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Melanie's Picks: Piemonte by Josef Koudelka

Koudelka is well known for his austere panoramas of often bleak scenes, only heightened in their melancholy by his heavy use of the medium of black and white (particularly the blacks). While the images often create a sense of foreboding or even worse a apocalyptic doom -- a kind of "what happened here" feeling -- they frequently effect a sense of calm, a quiet after the storm.

Back cover of Piemonte published by Édition Xavier Barral

This newest publication by Édition Xavier Barral, Piemonte, is no different in aesthetic. It features work from the area of Piemonte, a region in Italy that borders France and Switzerland. Turin is its capital. The book opens with an essay by Giuseppe Culicchia that speaks not just of Koudelka's work there, but mentions both historical and cultural references associated with this region -- Giovanni Verga's story La Malora, the actress Silvana Mangano, and Hannibal's trek with his war elephants en route to defeat the Roman army.

All images above shown from Édition Xavier Barral, Piemonte

The design is similar to a couple of earlier Koudelka books, Reconnaissance Wales and Camargue,in that it has bare boards with a black stamped front and back cover. Unlike these earlier titles, it is bound in a landscape format which opens to the top so that the panoramas can be viewed without interruption from the gutter. It features images of cairn markings high in the mountains, sites of construction and industrial decay, grand and closely-cropped landscapes, and ancient and modern architecture of this region. Each image page has a white border and is faced by a black page with small white titles stating the area in which the photo was taken. This chromatic design only heightens Koudelka's use of black and white.

Front cover of Contrasto printing of Piedmont

The essay for the Édition Xavier Barral printing is in French so I had to translate much of the text to get the full meaning. If the essay is very important to you, I would suggest that non-French literates wait on the Contrasto printing which will be out later this year. For photo bibliophile's library, both versions will likely become collector's items.