By Gerhard Clausing •
Even though we are somewhat isolated due to the coronavirus situation, we certainly can still share our work. It can be a more personal experience to virtually visit with our fellow photographers and authors and to hear and see them tell about their projects in an atmosphere of comfortable professionalism. To participate, you don’t have to drive anywhere, or even get shaved and dressed, unless you turn on your video camera! When the presenters share their images on their screens, you can see them more clearly than ever before.
This event sponsored by Photo LA, FOCUS, and Open Show LA this past weekend was such an opportunity to learn about new work and practices. This article will deal with some photobook highlights I found notable, presented on Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28. There were also many 3D interactive gallery exhibitions and installations, as well as meet-and-greet events. Here I will concentrate on photobooks; I am also featuring some of the other new work in our sister publication, PhotoExchange Journal, here.
Rebecca Senf has published an interesting book with Yale University Press that traces the accomplishments and career of Ansel Adams, starting with his early interest in the wilderness, via his later membership and leadership role in the Sierra Club, his commercial work promoting environmental concerns, and his major successes at the end. Many illustrations and documents from his life were shown, and it was a pleasure to see and hear about this well-researched project. How did he get from the modest early work of his youth to the well-crafted stellar landscapes he got famous for later on? The presentation was moderated by Britt Salvesen of LACMA.
Ansel Adams: Early to later …
Richard S. Chow moderated another fascinating session, featuring Jamie Johnson and Louie Palu, both of whom are documentary photographers whose work is refined and reaches into fine art as well.
Jamie Johnson is an expert at photographing children. Over the past number of years she visited Ireland repeatedly to get to know the Irish Travellers, an itinerant ethnic group that prefers to thrive alongside the mainstream, with strong independence. These personal observations recorded by her as a professional photographer have now been gathered into her first major commercial photobook, Growing Up Travelling, published by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany. Wayne Swanson reviewed this book at PBJ recently, here. It was a pleasure to hear how this book came about, starting with submissions and ending up with the work being printed at the onset of the current pandemic. Shipping from Europe currently takes longer, but the visit to the printer in Germany was an important step in achieving the best quality possible. More copies are expected to arrive in the US by the middle of July, and will be available at photo-eye, from Amazon, or directly from Jamie. The images practically sparkle from the joy these children feel. They may be outsiders, but they are happy and proud.
Speaking of getting to know your environment and the folks in it, Louie Palu has been featured a number of times on PBJ. Douglas Stockdale did an interview with Louie and reviewed two of his books, Front Towards Enemy and A Field Guide to Asbestos, so a number of our readers are familiar with some of his work. Louie is a top-notch documentary photographer who cares deeply about people, the environment, and political processes. At this session, he shared some of his procedures and preferred methods regarding the process of creating photobooks.
Louie emphasized that your purpose for taking the pictures and doing series is all-important, as is the idea that you need to stay true to yourself, even as you access specialists who help you in editing, design, and production. He spoke about the importance of getting in touch with your work by doing edits, such as on a large floor space or on a wall, as well as a first rough ‘dummy’ (maquette) that allows you to initially study the possibilities before the experts take over. Thus you will learn a bit about effective juxtapositions, such as his double page of Colin Powell and the soldier who lost a hand, below. Certain procedures are best left to specialists, such as the overall design of the book. It was particularly fascinating to hear about the experimentation that allows a ‘deconstructed’ book like Front Towards Enemy (Yoffy Press) if you have a creative and innovative collaborator like Jennifer Yoffy. Learning editing and creating books can take a long time, but the results can be stellar and impressive.
Louie Palu’s Ice Block Project
I hope that the pandemic which has slowed things down will soon be over. But I am also hopeful that delightful virtual events such as this one will continue in the future.
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