Mariken Wessels: Queen Ann. P.S. Belly cut out

To say that Mariken Wessels’ work did not plant the seed to put on our exhibition Je est un autre: The vernacular in photobooks, would be a lie. Wessels work takes a collection, examines it with a considered eye and presents it carefully. For me, where Wessels work transcends from printing a collection in book form is how she introduces herself and an unreliable narrator, which in photography involves the act of manipulation.
This comes up in both Queen Ann. P.S. Belly Cut Off and Taking Off: Henry My Neighbor (Which I will be writing about later, and have been obsessed by all year.) Looking at Queen Ann again, I noticed the images that place the element of doubt, visually. An image of a woman in the water, beside a dock, but there is a second reflection in the water–Where is that person? In another photograph, possibly a double exposure, a ghost of a woman stands in the woods. Who manipulated these photographs? Was it Wessels, or was it Queen Ann? We begin to learn that Ann herself is fond of altering her own images: We see a family portrait where she has painted makeup and some hair on her mother and collaged a sailors suit on herself, as well as subtle examples of manipulation such as cutting out faces or obscuring them. Anne wrote on the image of her and her mother: “I drew myself and I drew myself a sailor suit. At my First Communion I wore a sailor’s dress, sadly enough no one took any photos it just wasn’t done in our days. Back then there was (no money and no worries) my father sand that all the time, well, it was just after the war.” We learn that photography and memories are important to Anne, and she finds her interventions a way to correct history.

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Then we are presented with a mystery. A series of dark and potentially violent images break the narrative. A woman runs, topless through a field or possibly on a beach, is seen touching her breast, while a nude man is also introduced. The tone in this section of the book is remarkably different than the previous and series that precedes it. The only clue that I can guess at is from a caption Anne has written about a man about her age named Piet: “HI our Piet – p.t.o. Sadly met with an accident he appeared to me in a lightweight body. I’ll tell you some time.”

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The reader is then re-introduced to Anne, but time has passed (the dark and mysterious photographs we just saw?) and Anne is holding a hand tinted photograph of herself. We see Anne hiding behind portraits of her younger self with a drawn on mustache and freckles. We are then finally introduced to Anne as an older woman and her artistic interventions in her portraits. Anne’s style is bright and poppy. She often paints scarves or head wraps that conceal her chin, implying that she isn’t pleased with her appearance in the photographs and adjusts them accordingly. However, body image issues aside, Anne’s interventions in her portraits are beautiful, she has a recognizable style and is extremely funny. In one image, she stitches two stills from a television and creates a small self portrait with a drawing of her torso montaged on top.
The last section of this narrative is Anne running through a fall scene. The aesthetic is similar to the dark scenes in the previous section, but the images are in color and Anne smiles and wears a bright red poncho. Perhaps Anne has transcended the dark period of her past.
Of course, this is all conjecture. There is little text, save for Anne’s captions or notes written on her photographs. My reading however, is that this is a transcendent story and while there are elements of pain in Anne’s history and she has some disappointments with her appearance, she is not an unhappy woman, and is in her heart an optimist. The last caption she writes “Is there any hope for me?”
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Je est un autre : the vernacular in photobooks


The ICP Library presents:
Je est un autre: the vernacular in photobooks
Thursday November 30th 2017
6:00 – 8:30 pm

ICP Library: 1114 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
Opening Reception and Presentations of Vernacular Photo Collections
Creatively Organized by
Bernard Yenelouis, Emily P. Dunne & Matthew Carson


Je est un autre : the vernacular in photobooks – text by Bernard Yenelouis

. . . these pictures no longer simulate vertical fields, but opaque flatbed horizontals. They no more depend on a head-to-toe correspondence with human posture than a newspaper does. The flatbed picture plane makes its symbolic allusion to hard surfaces such as tabletops, studio floors, charts, bulletin boards – any receptor surface on which objects are scattered, on which data is entered, on which information may be received, printed, impressed – whether coherently or in confusion . . . the surface is no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature but of operational processes.

