Culture.pl presents part two of the review of photo publications released in 2012-13. Books, an important, increasingly popular medium for photographic series, enable artists’ projects to reach farther and last longer - often self-published and exceptionally well designed, they make solid reflections on their authors’ sensitivity and artistic maturity.
Topography of Silence (Topografia Ciszy) - Waldemar Śliwczyński
Waldemar Śliwczyński, Topography of Silence, spread, photo: press release
The concept for the series had its beginnings in 2009 when Waldemar Śliwczyński, editor-in-chief of Kwartalnik Fotografia (The Photography Quarterly), became involved with a photography exhibition held at Adam Mickiewicz Museum in Śmiełów, near Poznań. Upon completion of the exhibition the artist was still experiencing the urge to continue with the project. He and his wife thus ventured on a journey across Wielkopolska accompanied by the detailed guide compiled by Marcin and Piotr Libicki. Śliwczyński then decided to document the abandoned, decaying, and forgotten mansions from the region. The series of photographs, taken with a large format camera, documents the decaying material heritage of a chapter in Poland's history. The title of the book refers to the tracing of that which no longer exists. By presenting the current state of the buildings, Śliwczyński directs our attention towards the irretrievable life and milieu of Polish aristocracy, greatly affected in the PRL era, telling a story of the political change and its effects on preservation of the national heritage. He states explicitly that he did not intend to create an inventory or to document a full architectural spectrum of the area, but to portray a particular historical process. Thus the series gained a ghostly, melancholy and yet critical spirit.
Wojtek Wilczyk, a photographer who authored a series on re-customized or decaying Jewish sites of worship said in review:
(…) we may read this story in a number of ways: for instance, as a documentation of the state of the gentry's residencies located in the poznańskie voivodeship twenty years after the political transformation and as a record for the turbulent social processes, taking place in the 20th century Europe, as a reference to the national artistic photography, but also as a series with an existential touch, whose theme simply is... passing."
The book, designed by Tomasz Wojciechowski, received an honourable mention in the Book Off's competition for Photo Publication of the Year 2013. The jury praised the book for its astonishingly modern and progressive approach to book design and professional handling of the rather sentimental subject matter.
160 pages, 70 photographs, 317x250 mm, hardcover
Text: Ewa Kostołowska, Wojtek Wilczyk
Design: Tomasz Wojciechowski
Publisher: Kropka, 2012
Awards: hounourable mention in the Bookoff Photographic Publication of the Year 2013
Disappoint of View – Kama Sokolnicka
Kama Sokolnicka, Disappoint of View, spread, photo: courtesy of the artist
Anna Mituś, curator of Kama Sokolnicka’s exhibition under the same title as the book, writes in the introduction to Disappoint of View:
The pun title – Disappoint of View – is a subversive semantic operation replacing the moment of a picture’s construction with its partial disintegration. In the representative sphere, the instruments of this operation are perspective and scale, key elements both for the picture and any other illusion. The term ‘disappoint of view’ is chosen by Sokolnicka to mean ‘the point of view from which everything tends to look disappointing.’ The late-Baroque illusionist painting built its perspective calculating with scientific precision the model, ideal viewpoint, from which the viewer could fully appreciate the proper meaning of the image. Here, the works constituting the cycle deny the very existence of such a point, with all the consequences resulting from it. The picture is lit against the perspective of an immanent viewer. And thank God for that."
Despite taking up the weighty theme of the modern ways of looking and of human condition, the publication’s three visual essays (Tristes Tropiques, Quest, and Vienna Set) do not make any grand statements. The collages made out of mostly archival, found footage build up to a highly personalized and humble reflection of disappointment. Resembling a diary both in its form and content, the book may also be likened to a disappointment with the reality after one wakes up from a fantasy or an escapist dream.
64 pages, 60 images, 155x235 mm, hardcover
Text: Anna Mituś
Design: Maciej Lizak
Publisher: BWA Wrocław, 2012
Jerzy Lewczyński. Memory of the Image – Jerzy Lewczyński/Wojciech Nowicki
Wojciech Nowicki, Jerzy Lewczyński. Memory of the Image, book cover and spread, photo: press release
Jerzy Lewczyński, born in 1924, is a photographer, art critic, and journalist. He is mostly known for coining the term “archeology of photography” which refers to making use of photographs as objects of a historical and material value. Lewczyński explains his thinking behind this notion:
I use the term archeology of photography to describe actions that help to discover, research and comment on events, facts and situations, which happened earlier, in the so-called photographic past. Thanks to photography, the continuity of the visual contact with the past creates a possibility for the old culture-creating spheres to influence the current ones."
The book includes texts by Wojciech Nowicki, a curator of Lewczyński's exhibition under the same name, and acts as a well-deserved testimony to the idea photography as a thinking medium. The robust book invites us browse through and carefully study Lewczyński's findings and authored photographs, which are mixed up, regardless of their source.
