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Book of the Week: A Pick by Mariken Wessels

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Mariken Wessels Mariken Wessels selects Les extravagantes by Leendert Blok as Book of the Week.
Les extravagantes. By Leendert Blok. 
Editions Xavier Barral, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Mariken Wessels who has selected Les extravagantes by Leendert Blok from Editions Xavier Barral.

"At the PhotoQ Bookshop in Amsterdam I discovered a beautiful book called Les extravagantes, featuring photographs by a Dutch photographer I'd never heard of before: Leendert Blok (1895–1986). Blok's specialization was to photograph flowers for florists and bulb growers. A selection of his autochrome color photographs from the 1920s was recently published by French publisher Éditions Xavier Barral.

In the book I read that photo historian Frido Troost (1960-2013) of the famous but now defunct Institute of Concrete Matter (ICM) had rediscovered Blok's archive in 1989 at Spaarnestad Fotoarchief in Haarlem (NL), and that about twenty years ago he published two booklets, in collaboration with graphic designer and publisher Willem van Zoetendaal, in which they'd combined Blok's flower photographs with works of modern photographers.

Since the early 1920s Leendert Blok experimented with the autochrome process (a precursor to the diapositive color slide) and with spectracolors: a self-developed process based on black-and-white film, but which resulted in sharper and clearer pictures in comparison to the grainy, pastel toned autochromes.

What I find fascinating is that Blok made the flower arrangements himself, and if he thought a flower to be not perfect, he just added a leaflet or petal from another flower, which he fastened using pins. If he deemed it appropriate, he wouldn't hesitate either at painting additional petals. And thus he assembled his own bouquets, creating his own reality fitting to his photographic sensibilities.

Furthermore I was struck by how Blok organized and focused on a single subject matter, reminiscent of the photography of Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) and Albert Renger-Patsch (1897–1966). Van Zoetendaals spacious lay-out works very well: the photographs occupy the right pages of the spreads, with the flower's names on the left pages, but leaving plenty of white space that enhances the beauty and sculptural quality of Blok's exceptional flower photographs."—Mariken Wessels

Purchase Book

An English language edition is scheduled to be published by Hatje Cantz in winter 2015. Pre-order a copy here.

Les extravagantes. By Leendert Blok. Editions Xavier Barral, 2015.
Les extravagantes. By Leendert Blok. Editions Xavier Barral, 2015.

Mariken Wessels (1963) is an artist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She makes artist’s books, installations, sculptures, photography and video works. Wessels recently published Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor with APE (Art Paper Editions), the third part of an open trilogy exploring the self-image in amateur photography and the boundaries of the public and the private; the earlier two parts being Elisabeth –I want to eat (2008), which was awarded Silver Medal at 'FotoGrafia - Fotofestival Internazionale di Roma,’ and Queen Ann. P.S. Belly cut off (2010), which was selected among the best photobooks of 2010 by a handful of international photobook experts. Mariken Wessels is represented by Johan Deumens Gallery (Amsterdam) and Kominek Gallery (Berlin).

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