. . . What I have in mind is the psychic address of the image, its special mode of imaginative confrontation, and I tend to regard the tilt of the picture plane from vertical to horizontal as expressive of the most radical shift in the subject matter of art, the shift from nature to culture.

–          Leo Steinberg, “The Flatbed Picture Plane,” Other Criteria. MIT Press, 1972

The shift “from nature to culture” that art historian Leo Steinberg describes, which was a way to unpack the then new paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, can also act as a portal to understand the interest and market for photo books.


The International Center of Photography Library presents an investigation of vernacular imagery in the photobook. These books utilize found photographs, snap shots, archives and collections of others. The turn of the most recent century has seen an impassioned interest in these objects both for collectors and artists. With the glut of over a century of folk photography, there is an endless source of images to collect, curate, re-appropriate and digitize. The photobook reproduces the images both so the reader can collect themselves and the artist can manipulate or alter the meaning of the image.

The Vernacular manifests itself in the photobook along a spectrum, or concocting elements from variations on: The mysterious narratives of Wisconsin Death Trip and Mariken Wessels, the born-digital collections of Chris Clary and Joachim Schmidt, presentations of a hyper specific collections of raccoon hunts or sad postcards, Luc Sante and William E. Jones mining public institutional collections. They all share the unique quality of the book: a presentation of material in an intentional sequence meant to move the viewer.

We hope you can join us tonight, and celebrate the vernacular!

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Zine corner 8

Hello all, Continuing on our Vernacular Photography spree, today in the corner we are taking a brief look at Brad Feuerheim’s “TV Casualty: Ride, Johnny, ride”. This is definitely one of the more professional, “hi fidelity” zines to be featured in the corner. Information from Josef Chladek states the following:

“Softcover, limited edition of 300. Text by Brad Feuerhelm and Daniel Campbell Blight, design by Lamb + Sea, risograph print by Hato Press, published with The Archive of Modern Conflict November 2013 .

Pages: 46
Place: London
Year: 2013
Publisher: Self published
Size: 28 x 35 cm (approx.)”

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This zine is sexy – there’s no way around it. It’s a meditation on the pleasures of television, the assassination of JFK (which was definitely orchestrated by the mob), and Misfits songs about the former two topics. It’s made from collaged, found images, it comes in a black plastic bag, and it’s only red, black, and white. The “zooming in on an image until it is abstracted” is used to abounding effect here, and functions as a reminder of the image quality of 1960s television but also metaphorically links to the mystic distance of broadcasted images and information.

This book (I wouldn’t really call it a zine) is ON VIEW at the ICP Library at the ICP School in midtown. Come on over and take a look!!


This is just one of many beautiful books currently on display in our windows showcasing photobooks that use Vernacular images and archives. Je est un autre : the vernacular in photobooks is the title of this image extravaganza. On November 30th we will have an evening reception where some vernacular collections will be presented in a casual show and tell manner. IF you are in town – do not miss it.


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Caleb’S Zine Coorner #7 ~ BLOTTER

~♫welcome to the coorner ♬♪ ~ 🙂

In the spirit of ICP Library’s “Je est un autre: The Vernacular in Photo Books” show, THE zine corner will do this post about Pierre Le Hors and Tuomas Korpijaakko‘s mysterious zine BLOTTER, published by the even more elusive New York based NOWORK.


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This zine is big and black, and contains high quality reproductions of varying quality mug shots on newsprint. The decay of the images, when visible, is a beautiful wash on texture on a sometimes soft portrait. It situates the images in time, in a way that the faces and clothing of the subjects wouldn’t necessarily. Reading into the reproduced decay is further complicated by the decay each individual copy of the zine exhibits, as the newsprint is variously folded, unfolded, creased, and crumpled (I’m sure you’re now imagining me manhandling our copy which I am NOT doing). Another element of decay is the shade of black on each page varying in depth, which will also change over time.

