Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Photobook - its true value

The UK Guardian ran a piece a few days ago talking about how rare photobook editions are soaring in price. Auction houses now run photobook sales and seminal editions are leaping in price. At a dedicated auction at Christie's in London last year, signed early editions of influential photobooks such as Robert Frank's The Americans and Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment sold for £43,250 and £13,750 respectively.

It could be said that this all started in 2004 with the publication of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger's two-volume overview The Photobook: A History.
I read somewhere that a particular photobook collector advocates having a shrinkwrap machine to wrap and protect valuable photobooks. This seems to defeat the purpose and undermines the real reason for having these books. Photobooks, art books are about ideas and the pleasure of looking into other worlds and expanding ones knowledge. It's about inspiration and the delight in looking at photographs you wish you had made. The best of these books deserve repeated reading as there is always something fresh to see. Very difficult when the object is encased in plastic.
I'm sure when Martin and Gerry wrote their Photobook History they were motivated by the love of the photobook and not with an eye to investment values. After all gold is a far better deal, it's not subject to mildew, foxing, moths, acidity and wear and tear. Books are fragile, but fortunately the ideas they contain endure.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Raymond Meeks - some thoughts on making photobooks

Raymond Meeks is a photographer based in Portland Oregan. He makes wonderful hand made photobooks. What follows are a few points Meeks made, taken from an extended conversation with Joerg Colberg, about the process of making photobooks.
These are wize words..... read and don't forget!

The Material
I tend to be a photographer who appreciates the contents of my backyard. I believe there’s a universal story that can be told in your own surroundings without needing to necessarily travel or take on social documentary by going where these large social topics are acting out on a large scale. They can also be told using metaphor in my neighborhood, which is a place I’m familiar with and have developed an order or understanding.
The book as Object
The thing that’s most important about the object for me is that it have presence. I think that’s accomplished by bringing care and attention to it. And that happens in the way that I care for the book, the handling and printing of pages. My daughter, a tenth-grader now, comes to my studio after school. She’s developed a final act of kissing the title page after the stitching and tipping-in of loose prints I package all the books myself. My hands go into everything. For me, it’s a privilege that I get to make this book for somebody who is drawn to my work and this form of expression, which I happen to love. None of this is a given or something I take for granted.
The Intention
In fiction and storytelling, I prefer a narrative that lays out a straight story without embellishment. I agree with you. I think there’s no substitute for intention, there’s no substitute for somebody really caring for something. I was skeptical of that personally until I started receiving emails after people received their books. They were overwhelmingly gracious. Break the books down to their spare essence and materials… it’s not the finest printing, these are laser-printed sheets of Mohawk paper. But when you care for a work, it is transmitted.
What makes a book Great
I think any book or work of art that I appreciate the most is one that calls for involvement, interaction. You have to work to understand it and you get to bring something to it each time. It’s a constant metamorphosis. The work itself, or the subject, is changing because you are changing. The way I look at a book today and the way I look at a book a year from now - if the book is good, if the book isn’t static, isn’t solved and isn’t a one-liner, then based on where you are in your life you bring something new to the narrative. And if it’s not solved, you don’t close the book and feel “OK, I understand, this is done.” Those are the books you never pull off your shelf again.

The images: pages from where objects fall away, 2011
You can read the full conversation here:

And more of Raymond Meeks here:

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

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs

New York's Asia Society Museum presents an exhibition of 227 photographs taken by Ai Weiwei, capturing the history, culture, and atmosphere of 1980s New York from his unique perspective. The exhibition marks the first time Ai Weiwei’s New York Photographs series is being shown outside of China.

Before Ai Weiwei became internationally recognized as an artist and activist, he lived in a tiny apartment in New York’s East Village, and was a prominent member of a community of expatriate Chinese artists and intellectuals in the neighborhood’s then burgeoning avant-garde scene. Throughout those years, from 1983 to 1993, the artist used his camera to document his life and work, his surroundings, and the atmosphere of the time. The photographs document a distinct era in New York, as seen through Ai Weiwei’s eyes, tracing the beginnings of his conceptual art practice. They depict East Village poetry readings, riots in Tompkins Square Park, drag queens at Wigstock, and well-known artists and intellectuals from China, such as filmmaker Chen Kaige, composer Tan Dun and artist Xu Bing.

