Friday, June 29, 2012

New York - away in the BIG Apple for 2 weeks

I'll be traveling for the next two weeks so will not be able to make any regular blog posts. Normal service will resume after July 17!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ONE DAY revisted, June 21st 2012

Back on June 21st 2010, the longest day in the northern hemisphere and the shortest in the southern, ten photographers, Jessica Backhaus, Gerry Badger, John Gossage, Todd Hido, Rob Hornstra, Rinko Kawauchi, Eva Maria Ocherbauer, Martin Parr, Alec Soth and myself all set out to make a book in a day. The result was published by Kehrer and launched at Paris Photo in November 2010.

Last year and again this, on June 21st I set out to revisit the day and make some photographs. So too did John Gossage. He sent me these which he tells me recounts the famous Danish folk tale of how Thilde finds that even the smallest things can have the most profound effect.

And the question we always ask.

Here is what I shot, with a common thread of loss and abandonment.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Photography After Photography? (A Provocation) from Joerg Colberg

Paul Graham, Pittsburgh, 2004, from the series 'A Shimmer of Possibility'.
Last week on his blog Conscientious (you can see the full post HERE) Joerg Colberg wrote a piece which made the point that photography had become tired, predictable and preoccupied with a past way of seeing things.  Joerg said this:

Photography has finally arrived at its own existential crisis. It is far from being over - no medium is ever over as long as there is just an ounce of creativity left on this planet. But photography has long been running in a circle. Over the past ten years, it has increasingly become dominated by nostalgia and conservatism. Even the idea that we now need editors or curators to create meaning out of the flood of photographs ultimately is conservative, looking backwards when we could, no we should be looking forward.
Who - or what - can move photography forward, looking forward?

Any art form needs to evolve. Otherwise, there’s stasis, and stasis in art is death (just ask any jazz musician). These kinds of debates are being held in other art forms; it’s not just a photography thing. The one thing that seems unique to photography (maybe this is just me not being familiar enough with other art forms) is that its practitioners for the most part are incredibly conservative as far as the medium is concerned. So I could have also asked whether photography will survive the conservatism the vast majority of its own practitioners have come to embrace. I currently doubt it will. To use jazz again, with its current wave of nostalgia photography is at risk of becoming the Dixieland of the visual arts.

What Joerg has said is true. There is so much wrong with the state of photography today. The problem lies not just with the photographers. Art schools must share the blame, they seem to have given up teaching the history of the medium and have become side-tracked into theoretical backwaters. And then there is the commodified dealer gallery system, gallerists obsessed with "product", showing easy decorative work that will sell.

And the photographers. Given the avalanche of images out there I sense a feeling of desperation to succeed. No longer content to be called photographers, today we want to be seen as "artists".  This accolade has to be earned and not by work that's contrived, derivative, formulaic, seen it all before and just plain dull. I'm so over seeing images dragged from the internet (100 of this or these), constructed pictures of people standing in fields holding things, (maybe bags over their heads), groups of preppy kids running naked through fields, forests and/or sand-dunes and photographs of mid-west families standing against a fence.

It's sad really because there are so many good, even great photographs out there in life to be made. It's about having an idea and "seeing". Seeing clearly. Dealing with the ordinary and the obvious. Eggleston said that he was at war with the obvious. And so we all should be, in the sense that we need to transform the obvious and do something with it. Surely then the work becomes art because the photographs question and demand that we look at the world in a fresh more telling way. Two photographers that I immediately think of do this. Their work is from the heart, authentic and so simple. I'm talking about Paul Graham and John Gossage. Photographers yes but true artists.

Look, be inspired and go out and make some pictures.

John Gossage, Map of Babylon, 2009

Friday, June 15, 2012

Photographers whose work I like - No18/ Pierre Defaix

Pierre Defaix, from the series Short Stories, (Number 9)
I've never met Pierre Defaix and his work was unknown to me. He approached me a few days ago and asked me to look at his pictures.  What struck me immediately was that although we are looking at similar things Pierre's way of seeing is totally different to mine. I like the obvious satisfaction he derives from his looking at small scenarios and simple pleasures and the short stories that result. His observation of that which we often overlook in our quest for the "bigger picture" is acute and memorable.

