Bernhard and Hilla Becher: Ephemera, Catalogs and Books from Librairie 213

I am finally home again after the second leg of my European tour. Can’t say I am happy about that but the photobook burn out I felt after the Kassel Photobook Festival, which started my trip back in May, seems like such a distant memory now. All of my new acquisitions have more or less made it safely to the States and I am going to ease back into regular postings if time permits.

My brain is still recovering from the trip so I thought I would start with a book/catalog which doesn’t require much effort from me. It is an overview of ephemera, catalogs and books that have been published on Bernhard and Hilla Becher from Librairie 213.

Librairie 213 is the French book dealer Antoine De Beaupre. Some of you might know him from the Galerie 213 and the slickly designed exhibition catalogs they published in the late 1990s – most notably, one on William Eggleston that has all the plates tipped onto the pages.

This catalog on the Becher’s work starts with their earliest appearance in an art magazine review in Die Sonde in 1964 and progresses through their recent books published as late as 2010. Much of the early ephemera such as promotional posters for Anonyme Skulpturen and exhibition announcement cards are the reason to pick this catalog up as many of these items have been lost to history. Last year at Paris Photo Antoine had a framed copy of the Anonyme Skulpturen poster from the Moderna Museet and if expendable income were at my disposal, it would be on my wall right now.

With each entry there is only the most basic of publishing information, all in French, so this teeters between being just a sales catalog (no prices are listed) and a bibliography for Becher scholars. It was printed in an edition of 500 with 50 copies numbered and signed by Hilla Becher.

As with all of Antoine’s publications, the design is by Olivier Andreotti of Toluca Studio. At approximately 11 x 11 inches and with high production standards but for the occasional slight Morey patterning in the plates you might over look the 25 euro cover price.

Note: There is no mention of this book on the Librairie 213 website but perhaps email Antoine about getting a copy.

Each year, seemingly made and given free as sales pieces for Paris Photo, Antoine has produced a few other fine catalogs. In 2007, his booklet on 31 Japanese books from 1968 and 1982 is worth looking for if there are any left floating around. Although it is well-trod territory and most of the books won’t be a surprise, again the production standards are wonderful.

The same goes for his book on German photobooks En Allemagne from 2008. This one charts an implied timeline of 66 books starting with Renger-Patzsh and Rudolf Schwarz’s Wegweigsung der Technik and ending with Jorg Sasse‘s D8207. Neither of these last two catalogs specify how many were made.

Lost for Words by Peter Fraser

My dream world is almost completely empty of all possessions. When I fantasize about the perfect home, it is almost monastic in appearance. It is flooded with light, has a small library, perhaps a few pieces of artwork sparsely punctuating a couple walls, my cat (the only chaos), a large bed, and the warming presence of someone I love. There is little, if any, bric-a-brac. The world Peter Fraser describes in his photographs is the one I hold at bay. His new book from the FFotogallery in Wales Lost for Words is for me, a decent into one version of hell.

That may sound extreme, hell, but looking at all of the objects he describes in his books my mind reels with the well intentioned but ultimately disturbed creations that surround us daily. Fraser thrusts our noses inches from things which might seem familiar at first and while seducing with color and a straightforward view, he accentuates their decay or artifice.

Looking at his photos I remember the same sinking feeling I used to get as a child when I would pull my N-gauge train set from under my bed only to find that within a short time the small foliage and resin lake, which I labored over to reconstruct reality and suspend disbelief, had been covered in a fine layer of dust and cat hair. It all seemed futile. No longer could I become completely captivated by that miniature world when the locomotive would emerge from the mountain tunnel hauling a huge dust bunny.

When Fraser published his book Material in 2002 I was less disturbed. That work felt partially contained within laboratories and work spaces sealed off from my usual environs. Thus, I could contain it – my mind told me ‘that is there, I am here.’ With much of his other work though, there is no comforting barrier, I am here, it is here too – just look down at the floor. I want to escape into the blue of the bird’s egg in one of his images but those damn thorns and the scraped gold edge of the picture frame just above it keep escape impossible. Those loaves of bread made of foam are harmless yet the color (jaundiced skin?), and the wrinkles make me slightly nauseous.

Just like with the train set of my past, there is a pleasure in disrupting the scale of things. In Fraser’s pictures it is a stylistic language he employs that teases the mind. It takes a moment to understand the relationship of these often physically small objects to the larger world. Not enough information is given to know the full answer. We are left grappling, lost for words.