“Ai Weiwei is one of the most provocative and influential conceptual artists from China today, and in recent years he has become an increasingly iconic figure,” says Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu. “As an artist, his work has stood for individual expression and we hope his recent release, following nearly three months in detention in China, has delivered a new promise of creative potential for him and other artists there. These photographs are a poignant and powerful chronicle of Ai’s artistic vision and emerging political consciousness during his time in New York.”

The New York Photographs series comprises a selection of 227 photographs from Ai’s archive of 10,000, selected by the artist. It is conceived as a single unified installation that reveals Ai Weiwei’s personal experiences, thoughts, and attitudes at the time the photographs were taken.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 316-page comprehensive catalogue with plates of all the photographs, along with essays and interviews, published by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. The exhibition is organized by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing in association with Asia Society Museum.

June 29 through August 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Martin Parr's Most Influential Photobooks of the Decade

Fresh from PhotoIreland Festival Martin Parr presents his list of the most influential photobooks of the last decade. The festival has published a catalogue which includes Martin's comments on each book, together with illustrations and "author's notes".

The list:
Ryan McGinley - The Kids Are Alright
Rinko Kawauchi - Utane
Geert van Kesteren - Why Mister Why
John Gossage - Berlin in the Time of the Wall
Christien Meindertsma - Checked Baggage
Leigh Ladare - Pretend You're Actually Alive
Paul Graham - A Shimmer of Possibilities
Doug Rickard - New American Picture
Dash Snow - Slime the Boogie
Miguel Calderon - Miguel Calderon
Viviane Sassen - Flamboya
Miyako Ishuichi - Mother's
JH Engstrom - Trying to Dance
Jules Spinatsch - Temporary Discomfort: Chapter 1-V
Daniela Rossell - Ricas y Famosas
Uchihara Yasuhiko - Son of a Bit
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs - The Great Unreal
Donovan Wylie - Scrapbook
Archive of Modern Conflict - Nein, Onkel
Stephen Gill - Hackney Wick
Florian van Roekel - How Terry Likes His Coffee
Susan Meiselas - In History
Wassink Lundgren - Empty Bottles
Michael Wolf - Tokyo Compression
Alessandra Sanguinetti - On The Sixth Day
Nina Korhonen - Anna, Amerikan Mummu
Alec Soth - Sleeping by the Mississippi
Hans Eijkelbook - Portraits & Cameras 1949 - 2009

If you were making a shortlist these would be my top four:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Auckland - the Winter Light continues....

Sky clear hard blue, weak sun, heavy animated shadows, wet streets..... some pictures I made yesterday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Torbjørn Rødland - Work That Baffles

Torbjørn Rødland, born 1970 in Stavanger, Norway. Now lives and works in Los Angeles and has been making photographs for 20 years.

Shane Lavalette in a 2008 interview with Rødland put it like this, "Rødland has been making work that baffles, finding something in common between nudists, priests, Nordic landscapes and curious still lifes of food, such as one of George W. Bush’s favorite things: Diet Coke, tortilla chips, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Häagen-Dazs “Pralines & Cream” ice cream and A Field of Dreams."
I call it "stream of consciousness photography" as if you'd given Kerouac a camera.

Here are some statements from that 2008 interview that resonated with me:

I am attracted to pictures that aren’t appreciated in contemporary art, if they have what you could call mythical potential.

A cliché is only interesting if it contains a hidden truth.

I was completely bored with thematic photography books. I wanted to break with the “100 Somethings” or “Pictures-from-Somewhere” type of book. I wanted to make a book that continues to challenge, as you go through it. I wanted the logic of the book to be perforated - and therefore erotic.