Striking zine BLOTTER is available to view at the ICP Library upon request, as we have it stored in our rare section. Just ask the nice person at the front desk to fetch it for you 😉

Till next time,

Your good TA, Caleb

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David Douglas Duncan’s “Sunflowers For Van Gogh”

On September 22, select theaters across the United States premiered a groundbreaking, independent film titled “Loving Vincent,” the first ever fully painted feature film. This artistic masterpiece was produced with over 100 painters painstakingly creating each frame onto canvases in the iconic oil painting style of Vincent Van Gogh. The artists, crew and actors literally brought Van Gogh’s treasures to life with characters selected from actual portraits (i.e. Armand Roulin, Dr. Paul Gachet, Postman Joseph Roulin, and so on) and scenery consisting of well known wheat fields, cypress trees, streets of Paris, etc.

Upon seeing the film, I was inclined to further my research on my favorite painter, leading me to another homage to the Dutch genius but on slightly different medium. Where “Loving Vincent” merged motion picture film with oil paintings, David Douglas Duncan went to France to capture photographs of a specific, and famous, muse that Van Gogh reflected on canvas.


“Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh and Sunflowers, whose short lives he immortalized together with his own” Duncan states on the opening page of his book  “Sunflowers For Van Gogh” (TR724 .D85 1986).  Van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37.


Page 7

Duncan continues: “Vincent van Gogh and I fell in love in the same way, in the same place, with the same girl — one hundred years apart. We both knew her only by her first name. Sunflower”

Throughout the book there are photographs of sunflowers, some solo, some in groups, some in full fields of gold, rolled bales of hay in wheat fields, sheds – all objects familiar from Van Gogh’s catalogue.  Beautifully shot, Duncan captures the personality of the sunflowers – his friends “the girls” – in a way that Van Gogh would appreciate, as he explains on page 12:



Page 13


Page 34


Page 35


Pages 50-51


Page 86

A two-page spread captioned “The lone survivor: A field of onions” is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Irises” but with a twist.  Much like the lone white iris amongst the purple ones, this photo shows one lone sunflower lost in a group onion plants.  Even the sunflower’s location is almost identical to the white iris:


Pages 88-89


Vincent Van Gogh, “Irises” (1889). J. Paul Getty Museum Collection

Just as the book opens with a self-portrait of Van Gogh, the book appropriately ends with the seven sunflower paintings (including “Sunflowers and Vase with Blue Background” which was destroyed during WWII) bringing Duncan’s project full circle.

Page 9

Page 134

“Sunflowers For Van Gogh” is an interesting book for any fan of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, but it was even more intriguing for myself, as his “Sunflowers” were never a particular favorite of mine. However, Duncan has allowed me to view these paintings in a different light.   His analogy of the lifespan of the flower to that of Van Gogh is clever, solemn and true.

VGAndIFellFull crop

Page 9

My personal favorite photo of Duncan’s is towards the end of the book.  He was able to capture the real-life moment of one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings – so much so that one could imagine Van Gogh visualizing this himself:


Pages 126-127

Crows Wheatfield

Vincent Van Gogh, “Wheatfield with Crows” (1890). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

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Zine corner 6: “Tres vol.3”

Caleb’s zine corner 6

Tres vol. 3

Today we are opening up “Tres vol.3” from Hui Books in Okayama, Japan. Tres is a series that catalogs the work of three artists in each volume: Masahiro Ikeda, Shinichiro Uchida, and Katsuaki Hata. The title page of volume 3 reads as follows:

“Photographers of three

living in Okayama.

This is a photo book that you take photos

from the perspective of each.

World traced through the camera

the object located in front of.

Something on the other of these images

I am happy if you can feel.”

