For a Language to Come by Takuma Nakahira

My last posting on the sweep of awards for Japanese books in Arles leads me to mention the new edition of Takuma Nakahira’s For a Language to Come just published by Osiris.

Originally appearing in 1970, Kitarubeki Kotoba no Tameni is Nakahira’s jarring description of a dark world – a landscape where the natural order of light and shadow, distinctions of space and time, is upset. From the opening image, the descriptive qualities of Nakahira’s approach set a tone of brooding, where even the brightest burst of light can’t seem to penetrate the shadows. His staggering vantage points seem envisioned by someone wounded or intoxicated by their surroundings. The apocalypse is nearing or has passed, that is unclear, but the physical impact of the environment on this wanderer couldn’t be clearer.

The stifling claustrophobia of space in this world is extreme. Nakahira purposely condenses his tones and contrast to foreshorten space leaving little opportunity to breathe in the landscape. At night, spotlights and fluorescents offer little depth as if the speed of light was dragged to a standstill. When in natural light, we are often oppressed by a weighty haze of grey sky pushing down on the horizon line. The few pedestrians we encounter seem like sluggish sleepwalkers aimlessly going through the motions of life. This is not the dark but invigorated vision of Moriyama but a slowed pulse, the occasional images of lolling waves setting the pace.

This reprint follows the same edit and sequencing of the original. The original jacketed softcover wraps have been changed to a hardcover with a new design by Hattori Kazunari (a new interpretation of the idiosyncratic original by Tsunehisa Kimura). The original rich gravure printing, since now an extinct process, has given way to a finely handled offset. The paper is slightly glossier than the original.

In questioning how photography functions as either a language or something that exists “on the reverse side of language,” Nakahira would ultimately re-examine his work in 1973, find it shackled by “expression” and shifted towards the attitude that photography must be like “an illustrated dictionary…[which]… consists only in clarifying the fact that material things are things.” This would lead to his burning much of his past work on a beach near his home.

Now that this new edition is presented to us after so much has been written about it – essentially confirming its status as one of the masterpieces of Japanese photography – it is interesting to question how it will be seen, apart from scholarship, within a contemporary viewpoint. Considering Nakahira’s initial attempt to reject and destroy it, a level of historical value has won out. 40 years has passed since Nakahira revealed this world and questioned what is photography and what is language, now it can be tested again and see how his “thoughts” stand against time.

Yutaka Takanashi: Photography 1965-74

A month ago marked the start of the 2010 Les Rencontres D’Arles smoking convention which I attended for a few days. I found a small number of books (still trying to show restraint) which I will mention in the upcoming weeks. The main draw for me is the competition which names one “contemporary” book and one “historical” book as “best of the year” – the winners get 8000 euros each. Last year I entered the first Errata Editions books for the historical prize and we didn’t fair very well. The judges that year were extremely critical of the concept of my books and not for the reasons you would think. (See my report from last year for more details).

So this year I entered the new Errata books with no hope of a prize but purely to help introduce them to a new audience. That Saturday, the day I was leaving, they made the final decision on the two awards and I was excited, not to mention surprised, to hear that this year’s judges liked the series so much they were considering them for the historical prize. Their final decision went to Japanese Photobooks of the 60s and 70s from Aperture instead, but I am pleased to say that during the award ceremony that evening, they gave Errata Editions a special runner-up mention.

The winner of the contemporary book went to Only Photography‘s fine book Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74. Only Photography is Roland Angst’s independent publishing house in Berlin. Their books are beautifully produced with a strong care towards design and printing and the Takanashi book is their best so far. Past titles have been Ray K. Metzker’s Automagic and Frauke Eigen’s Shoku.

This hardcover book presents an edit of 41 images from Toshi-e in a large vertical format and the selection corresponded to an exhibition of mostly vintage prints that was on display at Galerie Priska Pasquer in Cologne, Germany. This marked the first solo showing of Takanashi in Germany. One of the gallery directors, Ferdinand Bruggemann is a specialist on Japanese photography and contributes a fine essay on Takanashi and his masterwork, Toshi-e. A second essay by Hitoshi Suzuki, who was an assistant to Kohei Suguira the book’s designer, provides a personal remembrance of discovering the book in Seguira’s design studio while it was being created. A short preface from the gallerist Priska Pasquer opens the book.

Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74 is beautifully realized with three different cover images silk screened onto the cloth of the boards. A yellow translucent dustjacket wraps the book and the color I have been told reflects the tone off an exhibition poster from the first solo exhibit of this work in Japan in the 1980s. The printing of the plates is also exquisite – a modern offset interpretation of the original’s lush gravure which remains rich and clean. The design reflects the twisting and turning of the original (horizontals oriented vertically) but with additional gatefolds for a few of the horizontal pictures. It was printed in an edition of only 500, 30 of which come signed and numbered with a print. An additional 100 were signed and numbered by Takanashi. I strongly recommend this book if you can get one. They are a bit pricey but I assure you it is because these books were expensive to produce.

So this year was a clean sweep of awards nodding towards Japan (it was also our study of Toshi-e that had gotten the main attention from the jury). My congratulations go to Aperture and Roland of Only Photography, I don’t mind coming in second when the competition was that strong.

720 (Two times around) by Andrew Phelps

“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential.” – CR Stecyk

“Richard Armijo was kicked out of Whittier (skatepark) again for the last time. Maybe his hair was too short, maybe it was his attitude, maybe he just doesn’t care. Things are different this go around because Richard and his friends say they’re not going back…Ever.” – CR Stecyk

The only other thing I was ever good at in my life before photography was skateboarding. I spent nearly everyday from 1980 to 1989 throwing my body around like a dishrag in roughly paved drainage ditches and halfpipe ramps in Arizona and later New Jersey and New York. Those hardcore years are scarred into my hips and shins. After art school, a part of my life has been spent struggling to stay connected with the feelings I had skating back then. I still kick around a bit and tell myself I “still skate” but it is more in my mind than reality. I was never good enough to gain sponsorship, never liked competing, and now, at 41, suffer a bad knee and the worst of traits a skater can feel, fear. I hold on by watching videos of new generations perform feats on the streets and ramps that my generation couldn’t have thought possible. It is a passion, like photography, I imagine I will take to the grave.

I make strong comparisons between skating and photography. Both require large amounts of passion, attention to your surroundings, perseverance and risk taking. I see a skater’s line as artistic and improvisational as anything William Forsythe choreographs, as sculptural as Richard Serra, or as mind bending as Matthew Barney. It has creates its own language, both in words and form that is as unique as Kurt Schwitters or John Cage.

There are many books on skateboarding but most fail because they suffer from the same trait that I have succumbed to, nostalgia. Powerhouse Books just published Full Bleed which is a compilation of images from the 70s through the 2000s of east coast skaters tearing up NYC. It’s an interesting highlight reel of greatness but nothing more. It leaves me in the past like so many now distant memories, where as Andrew Phelps’ newest book 720 (Two times around), a small self-published, spiral-bound book of 16 pictures in an edition of 100, holds more of the actual spirit of skating than any image of Huf or Gonz caught at the apex of a trick.

While photographing in Austria, Phelps discovered an abandoned corporate building which had been infiltrated by skaters. They set up makeshift ramps and obstacles with the aid of a few power tools and ingenuity. Left behind doors unhinged from their frames and upturned desks transform into a playground within the wasteland of empty offices and corridors of failed big business.

There are no skaters present, no “tre-flips” or “blunt slides” being performed. Their presence is felt by the wheel marks on walls and blackened, waxed edges of ledges. The improvisation of construction and the lingering excitement of what must have been felt upon the first run up any of these obstacles hangs in the air. Graffiti on the walls marks a list of the fleeting accomplishments. “Mario bailed” but Phil pulled a “backside crooked grind.” That unique language again. For the uninitiated it is nonsensical, but to see a backside crooked grind, that is a universal language.

720 (Two times around) is dedicated to both Mike McGill and Robert Adams. Mike McGill revolutionized skating in the 80s with the invention of a spinning 540 degree air performed 5 feet above the lip of Del Mar skatepark’s keyhole bowl. It was a spectacle which stunned onlookers and marked a turning point in skating – perhaps like Adam’s The New West marked a turning point in photography. As Phelps concludes in a brief afterword, “When I dream of skating, I’m Mike McGill. When I dream of photographing, I’m Robert Adams.” Two very different sources of inspiration, one spectacular and the other deceptively not, both meeting the same outcome to push a medium of expression forward for new generations.

Two books by Mariken Wessels

The last artist book Mariken Wessels published was a narrative of found material she discovered in an Amsterdam shop. Elisabeth – I Want To Eat is an assemblage of old photographs, postcards and letters that describe a young woman’s life budding and then, rather shockingly, leading towards depression and, what I read as, an implied suicide. It is a reconstruction which blends some fact with loads of interpretation.