Erotic? A photograph or a collection of photographs that ignores its usual objective is perverted. Perverted photography doesn’t sell a product or communicate a message. It’s not meant to be decoded, but to keep you in the process of looking. It’s layered and complex. It mirrors and triggers you without end and for no good reason, and that is erotic.

It is very satisfying to build a book from seemingly incongruent single images, only to find that it all makes sense somehow.

One of the ways a photograph can be successful, if it’s a surprising but precise take on something that you suspect could become your reality – and if you’d like to look at it again tomorrow.

Photographs give meaning to each other, so it is interesting to look at them with different neighbors. But, of course, a majority of juxtapositions are unproductive.

And there is more. Rødland has penned these Sentences on Photography that are well worth a read.

1. The muteness of a photograph matters as much as its ability to speak.
2. The juxtaposition of photographs matters as much as the muteness of each.
3. All photography flattens. Objectification is inescapable.
4. Photography cannot secure the integrity of its subject any more than it can satisfy the need to touch or taste.
5. Good ideas are easily bungled.
6. Banal ideas can be rescued by personal investment and beautiful execution.
7. Lacking an appealing surface, a photograph should depict surfaces appealingly.
8. A photograph that refuses to market anything but its own complexities is perverse. Perversion is bliss.
9. A backlit object is a pregnant object.
10. To disregard symbols is to disregard a part of human perception.
11. Photography may employ tools and characteristics of reportage without being reportage.
12. The only photojournalistic images that remain interesting are the ones that produce or evoke myths.
13. A photographer in doubt will get better results than a photographer caught up in the freedom of irony.
14. The aestheticizing eye is a distant eye. The melancholic eye is a distant eye. The ironic eye is a distant eye.
15. One challenge in photography is to outdistance distance. Immersion is key.
16. Irony may be applied in homeopathic doses.
17. A lyrical photograph should be aware of its absurdity. Lyricism grows from awareness.
18. For the photographer, everyone and everything is a model, including the photograph itself.
19. The photography characterized by these sentences is informed by conceptual art.
20. The photography characterized by these sentences is not conceptual photography

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hans-Peter Feldmann at the Guggenheim

If you're in New York between now and November 2 an essential visit would have to be the Guggenheim Feldmann show.

Hans-Peter Feldmann has spent over four decades conducting a profound investigation into the influence of the visual environment on our subjective reality. Composing images and objects into serial archives, uncanny combinations, and other illuminating new contexts, his work unearths the latent associations and sentiments contained within the landscape of daily life. As the winner of the 2010 HUGO BOSS PRIZE, a biennial award recognizing significant achievement in contemporary art, Feldmann received an honorarium of $100,000. For his solo exhibition at the Guggenheim, he has chosen to pin this exact amount to the gallery walls in a grid of overlapping one-dollar bills.

The installation, which uses money that has previously been in circulation, extends the artist’s lifelong obsession with collecting familiar material into simple groupings that reveal a nuanced play of similarity and difference. Throughout his practice, Feldmann has frequently divided an apparent whole into separate components; he has photographed every item in a woman’s wardrobe (All the clothes of a woman, 1973), presented individual images of the strawberries that make up a pound of fruit (One Pound Strawberries, 2005), and created a sequence of 100 portraits showing individuals of every age in a collective lifespan of a century (100 Years, 2001).

Feldmann also has a history of resisting the art world’s commercial structures, issuing his work in unsigned, unlimited editions and retiring from art making altogether for nearly a decade in the 1980s, at which point he gave away or destroyed the works remaining in his possession. Bank notes, like artworks, are objects that have no inherent worth beyond what society agrees to invest them with, and in using them as his medium, Feldmann raises questions about notions of value in art. But his primary interest in the serial display of currency lies less in its status as a symbol of capitalist excess than in its ubiquity as a mass-produced image and a material with which we come into contact every day. At its core, this formal experiment presents an opportunity to experience an abstract concept—a numerical figure and the economic possibilities it entails—as a visual object and an immersive physical environment.

