George Katzenberger – 605 East Chestnut

Review by Gerhard Clausing

An old ‘craftsman-style’ house and recollections of times spent there – these are the ingredients of this photobook. Photographer George Katzenberger weaves a very appealing narrative around a place he documented a long time ago, which still has meaning for him even now.

The old house that once stood at the address known as “605 East Chestnut” is the protagonist of this narrative. Katzenberger takes an anthropomorphic view: he sets up the story by introducing us to the characteristics and projected emotions attributed to various parts and features of the place: the porch, various rooms and old TV programs seen, the neglected backyard, the messed up wiring, each of which is given the status of a unique memory. The images and the accompanying captions and comments convey a feeling of deep attachment to a place that once was home.

The special interest is developed through the tight interplay between the visuals showing the environment on its way toward demise, and the texts that go with the images – little bits and pieces, such as “Sometimes we had to flush the toilet twice” or “The basement looked like a crime scene. We stayed out.” The residents of the house are never actually shown, except for a self-portrait of the author in the appendix, so that the viewer can have a better virtual experience in getting to know the house that once was. Nostalgia is best processed when accompanied by a good dose of humor, and Katzenberger is certainly blessed with both.

Another feature that makes this photobook special is the tension Katzenberger builds up from beginning to end. The iffy but lovable structure and its devoted residents are given notice by the owner, the mood gets dark, and the confrontation with a giant bulldozer seems to be the end. But the final conclusion is reached when even the dog has given up on the location (see the last photograph below). The images and layout, as well as the pacing, are excellent.

This photobook is a great example of how to present an effective personal narrative in a compact amount of space, with visual appeal and amusing texts that are of general interest. We all have lived (or are living) in places that are less than perfect, and yet we would miss them if we no longer had them. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

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George Katzenberger – 605 East Chestnut

Photographer:  George Katzenberger (born in Seattle, Washington; lives in Irvine, California)

Self-published; © 2020

Texts:  George Katzenberger

Language:  English

Paperback with illustrated cover, perfect binding; 40 pages, numbered; 9.5 x 8 inches (24 x 20.5 cm); printed in the United States

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Articles & photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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