Japanese Photobooks at the ICP Library: Revisited Part 2

Summer in New York – crowded with tourists and almost as hot as Tokyo! A refuge is needed and the ICP Library provides the antidote: a calm air-conditioned space where photobooks can be explored at one’s leisure.

As the 10×10 Photobooks team nears completion on the forthcoming 10×10 Japanese Photobooks publication, the editors (myself among them) have been spending a fair amount of time in the ICP Library’s air-conditioned bliss, where the 100 books that form the foundation for the project’s traveling reading room are housed. Fact checking and color matching might sound boring, but not when it involves the diverse collection of books that will be showcased in this inventively designed catalogue by Sybren Kuiper (SYB), with lithography and technical supervision by Colour & Books (Netherlands). The publication presents a distinctive overview of Japanese photobooks from 1954 to the present conceived around 20 highlighted books elegantly displayed across double-page and Japanese-bound spreads, supplemented by a visual appendix that includes all 200 books in both the reading room and online spaces.

In tandem with the publication’s release on 18 September 2014 at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks Reading Room will be restaged in the fair’s Living Room space. What follows is a discussion of several of the 10×10 Japanese highlighted books that will be on view from 18-21 September at Unseen in Amsterdam and included in the publication. The books are presented with abbreviated commentaries from the 10×10 specialists who selected them.


Yoshihiro Hagiwara, Snowy. Tokyo: Tosei-sha, 2008. TR656 .H346 2008

Yoshihiro Hagiwara’s Snowy is a thirty-year ongoing project about the rise and fall of Japan’s mining industry and its effect on rural Japan. . . As the coal industry became less robust in postwar Japan, these mines were abandoned. Hagiwara shows the face of this transformation through scenes of snow-covered mines. No miners, no signs of economic suffering – rather quietly beautiful blankets of snow, which cover and muffle all cries of distress. (Kunihiro Takahashi, Tosei-sha)

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Daido Moriyama, ’71-NY. New York: PPP Editions in association with Roth Horowitz LLC, 2002. TR647 .M67 2002

In ’71-NY, Daido Moriyama offers his impressions of a glamorously ravaged city and its inhabitants. While the images are immediately recognizable as Moriyama’s, his New York is also instantly identifiable—a blur of garbage-strewn streets, claustrophobic patterns of chain-link fences and pensive inhabitants. . .This title’s outstanding design is a unique mix of homage and originality that culminates in an iconic collection of images as object. (Deirdre Donohue and Christopher Phillips, ICP)

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 Taisuke Koyama, Entropix. Tokyo: G/P and artbeat publishers, 2008

Taisuke Koyama’s strong and simple, almost molecular, images of city surfaces, embody the emergence of a new generation of Japanese photographers. His photobook Entropix, whose title is derived from a merger of “entropy” and “pixel,” is also the visual manifestation of a creative practice that Koyama uses to photograph the constantly shifting urban environment . . . Koyama views Tokyo as an organism whose debris and decay are a part of the inevitable synthesis that happens when natural and urban worlds collide. (Ken Iseki, My New Notebook)

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Takuma Nakahira, Sakyureshon: Hizuke, Basho, Koi / Circulation: Date, Place, Events. Tokyo: Osiris, 2012. TR659.8 .N352 2012

Circulation: Date, Place, Events is a record of Takuma Nakahira’s “photo-intervention” project for the Seventh Paris Biennale in 1971. Over seven days during the exhibition, he took more than 1500 photographs of Paris, which he called “remnants.” . . . This cyclical process itself was his photography, and the resulting photographs were merely artifacts or “debris.” (Yoko Sawada, Osiris)

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Yurie Nagashima, Tokyo: Fuga Shobo, 1995.