Pierre Defaix was born in France, in 1971. After graduating from University of Sorbonne, Paris with a Bachelor of cinema and media and a Bachelor of comparative Literature, he obtained a fellowship  to study at Brown University , Providence, Rhode Island, USA . He followed the coursework in film making with the filmmaker Leslie Thornton. Back in Paris  he began his photographic career as a freelance photographer making fashion editorial and portraits for magazine and newspapers. He also worked several years as a stills photographer  for film production companies.  He is currently based in Nice, France. You can go to his website HERE.

And below, images from the bookwork,  All things I remember from here.

Lost Places Sites of photography at Hamburger Kunsthalle

Tobias Zielony. Dirt Field, 2008 (from the series Trona – Armpit of America)
In recent years photography has reached a new peak in artistic media. Starting with the Düsseldorf School, with artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, or Candida Höfer, a young generation of artists developed that adopted different approaches by which to present the subject matter of "space" and "place" in an era of historic change and social crises. With the exhibition Lost Places, the Hamburger Kunsthalle dedicates an exhibition to these new approaches, which document a wide range of different places and living spaces and their increasing isolation through the media of photography, film, and installation works.

Joel Sternfeld's documentary photographs depict places that were crime scenes. Thomas Demand restages real crime scenes, initially as models in order to then photograph them. In turn, in her large-scale photographs, Beate Gütschow constructs cityscapes and landscapes that are reminiscent of well-known places, but that do not allow any true reference. Sarah Schönfeld illustrates "the image of memory in the present space" in her photographs. She visits old places from her GDR childhood and captures these in their present state, whereby both points in time collide. In his fictional video installation Nostalgia, Omer Fast recounts the story of illegal immigrants from three different perspectives.

In his book The Collective Memory, French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out the significance of "spatial images" for the memory of social communities. Today the reliable spatial contextualisation of objects and memories (also due to digital photography) is under threat, hence this pretence begins to crumble. What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane? The exhibition comprises about 20 different approaches of contemporary photography and video art with many loans from museums and private collections.

The exhibition features the following artists: Thomas Demand (b. 1964), Omer Fast (b. 1972), Beate Gütschow (b. 1970), Andreas Gursky (b. 1955), Candida Höfer (b. 1944), Sabine Hornig (b. 1964), Jan Köchermann (b. 1967), Barbara Probst (b. 1964), Alexandra Ranner (b. 1967), Ben Rivers (b. 1972), Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), Gregor Schneider (b. 1969), Sarah Schönfeld (b. 1979), Joel Sternfeld (b. 1944), Thomas Struth (b. 1954), Guy Tillim (b. 1962), Jörn Vanhöfen (b. 1961), Jeff Wall (b. 1946) and Tobias Zielony (b. 1973).

Lost Places. Sites of photography 
8 June – 23 September 2012

Hamburger Kunsthalle
20095 Hamburg

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Masahisa Fukase died last week

Fukase was born on 25 February 1934 in Hokkaido. Among Fukase's early works was the Kill the Pigs (1961) concerning a slaughterhouse. Fukase's photographs of his family and his bride, received considerable attention in numerous exhibitions and magazines; these were collected in his second book, published in 1978. The last book that he supervised, Karasu (Ravens), was shot in in 1976 in Hokkaido in the wake of his divorce, and was published in 1986. The gloomy and emotional photos are a sharp contrast to his earlier works.
In 2010, a panel of five experts, including photographer Chis Killip and the writer Gerry Badger, convened by the British Journal of Photography selected Karasu as the best photobook published between 1986 and 2009. In 1992, Fukase suffered traumatic brain injury from a fall, and remained in a coma. He died on 9 June 2012.

You can read Sean O'Hagan's piece in the Guardian, Masahisa Fukase's Ravens: the best photobook of the past 25 years? HERE

Elton John AIDS Foundation Photography Portfolio 11

Rineke Dijkstra, Sir Elton John, 2011
Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) has released its second Photography Portfolio. It is a collection of ten signed and numbered prints by some of the world’s most outstanding international names in contemporary photography. It features the work of photographers from five countries: Tina Barney (USA), Rineke Dijkstra (Netherlands), Elger Esser (Germany), Candida Höfer (Germany), Chen Jiagang (China), David LaChapelle (USA), Alex Prager (USA), Ed Ruscha (USA), Hedi Slimane (France), and Frank Thiel (Germany).

Published by Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, GA. the series has been produced in an  edition size  of 40 plus 12 artist proofs, on a paper size of 20 x 24 inches. Each portfolio is enclosed in a custom-designed, archival photographic storage box that includes the ten photographs, a table of contents and a letter to the purchaser signed by Sir Elton John. Photographs included in the EJAF Photography Portfolio II are unique and are only available through purchase of the entire $25,000 portfolio.

Proceeds from the sale of this limited edition photography portfolio will support the Foundation’s important work on behalf of urgently needed front-line HIV prevention programs in under-served communities across the United States, the Americas, and the Caribbean.

Tina Barney, The Lipstick, 1999

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Dutch Photobook at Aperture NYC, Wednesday this week

On this coming Wednesday, June 13, at 6.30pm Aperture and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York are pleased to present The Dutch Photobook, a presentation and reception with Frits Gierstberg. Join Frits Gierstberg, curator of the Netherlands Photomuseum and co-author of The Dutch Photobook, who will discuss the ideas and themes behind the book, including the historically strong collaborations between graphic designers and Dutch photographers.  Learn why certain books were included and others were left out. Frits will be joined by special guests Jacqueline Hassink and Dana Lixenberg, whose work is represented in the book. Following the talk, guests will enjoy a reception and special viewing of a selection of Dutch photobooks. Those in attendance will also receive a complimentary copy of The PhotoBook Review. This event is supported by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. The Dutch Photobook is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Dutch Photobook can be ordered at Aperture here.

The Dutch photobook is internationally recognized for its innovative and collaborative approach between photographers, printers, and designers. Dutch graphic designers have long worked at the forefront of their discipline, often crossing existing boundaries and exploring new territories—qualities that have become an integral part of contemporary Dutch photobook culture.

The current photobook publishing boom in the Netherlands springs from a long-standing tradition of excellence. This tradition precedes WWII, but the aftermath of the war marked a period of particularly close collaboration between photographers and designers. Their contributions led to such unique photography books as Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank (1956) and Chili September by Koen Wessing (1973). Innovations such as the photo novel and the company photobook bloomed in the 1950s and 60s. Later, other genres emerged as part of the publishing landscape, including conceptual and documentary works.

The Dutch Photobook will feature selections from approximately one hundred historic, contemporary, and self-published photobook projects, including landmarks such as Hollandse taferelen by Hans Aarsman (1989), The Table of Power by Jacqueline Hassink (1996), Why Mister Why by Geert van Kesteren (2006), and Empty Bottles by Wassink Lundgren (2007).

Dutch photo historians Frits Gierstberg and Rik Suermondt contribute several texts on the history of the genre, the collaborative efforts between photographers and designers, and their inspiration and influences, to complement the special, high quality reproductions of photobooks. Award-winning designer Joost Grootens contributes unique charts and diagrams that bring all of these elements together, forming a visually unique map of the Dutch photobook.

Frits Gierstberg is the head of exhibitions at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and Extraordinary Professor of Photography at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. An art historian, curator, and critic, he has published numerous books on Dutch and international photography.

Rik Suermondt is a photo historian and member of the Board of the Urban Photography Utrecht (SFU). He is the author of many articles and books, including In Dutch Eyes—A New History of Photography in the Netherlands (2007).

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10001
Tel.: 212-505-5555

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pieter Hugo retrospective opens at Musée de l'Elysée

Pieter Hugo, Escort Kama, Enugu. From the series Nollywood, 2008-2009

LAUSANNE.- This Must Be The Place is South African photographer Pieter Hugo’s first retrospective (born in Johannesburg in 1976). Since 2003, Pieter Hugo portrays the everyday life in South Africa, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa, two territories that he is particularly familiar with. Showing the legacy of the demise of Apartheid, its consequences on the people as well as on the landscape, issues such as the implications of global trading and post-colonialism in Africa give sense to a work that has brilliantly evolved in less than ten years to reach full international recognition. In his vision of contemporary Africa, and by means of specific aesthetics, Pieter Hugo confronts cultural and social differences between black and white, rich and poor. Through very elaborate large formats, often full frontal, he offers a very varied, almost fictional social tableau, showing environments made up of blind people, black albino, actors, street artists, snake charmers, scrap pickers, friends and family members, compounding sometimes comical, often tragic slices of life. He raises questions by translating into images the fate of an often marginalized world; a world at times intriguing and provoking, or, on the contrary, quite moving. For his series, The Hyena and Other Men (2005-2007), he followed groups of men, women, and children such as those going across Nigeria showing frightening hyenas, friendly monkeys or curious pythons. His series Permanent Error (2009-2010) shows men and women at the tail end of the prosperity chain, being contaminated by the precious metal scraps contained in obsolete computers, symbols of the ruins of our own wealth. His most well known series, Nollywood, is a brilliant and theatrical intrusion among actors and extras working for the world’s third ranking movie industry in Nigeria, which produces over 500 films each year. Images from the series Albinos from the collection of the museum will also be presented during the exhibition. These images force viewers to confront their own prejudice and take a real look at things they normally only glance at out of the corner of their eyes.
Revealed to a large audience by the Musée de l’Elysée in 2005, thanks to the exhibition reGeneration, Pieter Hugo’s work has been in the museum’s collection since 2006. The photographer has already won numerous prizes, including the KLM Paul Huf Award in 2008, and is nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012. The exhibition, which includes over 100 images of 60 x 60 cm or 90 x 90 cm, was conceived in collaboration with the Fotomuseum Den Haag and will travel internationally to Stockholm, Lisbon, London, and Moscow.

Musée de l’Elysée
Pieter Hugo, This Must Be The Place, selected works, 2002 - 2011.
Runs 08.06.2012 - 02.09.2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quentin Bajac replaces Peter Galassi at MoMA

Quentin Bajac © Yan Morvan

Quentin Bajac, chief curator of photography at the Pompidou Center in Paris, has been appointed next chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He will take up the position in January 2013.  He succeeds Peter Galassi, who retired from that job in 2011 after 30-years. Quentin Bajac began his career at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where he was a photography curator from 1995 through 2003. He joined the Pompidou Center as a photography curator in 2003 and was promoted to run the department four years later.

Quentin was in Auckland in January of this year with South African Pieter Hugo for the annual AUT St Paul Street Gallery photography workshop.

Auckland - walking, looking, shooting, yesterday

Autumn continued here yesterday with hard light and long shadows. A pleasant lull before today's unwelcome winter storm. Here are some photographs I made.

The Photographers's Gallery, London, reopens

Exterior view of 8 Great Newport Street, 1971 © Dorothy Bohm,
On the 19th of May 2012, The Photographer’s Gallery 2012 finally re-opened its doors after closing for 18-months and a £8.9m facelift. The new exhibition programme has been launched with a major exhibition of renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky and work by New Delhi based Rags Media Collective. Burtynsky’s long-term investigation into oil brings to light, according to the press release, ‘mechanics of the manufacture, distribution and use of one of the world’s most highly contested resources while exploring its impact on our lives, culture and the environment.’ The exhibition Burtinsky: OIL showcases a selection of over thirty large-scale images of this work. An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richte Scale (2011) is the silent, looped video projection displayed by the Rags Media Collective, which is accompanied by a sculptural work entitled 36 Planes of Emotion (2011). Both exhibitions will be on display until 1 July 2012 and are worth a visit.

Sue Davies founded the Photographers’ Gallery in 1971 in London at 8 Great Newport Street, at the edge of Covent Garden, in a converted Lyon’s Tea shop. Before founding the first independent gallery in Britain devoted to photography, Davies worked at the ICA, London’s Institute for Contemporary Art. While organising photography exhibitions and talks, she realised that there was a need in London for a gallery space dedicated to photography. The Photographers’ Gallery then opened its doors in January 1971 with the exhibition The Concerned Photographer, curated by Cornell Capa and previously shown in New York. Tom Hopkins, the ex-editor of Picture Post, was elected the first chair of the gallery’s board of trustees.

The Photographers’ gallery was the first public gallery in the country to promote and exhibit key names from the international photography scene, such as Robert Capa, Andreas Gursky and Juergen Teller, as well as established contemporary British photographers (including exhibitions by Corinne Day and Martin Parr). Furthermore, the gallery also produced the high-profile annual International Photography Prize – The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize – of which Andreas Gursky, Robert Adams and Paul Graham were past winners. This year the four shortlisted artists are Pieter Hugo, Rinko Kawauchi, John Stezaker and Christopher Williams, all of which will be displayed in the new Photographers’ Gallery from July 13th until September 9th 2012.

In 1980, the gallery extended into a new space, at 5 Great Newport Street, which provided the gallery with two exhibition areas, the Tom Hopkinson Room, the Portfolio Gallery, the Print Room Space and a Reference library. The original building, number 8, became known as the Bill Brandt Room and was home to the gallery’s primary exhibition space and a bookshop. In 1993 architect Nick England designed the extensive refurbishment of the Photographers’ Gallery, which resulted in two public galleries, one in each building, a bookshop, a café, offices and a Print Sales Room.

The Director and the Board of Trustees of The Photographers’ Gallery made the decision in early 2008, to convert the warehouse in Ramilies Street, which was purchased in 2005, into a space suitable for use as a temporary public gallery. In November 2008 the gallery closed at Great Newport Street and celebrated its new start with two final displays on Soho: Dryden Godwin: Cast and Soho Archives 1930s to 1950s. They moved across Soho to 16-18 Ramilies Street, where the gallery was finally able to continue all of its activities on one single site. In November the gallery closed down, as mentioned above, to be converted by the Irish architects O’Donnel + Tuorney into, as Brett Rogers has put it, ‘a cultural oasis in the heart of central London’. The new building consists of three floors of public galleries, one floor dedicated to learning (offering a broad programme of talks, events and workshops) a large bookshop, a Print Sales Room and a new café. Over the past 4 decades this gallery has been an instrumental force in establishing photography as a serious art form internationally, continuing to be one of the UK’s primary venues for contemporary photography. With the rise of digital photography, a new digital curator will also be appointed.

Before its temporary closure, according to Brett Rogers, the gallery had about 400,000 visitors a year – a number, which is expected to rise due to its convenient location and the growing popularity of the medium it promotes. Just before the closure of the publicly-funded Photographers’ Gallery, the institution was accused by photographers and critics of losing its way. It seems as if, during the past 18 months, there has been much tactical thinking in order to reassert the gallery’s reputation, and first impressions certainly suggest that we will not be disappointed. By Anna-Maria Pfab

The Photographers’ Gallery at 16- 18 Ramillies Street 2012 © Kate Elliott

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Robert Adams and William Carlos Williams on dependence

Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people's pictures too — photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community.

Robert Adams

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

 Willam Carlos Williams

Keith Richards on songwriting

Keith Richards, "Endlessly Rocking" by Bob Carlos Clarke
Here is an excerpt from Keith Richards recent autobiography, LIFE. He talks about writing songs. For songs read photographs. The process is the same. I particularly like this bit, "It's a little of Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything's a subject for a song". Everything's the subject for a photograph.

"One hit requires another, very quickly, or you fast start to lose alti­tude. At that time you were expected to churn them out. 'Satisfac­tion' is suddenly number one all over the world, and Mick and I are looking at each other, saying, 'This is nice.' Then bang bang bang at the door, 'Where's the follow-up? We need it in four weeks.' And we were on the road doing two shows a day. You needed a new single every two months; you had to have another one all ready to shoot. And you needed a new sound. If we'd come along with another fuzz riff after 'Satisfaction,' we'd have been dead in the water, repeating with the law of diminishing returns. Many a band has faltered and foundered on that rock. 'Get Off of My Cloud' was a reaction to the record companies' demands for more -- leave me alone -- and it was an attack from another direction. And it flew as well. "So we're the song factory. We start to think like songwriters, and once you get that habit, it stays with you all your life. It motors along in your subconscious, in the way you listen. Our songs were taking on some kind of edge in the lyrics, or at least they were beginning to sound like the image projected onto us. Cynical, nasty, skeptical, rude. We seemed to be ahead in this respect at the time. There was trouble in America; all these young American kids, they were being drafted to Vietnam. Which is why you have 'Satisfaction' in Apocalypse Now. Because the nutters took us with them. The lyrics and the mood of the songs fitted with the kids' disenchantment with the grown-up world of America, and for a while we seemed to be the only provider, the soundtrack for the rumbling of rebellion, touching on those social nerves. I wouldn't say we were the first, but a lot of that mood had an English idiom, through our songs, despite their being highly Ameri­can influenced. We were taking the piss in the old English tradition. ... "And because you've been playing every day, sometimes two or three shows a day, ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You might be having a swim or screwing the old lady, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you're thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. No matter what the hell's going on. You might be getting shot at, and you'll still be 'Oh! That's the bridge!' And there's nothing you can do; you don't realize it's happening. It's totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever. The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room, 'I just can't stand you anymore'... That's a song. It just flows in. And also the other thing about being a songwriter, when you realize you are one, is that to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You're constantly on the alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people, how they react to one another. Which, in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn't really be doing it. It's a little of Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything's a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can't believe nobody hooked up on that one before! Luckily there are more phrases than songwriters, just about." 

You can pick up a copy of LIFE from Amazon HERE

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Photobook at The Photography Room

The Photography Room is an exhibition space in the town of Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia. The town is located 15k west of the city of Canberra and despite a population of just 34,084 The Photography Room punches way beyond its weight with its ongoing program of cutting edge contemporary photography shows.

Opening June 9 until July 1st The Photography Room will transform into a reading room for an exhibition of Important Photography Books. The plan is to encourage gallery visitors to spend time reading, looking at images presented in book format, leading to discussions with other interested lovers of the photobook medium. Book artists included in the exhibition are William Eggleston, Larry Towell, Antoine D'Agata, Josef Koudelka, Araki Nobuyoshi, Eugene Richards, Alec Soth and John Gossage, as well as lesser-known photographers. The exhibition includes a wide-ranging display of books, all of which will be available for viewing.

In support of the exhibition Errata Editions co-founder and Creative Director Jeffrey Ladd has given The Photography Room some thoughts on photobooks and why they are important to him.

Jeffrey has this to say:
Why Books? My love of photobooks started while I was studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York City from 1987-1991. I had the good fortune of studying with teachers from year to year who stressed the importance of photobooks and how they differed from stacks of pictures or exhibitions. Many of my most important professors never went to school to learn their craft but were instead self-taught and informed by being out in the world photographing and also by looking at photobooks. This was something that they instilled in us, to discover photography by doing and also by looking at the great book works. So it was natural that I too would fall in love with the medium by turning pages when I wasn’t out photographing. It is through books that I have discovered not only the variety of practice that the medium holds, but its rich history. I could see first hand how certain books seemed to be influenced by others and, on the other hand, how some artists made wilder leaps of faith in trying to test their pictures and the book form. What makes a photobook great is often a mystery and of course will vary from person to person. For me, generally speaking, books that manage to ask questions and leave the viewer unmoored and seeking what is within this new relationship of book and viewer that may be meaningful or important. Books that tackle and pin their subjects with either conceptual rigor or exhaustive explanation tend to be less interesting to me. I find reading a book, especially a photobook, is a very intimate act and those that inspire thought and surprise are most likely to avoid becoming too dusty. All books come with their own set of operating instructions. Those are, formal elements either in design or construction that try to dictate “how” the book is read. For instance, in Western countries books read from left to right or the pictures are oriented to the page so that the book is held in a single position from page to page. A great book I would say can have these instructions but work in a variety of ways knowing the viewer will approach it with either laziness or full attention. For instance, it is common for people to pick up a left to right reading book and flip from back to front instead of front to back. A book should try to dictate those reading instructions but also work when they are broken. The other huge factor in my opinion is longevity. What makes you pick up a book more than once? For many titles, the concept or “meaning” is so clear with the first reading that it could be questioned whether it would ever be necessary to be picked off the shelf again. I have hundreds of books, which, although I may like them for one reason or another, I never feel it necessary to pull them from the shelf. It is a simple question of whether I am engaged enough to need a continued relationship with this object and body of work. 

Jeffrey Ladd is an American photographer, born in 1968. Jeffrey’s work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, Museum of the City of New York among others. Jeff splits his time between photographing and writing about photography. From 2007 to 2012, he wrote over 450 articles for his website 5B4 – Photography and Books, a blog dedicated to discussing and reviewing photography and art-related publications. Ladd is one of the founders of Errata Editions, an independent publishing company whose Books on Books series has won many awards for their scholarship into rare and out of print photobooks. He is currently based in Köln, Germany.