Nowicki’s essay describes the life Lewczyński in the context of his work as an archeologist, organizer, thinker of photography and attempts to apply the study methods employed by “JL” to reading the persona of the artist himself:
So we must arrange and purge. I am scraping Lewczyński out of his very self, out of his accumulated words, out of his habits. I am digging down to the gestures most peculiar to him, invented by him. A pure tone escapes, unique in Polish photography.
280 pages, 215x270 mm, hardcover
Text: Wojciech Nowicki
Design: Witold Siemaszkiewicz
Publisher: Muzeum w Gliwicach / Czytelnia Sztuki, 2012
Stocznia (Shipyard) – Michał Szlaga
Michał Szlaga, Shipyard, spread, photo source: szlaga.blogspot.com
With Shipyard, Michał Szlaga presents a book project that goes beyond a purely artistic endeavour. The photographer began the project while still a student at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts. There he became involved with photographing the famous shipyard over 13 years, observing the changes and decay occurring due to the plans of transforming the area into a motorway area.
In the course of realizing this project, only recently realized as a book, Szlaga has not only encountered people involved with the site as workers, inhabitants, or contributors to its unique role, but also come across documents testifying to its history and importance. The 150 hectare area is predominantly associated with the Solidarity movement and the fall of communism. However, in this book there is not a word about this section of its history. In the light of the careless decisions made by developers, Szlaga uses book publication as an opportunity to educate and share his insights about the process. He presents this knowledge systematically, dividing the book into chapters to depict the shipyard in the past, its changes over the years and what remains there to be saved. Szlaga presents the people associated with the space, buildings, and elements that contribute to it, in studious rather than nostalgic images. The photographs are accompanied by precise descriptions of technical details accompanied by a short note about the social aspect or role of the specific sections of the shipyard.
Szlaga's decision to turn the documentation into a book arose from the impulse to compile the information and the imagery he has collected over the years in order to further its meaning and resonance. The exceptionality of the project is that it does not try to behave as a chronicle or a catalogue, but nevertheless is an expert publication on the subject matter.
Aside from the deeply political potential of the book, Szlaga also sees in it a potential tool for encouraging collecting photography in Poland. He has released a limited edition of the book with three prints of his photographs added to it. Apart from that, he has offered two of the photographs for sale, for the price equal to production costs. Anyone can purchase them, as they are unlimited but nevertheless sold as signed and numbered prints.
272 pages, 300 photographs, 305x235 mm, hardcover
Text: Jacek Dominiczak, Michał Szlaga, Adam Mazur, Waldemar Affelt
Design: Olga Łebkowska
Publisher: Fundacja Karrenwall, 2013
Little Man (Mały Człowiek) – Zofia Rydet
Zofia Rydet, Little Man, spread, image courtesy of the Archeology of Photography Foundation
Little Man is an exceptional publication – the 2012 edition is a contemporary reprint of a book from 1965 by Arkady Publishing. Archeology of Photography Foundation (Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii) published this new edition.
Little Man includes over 140 photographs by Zofia Rydet taken by her between 1962-1963 in countries such as Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Egypt – a period when the artist was only just beginning her career. In spite of that, her book was an unprecedented project, as at the time it was unseen to release art photo books.
Rydet captures the topic of her book, childhood, in a non-simplistic way. Little Man is divided into sections, where each of them reflects a poetically captured aspect of children's life. Titles include The Guilty, The World Has Got Something, Nice Safe Feeling, and so forth. The photographs are illustrated by excerpts from texts by Janusz Korczak.
Rydet expressed the significance the project had for her, in a letter to the editor of Polska magazine:
I do not know if I really managed to speak in the little man's defense. I fear that the public will look at the book as they would at any other more or less good albums, that they will appreciate the pictures and feel free to judge them as good or bad, and won’t read and interrogate the beautiful texts of Korczak. That would be my failure, because I wanted to express a thought and to lead not to stopping on a particular photo, but a broader problem.”
The artist has thus put stress on the critical aspect of the material and its presentation, bordering social documentary. On top of that, it has been designed in a truly praiseworthy way – the original layout was created by Wojciech Zamecznik. Based on geometric shapes, the design of the book results in a mesmerizing dynamism.
Due to the technology applied in creation of the first version of the book, and the severe deficiencies found in the preserved copies, the patrons of the publication had to go through the task of digging through the original archives of the photographer to recreate the design, at the same time adjusting it to the demanding eye of a contemporary viewer. Little Man has certainly stood up to this test of time.