The eponymously titled photobook Yurie Nagashima constitutes a key landmark in the history of Japanese photography. Published in 1995 to a lot of media attention, this book is a provocative representation of female gender and sexuality constructed – as well as performed through a series of self-portraits. . . Nearly two decades since they were first published, the photographs in this book continue to provide a thought-provoking and highly unusual window into photographic trends in Japan. (Marco Bohr, Visual Culture Blog)

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Daido Moriyama, TKY. Tokyo: Goliga and New York: Aperture, 2011

Daido Moriyama’s TKY is the second significant project that I did with Daido – and the book’s photography encapsulates a New York – Tokyo exchange. As a restaging of Moriyama’s 1974 Printing Show, TKY also marks the first time that I introduced performance into the book-making process. The venue of the performance was Aperture, my photobook alma mater in my native New York, and the images in the book are of Moriyama’s Tokyo, my adopted city. (Ivan Vartanian, Goliga)

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 Kazuo Yoshida, Air Blue. Tokyo: Uhr Publishing Laboratory, 2012 

Kazuo Yoshida’s Air Blue is an exceptional example of modern self- publishing with a successful artist and designer collaboration. Kazuo Yoshida extends a tradition from Yves Klein’s International Klein Blue to William Eggleston’s Wedgewood Blue, while designer Goshi Uhira perfectly captures the artists’-book-meets-photobook ethos in ten loose “pages” of brilliant digitally stitched sky images . . . (Kohei Oyama, Parapera)

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Photography by Mathieu Asselin
Posted in artists' books, Exhibitions, International, New Acquisitions, Unpacking the collection, Visual Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Luigi Ghirri, the Absolute Fascination of the Image

Luigi Ghirri, the Absolute Fascination of the Image                                                  where Geography meets Photography                                                                           into the spheric World and going over,                                                                          towards Infinite

by Emiliano Cavicchi

History & Soft Elegance                                                                                                                “England has History, but America has Geography” suggests English artist Neil Gaiman, in an interview on his multi-award novel ‘American Gods’ [1]. I personally believe also that Geography influences History. Like thousands of years ago, when an exceptional first ‘global net’ was possible by the specific geography of Mediterranean Sea, that permitted to populations around it to avoid lands distance by sailing, and expanding in this way Culture and Technology.                                   Among many, two words just came etymologically from that world: Geography (‘γῆ’, ‘earth’, ‘γραφία’, ‘writing’:’description of the Earth‘), and Photography, (‘φῶς’, ‘light’ and ‘γραφή’, ‘drawing’: ‘drawing with light’). Both of them from ancient Greek, they have been destined to cross often each other, as in the perfect example of the National Geographic: the magazine has always been strictly tied to progress of Photography, as with Color already in its pages from 1910, before the first Eastman Kodak color film ‘Kodachrome’ in 30ies. But also before the 70ies Color recognition in the Art world of some Western photographers like William Eggleston in first, and, over the Atlantic, of another pioneer from a small European town..

 “..Perhaps it was that soft elegance [of Kodak’s Kodachrome film] that inspired the legendary Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri’s unique style when he first began taking pictures of his surroundings in the early 1970s..” writes Hanne Christiansen [2], about reissued first Ghirri’s book ‘Kodachrome(originally of 1978) by MACK Books editions of London, in 2012. Luigi Ghirri (born in Scandiano, Italy, 1943 – Reggio Emilia, Italy, 1992) is one of the most influential European photographers of ’900. A concrete curiosity for the world around us and an interest for the conceptual side of act of ‘Looking’, move his elegant, suspended urban visions and modern landscapes.                                                           During last years, the inclusion of Kodakchrome in 2004 by Martin Parr in ‘The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1′, Phaidon ed., started a renovate world interest, with his first English monograph out in 2008 (‘It’s Beautiful Here, Isn’t It..‘, Aperture Foundation ed.), and the book ‘Casa Ghirri’ by Francois Halard (Keherer Verlag ed., 2013), portraying his studio in Ronconcesi village.

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 Various museums held his works (i.e. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museo della Fotografia Contemporanea, Milan; Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; MOMA in New York), and this July has two shows of Ghirri in USA and Europe: at Matthew Marks Gallery in Los Angeles, (just closed the July 12th, following their previous April 2013 show in New York), and in Reggio Emilia, Italy, until July 27, with a majestic retrospective “Luigi Ghirri ‘Pensare per Immagini’ Icone Paesaggi Architetture (“Luigi Ghirri ‘Thinking Images’ Icons, Landscapes, Architectures“, curated by Francesca Fabiani, Laura Gasparini, Giuliano Sergio), presenting over 300 original and new printed images and much more, previously in 2013 first at MAXXI museum in Rome, then moved in Brazil.