In one of the letters translated from Dutch, Elisabeth’s aunt, in an attempt to help Elisabeth think differently about her life writes, “But unpicking yourself, that can be done, why am I doing this, couldn’t I do it better (for me and for everyone else) in a slightly different way? Each little thing builds the whole. In accordance with the same system as all matter is built up from molecules and atoms.” This suggestion of parsing and twisting the events of her life is also the strategy Wessels employs in these works. We grapple with trying to understand this life presented to us through only a few pieces of ephemera which insists that our own twist of psychology intervene.

Wessels’ newest artist book, Queen Ann. P.S. Belly Cut Off from Alauda Publications is a look into a life of a woman named Anneka.

Anneka appears to be a woman haunted by loneliness and obesity yet she puts forth a fun-loving and warm, if at times slightly demented, demeanor. When we are shown recent images of her, she (or the artist) has painted their surfaces with adornments such as brightly colored hats or veils or cut out parts of herself in the pictures with shears. In some, she adds a second coat of lipstick or nail-polish that transforms her into an over-the-top eccentric where we might question her sanity.

In one image from which the title refers, she writes, “In a way I really do feel like a “Queen.” I think that fits. Although lacking the wealth but perhaps like our image of famous queens, Ann is also slightly lonely, unsatisfied, and displays vengeful violent streaks which in this case, she plays out on her own image rather than others. She seems to mock even her own ideas of beauty in how she “improves” the picture makes herself presentable – all ribbons and bows with make-up dripping from her eyes.

In both Queen Ann and Elisabeth, sexuality is an overt presence. In Elisabeth a suite of scratched nude photos (think G.P. Fieret) is presented, perhaps made as self-portraits or by a lover. In Queen Ann, photography as a somewhat transgressive act is also included – that of what appears to be a middle interlude of stills from a sex film (with Ann as the star?). This is followed by a more recent image of Ann holding an image of herself as a young attractive teenager – the weight of wishing for the past is felt.

Although melancholy in overall tone, Ann’s unique character and playfulness outshine her underlying problems with aging and self image. The last images, shot on super-8 film, show her running and twirling, arms outspread, in a forest. A smile is sensed through the grainy and blurred image just before she disappears behind a stand of trees.

As with many contemporary books from The Netherlands, both of these are beautiful objects. The care and attentiveness to “the book” is felt but never trumps the content. In Elisabeth, English translations from Dutch type-written on green tissue paper are loosely laid in are a wonderful touch, and Queen Ann includes a sealed glassine envelope of 4×6 inch snapshots. It isn’t clear if this last element, the glassine, is meant to be torn open or whether the images are meant to be viewed through the translucent paper (the metaphoric haze of memory?). You decide. Maybe in that case, collectors should buy two.

Errata Editions limited editions signed by David Goldblatt

If you have not yet ordered your set of the Errata Editions newest books now might be the time. A little while ago David Goldblatt stopped by our studio to sign some books, so for a brief time we have Limited Edition sets available with David’s signature in Books on Books #7: In Boksburg. All current orders for the sets will be shipping with a signed copy, you do not have to specify.

See the Errata Editions website and click on the ‘SHOP’ page for ordering details.

Car Crash Studies 2001-2010 by Raffael Waldner

The skin was broken around the lower edge of the sternum, where the horn boss had been driven upwards by the collapsing engine compartment. A semi-circular bruise marked my chest, a marbled rainbow running from one nipple to the other. During the next week this rainbow moved through a sequence of tone changes like the color spectrum of automobile varnishes. As I looked down at myself I realized that the precise make and model-year of my car could have been reconstructed by an automobile engineer from the patterns of my wounds. – from Crash, J.G. Ballard

I have never been in a car crash. Two friends of mine were once in a nighttime high speed head-on collision – one, the passenger, died immediately; the other, the driver, walked from the car physically unscathed. For years, it wasn’t the details of the actual accident that were described to me that I dwelt upon, but the story told to me by my surviving friend when visited the car at the police lot to collect his personal belongings from the interior.

The car had been hit on the right front passenger side because he had instinctively jerked the wheel to the left at the last moment. The passenger seat, with Mike, had been compressed so that it came to rest near the trunk. By my friend’s account the entire right side of the car was shorn away but the left side, except for the doors jammed into their casings, looked clean. There was something in his description about the post-violence, the lingering event felt in the crash dust seen in the bright afternoon sun, that was more horrifying and memorable than his descriptions of the moment of impact.

Raffael Waldner’s Car Crash Studies 2001-2010 just published by JRP Ringier brought these thoughts back to mind.

For the last decade, Waldner has concentrated on automobiles, photographing “the impact of violence and the way it changes the product.” The results of his nighttime ventures into scrapyards photographing wrecks might be seen as a sort of attempted typology of the unpredictable transformation of an object that took place in matters of split-seconds.

