beach life

Yogananthan_Vasantha001Piémanson by Vasantha Yoganantha
Chose Commune, 2014.
R TR655 Y642 2014

Summertime is here and families flock to the beach. In southern France there is a beach in Piémanson in the heart of Carmargue Nature Reserve that every year from May 1st until September becomes an alternative resort for people from all over Europe. Vasantha Yogananthan has been documenting the beach-niks of Piémanson since 2009.

The official line is that the campers can stay for one night without charge but many stay for the entire summer and in that time they construct some amazing structures using wood, plastic sheeting, etc., and whatever they can find to compliment the tents and caravans that they take there. There is a lot of pride in the community for making the best possible ‘homes’ for their stay. There is also a lot of ingenuity and creativity. It has to be mentioned that the community at Piémanson who have been coming to live here for free on the beach since the 1970s are not hippies nor are they gypsies – they are regular families who cannot afford vacation’s elsewhere and see a great opportunity to live on a beach for the summer and decide to act upon it.

Vasanatha has been working in Piémanson for two weeks every summer (2009-2013) and has been totally immersed and imbedded with the community there. He has very strong and authentic ties to its transitory population. In 2014 Vasantha Yoganantha self-published a book that was simply titled Piémanson in an edition of 650 (50 as a special limited edition) with a short essay from Remi Coignet and also some explanatory notes and stories. The book is subtle, containing a concise selection of only 36 thoughtful images chosen from a large collection of over 3,000 images that were taken during a five year period. The photographs are substantial and give you a true visual depth and experience of this beach and its extraordinary community. As a photobook it is very well designed, tightly edited and printed and bound with both quality and sensitivity. It is really no wonder that this book sold out in three weeks [some limited edition books still available].

It is the self-published hit of the summer.


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I caught up with Vasantha and asked him a few questions. . .

Q. What initially attracted you to Piémanson? Why did you decide to go there in 2009?
VY: I discovered the beach by chance while I was having a day off in the countryside.
The french coastline has been hard-surfaced by realty developer over the last 40 years. Everywhere nature has been converted into suitable touristic resorts.
But one could see that Piémanson was the exception to the rule. I began walking looking at all the shelters but I did not stay alone for long: after 10 minutes, a family invited me to share their lunch.

Q. When you first went there in 2009 what was that like? Did you ever think at that time that you would spend another four summers going there?
VY: I stayed only 5 days in Piémanson in 2009 knowing that I will come back at least 2 more years.

The human relationships were far too complex to be understood without living with the Piémanson’s inhabitants (meaning I had to come with a tent – eat and sleep there – for more than a few days). At the time I had no idea it would take me that long. But each year I was coming back I discovered something else. I was drowned more and more in their way of life. Going back was actually very important to feel what Piémanson’s inhabitants feel : a summer’s cycle that has never stopped since the 1970’s.

Each year they were leaving Piémanson not knowing if they will be allowed to come back… I think this is what is giving the beach such a mythical status.

Something broke open on the third year. Piémanson’s inhabitants were now considering me part of the “family”. I was able to shoot whenever I wanted, without anyone paying attention. It is quite interesting to note that in the end there is only one picture from 2009 and a few pictures of 2010 included in the book. Most of the interesting pictures came about between the third and the fifth summer I was living there.

Yogananthan_Vasantha013aQ. The collection of images presented to us here have a beautiful light Mediterranean air, but they also seem grounded in the documentary work of a Martin Parr, Paul Graham or Chris Killip. There is an English feel to the work. Do you feel that? Is there an influence from those photographers in your work?
VY: Chris Killip is one of my greatest influence of all time. His work “Seacoal” in particular has been critical to my thinking on how to photograph a community with empathy but with the good distance.  I have also been greatly influenced by American photography. Lately I have to say that one of the greatest work I’ve seen is Bryan Schutmaat’s Grays the Mountains Sends.

Q. What do you think is the future for the beach community in Piémanson? Will you go there this summer?
VY: I was there 2 weeks ago to offer the book to the families I was living with. It has been a very emotional moment.
If the place doesn’t close in the coming years, I plan to come back in 5 years or so to see how the kids I’ve been photographing have grown up.