Conceptualism
Open up yer eyes an’ ears an’ yer influenced. An’ there’s nothing you can do about it”, Ghirri used to say, quoting Bob Dylan [3], and also: “Not at photography school, studio, or photojournalist agency, instead my experience born by generally looking for the Image around me, and by an endless passion, a bit naive, just straight pulsing for the Art world” [4]. At the end of 60ies after Technical Institute, Luigi Ghirri does not attend University starting to work as surveyor in Modena town, and regularly meeting Conceptualist artists of the area, whose he photographs the performance, installations, but also adding images in their works.
While Pop-Art was exploding in USA, Conceptualism movement in Italy was developing an extreme ‘de-construction’ of Photography medium and a new role for it, felt as quick, mechanical, authorial but not ‘orthodox’ Art. Important exhibitions are then visited by Ghirri in Parma and Modena towns: the photographic metalinguistic research of Italian Ugo Mulas in Verifiche (1970-1972), the New Photography Usa show (1971), Dorothea Lange (1972), and especially, the one of Farm Security Administration (1975).

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 Holiday travels at end of 60s and first 70s by Luigi Ghirri and family in France, Netherland, Switzerland and Northern Italy, become then the first source of a large body of images for his present and future researches. Switching from 35mm films to a medium format, Ghirri starts not photographing specific themes but glimpses of life and of places visited, as a minimal urban diary. A bit as Lee Friedlander, yet in color and with a certain ‘style’: a kind of wonder, simplicity, first-time view, recalling to myself, the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) and his ‘Poetica del Fanciullino’ (‘Poetic of the little Child’), where he theorized to look at the everyday world as children do, with no specific knowledge, just discovering it deeply by first feelings.

 More systematically, Ghirri then starts to organize photographic researches focusing on the contemporary environment and its identity’s transformations. His first exhibition organized by a local photo-association in the hotel hall ‘Canalgrande’ of Modena (1972) permits him to meet Art critic of Parma University, Massimo Mussino, casually stopped there. Two years later Ghirri is invited to exhibit at ‘Il Diaframma’ gallery in Milan, successful show connecting him to larger public of artists and critics.

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World seen by Space                                                                                                                           “In 1969 the newspapers published the photograph taken from the spaceship traveling to the moon. This was the first photograph of the entire Earth.. -Ghirri writes in the introduction of Kodachrome- ..The image that man had pursued for centuries was presented for our view; [..] the only image that contained all other images of the world: graffiti, frescoes, paintings, writings, photographs, books, films. It was at once the representation of the world and all representations of the world”. This photo is for Ghirri the ‘starting point’ of his Photography [5], and it marks a cultural change too: after centuries of Geography drawings, now it is time for chemical Photography to show us the same and a New Geography of the Earth and over.

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 Intended as a ‘collection’ of the personal works and first commissions of the fertile period of 1970-1978, Kodachrome is self-produced, with low budget and the title is an homage to the film that has democratized Photography for mass public. Throughout 92 photographs Ghirri shows the world he sees around himself: surrealistic, vivid, traduced in images sometimes exaggerated, sometimes reduced to basic geometrical shapes, as in ‘Riva di Tures, 1977’. Results are not just ‘photomontages’: in the current advertising society “extensively reality is transformed into a colossal photograph and the montage has already taken place at that very moment” explains Ghirri always in Kodachrome.

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 Omnipresent but often ignored, urban hieroglyphs emerge alive from the stratified complexity of human/artificial/natural things around us, by what Ghiiri calls ‘fotosmontaggio’, the process of de-assembling the space by images. Photography gets back to be elementary exploration / decodification of the space. And he seems disappeared behind camera, refreshing the ‘Looking’: there is no self-analysis, Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ or self-centered point of view, but a certain distance, and absence of ethic or historical judgement, trying instead to unveil the reality by a ‘pure’ view.                                                                                                                                           Photograph with an advertising cardboard shape girl (Reggio Emilia, 1972) is a juxtaposition of different visual elements, but maybe also it is a new ‘scene’ that Ghirri’s unconscious-eye saw suddenly on the way: ‘platonic idea’ of a seductive, 60ies look girl strangely appearing and smiling at him in open air, captured by his camera. Over the document, a photo can be a projection/record of what someone deeply perceives/sees from outside, instead of what is ‘physically’ in front of, recording the constant dialogue among the subconscious and the world.

