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Book Review: Notes from the Foundry


Book Review Notes from the Foundry Edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson Notes From the Foundry is the latest title from Spaces Corners, a young artist-run bookstore and gallery in Pittsburg. Editors and gallery owners Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar have curated an impressive lineup of sixteen photographers for this book, most of whom have gained national recognition, including a few international stars. In order of appearance: Gregory Halpern, Darin Mickey, Corine Vermeulen, Andrew Borowiec, David La Spina, Suzanna Zak, Daniel Shea, Susan Lipper, Andrew Moore, John Lehr, Nicholas Gottlund, Jacob Koestler, Ross Mantle, Zoe Strauss, Sean Stewart, and Todd Hido.
Notes from the Foundry.
Edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed PanarSpaces Corners, 2013.
 
Notes from the Foundry
Reviewed by Blake Andrews

Notes from the Foundry
Photographs by Suzanna Zak, Daniel Shea, Susan Lipper, Andrew Moore, John Lehr, Nicholas Gottlund, Jacob Koestler, Ross Mantle, Zoe Strauss, Sean Stewart & Todd Hido. 

Edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar.
Spaces Corners, 2013. Softbound. 80 pp., color and black & white illustrations throughout, 7x8-1/2".

Notes From the Foundry is the latest title from Spaces Corners, a young artist-run bookstore and gallery in Pittsburg. Editors and gallery owners Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar have curated an impressive lineup of sixteen photographers for this book, most of whom have gained national recognition, including a few international stars. In order of appearance: Gregory Halpern, Darin Mickey, Corine Vermeulen, Andrew Borowiec, David La Spina, Suzanna Zak, Daniel Shea, Susan Lipper, Andrew Moore, John Lehr, Nicholas Gottlund, Jacob Koestler, Ross Mantle, Zoe Strauss, Sean Stewart, and Todd Hido.

You may want to print that list out, for the book itself contains no information about the photographers. A loose leaf card tucked in the opening fold lists the names alphabetically, but it's of no use connecting photographers to photographs. The only way to learn who shot what is with the list above, available on the publisher's site. Each photographer is noted in the book with a small number 1 through 16 corresponding to their place in the list.

Notes from the Foundry, by edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar. Published by Spaces Corners, 2013.
The format serves as an experiment in withholding information. Everything the reader needs to know is in the photos, or at least that's the unspoken implication. It works, to an extent. With no author, date, essay, or context of any kind, I found myself studying the photos pretty hard, hoping to pry out some of their secrets. What joins them? What's the narrative, if any? Why these particular photographers in this particular order? Perhaps the cover icon is a hint. It depicts a caricature of smoke-belching factory, and many of the photos depict rust-belt scenes.

Notes from the Foundry, by edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar. Published by Spaces Corners, 2013.
Notes from the Foundry, by edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar. Published by Spaces Corners, 2013.
The complication is that many of the styles are similar. With one exception (Lipper) they fall into the vein of understated contemplative color, which will look very familiar to anyone who's visited a Chelsea gallery recently. Blank-gazed portraits, nondescript no-man's areas, poignant vistas, etc. When 16 such bodies of work are joined in sequence, it becomes a bit tricky to untangle where one ends and the next begins. Ah yes, there are the tiny numbers. But they're small and easy to overlook. In keeping with the collaborative theme, they seem meant to be overlooked, and that collaboration extends to the audience. The onus is on the reader to interpret how they wish.

Notes from the Foundry, by edited by Melissa Catanese & Ed Panar. Published by Spaces Corners, 2013.

For me the selections of Gregory Halpern, Ross Mantle, and Sean Stewart stand out as personal favorites, but each reader will have his or her own choices. And there is enough interpretive room here for those choices to shift over time.

Notes From the Foundry is a simple book in design and feel. The blue matte cover has folding overleafs to serve as bookmarks, and reproductions on satin finish show the true colors and excellent detail typical of much more expensive books. At $22, it's a great value.—BLAKE ANDREWS

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BLAKE ANDREWS is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.

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