perfect in being what it is, Having nothing to do with good or bad, Acceptance or rejection, You might as well burst out laughing!” My take-away from this and many of Benge’s proliferate photobooks is that his photographs are a joyful observation of what “is” as a result of the powers of seeing and observing random urban serendipity.

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

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© Harvey Benge, 2010

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The Day May Break, by Nick Brandt

Publisher: Hatje Cantz Verlag GmbH

Review by Douglas Stockdale

Nick Brandt’s latest photobook, The Day May Break, is another evolutionary step in his process of investigating the environmental and ecological issues facing the African continent that represent the greater issues facing mankind worldwide. He utilizes his extensive cinematic experience to create emotionally charged photographic portraits that juxtapose people and animals to try to illustrate the looming dangers of climate change. In his earlier book-work, he focused more on the plight of the African wildlife and in this and his last photobook, This Empty World, he expands his focus on the how the climate change threatens mankind as well.

I am witnessing here in the United States similar climate changes that Brandt narrates in this book; the broad western regions that are facing profound drought while concurrently in the eastern parts of the county enduring catastrophic rains. The effects of both extremes are equally devastating here in America as it is in Africa. Lives are lost and the broader economic impact is terrible. We are in more of similar dire straits than we are probably comfortable in accepting as to the profound effects of worldwide climate change.

Use this link for additional images and information

© Nick Brandt, 2021

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© Cig Harvey, 2017

You An Orchestra You A Bomb by Cig Harvey

Published by: Schilt Publishing

Review by Douglas Stockdale

Notes: This is Cig Harvey’s third photobook in her introspective series that investigates her family, friends and the changing environment of mid-costal Maine. Perhaps the reason for the overlap of the photographic images between the various photobooks; that memories are overlapping during life’s experiences. She stages her family, friends and pets as well as weaving in poetic images of the rural landscape her family is enveloped in. There are many whimsical, if not outright strange, images, such as the open picture frame balanced on a women’s head, that hints at a lighthearted surrealism when this photograph is then paired up to a close up of a decorated frosted cake.

Many of Harvey’s photographs are tightly cropped and edited while her subjects are frequently truncated or slightly concealed. This is in part to create plenty of ambiguity to allow the readers imagination to freely roam. This visual effect is replicated in the design and layout of her book, with full bleed images that suggest that we are a witness to only a part of her narrative (her life). The editing and pairing of the photographs is exquisite, with repeating colors and forms or even perhaps the yin/yang contrast of a high-key photograph in the context of an adjoining dark image. A poetic and lyrical volume.

Use this link for additional images and information

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© S Billie Mandle, 2020

Reconciliation by S. Billie Mandle

Publisher: Kehrer Verlag

Review by Wayne Swanson

It’s just a room, and a very small one at that, but there aren’t many spaces with a presence as large as the Roman Catholic confessional. S. Billie Mandle captures its seen and unseen power in Reconciliation.

Mandle, a photographer based in Los Angeles and Western Massachusetts, spent ten years photographing confessionals throughout the United States. She visited churches in small towns and large cities, poor communities and rich. Shooting from the viewpoint of the penitent, she has recreated the experience of going to confession.

We see the colors, surfaces, and textures of the rooms, often worn from use. Light and shadows hide and reveal select details of each space. And we see the portal — a grill, a window, a screen — through which penitents confess their sins and seek forgiveness. 

The space may be formal or makeshift, ornate or simple, yet the power of the act at hand is palpable. In subtle ways, the images evoke the complex mix of emotions at play, from shame and penance to forgiveness and even grace. They also capture the sacred and profane contradictions of the spaces, where the power of the church meets everyday reality — confession from a folding chair, or a room paneled in water-stained peg board.

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

If You Go All The Plants Will Die by Fred Mitchell

Publisher: Editions Bessard

Review by Douglas Stockdale

I may not be a relationship expert, but I highly suspect that stating the reason for another person to stay in a relationship is that otherwise if they left all of the plants would die may not be the most enticing of rationales. The book’s title appears to be a retrospective statement about a relationship that Fred Mitchell was experiencing that establishes an underlying conceptual framework for this body of work. When things are not going right, everything is perceived to be in the same sad state of affairs.

Mitchell is visually investigating the question of what does emotional turmoil and sadness look like? The monotone quality of black and white photography is probably well suited to his investigation, but he adds an interesting design twist in how he incorporates emotional color into this artwork. 

His photographs are a combination of botanical still lifes and urban landscapes. The still life images seem emotional detached, with the botanical objects coolly floating on the page isolated from any environmental context. These studies provide an opportunity for a focused gaze. His botanical subjects have all seen better days as even the pots are either worn or altogether missing. The still life images are juxtaposed with found plants, bushes, parts of trees and other urban vegetation, similarly in a state of decline or showing a lack of care and maintenance.

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

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© Fred Mitchell, 2021

Paula Riff Works on Paper by Paula Riff

Publisher: Self Published, Give ‘Em Hell Press

Review by Wayne Swanson

Earlier this year, we lost a photographic artist with a truly unique vision when Paula Riff succumbed to cancer. Yet this diminutive Los Angeles artist with an outsized personality left us with a beautiful gift, finished just months before her death. 

Paula Riff: works on paper, like the artist herself, is a small gem. It showcases her singular camera-less photographic works that blend old and new. Using the historical processes of cyanotype and gum bichromate, Riff created thoroughly modern works that push the boundaries of the medium. Riff relied on “her imagination and her creative impulses to construct a unique language of color, shape, and form,”writes Lenscratch founder and editor Aline Smithson in the book’s introduction.

Riff’s work draws on a variety of influences. She writes in the book that in college she fell in love with “all things Japanese,” and she spent a decade in Japan working as an interpreter. As a result, the “minimal and considered aesthetic of Japan” is an important inspiration.

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

 

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© Paula Riff, 2021