New Geography                                                                                                                                       During 70s and over, Ghirri’s various works focus different themes. The project ‘In Scala’ (1977-78) shows Rimini’s touristic park ‘Italia in miniatura’ (featuring scale models of the main Italian monuments), getting aware on how people look and perceive landscape/space: now we can see the well famous icons of a nation just at our feet, as in the photo of the Earth from Space. It is specifically and sociologically Italy, but virtually it can be with every nations.

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 This ‘New Geography’ looks to point the different ‘geographic imaginary’ of today: “All the routes have been marked, the only possible journey now seems to be within the sphere of signs and images, therefore there is the cancellation of the real experience” explains Ghirri [6] and ‘Week-end’ (1973) pushes the concept of Journey to extreme consequences. The work (artist-publication in few samples) is compiled by photos reproducing cuts and details of different maps in an Atlas book, enlarged until the photo shows real size page details. Photography visually can evoke instead showing, translating act of ‘Seeing/Imaging’ with ‘act of Knowing/Living’ an experience, spotting the gap between imagining a place and once who gets really there, cutting a frame of the world, and thinking about what is left off, as Ghirri writes in Kodachrome.                                           So ‘Infinito’ (1974, English: ‘Infinite‘, ‘with no-end‘), a two panels installation assembling 365 photos of the sky made by Ghirri every day in a year always from different locations, is the try to show the impossible: but the metaphor of sky with its absence of limits, and the use of Time, in a number (365) meaning the entirety of a solar year, gives to us an idea to feel it. Photography is the meeting point of Reality and Imaginary, by memory, image and imagination.

Aesthetic Experience                                                                                                                        With the increase of fame and respect (in 1975 he becomes Discovery of the year’ for ‘Time-Life’ photography magazine, then he is part of ‘Photography as Art, Art as Photography‘ festival in Kassel, Germany), Luigi Ghirri can dedicate to full-time photographer activity.                                         Various assignments follow in the 80ies, like LP covers for music labels (over classical artists, also for Italian cult punk-band CCCP or songwriter Lucia Dalla), Polaroid International invite to increase the Amsterdam research company collection (1980), commissions by French Minister of Culture photographing Versailles (1985), then in New York for Bulgari, and campaigns for Ferrari and for administrative regions in Italy. Tirelessly, Ghirri pursues too an activity of publisher, critic and curators, opening in 1977 with few friends the small house editions ‘Punto&virgola’ active until 1982: the first birth is Kodakchrome‘s book, which follows a handful of Western photographers books and essays on Photography.

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 Also personal projects feel this literally opening of the horizon. The still closed entrances in photos of buildings/stores doors at end of 70s (recalling the deep influence of Eugene Atget) open to images of ‘soglie‘, ‘inquadrature naturali‘ (‘gateways’, ‘natural frames’), like the beach horizon with a wood rectangular white frame of an empty (kind of ‘soccer door’) advertising structure at center in ‘Marina di Ravenna, 1986’, from the book ‘Il profilo delle Nuvole’ [The Clouds profile], Milano, Feltrinelli ed., 1989.

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 Ghirri seems having metabolized the past ‘cancellation of the real experience’. It is the return to a more terrestrial conception of travel, on the road, like in ‘Paesaggio italiano’ (‘Italian landscape‘, book with photos from projects and commissions among 1980-1989), Milano, Electa ed., 1989: horizons and cuts of churches, piazzas, interiors, gas-stations, bars in the outskirt and over, these visions are filled by a strong sense of the space, of its visual emotions, and the sensations evoked. “Melancholy is the road sign for an effaced geography, it is the feeling of distance that separates us from a potential simple world” says Ghirri [7]. But also mystery and loneliness, or wonder, are intertwined with nature and humans landscapes, in a beautiful but anti-classic view which regenerate the iconographic Italian panoramas, like the sudden powerful light shaping one water-street of Venice (Venezia, 1987), much closer to Caravaggio painting then traditional Canaletto works. Photographing is like an aesthetic experience, where the exploration of the space is fully guided by a feeling of atmosphere and suggestion. ‘Aesthetic’ again goes back to the roots of its original ancient Greek meaning: αἰσθητικός (aisthetikos, “esthetic, sensitive, sentient”), which in turn was derived from αἰσθάνομαι (aisthanomai, “I perceive, feel, sense”).