230 pages, 146 photographs, 245x190 mm, hardcover
Text: Alfred Ligocki, Janusz Korczak
Design: Wojciech Zamecznik
Publisher of the re-edition: The Archeology of Photography Foundation in partnership with The Zofia Rydet Foundation, 2012
Czułość – Czułość
Czułość, photo: courtesy of the Czułość Gallery
The introduction to the book states: "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental," playing with the convention of a saga. In Czułość, the photographers of the collective under the same name present the story of the first two years of their collaborative activity and the gallery co-founded in this time. The book includes several photos exhibited at the venue, but rather the other side of the work – intimate looks into the wild pre-parties, their friends, drawings given to them (by the likes of Roger Ballen, Karol Radziszewski, Arobal, and others), their fantasies, and everything else that they wanted to show uncensored, and in the words of Janek Zamoyski (now the main curator of the gallery), transparent.
The book features several essays written by their friends and collaborators, describing what Czułość is and is not to them. Ever since the founding of the gallery and the collective, its members have been trying to define its status. Therefore, the book marks a certain cathartic moment. Perhaps the most poignant text in the book is the one tightly fitted onto the inside covers of the book – an online chat exchange between the Czułość’s founders: Janek Zamoyski and Witek Orski. In a few brief messages, they discuss their genuine frustrations and fears but refrain from expressing their plans and expectations regarding the future of Czułość, allowing it to continue its existence as a fluid entity.
Text: Łukasz Kasperek, Maurycy Tryuk Moczulski, Witek Orski, Karolina Sulej, Adam Radecki, Janek Zamoyski
Design: Michał Kozłowski
Publisher: Czułość in collaboration with Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych, 2012
7 Rooms (7 Pokoi) – Rafał Milach
Rafał Milach, 7 Rooms, spread, photo: nalecka.com
In 7 Rooms, a book realized over the period of seven years, Milach portrays seven characters in their thirties and their lives in contemporary Russia. The stories of the characters Gala, Lena, Stas, Mira, Vasya, and Sasha and Nastya constitute "6 rooms" in the narrative created by Milach. Coming from three different cities, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Krasnoyarsk, they lead very different lives. What connects them is their encapsulation between the mentality of the old Soviet regime and the up-and-coming Russia of the Putin era.
The 7th room of the series is devoted to a critical text by Svetlana Alexievitch taken out of her book Enchanted with Death that tells the stories of people and their experiences after the fall of the Soviet Union. Both the photographic and the written projects refer to "the metaphorical baggage of the generation born in the USSR" in a way that is both personal and critical.
The book, published by Kehrer Verlag, has been designed in an extremely elegant way that at the same time resembles a notebook or a journal. It serves simultaneously as a memoir of a journey and a sturdy piece of artwork that will carry on this chapter in history in portraits.
Milach received a number of awards for 7 Rooms, including the Best Photography Book Award at the 69th Pictures of the Year International in 2012, and Best Contemporary Photo Book in Eastern and Central Europe at the 2012 Month of photography in Bratislava. Following a sold out first edition, the book was re-released in the summer of 2013.
152 pages, 57 photographs, 165x203 mm, hardcover
Text: Svetlana Alexievich
Design: Ania Nałęcka/Tapir Book Design
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag, 2013 (2nd Edition)
Awards: POYi – The Best Photography Book Award 2012, shirtlisted in the First Book category at Paris Photo / Aperture Photo Book Award 2012, Contemporary Photo Book in Eastern and Central Europe at the Month of Photography in Bratislava 2012
The Irreversible (Nieodwracalne) – Agnieszka and Maciek Nabrdalik
The Irreversible, Agnieszka and Maciek Nabrdalik, photo: press release
Part documentary, part conceptual work, The Irreversible by sociologist-photographer duo Agnieszka and Maciek Nabrdalik is a project that grapples with testimony to traumatic history as its subject. The book, the first stage in a massive project they have been carrying out together since 2009, features interview portraits with 42 survivors of concentration camps.
The accompanying photographic portraits have all been taken from close quarters with facial features of the protagonists illuminated. The photographer created an intimacy with his subjects and the difficult memories that haunt their features, contrasting his subjects with a pitch-black background behind implicit of those who didn’t make it through their wartime custody.
The publication, designed by Ania Nałęcka of Tapir Book Design, also employs some formal solutions to address the subject matter. The authors refrain from using any numbers in the book whatsoever, including page numbers, to radically oppose the oft-employed methodology in recounting the stories of the war in digits. Moreover, the cover of The Irreversible is made of black sandpaper, its texture unpleasant, rough and injurious in sensation. The authors describe this idea:
This is not the book to tuck in among others, if only because of its damaging surface. Just the touch itself might discourage you from further contact. This is why we think that the subject as much as the album itself deserve a special place in the homes and minds of those who reach for it."
188 pages, 42 photographs, 235x215mm, hardcover
Text: Agnieszka Nabrdalik
Design: Ania Nałęcka/Tapir Book Design
Publisher: Exit Zero Publishing, 2013
See also: Photo Books AD 2013 Part I
Sources: own materials, culture.pl, press materials
Author: Anna Micińska, October 2013
Special thanks to Krzysztof Kowalski of Super Salon for sharing his expertise.