Yogananthan_Vasantha023aQ. What are you currently working on? Is this project also a book project?
VY: I’m currently working on a project in India and Sri-Lanka about the Ramayana. I already did two one-month trip last year.
The Ramayana, a masterpiece of world literature written in Sanskrit over two thousand years ago, is to the Asian civilisation what Homer’s Odyssey is to the European civilisation. The Ramayana’s strength is in its apparent simplicity : it can be read as an epic tale in which humans, gods and demons encounter, covering a geographical area from the North of India to the heart of Sri Lanka. However, more than a journey, Indians draw from this text, which conveys moral and philosophical values, an ideal to which they measure their own existence. My project aims to photograph the « Indian soul » and capture the distinctive nature of this continent country, guided by the Odyssey of the Ramayana as a common thread.
As this project starts from a book it will be obviously turned into a book. I will mix my photographs with extracts of texts from different versions of the Ramayana, old press clippings and pictures related to the political use of the epic. This way, my photographs will act as an allegory of the epic, the extracts of the myth as the common thread of the story, the press clippings as documents giving historical context regarding the impact of the Ramayana on the Indian society… This is going to be a multi-layered photobook very different than Piémanson.

Q. Will you be looking for a publisher or will you self-publish again?
VY: I will self-publish it again – I’m already working on the concept of the book (even if it will be probably published in 3 years, I like working slowly on concepts).
I have 5 more one-month trips to do and I’m actually thinking the whole project knowing that the medium of predilection to show it will be the book.
It think it is very important to know from the very start of your project if you intend to do a book with it.
It allows you to pay attention to a lot of details you will not necessarily think about if wanting to do only an exhibition for example (because the viewer will not have as much time as they will while reading the book at home). It helps you working on your narrative while you’re out there shooting.
Yogananthan_Vasantha006aQ. How was the self-publishing experience for you?
VY: It was a lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of doubts, but I’m really glad that I produced the book this way. I’m not sure a traditional publisher would have realised my vision. I made no concessions – either on the editing or on the materials used. For example, we were worried about where in the sequence we should put the one picture I took at night. It has an important meaning in the story so we couldn’t take it out. Finally we decided to produce 650 small prints and to hand-glue them in each copy – just like a real family photo album. It works very well in the end, and I guess the readers are seeing all these kind of details in the book which are part of its originality.

Q. Would you recommend self-publishing your photobook to others?
VY: I would recommend self-publishing if you are well supported. Self-publishing doesn’t mean you should do everything by yourself. I’ve worked with a graphic designer, a photo-engraver, a professional printer, a translator, a proofreader (etc). You need to put a lot of energy to guide all these people to make the book you want to make. Last but not least, you need to be ready to spend a considerable amount of time promoting the book. You’re not special and if you don’t get out there to show it to people from the industry, no one will buy it. Engaging directly with your audience is also something you need to do. People will be more likely to support you and buy the book if they feel you’re interacting with them. There are many ways to do that, either by giving talks about your work or simply answer to emails from people you don’t know. At the end, I find all this work particularly rewarding. Being in control of everything from the definition of the book’s concept to its promotion allows you as a photographer to show your work exactly how you want it to be seen.


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Elviswho by Peter Badge and Johann Zambryski.
TR179.5.B33 E48 2002

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On the 16th August 1977 the King died. Long live the King. In 2003 photographer Peter Badge and artist Johann Zambryski made an Elvis artists’ publication. I discovered this delightful photobook on the shelf. It was new to me. It has a great long shape. The cover is a great shocking pink colour – a colour that in the 1970s might have looked great on a Cadillac. It is 36 pages long and it is simply and lovingly stapled in the middle. Half the book consists of distorted images of Elvis Aaron Presley and the other half is imagery of Elvis impersonators. It is an intriguing and well executed little book.

Elvis may be dead, but his stardom does indeed live on.