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Last Roll                                                                                                                                                 Among 1989 and 1990, on the peak of his success, Luigi Ghirri experiences also to teach Photography classes about his personal practice at University of Reggio Emilia (published then in his posthumous book ‘Lezioni di Fotografia’, Quodilibet, 2010). Two years later, unexpectedly, he died at his home in Reggio Emilia for heart attack. Last series taken on roll by him was depicting the decaying houses of the fertile land of Po Valley, in the northern Italian province where Ghirri had lived and worked most of his life.

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 Now the Public Library of Reggio Emilia town in Italy, the Biblioteca Panizzi, houses his archive of negatives, slides and publications, following the will of himself expressed in 1990. This vast visual ‘Imaginary Geography’ is today the boundless legacy of him.

 “The work of photographer […] I believe is much more like drawing up a geographic map, than following a straight line [..A map..] where in established rules yet, everyone can find the own road” [8] – Luigi Ghirri

Author: Emiliano Cavicchi  http://emilianocavicchi.com/


REFERENCES / LINKS / BIBLIOGRAPHY:

 Sentences in black in the essay reflect personal thoughts on Photography or on Ghirri photography by Author, otherwise quotes are referred, or numbered as follow:
 
[1] – http://bookstimeandsilence.blogspot.it/2009/04/american-gods-neil-gaiman.html
[2] – http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/article/16236/1/luigi-ghirri
[3] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Niente di antico sotto il sole, scritti e immagini per un’autobiografia’, a cura di Paolo Costantini e Giovanni Chiaramonte, Torino, SEI, 1997
[4] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Lezioni di fotografia’, Macerata, Barbaro Quodlibet, 2010
[5] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Lezioni di fotografia’, Macerata, Barbaro Quodlibet, 2010
[6] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Atlante’ (Atlas), Charta, Milan, 1999
[7] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Un cancello sul fiume’ (A Gate over the River), published in the exhibition catalogue for the Milan Triennale, eds. Vittoro Magnano Lampugnani and Vittoria Savi, Electa, Milan, 1988, pp. 87–94
[8] – Luigi Ghirri, ‘Lezioni di fotografia’, Macerata, Barbaro Quodlibet, 2010
 
Life and works informations on Luigi Ghirri are from:
- ‘Luigi Ghirri, Pensare per immagini’, catalogue for the MAXXI exhibition in Rome, Milan, Electa, 2013
- Luigi Ghirri, ‘Lezioni di fotografia’, Macerata, Barbaro Quodlibet, 2010
- Massimo Mussino, ‘Luigi Ghirri’, Milan, Federico Motta Editore, 2001
 
‘Kodachrome’ book on MACK editions:
- http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/44-Kodachrome.html
 
Luigi Ghirri exhibition in Matthew Marks Gallery (April 19 – July 12, 2014):
- http://www.matthewmarks.com/los-angeles/exhibitions/2014-04-19_luigi-ghirri/
 
A bibliography of books and articles on Luigi Ghirri from Matthew Marks Gallery web-site:

- http://www.matthewmarks.com/new-york/artists/luigi-ghirri/bibliography/

Luig Ghirri anthology at ‘Fondazione MAXXI’ museum in Rome (24 April – 27 October, 2013)
- http://www.fondazionemaxxi.it/2012/12/14/luigi-ghirri-pensare-per-immagini/?lang=en
 
Luigi Ghirri retrospective in ‘Festival della Fotografia Europea‘ (May 2 – July 27, 2014):
- http://www.fotografiaeuropea.it/fe2014/exhibition-luigi-ghirri/
 
On-line archive of Luigi Ghirri in Biblioteca Panizzi (in Italian):
- http://panizzi.comune.re.it/Sezione.jsp?idSezione=292
 

 

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The Contemporary Photobook: New Perspectives in Publishing

We wanted to let you know about a paid opportunity for writers to contribute to a print publication, The Contemporary Photobook: New Perspectives in Publishing, edited by Larissa Leclair and co-published by the Indie Photobook Library and Conveyor Arts!