Installation view of 100 Years, portrait series

"One Pound Strawberries", 2005

31 pairs of knees

Spot the difference: Has Ryan McGinley Ripped-off photographer Janine "Jah Jah" Gordon?

Photographer Janine "Jah Jah" Gordon has filed a lawsuit against rising contemporary art star Ryan McGinley alleging that he stole her visual style and subject matter.
The lawsuit against McGinley targets 150 of McGinley's works, ranging from commercial shots for Levis and other companies to earlier pieces by the artist. Top curator Dan Cameron has supported Gordon's case in an affidavit, stating that "Ryan McGinley has derived much of his work from [Gordon's] creations.

Levis--Go Forth (2010) by Ryan McGinley

"Casey at Paramount" (2000) by Janine Gordon

Who was it who said there are only three original ideas in the whole world?
Let the battle commence!

Monday, July 11, 2011

PARIS DIARY - May 2011

Following my last years PARIS DIARIES in May and November, I'm continuing the series with my PARIS DIARY, May 2011.
The edition is limited to 75 copies, each book signed and numbered. There are 27 photographs, over 28 pages, printed on 150gsm art paper, 226 x 160 mm. Here are some pages.

Copies can be obtained directly from me at:
€22 / £19 / US$30 / NZ$36, these prices include postage

Sunday, July 10, 2011

André Magnin - MAGNIN-A

André Magnin was the first person I met in the Parisian art-world when I started going to Paris nearly twenty years ago. André works and lives in the Blvd Voltaire 5 minutes away from where I hang out. We meet for coffee from time to time and occasionally we bump into each other in the street. It was in André's apartment where William Eggleston told me not to talk bullshit and where from André's terrace Nan Goldin pointed out to me her apartment above the pharmacy in Rue Oberkampf.

André Magnin is a curator par excellence. A man of vision, impeccable taste and integrity and importantly he has done more than anybody to put contemporary African art on-the-map.

In 1986 André Magnin began his research into contemporary art in non-Western cultures, especially throughout Africa for the exhibition Black Magicians of the Earth at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette. Since 1989 he has established the emblematic Pigozzi Collection which he directed for twenty years. He has held numerous solo exhibitions and group in museums, art centers and foundations around the world: Out of Africa (Saatchi Gallery, London), African Art Now (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), I like Cheri Samba (Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris), Arts of Africa (Grimaldi Forum, Monaco), 100% Africa (Guggenheim Bilbao), Why Africa? (Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli), Africa? una nuova storia (Complesso del Vittoriano, Roma), African Stories (Marrakech) ...

In 2009, he founded MAGNIN-A, whose mission is to promote contemporary African art on the international art market.

You can see more here:

The Photo: André Magnin by Malick Sidibé

Auckland - seriously RETRO

I came across these pictures for a house available for rent in the Auckland suburb of Avondale.  It's a "spacious 5 double bedroom 2 level house in a prime location, partly furnished with beds to all 5 bedrooms and furniture. Clean and tidy but slightly dated interiors. Good flow throughout. Convenient to public transport,  good schools and shops. $545 a week." I love the comment about the interior.... come on this is serious retro, they don't make 'em like this anymore!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978 - 2010

Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010, opened at London's Whitechapel Gallery last Wednesday, the first UK survey of German artist Thomas Struth, one of the most important photographers of the late 20th century.

Picturing subjects as diverse as places of worship, jungles and research laboratories, Struth once compared the space shuttle programme to the construction of the medieval cathedrals. His photographs reveal the cultural, psychological and historical undercurrents beneath the surface of modernity.
Tracing the architectural history of ordinary city streets Struth also charts the increasing uniformity of global development. While people are absent from his street scenes of Düsseldorf, Naples or New York, they take centre stage in his family portraits and his iconic museum photographs showing spectators lost in devotional gaze before works of art and architecture. In sharp contrast, his Paradise series captures impenetrable forests void of any trace of human intervention.
This exhibition spans early black and white prints to recent colour photographs that are up to 4 metres long. These include images of sites at the cutting edge of technology such as the Space Centre on Cape Canaveral. Their overwhelming scale evokes an industrial sublime; built by us, yet chillingly inhuman, these structures encapsulate the great contradictions of progress.