Bob Dylan almost met Elvis and he wrote a song about it called ‘Went to see the Gypsy’. Elvis the gypsy. Elvis the poor boy of humble origins. Elvis the King. Elvis the Hollywood actor. The Singer. The young rocker. The rebel. The outsider. The performer. The sex symbol. I would like to have met all the Elvis’s. My personal favourite Elvis would have been the young early Elvis at the time of those immaculate Sun Recordings (1953-1955). Simply Magnificent. But then the Kung-Fu Elvis of his Las Vegas days, when he was surrounded by his Memphis mafia, that would have been a great experience too. Elvis is always an enigma. Elvis easily crosses all segments of American society. He is such an attractive idea to so many people and he is so beloved by so many different types of people. Strange how so many people want to be Elvis. To really Be (become) Elvis – Elvis the King of America. Elvis the Gypsy troubadour messiah.

Kelly_Joe_AlltheKingsMen001All the King’s Men by Joe Kelly
Ariel Books, 1979.
R TR680 K45 1979

All good things come to an end and Elvis – the original Elvis – died in 1977. But then they multiplied and Elvis became many.  Shortly after his death the Elvis impersonator became King. Joe Kelly captures the multiple Elvis worlds from the perspective of many different Elvis’s (Elvii). Professional Elvis impersonators, commonly known as Elvis tribute artists (ETAs) can arrive unexpectedly like divine messengers from the great Elvis in the sky. They can be sound-alikes or look-alikes or both. They can be male and they can be female. They can be old and they can be children. Sometimes they are homage and sometimes a parody, but always slightly grotesque. The fetishisation of the omnipresent King is without boundaries – Elvis without borders – and he may one day save the world (until then he is working at gas station, nights and weekends). Elvis the savior. Many global religions have stranger origins after all. The message to the people of the world is clear: We need not worry as Elvis will be ‘taking care of business’. TCB.

Old Jokes home: Elvis himself entered an Elvis lookalike contest at a local restaurant shortly before his death, and came in third place.


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“Go on back to see the gypsy
He can move you from the rear
Drive you from your fear
Bring you through the mirror
He did it in Las Vegas
And he can do it here”

- Went to see the Gypsy (1970), Bob Dylan.


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I want to publish my photobook in Iran

“Iran”, “Our Iran”, “Modern Iran”, “recording the truth in Iran”, “Iran, untitled”, “Desserts of Iran”, “Iranian Doors”, “Iranian Photography Now”, “A woman photographer from Iran”, “Contemporary Iranian Photography”, These are titles of the publications I find by a quick search on internet, if they are available in libraries then I can reach out to view a whole body of work of photography that has been classified in that geography. In a search like that I would definitely find a lot of travelers who published their travel work in a book or on digital media. However I was looking for a sense of photographers based in Iran who accomplished the project of book making, as Id like to have my own publication that I can easily exchange like a currency with my fellows.

Once upon a time Iran, Nazar Publication, 2006

Once upon a time Iran, Nazar Publication, 2006

I think that the medium of the photobook is the new way of representation for photography and as opposed to a gallery wall or magazine, the photobook should make the work function as a concise world within the book itself. —As quoted in The Photobook: A History, Volume 1 […].   

I myself experienced self-publishing in New York City for the first time. I wanted to challenge my work and submit it to an international photobook award. It took me six months to finish my research and choose the best design of my book, and seeing new books with different stories could make this process even longer. However it increased my interest to learn more about the role of the author, and motivation to have a better understanding on collecting ideas that were implemented into a physical object, simply like a photobook.

In the last decade there has been a trend of books on “Iranian Photography” published outside of Iran. Books with a precise title of their origin, making identity the specific character for the book and the photographers who associate their names with a great collection like this.

I’m pretty sure these souvenirs are very expensive for sale in the market inside of Iran, should it be more helpful to communicate geographical implications under the general term of Iranian Art, that aims to change contradictory realities with exotic images and emblematic of social documentary lives to be shown to the hegemonic western taste and media.

Once upon a time Iran, Nazar publication, 2006

Once upon a time Iran, Nazar publication, 2006

ILFORD films Ad, Sokhan Magazine, 1959. photo courtesy of the author

ILFORD films Ad, Sokhan Magazine, 1959. photo courtesy of the author

The history of photography in Iran began more than 150 years ago, however it doesn’t have a great influence in the global photography world since the sequence of this history hasn’t gone hand in hand with printing, therefore there is less available to be researched in books. Also, there is always lack of critical discussion on discourse of photography in Iran, which would dismiss the knowledge of global achievements in photography.

Actually, teaching photography at universities started just a few years before revolution in Iran. In the following years of war “holly defense”, an epic period for Iranian photographers emerged on documenting social and political events of their country.

Observer tales, 2012

Observer tales, 2012

In this case, the general idea of a photobook is still attributed to a selected work of photographer(s) that is documented and being seen, from a valid publication in the market.

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  • Old Tehran, Mahmoud Pakzad, Did Publication, 2003

So I decided to go to Iran and visit photographers, writers, designers and publishers and talk about the constraints and opportunities of publishing and printing. Obviously with the high price of paper and processes of printing, I couldn’t see a variety of papers or bindings and print designs used in books.

Moreover, surveillance on publishers and censorship on the text and images of every single book in the market, abide by the ministry of culture of the Islamic Republic of Iran, makes it even harder to narrow down the audience of the aspiring photobook project. Although, only by glimpsing through the work of authors who made their books available to purchase by public, you would discern the sentiments and amazing potential for ideas of visual experiments by researchers who study images from past, or young artists flourishing in the near future.


A selection of these photobooks purchased on my trip now form a collection of photobooks that are accessible on the shelves of the library of International Center for Photography. The photobooks from Iran now sit amongst existing photobooks published in different areas, times and consciousness of the world of photobooks. Hopefully these photobooks could act as a conduit for exchange between Iranian photobook clubs and photobook makers and the international community. As a vehicle for those seeking to share their thoughts and experiences and keep in touch with what is happening in the region and around the world.

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  • Book of Amnesia, Farshid Azarang, Nazar Publication, 2005

  • If you don’t see me, Shahryar Tavakoli, Nazar Publication, 2005

Considering the different forms of creative photobook production in light of the restrictions on art and limits of expression and also the funding processes in Iran, there needs to be a real attempt to create and collect culture of photobook making in that nation.

In the series- I WANT TO PUBLISH MY PHOTOBOOK IN IRAN- I will continue to review my plan to promote photobook and book publishing as mass medium in Iran, and write on the very constraints and possible opportunities on self-publishing and ongoing publications.

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The Experiment: What is Hungarian Photographic Art

Please Join Us at the International Center of Photography Library
Thursday August 7 2014, 6:00-8:00 pm
to celebrate
The Experiment: What is Hungarian Photographic Art

Organized by Shandor Hassan in honor of the life and work of Gabor Kerekes (1945-2014)


The Experiment: What is Hungarian Photographic Art

The photographic work contained within the pages of these selected books represents examples of “experimentation” in “Hungarian” photography. These images, which span over 70 years, include those of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and György Kepes; both of whom left Hungary, and Europe, and came to America at the end of the 1930’s. Both experimented with image making technology/science, were significant educators, and authored books of their educational visions. Moholy-Nagy formed the Institute of Design in Chicago, and György Kepes founded the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. Their activities as artists and educators had an influence on 20th and 21st century photographic culture and history.

In keeping with creative actions of earlier 20thcentury photographic experimentation and creative inquiry, artists in Hungary, and those of the Hungarian diaspora (of the past and today), have continued to explore the potential of the medium in all its aspects: aesthetically, scientifically-technically, psychologically, politically, and theatrically.

This trajectory/continuum of Hungarian photographic art, from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, and into the 2000’s displays a living, breathing culture which is delving further into the meaning and possibility of the medium – exploring the world that we live in, which emanates from the roots of a culture that spawned many of the initial ideas of the medium – through ongoing experimentation, and in conversation with the collective pool of ideas of international contemporary art culture.

In the window of the International Center of Photography Library are windows of time into an intense and prolific environment of exploration, a space worthy of wandering in.

This exhibit honors the life and work of Gabor Kerekes: 1945 – 2014

Selected List of Artists

Nándor Bárány
Buharov Brothers
Jen Detvay
Krisztina Erdei
Tibor Ebergényi
Ágnes Eperjesi
Kálmán Gábos
Péter Herendi
József Hajdú
Károly Halász
György Kepes
Imre Kinszki
Arion Gábor Kudász
Gábor Kerekes
Péter Kecskés
László Géza Mészáros
Klára Langer
György Lörinczy
László Moholy – Nagy
Péter Puklus
Sándor Pinczehelyi
Miklós Surányi
Tehnica Schweiz (Gergely László, Péter Rákossy)
Katarina Ševic
Dezs Szabó

A kísérlet: Mi a magyar fotóm vészet?
A most bemutatott könyvek lapjain látható fotográfiai munkák a „magyar” fotóm vészet „kísérletez ” tendenciáinak példáit sorakoztatják fel. A több mint 70 évet felölel válogatás olyan szerz k munkáit is tartalmazza, mint Moholy-Nagy László és Kepes György, akik mindketten elhagyták szül hazájukat, de még Európát is, hogy Amerikában telepedjenek le az 1930-as évek végén. Mindketten a képalkotás technológiáival/tudományával kísérleteztek, jelent s pedagógiai tevékenységet folytattak, és pedagógiai
vízióikat könyvek formájában is közzé tették. Moholy-Nagy megalapította a chicagói Institute of Design-t, Kepes György pedig a Center for Advanced Visual Studies-t az MIT-n. A 20. századi fotótörténetr l és oktatásról kialakult ismeretanyag nagy részét ez a két személyiség formálta.

A 20. század elejének fotográfiai kísérletei és kreatív kutatásai folytatódtak a magyarországi, illetve a mindenkori magyar diaszpórában él m vészek törekvéseiben, akik kiaknázták a médium különféle – esztétikai, tudományos-technikai, pszichológiai, politikai és színpadi – alkalmazásaiban rejl lehet ségeket. A Magyar fotóm vészet pályájának ilyetén íve, illetve kontinuitása egészen az 1930-as évekt l a 70-es éveken át az ezredforduló utánig egy olyan él , lélegz kultúrát tükröz, amely a folyamatos kísérletezés, illetve a nemzetközim vészeti világ elképzeléseinek kollektív összességével való párbeszéd által egyre mélyebbre ássa magát a médium jelentéseibe és lehet ségeibe – felfedezve a világot, ahol élünk, és amely egy olyan kultúra gyökereib l táplálkozik, ami egyben a médium kezdeti elképzeléseinek bölcs je is.

Az International Center of Photography könyvtárának ablakai most egy olyan id síkra nyílnak, amely a kísérletezés intenzív és termékeny közege, olyan térre, amelyben érdemes elbolyongani.

A kiállítás Kerekes Gábor (1945 – 2014) élete és munkássága elott tiszteleg.

Shandor Hassan
Mióta a Fulbright fotóm vészeti kutatói ösztöndíjával egy évet töltött Budapesten (2008-09), Shandor Hassan a fotóm vészet, a kísérleti zene és a bels építészeti-, illetve bútortervezés területein tevékenykedik. Számos kiállításon és rezidencia programban vett részt, de más m vészek projektjeihez is tevékenyen hozzájárult. A fotográfia médiumának történetével és a magyar m vészeti élet jelen helyzetével kapcsolatos észrevételeit m vészekkel, galeristákkal, kurátorokkal, m vészeti szervez kkel, teoretikusokkal máig folytatott eszmecseréi táplálják.

Shandor Hassan
Since receiving a Fulbright in the field of photographic arts research in Budapest, Hungary [2008-09], Shandor Hassan has continued to participate in the fields of the photographic arts, experimental music, and furniture/architectural design. He has had several exhibitions, residencies, and been participant and contributor to other artist’s projects. His observations on the history of the photographic medium and what is going on now in the arts in Hungary has been nurtured through ongoing discussions with artists, gallerists, curators, artsorganizers and theoreticians of all sorts.