Submit Here:
https://contemporaryphotobook.submittable.com/submit

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the whole loaf

BreadBook001The Bread Book by Kenneth Josephson (1973) is a small booklet of twenty pages printed in offset. Starting with the front cover which shows, besides the title, the cap of a loaf of bread, each sheet progressively shows the front and back of all ten slices of a small loaf of bread. The back cover therefore shows the other end of the loaf. Josephson created this book in direct response to the photo story sequences that were being created and published by Duane Michals at about that time.
“If you look at a Duane Michals book you see it and you get it, and you never look at it again,” Josephson said. “With The Bread Book there is nothing to get. You can even look at it backwards.”
BreadBook002 BreadBook003 BreadBook004 BreadBook005 BreadBook006 BreadBook007 BreadBook008 BreadBook009 BreadBook010What started life as a fairly cheap and affordable book now retails for quite some dough. . .

Kenneth Josephson was born on July 1, 1932 in Detroit Michigan and he is one of the early and influential practitioners of Conceptual photography. Layering his images within other images and playing with the act of picture-making, investigating the nature of truth and illusion in the photographic medium. He is one of the great photographers of the latter part of the 20th century.

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Passion

Glaser_Milton_passion001Front cover of Passion 1970

My summer passion this year is randomly browsing and then unearthing some of the brilliant gems that are here in this great little library of ours.

The 1970 SVA Passion class. . .

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Passion
New York: School of Visual Arts, 1970.
R TR179.5.S36 P37 1970

The ‘Objective’ of this class magazine Passion in 1970 was to produce a visual expression about various notions concerning passion. The magazine was called Passion because the creators wanted to make a statement in favor of positive involvement, in favor of belief. . .

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Passion ‘magazine’ from 1970

It has been said that Milton Glaser and Henry Wolfs Passion magazine workshop at SVA in 1970 was an homage to the erotic magazine Eros published by Ralph Ginzburg.  Ralph Ginzburg was an author, editor, publisher and photo-journalist who in 1963 was convicted for distributing obscene literature through the mails, in violation of federal anti-obscenity laws. Ralph was sentenced to five years and he served eight months in prison.  Allen Ginsberg traveled to Washington and picketed the Supreme Court building on behalf of Ralph Ginzburg but to no avail.

Four Volumes of Eros Magazine

Eros magazine was produced in 1962, consisting of four volumes:
Eros – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
TR676 .E76 1962

The four controversial Eros volumes aimed to explore the undercurrent of pornography that exists in English literature.  Contributions included a manuscript given by the Bishop of Exeter to his cathedral in 1070, an interview with Bobby Fischer, an introduction by psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, a short story by Ray Bradbury, a photo essay by Marvin Newman, Bert Stern images of Marilyn Monroe, Love in the Subway a photographic essay by Gary Winogrand, Me and the Male Prostitutes of Bombay by Art Kane, The Agonies and the Ecstasies of a Stripper by Nicholas David and many other odd and interesting contributions. It really is entertaining. It is not an entirely photographic magazine. There is a lot of text and imagery and art historical information.  It has a real strong sense of design. It is obviously this sense of design which had a great appeal to Milton Glaser and Henry Wolfs Passion magazine workshop at SVA in 1970 so much so that they mimiced the style for the cover of Passion.

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Some Highlights from the controversial Eros magazine

Passion is a great innovative magazine. I am sure that the workshop/magazine must have been so much fun for those involved.
Milton Glaser and Henry Wolfs Passion is a real delight to browse and it contains some extraordinarily beautiful design and playful imagery. And some lovely blissful advice from the authors of Passion in 1970:

Be gentle, be sincere, be modest, be kind, be cheerful, be honest, be yourself.