His still-lifes, described with large format precision accentuated by strobes, are loaded with the tension between beauty and the horror of the implicit event that occurred. If it sounds or looks cold, it is. His is often the sensibility of a scientist, or an insurance photographer might take to matter-of-factly complete an accident claim. Their simplicity is belied by the new forms of twisted metal, the spider-web of windscreen glass, the scratched and battery-acid burnt paint varnishes that he focuses upon.

A degree of fetish is apparent, both on the part of the photographer and reflecting on car culture. The autos shown here are mostly high-end sports cars of a variety common with associations to wealth, sexuality and vanity on the part of the driver. They are expensive status symbols rendered valueless in an instant – the sexual prowess of the driver left limp in a cabin full of flaccid airbags and useless gear shifts.

Waldner breaks the book into various section starting with the surface damage to the car’s skin. Abstract and painterly, these feel more like a conscious artistic decision, something that many of the other images seem to resist. He follows with sections on areas of impact that sequentially move us closer and closer to the details. The last sections are interiors and finally a small suite of engine blocks removed completely from the vehicle. The sequence might suggest a sort of autopsy (no pun intended), moving from outer body to inner and diagnosing the damage to individual organs.

If Waldner’s book has one flaw I feel it is in the amount of photographs. It is oddly sits between not being ‘Becher-exhaustive’ enough to feel like a full exploration of a ‘typology’ and having too many of one section over another. This might be due not through lack of the photographer having material but from the editing which was done by Christoph Doswald. This is not a crushing blow to how the entire book functions but rather like a small design flaw that might be perceived after several test drives.

Car Crash Studies 2001-2010 includes closing essays by Christoph Doswald and Maik Schluter.

Quatorze Juillet by Johan van der Keuken

My best find while in Europe during the Kassel festival was a new book from Willem van Zoetendaal on Johan van der Keuken called Quatorze Juillet.

In July of 1958, Van der Keuken was wandering through Paris and happened upon a street celebration. A stage had been set up, music was playing, people were dancing and Van der Keuken – like most photographers might – took the opportunity to shoot a few rolls of film. The day resulted in one of his more well-known images of a couple dancing which has made it into several of his books – 6 to be exact including Paris Mortel. Most all of the other negatives were never published.

Quatorze Juillet is a book of the other images he made that day presented in a cinematic sequence which gives a look into a much larger, and delightful, afternoon along the Seine. Edited by Noshka van der Lely and Willem van Zoetendaal this construction of a larger narrative suggests Van der Keuken’s interest in “stills that move”, a curiosity that would later lead him into film-making.

On page one we encounter a couple, they dance, closely embraced, in a vertical image which isolates them from other dancers and celebrants. As Van der Keuken twirls around them photographing, the larger celebration is revealed. People on the periphery become the new leading players and smaller narratives develop – a man approaches a group of young women, another walks through the frames carrying a long ladder, a car speeds around the corner whooshing through the crowd. Small flirtations take place and the photographer works works like a fly on the wall – testing each frame and trying variations which, in my mind, are as wonderful as the image he finally chose as “his best” from the day. This is not a re-edit of mediocre pictures made better by the inclusion of others.

As with most of Van Zoetendaal’s books, the care in making Quatorze Juillet is excellent. The choice of paper stock – an uncoated matte stock – is bound sempuyo-style producing a double thickness of each page.

The printing was done by Calff & Meischke in Amsterdam and while I was visiting Holland I stopped by the printing facilities to visit Freek Kuin who had just finished printing the book after testing out several paper and ink variations. Stacks of proofs laying on the floor revealed slightly different interpretations of tone and contrast. Each looked good on their own but when directly compared, slight shifts of color emerged, the contrasts popped or the ink suppressed details. The final result made apparent the vast choices to be made in book reproduction and Freek is an extremely passionate craftsman in putting ink to paper.

The design is also superb. Van Zoetendaal designs most of his books and the placement of the images on the page in Quatoze Juillet is a fascinating study of design. The images are oriented towards the bottom of the page, not extreme enough to be readily noticeable at first, but it pushes the sequence along, connecting the images and grounding them – amplifying Van der Keuken’s vantage point since a few of the pictures were shot from the elevated musician’s stage.

I received one of only a handful of advanced bound copies of this book that were made to show in Kassel so I am not sure if the book is officially out yet, but this was made to accompany an exhibition of the work at FOAM in Amsterdam this year. I don’t know how many they made but if you can get your hands on one, I doubt it will disappoint.

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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