Ikeda’s section (“untitled”) features carefully focused/non-focused images of an autumn landscape. They make use of extreme close-ups and a very shallow depth of field, absolutely calling to mind the work of Uta Barth but with perhaps a different affect (although both definitely involve a sense of melancholy). The last image in Ikeda’s section stretches across two pages and is a soft image of a woman that seems to fade into a tree cut off by the right frame. IMG_20171012_120746

In Uchida’s work (also “untitled”) we see limbs and musical instruments emerging from a sea of thick photo black. The lights of clubs and landscapes of stages stretch into the abyss, warped by a shallow depth of field. Faces are usually obscured or in shadow, reflections of unexpected colors appear on limbs, and the images have an overall warm color palette. To me, the intimate gestures portrayed suggest “music” more than a photograph of a full band or musician in action. IMG_20171012_120917

The final section is Hata’s “Tico”, and is immediately striking in that it appears to only use two colors – a desaturated green/cyan and white. The images are of a forest, softened by a snowstorm to the point of abstraction. Looking closely reveals the details of trees and mountains, and the angles often seem almost impossible. Two images break from this pattern to portray a similarly snowy city square, which helps us regain a sense of scale. IMG_20171012_121459

The overall flow of this volume feels like the passage of time – perhaps an afternoon into an evening and subsequent morning – or each chapter functioning as a season (although I would interpret it as autumn>>summer>>winter). We begin with Ikeda’s muted color palette and understated images, in some cases printed at a very small size and placed in a variety of locations on the page. From here we enter Uchida’s full-bleed, black background club-scapes, and then emerge into the snowy void of “Tico”, which is once again located within white borders.

This zine is on view at the ICP School library, as well as Tres volume 4. Hui Books has a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since 2015, but their website is and the photographers can be found at:

Masahiro Ikeda:

Shinichiro Uchida:

Tatsuaki Hata:

thanks for tuning into the zine corner,

till next time!


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Photography is Magic


Jack Gwynne, February 28, 1951

Who was Irving Desfor? Unknown to us up until now, his book/photo album Great Magicians In Great Moments came to the ICP Library when the personal library of our founder Cornell Capa was folded into the ICP collection after Capa’s passing in 2008. How did none of us notice this until it seemingly appeared (excuse the pun) as if by magic? Such are the delights of a library, any library, for diversity and inclusion.

The book was self published in 1983. The colophon bears the notation:

FIRST EDITION: The deluxe, numbered, signed edition is limited to 200 copies. The balance of the first printing totals 1800 copies. 

The Library’s copy is marked 61/200. The edition number is written in (excuse the pun) magic marker and our guess is that that the book itself is otherwise no different from the “balance” that totals 1800 copies.

But who was Irving Desfor? According to

Irving “Doc” Desfor (1907-1993) was a photo-retoucher, art director, photo-writer and amateur magician.”

“He was 15 years old when his first photograph was published. Desfor was a photographer with AP from 1929 until he retired in 1972. He continued as a freelance columnist for AP until 1979 when he moved to Florida. His wrote the nationally syndicated photo-columnist “Camera Angles” for 31 years.”

“He was famous for his photographs of magicians in action, beginning with Blackstone. His photos appeared in major magic journals for over fifty years.”

And most importantly for librarians and archivists, for future reference:

“In 1978, he donated thousands of his photos to the American Museum of Magic.”


Great Magicians In Great Moments gives us an unparalleled glimpse of magicians at work, as well as moments with star ventriloquists such as Shari Lewis, so fondly remembered from our childhood. Not to mention the presence of Cornell C and MoMA curator John Szarkowski. What would Szarkowski say about photography and magic – that is, magic not as metaphor, but as vocation?

In a mediascape now dominated with technological special effects, the illusionism of magic shows now look jarring in their emphasis on physical trickery and the need of a live audience. It is a world where theaters and clubs are primary venues for shows, before television or computer screen. Why does our “information highway” seem so lonely in comparison?

Irving Desfor, Great Magicians in Great Moments: A Photo Album by Irving Desfor. Pomeroy, OH: Lee Jacobs Productions, 1983.


The ICP Library


Ricky Jay (age 9), 1954




Virgil and Julie, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1964



Lou Tannen, February 2, 1946


left: Jack Kodell, November 22, 1947   right Jack Chanin, March 18, 1960


Phoa Yan Tiong, April 26, 1969


top: Velma, October 16, 1976   bottom: Ruth Dore, May 20, 1944


“a visual tribute to the untold thousands of pretty, young assistants of magicians who appear mysteriously from boxes, barrels, cabinets, trunks and other ‘empty’ containers . . .” March 16, 1962


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