The photograph: Audience 1, Florence 2004

Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London

Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century

The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition dedicated to the birth of modern photography, featuring the work of Brassaï, Robert Capa, André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi. Each left their homeland Hungary to make their names in Europe and the USA, profoundly influencing the course of modern photography. Many other talented photographers who remained in Hungary, such as Rudolf Balogh and Károly Escher, are also represented in the exhibition. Over 200 photographs from 1914 to 1989 show how these world-renowned photographers were at the forefront of stylistic developments, revealing their achievements in the context of the rich photographic tradition of Hungary.

Brassaï, Capa, Kertész, Moholy-Nagy and Munkácsi are each known for the important changes they brought about in photojournalism, documentary, art and fashion photography. By following their paths through Germany, France and the USA, the exhibition explores their distinct approaches, signalling key aspects of modern photography.

The image of modern Paris was defined by Brassaï (1899–1984). Introduced to photography by Kertész, who was then at the heart of an energetic émigré community of artists, Brassaï is best known for his classic portraits of Picasso. His stunning photographs of sights, streets and people bring vividly to life the nocturnal characters and potent atmosphere of the city at night.

Robert Capa (1913–1954) left Hungary aged seventeen, first for Berlin, where he took up photography, then on to Paris. He is often called the 'greatest war photographer', documenting the Spanish Civil War, the 'D'-Day landings and other events of the Second World War. In 1947, he co-founded Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Rodger.

André Kertész (1894–1985) showed an intuitive talent for photography, which blossomed when he moved to Paris in 1925. Using a hand-held camera, he captured lyrical impressions of the ephemeral moments of everyday urban life. Proud of being self-taught, Kertész considered himself an 'eternal amateur' whose vision remained fresh; his highly personal style paved the way for a subjective, humanist approach to photography.

A painter and designer as well as a photographer, László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) became an instructor at the Bauhaus in 1922. He was a pioneer of photograms, photomontage and visual theory, using unconventional perspectives and bold tonal contrasts to manifest his radical approach. His camera-less images and experimental techniques explore the centrality of light to the medium.

Martin Munkácsi (1896–1963) was a highly successful photographer first in Budapest, then Berlin, covering everything from Greta Garbo to the Day of Potsdam. He moved to the USA in 1934, securing a lucrative position with Harper's Bazaar, revolutionising fashion photography by liberating it from the studio. Taking photographs of models and celebrities outdoors, he invested his photographs with a dynamism and vitality that were to become his hallmark.

The photograph: László Fejes, 'Wedding', Budapest, 1965. Silver gelatin print. 155 x 238mm. Hungarian Museum of Photography © Hungarian Museum of Photography.

Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century
Brassaï, Capa, Kertész, Moholy-Nagy, Munkácsi
The Sackler Wing of Galleries, 30 June–2 October 2011
Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sol LeWitt - an exchange

Many months ago I replied to an eflux mailing calling for "artists" to respond to a curatorial call from curator Regine Basha working with Cabinet magazine and MASS MoCA. This was an open call for artists to respond to Sol LeWitt's practice of responding to each and every artwork he received, by sending an artwork of his own.
Hundreds of people sent in work from well known artists to school kids. A nice idea, art fostering unity.

Here are some pages from the catalogue that MoCA has produced which documents all the work received included the page with my work, Scream after Baldessari.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

KASSEL - A souvenir

When I was in Kassel for the Photobook Festival I was able to make some photographs. And from these I've made a Kassel souvenir. I've called it THREE DAYS IN KASSEL IN JUNE. The edition is limited to 50 copies, 200 x 260 mm with 12 photographs printed on a 150 gram art paper. Each book signed and numbered.

Copies can be obtained directly from me: €10 / £9 / US$15 / NZ$18, this includes the cost of postage. Simply email me at: