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The latest volume from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston MFA Highlights series offers a striking collection of over 100 of the museum's finest photographs. Tracing both the technical advances of the medium from the camera obscura into the digital age this issue compares the relationships of image quality through technological advances. Containing images from Eugene Cuvelier, Alfred Stieglitz, Hiroshi Sugimoto and more, this comprehensive volume makes for striking comparisons of photographic practice.

An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection published by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston contains a selection from one of the most remarkable private collections of the photographic medium. Consisting of 120 photographic reproductions, An Enduring Vision includes the works from William Henry Fox Talbot to Diane Arbus, Dorthea Lange, Paul Strand and many more.

Mill River by Joseph Gerhard displays a contemplative look at a one-mile stretch of the river from the Elie Whitney Dam to the Wilbur Cross High School, in New Haven Connecticut. This manmade artifact appears as a natural entity within the surrounding landscape. Gerhard’s striking black-and-white images are both meditative and informative of how man and environment coexist, both positively and negatively. Mill River is an ode to man's ability to coexist and in some respects protect the natural environment. 

All Publisher Direct titles are available for order through the publisher via a special link within their listing.

See all the Publisher Direct books here.

Watch the Weather Change, By Marco van Duyvendijk.
Published by Marco van Duyvendijk, 2011.
Watch the Weather Change
Reviewed by Adam Bell
Marco van Duyvendijk Watch the Weather Change
Photographs by Marco van Duyvendijk
Marco van Duyvendijk, Rotterdam, 2011. Hardbound. 96 pp., 46 color illustrations, 7x8-3/4".

Quiet and meditative, Watch the Weather Change is a loosely structured collection of personal images that meander through Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Netherlands. An impressionistic journal, van Duyvendijk's book weaves together such seemingly disparate images as a puppet-maker in his workshop, Hong Kong cityscapes and portraits of an attractive Asian model to make this modest, but elegant book. Part poetry, personal journal and documentary, van Duyevendijk's book is an alluring mix of photographic fragments, tranquil moments and half travelled roads.

The book begins with a series of abstract Polaroid minis and then moves through a series of city and seascapes. From there we visit a puppet maker's studio before moving to more East Asian landscapes, portraits, nudes and still-lives. Interspersed through the book are quotations, a poem by Jo Landheer and a series of email exchanges between the photographer the model who appears later in the book. Mixing photographs, Polaroids, emails and poems also give the book a diaristic feel – like Van Duyevendijk is gathering material, taking notes and responding to the world around him as he travels.

Watch the Weather Change, by Marco van Duyvendijk. Published by Marco van Duyvendijk, 2011.
Watch the Weather Change, by Marco van Duyvendijk. Published by Marco van Duyvendijk, 2011.
Disposition, the song by Tool that gives the book its title and whose lyrics begin the book, offers a framework to understanding the book and work. A trippy prog-rock song, the lyrics do not extend much beyond the title, but the moody and evocative nature of the song pushes the listener to find their own meaning in its ambiguity. Looking through the book, there is almost a feeling of playful free association, like we are looking through van Duyevendijk's contact sheets from a recent trip. At first glance, it almost seems like these are all outtakes from a larger or on-going project in East Asia. There are a few images of the Netherlands, but those are not necessarily identifiable. While none of the individual subjects seem to completely coalesce on their own, as we move from one to the next we can't help but surrender to van Duyvendijk's quiet rhythm and whimsy.

Watch the Weather Change, by Marco van Duyvendijk. Published by Marco van Duyvendijk, 2011.
Watch the Weather Change, by Marco van Duyvendijk. Published by Marco van Duyvendijk, 2011.
Self-published and designed, van Duyvendijk's close attention to the layout, sequencing, and production of the book pays off. From the simple, but tasteful belly band, to the blind stamped spine and restrained matte printing, Watch the Weather Change is an elegant and precious book. Lacking bombast, van Duyvendijk's book offers us a fleeting glimpse of his world, the places he visits and people he meets - allowing us to savor and find meaning in the fragments of a journey.—ADAM BELL

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ADAM BELL is a photographer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. He received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and his work has been exhibited and published internationally. He is the co-editor and co-author, with Charles H. Traub and Steve Heller, of The Education of a Photographer (Allworth Press, 2006). His writing has appeared in Foam Magazine, Lay Flat and Ahorn Magazine. He is currently on staff and faculty at the School of Visual Arts' MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department. His website and blog are and
Images by Michael Levin and Toba Tucker, respectively
First Wednesday Photography Salon
Artists presenting: Toba Tucker and Michael Levin (via Skype)

February 1st, 2012, 6:30-9:00
photo-eye Gallery, 376-A Garcia Street Santa Fe, NM 87501
Contact: Anne Kelly 505.988.5152 x121 or

First Wednesday’s February Salon will be held on February 1st, 2012 at photo-eye Gallery. Local photographer Toba Tucker will show and discuss her recent landscapes made in the West and Southwest and will also touch on her portrait work, which she has been making for several decades. photo-eye Gallery artist Michael Levin, whose work is currently being exhibited, will join us via Skype to reveal a little more about his work. Levin’s talk will be the first virtual presentation at a photo-eye First Wednesday Salon!

More of Michael Levin's work can be seen here. Read Anne Kelly's photo-eye Blog interview with Michael Levin here.
Sasha, By Claudine Doury.
Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Reviewed by Colin Pantall
Claudine Doury Sasha
Photographs by Claudine Doury. Text by Christian Caujolle and Melanie McWhorter.
Le Caillou Bleu, 2011. Hardbound. 72 pp., illustrated throughout, 12-1/4x8-3/4".

Chasing or Following?

Sasha is a story of a girl becoming a woman. Sasha’s mother, Claudine Doury, starts the book with a picture of Sasha gazing into a shiny ball, looking at what the future might hold. Next she is in the woods, standing in a sun-dappled glade amidst of sea of dry ice.

The mystery continues as Sasha walks into water, a baptism that leaves her reborn and immortal, able to walk on water and conquer the world – until the next picture at least where she wades with a clump of water weed on her head, a teenage creature from the Black Lagoon.

Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Weeds change to mud, the body changes and soon Sasha is cocooned in grass, ready to reach the forest where she laps up the sunlight on her face and luxuriates in her new womanhood.

Sasha is shown holding a bird, on a bed with a younger child weighing down on her, in a living room with her head trapped in a bell jar. Here Sasha’s eyes are closed, blocking out the outside world. In an accompanying essay, photo-eye’s Melanie McWhorter quotes Sylvia Plath’s view of the exterior world as “blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.”

A cut plait and suffocation follow as Sasha seeks her place in the world. She is domesticated, frozen, liberated and free – a freedom that comes to an end with the final picture of the book; of Sasha running after a boy into the forest. Or is she chasing him?

Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Where many photographers try to portray the transition into adolescence through portraits emphasising an in-between time of affective withdrawal, with a focus on the physical and emotional oddness of adolescence, Doury has projected her explorations onto the physical world. It’s a poetic view but one with a solid grounding in the non-sentimental reality of being coming-of-age, of the loss of a childhood that is supposed to have gone yet still remains, and the responsibility and worry of an adulthood that may never come. Combing beauty and complexity, Sasha is a book that continues to reveal new layers with every viewing.—COLIN PANTALL

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COLIN PANTALL is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of’s favourites earlier this year.
The Photographer's Showcase is please to announce a new portfolio for Rania Matar L'Enfant-Femme
Youmna 11, Beirut Lebanon from L'Enfant-Femme -- Rania Matar
Matar’s new body of work continues her investigation into the psyche of the teenage girl, this time focusing on even younger women, girls on the cusp between childhood and their teenage years. Photographing young women from the United States and Matar’s native Lebanon, the images depict girls of varying backgrounds -- from privileged Boston homes to the residents of Lebanese refugee camps -- yet the locations are inconsequential. As the images pass before one’s eyes they become harder to place geographically, and prove the universality of life at this juncture -- what stands out are the similarities between the girls. Some are vulnerable, others defiant, yet all portray the uniqueness of their age, the in between years, the age of transition from child to young adult.

Ayah 9, Beirut Lebanon, Molly, Brookline MA, and Juliette 10, Arlington MA from L'Enfant-Femme -- Rania Matar
Life is full of transitions, but perhaps at no other time in a person's life is the rapid mental progression so linked to their changing physicality. The anger and pleasure, confusion and discomfort, awkwardness and maturity of this age are simultaneously visible. Matar approaches her subjects with one instruction — don’t smile. From there, the girl is left to pose and arrange herself as she will, leaving her to present herself to the camera in a way of her choosing. This simple direction yields impressive results and we witness these girls struggle to present themselves, attempting to bridge the gap between childhood and the start of sexual maturity. It is easy to see both the past and future in these images — the girls become remarkably readable in poses that are intentional but nevertheless telling -- both the child they are growing out of and the coming adult are visible, coexisting in the frame.

Ellice, Jamaica Plain, MA 2010 from A Girl and Her Room-- Rania Matar
photo-eye is also releasing a new edit of Matar’s A Girl and Her Room portfolio, which is soon to be published in a book from Umbrage Editions. In this series, Matar established herself as a keen and sympathetic observer of young women, producing images that depict girls at an age of transition into adulthood in the one space they control themselves. I remember the importance of my bedroom at that age — and even my dorm room in college. There were totems of my self expression that made it into every space, and these rooms were as much a free expression of my personhood — if not at times more so — than my style and demeanor. They are a way to begin the exploration of self-expression, a way to fall into a personal identity of adulthood. -- Sarah Bradley 

See Rania Matar's L'Enfant-Femme and A Girl and Her Room portfolios here

A Girl and Her Room from Umbrage Editions is due in May of this year. Both signed and unsigned copies are available for pre-order here.

For more information on Matar's work, please contact photo-eye Gallery Associate Director Anne Kelly by email or by calling the gallery at (505) 988-5152 x202
from The Mushroom Collection
The Mushroom Collection is an exhibition catalogue of Jason Fulford's work on exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art through April 8th. Entitled New Pictures 5: Jason Fulford the Mushroom Collection, it is the first museum exhibition of the project that was initially inspired by a gift of a flea market envelope containing 80 or so images of mushrooms, carefully annotated by an obvious collector of fungi. Using these images as a starting point, Fulford made a number of images that riff on elements of the found images, the resulting combination of which became the celebrated book The Mushroom Collector. Association is a big part of this project and in the Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibition Fulford goes beyond his own associative imagery creating interventions in the museums permanent collection as well. In this catalogue, Fulford invites his reader to do the same.

The Mushroom Collection isn't just an exhibition catalogue — it’s also an extension of Fulford’s ever expanding Mushroom Collection project, which now includes several books, sculptures, video and performance pieces. In this small volume, the Mushroom Collection becomes participatory, inviting the reader of the book to contribute by gluing each of the 30 stickers featuring images from the exhibition onto one of the 30 Xs that appear through out the pages of the book (and one on the cover).

from The Mushroom Collection
from The Mushroom Collection
The reader is asked to pair images with a variety of objects, patterns and text: a round stamp reading ‘the pleasures of chaos’ backwards, museum pieces from New Guinea, China and Europe (all with their representative caption), optical patterns, a quotation from William James and a quite lovely looking Smith Corona. It is an experiment designed to play on free association. A number of the objects in the book are from the museum's collection, and at least some of them were items selected by Fulford as he expanded his exhibition — his images sprouting up like spores throughout the collection, creating new ways of seeing old images and objects.

The postage stamp-sized reproductions of the exhibition images are as fun as they are beautiful, and the oppertunity to create an exhibit of this work of one's own curation invites an entirely new way to engage with it. The catalogue is playful and thoughtful -- and I imagine that a collection of these completed catalogues could make for very interesting viewing. -- Sarah Bradley

Purchase a copy of The Mushroom Collection

The video below gives a fascinating glimpse into Fulford's project and exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Bifröst, By Espen R. Krukhaug.
Published by Einer Books, 2011.
Reviewed by Daniel W. Coburn
Espen R. Krukhaug Bifröst
Photographs by Espen R. Krukhaug
Einer Books, Fetsund, 2011. Hardbound. 104 pp., 81 color illustrations, 11-3/4x11-3/4".

In Norse Mythology the word Bifröst is used to describe a burning rainbow bridge that spans between earth and the realm of the gods. In his recent monograph, Espen Krukhaug uses the term Bifröst and a series of photographs in an effort to describe what it's like to suffer from insomnia. In the preface he writes, "I can imagine a good night's sleep, but it always seems just out of reach, as if I'm walking across an endless bridge, never reaching the other side."

Krukhaug presents a series of images that are easy on the eyes. The photographs are well crafted but often employ an eerie colorcast, infusing each image with a poetic and dreamlike ambience. These green, pink and purple tones provide context and a suitable backdrop for Krukhaug's subjects who seem plagued by the penetrating light of a city that is never dark.

Bifröst, by Espen R. Krukhaug. Published by Einer Books, 2011.
Bifröst includes images of dimly lit interior spaces and semi urban landscapes veiled by a sheath of darkness. These photographs seem appropriate and represent scenes that an insomniac might encounter on a midnight stroll. But Krukhaug also photographs models that supposedly suffer from sleep deprivation. Fortunately for him, insomnia seems to only affect young indie/hipster women that like to lounge partially nude in their bedrooms under soft light. The pages of this book are littered with heroin chic faces, either engaging the camera with a come-hither gaze or staring into oblivion in a deep contemplative state. These images are sure to help sell additional copies of Bifröst, but in my opinion detract from the credibility of Krukhaug's investigation.

Bifröst, by Espen R. Krukhaug. Published by Einer Books, 2011.
The strongest images in this book are those that elevate the mundane elements of every day life to monumental status. In Krukhaug's world a wrinkled sheet is transformed into an expansive mountain range. Pebbles, cobblestone, and dust on a dirty path begin to form alien landscapes. The artist uses blur to create beautiful abstract images that remind me of color field paintings by Mark Rothko. This approach to image making begins to describe the psychological state of a suffering insomniac.

Bifröst, by Espen R. Krukhaug. Published by Einer Books, 2011.
Bifröst includes about 80 images in a single hardbound volume. The photographs are beautiful but sometimes redundant and a bit self-indulgent. Krukhaug's artist statement is the only informative text printed in the book, so as a reader you won't be overwhelmed by artspeak or intellectual ballyhoo. I like this book because I see it for what it is: a series of beautiful photographs, made by a skilled photographer with a poetic vision. I think you will like it too.—DANIEL W. COBURN

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DANIEL W. COBURN is a contemporary photographer whose visually arresting images have garnered national and international praise. Selections from his body of work have been featured in prestigious exhibitions at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the Chelsea Museum of Art in New York. In 2007, Coburn was a recipient of the Artist-In-Residence award at Rocky Mountain National Park. He published a photographic essay entitled Rediscovering Paradise which focused on the impact of an overwhelming human presence in the National Park. He was a recipient of the 2008 Kansas Mid-Career Artist Fellowship Award presented by the Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Coburn's prints are held in many public and private collections including The Mulvane Museum of Art, The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, The Mariana Kistler-Beach Museum of Art and the Moraine Park Museum. Daniel is co-author of a book entitled "Between Earth and Sky" which showcases his collection of photographs from the Midwest. His writings and photographs appear regularly in regional and national publications including Fraction Magazine and photo-eye Magazine. Coburn recieved his BFA with an emphasis in photography from Washburn University where he was the recipient of numerous honors including the prestigious Charles and Margaret Pollak Award. He is currently an instructor and graduate student studying photography at the University of New Mexico.
from the book God Jul & Gott Nytt Ar
In the last few weeks on photo-eye Blog we have been highlighting books picked by our Best Books of 2011 contributors. My list (as well as Darius Himes' list) both featured Gerry Johansson's new book Pontiac (scheduled to be reviewed in photo-eye Magazine in the coming weeks). Pontiac is a spectacular and intimate book, one that certainly deserves high praise for its production quality and simply stunning set of images. While putting together my list, I was completely unaware of Johansson's other new book God Jul och got Nytt År önskar Gerry och Ann. Had I known about this book -- published by the Gun Gallery -- it would have easily made it on my list of 10 best books.

God Jul och got Nytt År önskar Gerry och Ann is a collection of images taken by Johansson and later made into Christmas cards from the years 1978 - 2011. The photographs -- taken in the photographer's hometown of Höganäs, Sweden -- are subtle, quite depictions of holiday decorations and lights on empty streets. Often cast in a heavy fog or taken at night, these images rarely (if at all) give the viewer any sense of holiday jubilation -- they simply depict the reality of the dreary Swedish weather and worn out decorations. It is as if Johannson's Christmas cards are a protest of the commercial and superficial circus Christmas has become.

from the book God Jul & Gott Nytt Ar
from the book God Jul & Gott Nytt Ar
from the book God Jul & Gott Nytt Ar
That being said, the photographs are also striking in their beauty. While looking at these images, I often feel as if I am standing in Johannson's shoes, slowly meandering through lonely streets and contemplating the spirit of the season. In all of its crazy hype, for Johannson Christmas seems to be a very ordinary event. I am also amazed at how in all of their ordinariness, these images and this collection are quit telling. The photographer has made a holiday revolving around community and family appear lonely, desolate and many times reflective. -- Antone Dolezal

Purchase a copy of God Jul och got Nytt År önskar Gerry och Ann
Oceanomania, By Mark Dion.
Published by Mack, 2011.
Reviewed by Karen Jenkins
Mark Dion Oceanomania
By Mark Dion
Mack, 2011. Hardbound. 176 pp., 200 color illustrations, 8-1/2x11-3/4".

The ocean for me is the lyrical vision of Hiroshi Sugimoto – magnetic, impenetrable fields of horizon and sea. It is also an enveloping realm of childhood adventure, persisting in nostalgia’s muted recollection. Of late, the sea is fodder for Peter Thiel’s Libertarian island dreams and victim of BP’s spewing, stifling sludge. We are drawn in by countless aspects of the deep; turning to the mediated experience of the museum to enhance or replace direct, visceral experience. A suspension of disbelief is required by these seemingly transparent portals that are in fact imbued with the assumptions and attitudes of the culture at large. Artist Mark Dion visits them with a mind toward deconstructing the curatorial acts of selecting, ordering and describing, and creating critical shifts in the museums’ prevailing narratives.

Oceanomania, by Mark Dion. Published by Mack Books, 2011.
Dion’s latest project, Oceanomania took him to the Nouveau Musée National and the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium of Monaco where he explored the grand halls and backrooms of these storied maritime collections. Past works that convey his long-standing interest in representations of nature and concern for its degradation were inserted into existing displays. The creation of a gigantic curiosity cabinet was a more regimented and often jarring re-framing of collected objects. The project team also invited twenty artists to use the museums’ souvenirs and specimens as both inspiration and appropriated objects. The resulting disparate visions underscore the museum as a mutable construct and argue for what the ocean realm has come to mean in contemporary art and life. The sea as exploited resource and sometimes treacherous conduit informed political works by Allan Sekula and Xaviera Simmons. Alternatively, artists James Prosek and Alexis Rockman explored the continuum between the illustrations of natural history and sci-fi creations, with a heavy dose of beauty along the way. 

Oceanomania, by Mark Dion. Published by Mack Books, 2011.
Oceanomania, by Mark Dion. Published by Mack Books, 2011.
Oceanomania’s deep blue covers and gilt-edge pages conjure a Victorian encyclopedia – the whimsy and wonder of an era’s mania for the sea woven into a serious tome. With both a sly glance and a deep cut, this book travels through the cultural intersections of science and art from the mid-19th century to the present day. Explorers in search of new discoveries and bragging rights populate its chapters as do the heroic vessels of Jacques Cousteau and Captain Nemo whose technology and tools are the stuff of steampunk fantasy. Photography also plays a prominent role in the purposeful disorientation cataloged in this volume. Long a tool of collection and classification, it is the medium of choice of several project artists, but also serves as document, reproduction, and installation shot for all. Until captions and context sort things out, a first flip-through of Oceanomania’s photographs further muddles our assumptions about what is art or artifact, chosen or created. This is a playful tandem journey to Dion’s larger project which should entice even those otherwise immune to mania.—KAREN JENKINS

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KAREN JENKINS earned a Master's degree in Art History, specializing in the History of Photography from the University of Arizona. She has held curatorial positions at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ and the Demuth Museum in Lancaster, PA. Most recently she helped to debut a new arts project, Art in the Open Philadelphia, that challenges contemporary artists to reimagine the tradition of creating works of art en plein air for the 21st century.
Pennants over Pienza -- Tom Chambers
Travel is always a fountain of inspiration for me, and a recent trip to Florence was no exception. The classical art, architecture, and landscape were magical. Things I had seen in a textbook as an art student or in a travel magazine came alive for me and in turn generated many ideas and images for me to explore. The photomontages in my new Illumination series are different from previous work in that Illumination is about aesthetics and personal meaning, and less about socio-political ideas. -- Tom Chambers

Ursa Minor -- Tom Chambers
Renaissance artists affirmed the transformational nature of light in their classical paintings. Taddeo Gaddi and Giotto di Bondone of the Renaissance period painted breathtaking frescoes in which light created dramatic effects. Artists, such as these masters, inspired me to create photomontages that highlight the aesthetic power of light. -- Tom Chambers from the Illumination artist statement

Autumn Moorage and Walk on the Wild Side -- Tom Chambers
The unique light accentuated the brilliance of the Renaissance artistic and architectural masterpieces. I came away with the understanding that light exposes possibilities and opens the mind to seeing things differently.  -- Tom Chambers from the Illumination artist statement

Chamber's work will be included in the Worldwide Photography Biennial Exhibition, The Borges Cultural Center, Buenos Aries, Argentina, January 19-February 27, 2012 and Azart Photographie #14, a contemporary French photo magazine, has published a selection of images, “La Substance de Rêves.”

See more of Chamber's work at photo-eye Gallery here

Chamber's book, Entropic Kingdom can be viewed here. The photo-eye Editions limited edition portfolio Dreaming in Reverse, can be viewed here.
cover of Sicarios by Javier Arcenillas
In the last few years (and I feel this may be a consequence for many as they reach middle age), I have been thinking about how to do something larger than myself, to make an impact on my community for the better. Considering I am leaning towards a universally philanthropic thought-process and my line of work, I have been thinking a lot lately about activism and photography. I have started to face the uncomfortable nature of the art form and the seemingly conflicting notions of voyeurism verses activism. Is it simply looking or looking with a purpose?

cover of Interrogations by Donald Weber
I agree that emotions should not form our criticism of photography, but I want to think AND feel when regarding. As Susie Linfield states in her book The Cruel Radiance when speaking about the approach of movie critic Pauline Kael, she “urged her readers to reclaim their emotions as a key part of their aesthetic, intellectual, and moral lives: feeling could enhance rather than undermine critical thinking” (Linfield, 13). Linfield’s essay argues that a photograph displaying the suffering, misery, humiliation of another human being makes the viewer not just see that “this is so,” but feel that “this must not be so” (Linfield, 33) and that photos are the perfect vehicles for personifying the abuses of human rights, putting a face on the injustice. The camera is not a means to stop the violence, but a way to bring awareness about the global inequalities, to bring about global consciousness. Amongst these arguments, she points out that for many years good photojournalism (and one can assume documentary photography as well because many genres cross those the previously defined boundaries) has not been considered art -- a photo within this genre with “craft, care, structure, and visual power” could be considered “morally suspect” (Linfield, 44). I can't agree with Linfield on all her arguments, but I would agree that a photograph can be beautifully framed and well-printed and still make the viewer consider and react with empathy to the pain and suffering of the subject—and likely even more so.

Although a single image and a series of images are a totally different animal, I believe Linfield’s aesthetic argument applies to the photobook as well. Two recent books that exemplify this point are Javier Arcenillas’ Sicarios: Latin American Assassins and Donald Weber’s Interrogations. Both are lushly printed, thoughtfully edited, and provide visual and textual insight to the photographer’s motivation and intent. In Sicarios, the conditions of the lives of assassins and those living in Guatemala make up more of the story than just the killings. Many images are violent and disturbing, partially because often the victims have committed a minor injustice, if any at all, and the assassins are often young men who see no future for themselves, men for whom killing becomes a job motivated by simply a need to make a living, and often a meager one at that. Sicarios is a vehicle for Javier Arcenillas, with the help of his friends at El Periodico de Guatemala, to tell a very real story. Included is an introduction by the director of El Periodico, Juan Luis Font, and an interview with Arcenillas, and complete plate listing with detailed captions. Each plate is equally as engaging as the next showing fleeting moments of movement in intense situations or scenes in crisp sharp fine details. The printing, at Ofset Yapimevi in Istanbul, resulting in crisp whites and lush blacks, are quite seductive, leading me to want to look and discover what is in each frame.

from Interrogations

Donald Weber’s Interrogations is a masterpiece of design by Amsterdam’s Heijdens Karwei and printed by Wachter GMBH & Co in Bönnigheim, Germany. The book is stitched with one thread in the center and wrapped in a textured printed paper that mimics one of the wallpapers of the interrogation rooms. The uncut text block allows a play on design; the "creep" extends way beyond the cover. This element is cleverly designed, but feels as though it may also be commentary on the character of those unseen in the second section. It is finished with a cardboard slipcase. It is presented in three chapters: Prologue, which shows some images of daily life; interrogations, portraits of confused, distressed and scared citizens being questioned by the authorities; and finishes with Epilogue by Larry Frolick and Weber, a text which further illustrates Frolick and Weber's love for the Russian citizens and their role in this project: "letting the denied tell their stories through you." Interrogations illustrates Weber's love for his temporary home of the ex-Soviet Union and the bureaucracies and inequalities that still exist and often impede "progress."

from Interrogations

Each book is an object with its own voice, but documentary or photojournalism's ability to speak to the viewer in an artistic language can be seen in many if not all of Arcenillas’ and Weber’s images. In Interrogations, one of the suspects holds his head in his hands seeking respite from the questioning. It is one of many well-composed images; the table leads the viewer in from the left to find the man’s white hands clasping his head. His kempt fingers and short-cropped hair are in sharp focus while the background is blurred bringing attention to his gesture, one of frustration, fear, pain, and submission. His dark clothing also serves to draw more focus to the center of the frame while light falls softly on the man’s jacket creating highlights and shadows. In another image, a woman’s fuzzy brown jacket and darker brown hair frame her face. Clearly the woman has been crying as her cheeks glisten in the harsh interrogation light, its presence shown by the shadow that falls on the exterior wall. She looks away from the camera in a non-confrontation glance over her shoulder. The colors in all photos are muted, subtle; Weber’s palate is decidedly contrary to a vibrant, thriving environment.

from Sicarios

Arcenillas chooses black & white as his medium to dramatic effect. Plate 55 shows a single corpse lying on a gurney on the way to the morgue at San Juan de Dios Hospital. The corpse is shrouded in black material while white medical tape holds the wrapping around the deceased. The photo’s bottom edge is cropped below the gurney pad filling, the frame the whitish painted wall. But almost perfectly centered on the wall is the emergency fire pull station. It is a portrait of an object, the composition reminiscent of the Lisa Kereszi’s Water Fountain, PS 26, Governor's Island, NY 2003, and centered below this banal device in a vignette of light rests the lifeless body resulting from the everyday conflict that faces this region. Throughout the book Arcenillas consistently contrasts death and life. A young girl stands in an alley and stares into the camera. The two walls that form the alley lead back in linear perspective and end approximately where the girl’s eyes look right into the lens. Her face is unsmiling and concerned and her hands are held near her body in a closed unwelcoming gesture. The darkness of the deep rich soil is countered by equal amounts of the overcast sky. These photos display what Linfield calls "craft, care, structure, and visual power," the descriptors of art. Both Arcenillas and Weber use their mediums and subjects not just for the message. The content of these images is equally weighted between artistic composition and social commentary.

from Sicarios

What is not readily present in Arcenillas and Weber’s photos is what Weber in his afterword calls the “unseen subject… Power.” For the sicarios, most of the victims are of the same economic class and many killers only receive modest pay, “fifty dollars and a jacket” and likely Weber’s subjects do not fair much better economically. Arcenillas himself in the introductory interview mentions that he can not save the world with images, but present the world with one of the “most real stories [he's] ever told,” and like him, Weber states that, “the artist’s goal is to shock us with our own wordlessness: to show us proofs of life in its willful alternative histories.” As I was unaware of the conditions of both of these regions in Russia and Guatemala, the books and photographs acted as education tools. I may not remember all images in the future, but I will recall the feeling I had when looking and now have knowledge to act, if not for this specific community, for someone to make something better. Many of my memories of childhood are faded, but I remember the feeling of childhood. I will remember the feeling of these books.

Both books were selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by Melanie McWhorter

Redheaded Peckerwood, By Christian Patterson.
Published by Mack Books, 2011.
Redheaded Peckerwood
Reviewed by George Slade
Christian Patterson Redheaded Peckerwood
Photographs by Christina Patterson.
Mack Books, 2011. Hardbound. 164 pp., 98 illustrations throughout, 7-1/2x9-1/2".

Several years ago I reviewed Christian Patterson's book Sound Affects in this space. I enjoy extrapolating the accomplishments of newer material from past efforts. So, what carries forward into Patterson's much admired new volume? Sound Affects, for those who haven't seen it, channels a socio-cultural reflection on auditory phenomena through a photographic filter, and relies on disparate material that, magically, fashions a whole narrative.

Like the earlier book, Redheaded Peckerwood is devoid of first generation images of people—that is, seen and captured on film or pixel by Patterson himself. But the symbolic associations generated by the catch-all camera are poignant, dense, and, in the present publication, both ominous and awfully human. I wrote that Sound Affects "sings a poignant, a cappella harmony;" in Redheaded Peckerwood, that song intensifies into full-blooded, Grand Guignol opera. Patterson is clearly mastering his medium, before, during, and after the exposure. He conceives, executes, edits, and designs with forceful subtlety.

Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson. Published by Mack, 2011.
Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson. Published by Mack, 2011.
I must admit to a certain satisfaction in seeing not one but two photographs of soda bottles in Redheaded Peckerwood ("7-Up Bottle" and "Oregon Trail Bottle," the former an abandoned item nearly camouflaged on grass, the latter the first and most fascinating of the archival photographs employed in the book); about SA I wrote that "perhaps the least interesting image in the book" was one of a 7-Up bottle that seemed minimally valuable. "Stax Bottle," I wrote, "gains traction largely because [it] calls up a legendary recording studio and leads one to wonder just what music-world celebrity might have left salivary DNA, or a cigarette butt, in that soda pop." We must speculate, again, about the roles played by the two new bottles.

Patterson's new images are all insidiously guilty by association. Having read the bragging, confessional letter co-written by Redheaded Peckerwood's antagonists, the teenager spree killers Caril Fugate and Charles "Chuck" Starkweather, one is duly prepared for all subsequent images to terrify or shock, if only by implication. The letter, part of the pre-title page "overture" to the book, is must reading. Even without it, though, the book conveys a message of looming horror. This anticipatory sensation is a rare feat. Patterson collected photographs and artifacts along the route the killers took more than fifty years ago. But Redheaded Peckerwood creates a sense of building toward something that hasn't yet happened. Though its terrible facts were inscribed two generations ago, Patterson's version tells the story in present tense. We are on a journey with Caril and Charles, one that will, as the letter notes, be "going to the end."

Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson. Published by Mack, 2011.
Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson. Published by Mack, 2011.
More so than many, the physical structure of this book is critical to Patterson's intentions; he is the designer as well as the photographer, and the little touches feel just right. Securely bound in are immaculately reproduced documents—a receipt from a general store, handwritten and typed notes of prurient and sarcastic tone, truly evidence that weighs on a reader's imagination. A booklet containing insightful essays by Luc Sante and Karen Irvine is tucked inside the front cover, like a magazine blow-in card. Although it is linked visually by matching the book's endpapers and conceptually by an intriguingly erratic manual typewriter font, the booklet has no physical ties, allowing its interpretive strategies to circle Patterson's carefully structured narrative like an orbiting moon and shine in reflected light. Even the cover, dust jacketless boards printed with a screened, dimly grey picture of the charismatic criminals, shifts elusively from image to reflection, like a daguerreotype or a printer's plate.

Flip through this book once, casually. Even from back to front. Then reread it, starting with the opening letter and proceeding slowly, page to page in order, letting things sink in. Open yourself to the realm of CSI, or the psychodrama of "profilers." You may, as I did once or twice, flinch when you encounter a newly "informative" bit of evidence. When was the last time that happened to you while reading a photo book?—GEORGE SLADE

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by:
John Gossage
Raymond Meeks
Antone Dolezal
Larissa Leclair
Adam Bell
Gerry Badger
Shane Lavalette
Melanie McWhorter

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GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found on-line at