I try to decipher the chalk markings that appear on the side of a red bookcase in the last plate of the book but thankfully their logistical meaning is beyond my grasp – if they weren’t, I might be of a mind to follow their direction and descend further. Instead I still have the option to close the book and safely contain this madness. A blue spine peeking from a shelf is less disturbing – it can now coexist with my dream world.

A)rt B)ook C)ologne

Home again. Back to work, real life, less kölsch (more Brooklyn lager) and maybe the occasional blog post. While in Amsterdam, Prague and Germany I managed to find another 32 pounds of books. I checked the delivery status of my first shipment to find it arrived to the Errata office in Chelsea. Yesterday after coming from the airport I ran over to pick the books up only to find the sturdy well packed box nearly transformed into the shape of a ball. Crushed corners, one seam on the side fully open to where you could see the bubble wrapped books inside (customs treatment??) and to my horror… a sign that moisture had creeped up one side like the box had sat in a puddle.

With my trembling hands I tore the box open cursing DHL and as I started unpacking the books I was amazed that only one title out of the 16 had suffered during shipping, the rest were safe and sound.

Some of the titles I shipped in that package had come from Bernd Detsch of Art Book Cologne which I have mentioned here on 5B4 before when I was in Cologne last year. Art Book Cologne is a remainder house on Deutzer Freiheit 107 across the Rhein from the city center. If you visit Cologne I strongly suggest you make a visit. Bernd has been dealing in the business for years and has a great selection of books at big discounts. If you ask nicely, maybe he will let you walk through the warehouse and among the palettes of books, many are titles not listed on his regular site but ones he sells at good prices on-line through ABE and other listing sites. He also has his own private collection of artbooks that are not for sale in the back which would make anyone envious.

It’s pretty fascinating to see what becomes a remainder, or what gets discovered in a warehouse somewhere and turns up at his place. For instance, the huge stack of Anthony Hernadez’s Landscapes for the Homeless (Volume 1) – a book I had on my want list for some time now. He has them in mint shape for 40 euros.

Last year Art Book Cologne was where I found several Christian Boltanski books, a great El Lissitsky reprint of About 2 Squares, Ilya Kabokov’s My Mother’s Album, and several others. This year I found a great 1990 catalog of photography by the late Sigmar Polke from the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden, shrink-wrapped copies of the two-volume Richard Prince Paintings and Photographs from 2002 and Marcel Broodthaers Texte et Photos from 2003.

For me, as an American, even with the added shipping costs it is a chance to get some great deals on European remainders which would be rather expensive in the States. Check them out here.

Kassel Fotobook Festival 2010

This may be a bit of old news by now since my travels have prevented me from my usual postings but I wanted to mention the fun happenings at the 2010 Kassel Photobook Festival. This year Dieter Nuebert and crew changed the venue to the main hall where Documenta takes place every 5 years. The building is twice the size of the art school where the festival has been the last two years but the place drew a great crowd – about double the attendance of last year. There were more booksellers, better exhibition spaces for the visiting artists and, most importantly, more scenic views for the smoking convention which has now become another event in itself.

After a free ride to Kassel with the Schaden crew and briefly helping them set up their tables I scoped out the other booksellers. Dirk Bakker was present and had some great stuff including a ‘newspaper’ for the Becher’s Anonyme Skulpturen. A stand from Vice Versa manned by Kurt Salchli offered up a few really cool books (a new Richard Prince book Four Cowboys and Car Crash Studies 2001-2010 by Raffael Waldner). Schaden had the largest set up and many good things as usual, including a new book of Yutaka Takanashi (Photography 1965-1974) from Only Photography books. Takanashi is currently enjoying a nice exhibition of many vintage prints at Galerie Priska Pasquer in Koln.

Yannick Bouillis of Shashin Books in Amsterdam had many nice titles. He is now specializing completely in Dutch photo and art books and his prices are very good. Last year when I visited his shop, I picked up a couple titles from him and even though some were in Parr/Badger, he still had them on the shelf for regular price. This year he had a couple perfect copies of Why Mister Why for around 60 euros each for instance. Check out his online store, I wasn’t familiar with half of the books he had at the festival.

One set of books I missed out on seeing fast enough to get myself were by the artist Ferdinand Krivet. It is a set of three individual books published in 1971 by Verlag Kiepenhevert in Koln. I think the title of the set is Stars: A lexicon in three chapters. Reminiscent of Klaus Staeck’s Pornografie, they are completely made from appropriated imagery. Thanks to Walther Zoller and Cecilia for letting me see what I missed.

