Saturday, July 23, 2011

John Gossage - The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler / Map of Babylon

I first saw this book(s) at Paris Photo in November 2008 where I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of thirty "before the first edition" copies, complete with signed print. At last the Steidl edition has arrived. Needless to stay perfect in its conception and refined production values.

A Gossage photobook always astounds. At once simple and to the point but at the same time loaded and redolent with hidden meanings. There is never a wasted photograph, every image plays the right note either harmonic or purposely discordant against its pair or lack of it. The work in this book asks more questions than gives answers and the pleasure is in the journey, trying to work out exactly what is going on. And this entices the reader to keep coming back, working out the layers. Trying to make sense of the enigma. Isn't this a quality that every photobook should possess? Sadly so few do.

Like John Gossage's The Pond, The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler / Map of Babylon is destined to become a photobook classic.

You can get your copy here:

or here:

Steidl says this about the edition:
John Gossage, the renowned American photographer and photography book-maker, presents two companion volumes and his first ever books in color. Engaged in a dance, neither book comes first, there is no hierarchy or sequence to the pair of volumes.

Gossage is one of the most literary of photographic book authors and in The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler, the narrative, whilst not autobiographical, is about a neighborhood in which he lives; one that is singular in the United States. At the same time provincial and international, it is a neighborhood populated by ambassadorial residences, embassies, and the lavish private homes of those who are in positions of power and influence in Washington. A project he began with the arrival of a new neighbor, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and made over a full year’s cycle of seasons, these are images from the drift of privilege. The streets, cars, homes and yards of this neighborhood are photographed on perfect spring or autumn days, with sparklingly clear blue skies, and flowers or foliage accenting the order. These are photographs about how one might wish the world to be, how beauty might be seen as desire. In the same year Gossage made the Map of Babylon, photographing digitally from Washington, to Germany, to China and places in-between. This look away, to places beyond the immediate and local, is a classic exploration of particulars of the outside world.

Kassel Photobook Festival "Best Books 2010/2011" International Photobook Award 2011

Essays by John Gossage and Gerhard Steidl
Book design by John Gossage and Gerhard Steidl
80 pages, 180 colour plates, 23.5 cm x 28.6 cm, clothbound with dust jacket

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