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throwing cameras with Baxter&

By making life more interesting for others, we may indirectly help to alleviate the human condition. We up your aesthetic quality of life, we up your creativity. We celebrate the ordinary.
- N.E.Thing Company

Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera001This is a book that I personally came across a few years ago courtesy of David Senior in the MoMA library. It was great. I realised that before the Panono camera there was the thrown camera photographs of Iain Baxter&. I loved the book so much that I tracked down its author in an attempt to gain a copy for the library. It was a lot of research and I encountered a lot of dead-ends in trying to find a copy. In the process I managed to become friends with the author – the  &man – and his brilliant personal archivist at the time Adam Lauder. One day Iain and his beautiful wife Louise came to visit the ICP library and I gave them a tour of the School and the Museum. On speaking with &man I soon realised that even he didn’t own a copy of this great little book himself, but he eventually tracked down and found a copy and donated that copy to the ICP library on another visit to see us. Thrown Camera Photographs is now one of our most important treasures.
Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera002 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera003 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera004 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera005 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera006 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera007 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera008 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera009 Baxer_Iain_ThrownCamera010

Thrown Camera Photographs by Iain Baxter
R TR179.5.B399 T47 1979
“This publication was produced on the occasion of an exhibition of photo-art by Iain Baxter/N.E. Thing Co. at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge . March 11 – April 8, 1979.”[ICP library copy is signed by Iain Baxter& - Iain Baxter changed his name to Iain Baxter& in 2005]. Thrown Camera Photographs is part of a series which includes: Vancouver Beauty Spots, Reflections Lethbridge and Ever Ready.

In Clive Phillpot’s publication Booktrek, Selected essays on Artists’ Books (JRP, 2013) the introduction is titled “from N.E. Thing Co. to Anything goes?”. It is interesting – and really not that surprising – that Clive who has been the great advocate of artists’ books for over forty years and who was once the director of the MoMA library from 1977 to 1994, begins his book with mention of the N.E.Thing Co. as trailblazers in artists’ books and conceptual art. The N.E. Thing Co. (aka Net Co. Ltd ) really did make some of the most important and challenging artists’ books long before . . well, almost everybody.

The N.E.Thing Company was established in 1966 and as a company statement from 1968 read: “It is the visual Unknown that challenges the N.E. Thing researchers.” Shortly after that in 1969 the N.E. Thing Co. was incorporated under the Companies Act and thus began their role as a key catalyst and influence for photoconceptualism. In 1970 the N.E. Thing Co. participated in the landmark exhibition of Conceptual art “Information” at MoMA.

The N.E. Thing Co. created some of the earliest photoconceptual works to display a tendency to use photography to document “idea-works and their sites, as language games and thematic inventories and as reflective investigations of the social and architectural landscape.”

UnclePhilwith ThrownCameraBookPhillip Block, ICP Deputy Director for Programs & Director of Education proudly displaying an amazing photobook that even Martin Parr doesn’t own  – the Thrown Camera Photographs book by Iain Baxter&

Iain Baxter (born. 1936) creates work that focuses on an interdisciplinary practice and the using of photography, along with site-specific performances and installation and he is considered as being a precursor to the Vancouver School (Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, etc). Iain legally changed his name to Iain Baxter& (pronounced Baxterand) in 2005 and he continues to push boundaries and play with the art world and its parallel world of consumer culture. There is still much of the Iain Baxter& photographic relationship that needs to be investigated. For instance in the early 1980s after the demise of N.E.Thing he was employed by Polaroid for 2 years to travel around America and document using the polaroid camera – making great artists’ books  using actual polaroid images.
Iain has this quite amazing online catalogue raisonnE. . .



In 1968 the N.E. Thing Co. developed a system of issuing aesthetic judgments on sundry items experienced throughout daily life: places, objects, and other artists’ work. They were classified as either ACTs, short for Aesthetically Claimed Things, or ARTs, short for Aesthetically Rejected Things. The N.E. Thing Co. photographed these items and then placed a seal of approval or disapproval on the printed image. An accompanying certificate was made for each claimed or rejected item, stating that it had or had not met “the stringent requirements of sensitivity information as set forth by the N.E. Thing Co.”

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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.

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


 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] –
[2] –
[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:
Luigi Ghirri exhibition in Matthew Marks Gallery (April 19 – July 12, 2014):
A bibliography of books and articles on Luigi Ghirri from Matthew Marks Gallery web-site:


Luig Ghirri anthology at ‘Fondazione MAXXI’ museum in Rome (24 April – 27 October, 2013)
Luigi Ghirri retrospective in ‘Festival della Fotografia Europea‘ (May 2 – July 27, 2014):
On-line archive of Luigi Ghirri in Biblioteca Panizzi (in Italian):


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