- If you crossed Weegee with Bill Owens, threw in a pinch of Garry Winogrand, and had suburban 1950′s Minnesota as your backdrop, then you’d be looking at the new book Suburban World: The Norling Photographs. Highly recommended.
- I’m finishing up another great book, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, by Rebecca Solnit. Photography, railroads, San Francisco history, Yosemite, murder, class war — a truly captivating story. Many thanks to Jay Watson for this one.
- Tom Vanderbilt wrote a cover blurb for my buddy Troy Paiva’s forthcoming book — I looked Mr. Vanderbilt up online, and was intrigued by Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America. The book arrived today, and I’m already 50 pages in — essential reading if you’re interested in Cold War ruins.
- This month’s selection in my book club is Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts. Looks like a wild ride!
I’ve been reading Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur, and it doesn’t make me feel like blogging very much. While some of the arguments are a bit extreme, there are a lot of thought provoking ideas in this book.
One of my goals this year is to print more images. The work-prints will get tacked to the wall and absorbed, and the final prints will be matted and or framed for sale and/or gallery shows. My website, blog, and fine art prints are the primary end result of my best photographs. Last week I had a pleasant reminder to think outside the box on image presentation.
The time-lapse video above was created to illustrate the enjoyable, tactile experience of examining photographer Brad Evans‘ hand made photography book on Alcatraz. A sturdy 5.5×7″ box is opened to reveal a metal tin emblazoned with the word Alcatraz. The tin fits neatly into the corrugated cardboard interior. The tin itself is a metal clamshell DVD case.
Opening the tin you’ll find an index of the 12 images in the book with their titles on the left. The book rests on the right within a protective foam border. When removing the book from the tin, the continuity of the copper colored backing is a nice touch.
The book itself is about 4×5″, and uses a clever double accordion folding design. The the color, contrast and printing quality of the 12 images is top notch. Brad let me know he made the book using an Epson 4800 printer. Upon closer inspection I noted the images were printed in pairs of 2, and carefully attached with white linen tape on the back. The white printed pages were glued into what becomes the copper cover and binding, and 2 additional copper pages form the title and short text page when opened.
You can see by my card shark skills in the video above that the experience of opening and examining the book is quite fun. When was the last time you looked at images in a container that you’d call fun? A monitor isn’t fun. Getting that last dust speck off the inside of your frame’s plexi certainly isn’t fun either.
Brad and I were at a meeting with a handful of photographers, and there was definitely excitement in the air when he showed the book around. In this age of the short attention span, a nicely designed hand made container is a superb way encourage people to spend more time with your images.
When you’re telling a story with a dozen photos, the importance of editing and sequencing is paramount. The 12 Alcatraz images in the book show an excellent mix of details, and convey a mysterious mood. Brad sometimes includes human figures in his images, which helps trigger thoughts about the history of this location.
In addition to the Alcatraz book, Brad also had a finely crafted wood box that opens to reveal prints on the bottom. When the box is open, the interior of the lid becomes a print display area. Again the tactile experience of handling prints in a smartly designed container was quite enjoyable.
Hand crafted books can offer an additional way to market your work to customers who may not have the room or budget for a large fine art print. I’d like to thank Brad Evans for sharing his process and knowledge of book printing, and for selling me a copy of his book! You can see more of Brad’s photography, including a slideshow of recent Alcatraz images, on his website: www.citysnaps.net
Last month I had a chance to visit the main CLUI office in Los Angeles to see Pavement Paradise: “An exhibit about the liminal, substanceless, and static space of automotive transience.” Yes, an art show about parking lots. I especially enjoyed the short film that looked at the history of the parking lot in the context of urban planning and development.
So what the heck is the Center for Land Use Interpretation? While a long time fan of their work, I’ve always found CLUI difficult to sum up in one sentence. Their mission statement takes a few paragraphs, but the whole thing really boils down to a neutral organization that studies man vs. nature. From the back cover of their highly recommended book, Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with The Center for Land Use Interpretation:
A town at the bottom of a reservoir. A covert military installation. A downsized Olestra plant. Sites like these rarely appear on street maps. But they are windows into the American psyche, landmarks that manifest the rich ambiguities of the nation’s cultural history.
Abandoned places night photography has an extremely strong kinship with CLUI’s interest in exploring historical sites and the modern ruins of the military-industrial complex. In addition to the goldmine contained in their Land Use Database, CLUI’s publications and programs are at the forefront in establishing a wider context for understanding the types of locations I often photograph.
CLUI’s scientific neutrality allows conversations with those interested in land use from a wide variety of positions. While a mine operator and an environmentalist have divergent views of the meaning of an open pit, CLUI makes an effort to focus on presenting information without politics. This approach shares an interesting commonality with photography — a description of something interesting is presented, but the interpretation is largely left to the viewer.
One way to help support CLUI is to shop at their bookstore. The Los Angeles location has a small but tightly focused collection of books that includes quite a few great deals on photography books. Half of the shelves looked similar to my own book collection, and I spent about 2 hours browsing through the other half. Below is a brief look at some of the titles I purchased.
1. Reclaiming the American West / Alan Berger – The altered landscape of mining in the Western U.S. is deftly analyzed using a fascinating mix of aerial photography, maps, charts, and essays. I can’t remember the last time I was so floored by a book. Absolutely essential. Also check out Berger’s follow up book Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. [CLUI] [Amazon]
2. Strange But True: The Arizona Photographs of Allen Dutton – Using 8×10 and 11×14 cameras, Dutton has documented the Arizona landscape, and presents many of his images side-by-side with historic images shot from the same location and perspective. The results are astonishing. I can’t think of a simpler, more effective way to explain the history of the American West than one of Dutton’s image pairs. [CLUI-call] [Amazon]
3. Aperture #150 (Winter 1998) Moments of Grace: Spirit in the American Landscape – A ten year old issue of Aperture? I’m so happy CLUI brought this issue to my attention. The 3 page essay on desert photography by Charles Bowden is superb. The structure of the issue provides an important history lesson by breaking landscape photography down into an interesting series of divisions. More on this issue later. [CLUI-call] [Amazon]
4. Roadside History of Nevada / Richard Moreno – A very well written and entertaining guide full of interesting locations in the Silver State. If you’re interested in exploring Nevada, this book is not to be missed. [CLUI-call] [Amazon]
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little informational detour. When visiting the City of Angels, stop by the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City. In addition to the exhibits and books, they also have a nice little display of classic Merle Porter postcards, and a wall of brochures for interesting tourist sites. I picked up brochures from the Oconee Nuclear Station tour, Army Ordnance Museum, Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, and some other cool stuff!
- Shrink wrap a book, booze, and bookmark into a bag
- Attach helium filled bags
- Gift giving courtesy of the Belligerati Reading Club — Happy Holidays!