Eros endpapers from 1962
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Back cover of Passion 1970

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More modern books on Passion might include:

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Lonely Boy Mag: No.A-1. Alec Soth’s “Midwestern Exotica”.
Lonely Boy Mag: No.A-2, Alec Soth’s Boys & their cars.
Saint Paul, Minnesota : Little Brown Mushroom, 2011.
R TR179.5.S681 L66 2011

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The first issue features poetry, erotic text, pictures of ex-girlfriends and a photo-story by Alec Soth and the second issue features Alec Soth, Todd Hido, Chad States and erotic dioramas by Peter Davidson. The erotic dioramas are a real stand-out in theses Lonely Boy mag’s. It would be great if Alec and LBM would consider continuing with some issues of this wonderful magazine.

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Eros endpapers from 1962

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Luc Chessex

LucCheese012_editedThe library keeps on giving and a ‘new’ book often emerges from the open and accessible stacks. This is a wonderful booklet from a Venezuelan gallery/publisher  Fototeca from May 1978 with work from the extraordinary photographer Luc Chessex. The book is designed by the enigmatic designer Alvaro Sotillo (the designer of the classic Retromundo by Paolo Gasparini – R TR647. G372 1986). The cover consists of the most amazing black ink image on dark black background. The images are street scenes from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Brazil, Panama, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador and they capture very powerful and authentic feelings from an important time. Predominately they are photographs of children; children with guns. There is always something deeply challenging about imagery of smiling children holding guns. It is no wonder that Luc Chessex often described his work as ‘tropical surrealism’.

LucCheese004a Luc Chessex was born August 10, 1936 in Lausanne in French-speaking Switzerland and in capturing ‘reality’ he stresses the early influence on his work of his compatriot Robert Frank. In 1960 Luc Chessex emigrated to Cuba where he wanted to show his support for the revolution with his photographs. From 1961 to 1968 he worked as the official photographer of the revolution in the Ministry of Education. For the next four years he worked for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina travelling around South America: to Nicaragua, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador and also in La Higuera, where Che was murdered.

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Luc Chessex was a persistent and exemplary witness of Latin America from this time. His style was very graphic  with  his diagonal compositions giving a strong suggestion of dynamic movement.  His street photographs are intense snapshots of the environmental design of the Latin American cities that he worked in and its people. He shows a genuine love for the people that he is engaging with. This slender booklet ‘Luc Chessex’ consisting of merely twenty pages is wonderfully simple and extremely effective in terms of design. Intriguing and energetic B&W images with simple type and accented with bold yellow pages.

Luc Chessex by Luc Chessex
Caracas: Fototeca, 1978.
R TR647 C44 1978

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In 1975 Luc Chessex like many ‘foreigners’ was expelled from Cuba due to the increasingly totalitarian influence of the Soviet Union upon the Cuban state. From 1978 to 1980 he followed the Red Cross on its missions in Africa. From 1981 to 1989 he was a teacher working at the School of Photography in Yverdon, Geneva, at the Ecole sociale et Pédagogique as well as at the Art School in Lausanne. Since then, he has been traveling around the world and makes photographs in different countries.

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Luc Chessex books in the ICP Library

Around the World / Luc Chessex
TR820.5 . C44 1997

Quand il n’y a plus d’Eldorado : 157 photographies d’Amâerique latine / de Luc Chessex
TR820.5.L29 .C44 1982
[A wonderful book with awesome images produced on such bad quality yellowing paper that it really is very upsetting. The ICP library copy is inscribed to our founder Cornell Capa].

Swiss Life / Luc Chessex
TR820.5.S78 .C44 1987

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Aaron Stern’s I Woke Up in My Clothes

Damiani and the International Center of Photography invite you to join Aaron Stern signing copies of his new book I Woke Up in My Clothes tonight, June 13th from 6-8PM at the ICP Store.

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Liz Sales: Could you tell us about some of your earliest experiences with photography, as both a viewer and a photographer? What initially drew you to the medium?
 