Another surprise was taking a second look at Nico Krebs and Taiyo Onorato’s book The Great Unreal from Editions Patrick Frey (2009). I hadn’t liked it much on my first leafing last year but now I am dragging it home. Also a big surprise was Viviane Sassen’s Flamboya from Contrasto. Once I got past what I think is a horrible cover (too cutesy and trite), the inner book is pretty wonderful. Her book Sol y Luna from Libraryman was released last year but wasn’t much my cup of tea. Also, there is a retrospective of Michael Schmidt taking place in Hamburg at the Haus der Kunst so they published a very nice hardcover catalog of work from 1989/1990. That comes home with me as well. I was trying to show restraint the whole festival but you know how things work.

Of the other tables, there was one for my favorite bookmakers and schools, the Institut fur BuchKunst in Leipzig. It was a real pleasure to sit and talk with Gunther Karl Bose,one of the instructors there and a great bookmaker himself. I featured two of his books on 5B4 last year. They only hasd a few books for offer but he showed me a few out-of-print titles which blew my mind. One which I must get my hands on, published just recently and already OOP, is XX-: The SS-Rune as a special Character on Typewriters by Elisabeth Hinrichs, Aileen Ittner and Daniel Rother. It is an examination of fascism presented through a history of the typewriters used during the Third Reich and the special lead type characters they invented. According to Gunther, this book was made mainly as a response to Steven Heller’s Iron Fists, a book which they thought was a little too one dimensional in dealing with the subject. As I mentioned it is OOP partly due to the small print runs of their books (around 250 – 400 copies each) but also because the main newspaper in Frankfurt wrote a full article about it because it is a design and research masterwork. I somehow will get one and write about it.

In between many hours browsing titles, lectures took place with Paul Graham, Alec Soth, Rinko Kawauchi, Rob Hornstra, Joachim Schmid, Leiko Shiga, Niels Stomps, Sybren Kuiper, Lesley Martin speaking on Aperture’s history, Ferdinand Brüggemann talking about Japanese books, a presentation about Soviet photobooks, Dr. Bettina Lockmann on the outsider view of Japan, and many others. I didn’t see all of them but was amazed at the rock-star status of Alec who started his lecture with an old drive-in movie style pre-film ad “Show time with Alec Soth (rhymes with ‘both’.).” Surprising with all of the lectures was how few questions were asked after each presentation. Maybe the hall is intimidating but I remember last year there were many more.

The exhibition for the Best Photobooks of the Year was fascinating as Stanley Greene’s newest book Black Passport garnered THREE nominations. I was pleasantly surprised that Darius Himes of Radius Books nominated my Books on Books study of Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e as his pick. Thank you Darius! Like last year, a nice catalog of the choices was produced and is available for sale.

The other main attraction was the book dummy show. Each year the festival has a call for entries for unpublished photographers to submit a book. This year over 400 books were entered and the best 50 were put on display. This year’s winner was the photographer Werner Amann and his book American.

After three and a half days of books and hotel bar marathons even I was so sick of photobooks that I needed refuge and left after one last post-game beer with Dieter and the clean-up crew – catching a ride to Amsterdam with Yannick Bouillis and Sebastien Girard. I drew the short straw and wound up crammed into the back of a van with boxes of left over books crushing me, my spine being readjusted with ever bump of the highway on the four hour ride. We unloaded the van at 2:00am and after a sleepless night listening to Girard start snoring not 4 minutes after laying down, I did the best thing possible the next morning – search out the bookshops in Amsterdam.


How to travel with books…dont!

I will be doing a recap of the Kassel Photobook Festival plus a look into the 40 pounds of books I shipped home from Europe. I was going to give a preview but I packed them before I snapped a few photos.

In Berlin now scoping out the bookshops, then onto Prague, then London for the Self-Publish Be Happy show at the Photographer’s Gallery. Final stop is Dusseldorf Germany for Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber’s Ant!Foto Festival starting on Thursday June 10, at 7:00pm located at the Kunstraum. There will be several guest speakers: Wassinklundgren, Taiyo Onorato, Nico Krebs, Joachim Schmid, Jason Lazarus and many more including myself. Those talks start on June 12th at 1:00pm. More info is available below.

Until I return or have another moment to write, be well and check out the Ant!Foto Festival

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