Monday, March 31, 2008

Rockaway, NY

Not a single word or accompanying text introduces us to Roe Ethridge’s Rockaway, NY. The cover appears to be a sunset detail with the title and name in bubble font. A few images in and we realize that this is not a social document of a specific place. Rockaway, NY is really just a title, a system for structuring these images together. From what I understand the connection to the Rockaway's is that it’s the place where Ethridge is often found surfing. The images are no more about The Rockaway's than they are about apples or cigarettes. Perhaps one can argue that there is a coastal narrative, but even that is hard to make. Not making these arguments and not figuring out what it is about is far more satisfying for me. Ethridge is in many ways a more successful installation artist than he is a bookmaker. Walking through his shows gives one the freedom to breath between photographs and imagines the connections that are made between the dissimilar images. I had much higher expectations for his first real book. Other books of his have been produced on a much smaller scale and have the intimacy that feels lost in these pages. Apple and Cigarettes, published by Gagosian Gallery could have been one of those books that brand itself into the history of photography books. It is simple and clean and has the beautiful low-tech design of an iphoto book. The order is meticulous and the pages build on each other wonderfully. However, the book falls apart in the last pages with the spreads of photographs from an installation at Gagoisian. This ending really brings it back home for me to the fact that this is simply a really nice catalog for a show. In the end, it is this experience of walking through the show that wants to be captured. Not unlike like a book by a video artist he attempts to capture the experience in the wrong media. Roe is too good an artist to make catalogs of shows. Hopefully he can continue to work with Steidl and come back to us with his much-anticipated opus. Unfortunately, I don't think that Rockaway, NY is it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Free Photography Books

I thought it would be fun to give away books this year. Guess my all time favorite photography book and win Thousand by Philip Lorca Dicorcia. Reasons to love this book. Frankly I am really tired of so many book designs and the actual book not relating to each other. There is nothing worse than when the experience of the book and the images fall in on each other instead of working in conjunction. Most photographers that I talk to dream of making that large coffee table book without thinking and understanding the experience of looking at the book, holding it in your hand, turning the pages, feeling the texture of the page. Thousand is more reminiscent of  Atget’s Paris, that elegant brick containing endless photographs of Parisian streets. The pages of Thousand are thin and the printing is loose. They reflect the nature of the Polaroid used to take the images. The book is held together in a fantastic cardboard sleeve. Would you expect anything less from SteidlDangin?

Enough about that, what about the free book? So, Tell me your favorite photography book. If yours and mine are the same, then Thousand is yours. I should rephrase the first one to match gets the book. If a month goes by and no one gets it, then I will make some absurd six degrees relationship to figure out which one is the closest.
good luck

Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes

Lee Friedlander has aged well and his books continue to inspire and encourage us to rethink our surroundings. The color, size and overall design nods to the first edition of Emmet Gowin Photographs. If you don't already own Gowin's Photographs eBay your newest copy of Mark Klett that your dad got you at Houston Fotofest, sell your dusty Michael Kenna books that you collected in college and purchase a decent copy of Emmet Gowin Photographs(not the Brown one done in 1976 by the same name, but the orange 1991 release by the Philadelphia Museum of Art)- it is a must, way before The Olmsted landscapes. On the other hand, Friedlander makes me wish Gowin was half as prolific these past 10 years. The Frederick Law Olmsted is a nice addition to any decent collection. Although I do want to see his take on a less romantic subject. If anyone out there has some money and wants to hit Friedlander with a commission here is a book project for the making: Rethinking Robert Moses a look at the New York City’s most beloved enemy. Wouldn't that make a fantastic book? Couldn't you just see Friedlander’s gritty and beautiful take on Mosses? Who else could do it? The easy answer would be a post 70's large format color book by an over-published Yale grad. Lets hope that doesn't happen. Anyone else?