Aaron Stern: My grandparents kept everything in immaculate condition, especially their photographs.  Both sets of grandparents had pictures of family and friends from all over the world.  I remember pictures of my grandfathers in their uniforms from World War II, pictures of them all on the street in New York, in the Catskills and of my parents as kids.  My parents had lots of pictures of themselves as a young newly married couple and of my sisters and me as young kids.  
I remember being 8 or 9 and in my grandparents apartment in Queens.  My grandmother used to have a slide projector to show me pictures and tell me stories of what New York was like in the 30s 40s 50s and so on.
 
All of those images influenced me to try and make a picture that makes one think of their own memories.

 
LS: Rich Appel touches on the title of your new publication, I Woke Up in My Clothes, in the introduction, could you expand?
 
AS: I was flattered that Rich wrote the introduction because he verbalized a lot of what I am expressing in my photos.   I think he said it best in what he wrote.  Sometimes you wake up in your clothes while trying to figure everything out.
 
 
LS: What led you to continuing to shoot film (35mm and medium format) into the digital age?
 
AS: I started using film and I still haven’t been able to get what I’m looking for with digital for color.  I think I also like the idea of using a more traditional medium.  I do shoot some digital though.  The Leica Monochrom is a great camera.  I have been using that a lot over the last eight months or so.
 
LS: Could you tell us about your intentions and process in the sequencing and editing of I Woke Up in My Clothes?
 
AS: I spent about six months editing and designing the book with Roger de la Rosa.  The order of the images is really important to me.  It is meant to be a visual narrative of how one feels in and out of relationships, how a person experiences loss and love.  I hope that when people look at the book they come away with that.  
 
LS: You included a poem by David Wagoner. Could you talk about how this poem was chosen and how feel it speaks to your work?

AS: I saw the poem in an April issue of The New Yorker magazine from 2010.
 
“taking the easy way out,
which is of course what water does
as a matter of course always
taking whatever turn
the earth has told it to”
 
That really struck me when I read it for the first time and it stayed with me.  It reminded me of someone and also of a lyric from the Billy Bragg song “Must I Paint You A Picture”
 
The lyric is, “this would never happen if we lived by the sea…”
 
Something about water, the ocean, that has this impactful effect on us and I felt that the poem really fit my narrative of images, it completed the book so much so that I spent six months trying to track down David Wagoner.

This led to a really nice email exchange with David after we finally connected.  He always responds effortlessly and eloquently, and quickly. I am and will be forever grateful that David allowed me to use his poem in my book.  It would not be the same without “Following a Stream.”
 
 
LS: What is your personal relationship to Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy? And to downtown Los Angeles?
 
AS: I have always liked going out to Rockaway and Ft. Tilden.  After Sandy I was frustrated that FEMA and the Red Cross were not out there immediately or even after a full week.  There was no power, no water, no subway, no gas, no heat etc… homes were completely destroyed, gutted leaving people with nothing.   Rockaway is part of New York just as much as anywhere and it is my home, I took it personally.
 
Along with several friends and members of Occupy Sandy we helped to rally people to go out there and volunteer.
 
We were out there two or three days after the storm hit.  I took pictures and posted images on twitter and Instagram.  I was inundated with emails from musicians and music managers and publicists about organizing a show to help raise funds for relief.  My old friend Geoff Renaud and I, with the help of Bowery Presents produced a show with Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, Antlers and Cults who all played for free.  With Ticketmaster waiving their fees and Converse and Urban Outfitters matching ticket sales and covering production we raised $300,000 together.

It was important to me to have those images in the book to keep what happened out there top of mind. But they also fit the narrative of loss and love – symbolizing a destructive relationship.
 
Downtown Los Angeles is interesting and fast developing now.  When I was wandering around taking pictures there in 2009 – 2011, the landscape was bleak but the California light can make anything look good.  I was in a bad place and really just driving aimlessly around trying to equate what I was feeling into a picture.  I was drawn to that area because it felt beat up and lost.
 
 
LS: Your portraits are quite intimate and yet collectively your images depopulate these heavily peopled spaces. Could you talk about the dichotomy between attachment and isolation in your work?
 
AS: Well I think we tend to isolate when we are reeling from loss.  We are attached to people and when things break down we isolate and search for answers.  I think I was doing that during the time when most of these images were captured.

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