A Road Divided by Todd Hido

A Road Divided, Photographs by Todd Hido
Nazraeli Press, Portland, 2010.
64 pages, 28 color illustrations, 14×17″.

It is a curious way to open a book: “…It is just as probable that I have also written the one–or two–best books I shall ever write. They are done with. That is how things go. And it is most unlikely that a second burst of inspiration will alter this irreversible fact…This is where the rest of life begins….”

Nevertheless, this is the epigraph that introduces Todd Hido’s latest monograph A Road Divided. Baudrillard’s words might suggest decline–a fall from greatness. In the case of A Road Divided it is just the opposite. Rather, it is as though we are invited to witness to a grande beginning. Hido’s monographs are often celebrated for their elegant design and the beautiful yet understated aesthetic that Nazraeli Press books are known for. Not only did they put out this most recent monograph, Nazraeli also published Hido’s 2004 series, Roaming. Years later, A Road Divided is a continuation or extension of the photographer’s earlier landscape work.

In this book, Hido returns to the aimless roads and empty terrains captured earlier in his career. The attenuated, windswept forms appear accented by a painter’s brush. This effect is achieved by ingenious use of the blurry, rain-streaked ‘lens’ of the artist’s car window. The monotone palette of each image serves to gather a wide spectrum of feelings and memories into each resounding image. We recall Emily Dickinson’s stark words: “Nature is a haunted house–but Art–is a house that tries to be haunted.”

Perhaps that is the difference between Hido’s past work and A Road Divided. The latter is an expansion, an avid embrace of life itself. It does not try, but truly haunts. Not only does A Road Divided feel more considered in terms of image sequencing, the photographs themselves possess a poignancy that registers on a higher level. As an object, the book is truly beautiful. We at PIP encourage you to ride shotgun with Hido, and take a ride.

Purchase A Road Divided

The Mushroom Collector by Jason Fulford

The Mushroom Collector, Photographs by Jason Fulford
The Soon Institute, Amsterdam, 2010.
196 pages, 115 color illustrations, 9½x12½”.

“Ted found a manila envelope full of mushroom pictures at a flea market in New York. Why did he give me this treasure? I already owe him for so many things.” Jason Fulford’s question rings out from the pages of his most recent book, The Mushroom Collector. Known both as a photographer and as a publisher (J&L Books, a Photography in Print favorite) for his precise and confident eye, Fulford’s query seems almost ironic. But as one moves through The Mushroom Collector’s elliptical and thoughtful narrative, it becomes abundantly clear that Fulford is truly working through something.

The gift of the unassuming mushroom pictures permeate the entirety of the book, and about half-way through the larger design of the work reveals itself. The visual narrative of the book begins by offering us moments: a parade, a facade of a house, a car (or “an abstract wish,” writes Fulford). It is only in the second half of the book that we are invited into the photographer’s internal universe, where objects from the material world are explored deeply and critically in the artist’s studio. You can almost feel the images vibrate with excitement as analogues emerge between Fulford’s own work and the mushroom pictures. It is electrifying to watch an artist decode and develop his own visual language within the pages of The Mushroom Collector. Alec Soth insists that this is not only the top photo-book for the year, but one of his all time favorites. We at PIP couldn’t agree more–go out and Collect!

The Mushroom Collector was printed by the Soon Institute in Amsterdam, where Fulford was involved in a 5-week residency in 2010. PIP can’t get enough of the work coming out of the Netherlands at the moment–we will continue to keep you tuned in and our eye towards the North Sea.

Purchase The Mushroom Collector

Boulevard by Katy Grannan

Boulevard, Photographs by Katy Grannan
Fraenkel Gallery & Salon 94, San Francisco, 2011.
44 pages, 38 color illustrations, 13×15″.

Katy Grannan’s recently released Boulevard speaks volumes. Boulevard’s cover whispers with a wonderful understated intensity–the image of Malaysia stares back through the book’s translucent jacket. The artist speaks for herself: “Yesterday I found Malaysia. I’d seen her several times before, on a lonely stretch of La Brea. There are so many like her: boulevard phantoms. The city drives by without seeing them…” Through Grannan’s lens these ‘phantoms’ are revealed, and given form by a ruthless and unfaltering gaze. Like her last large format book, The Westerners, one could say her newest book captures “freaks.” Yet Boulevard’s subjects elicit an entirely different response from the viewer than Grannan’s past work.

Grannan’s ‘boulevard phantoms’ are captured against blank white walls of sheet rock and stucco, placing her more in the tradition of Avedon than the oft-compared to Arbus. This stark backdrop serves to drown out the ambient noise of “celebrity culture.” Yes, a deteriorating Marilyn Monroe look-a-like and Malaysia’s heavily painted face recall the clichéd story of the star-gazer come to Hollywood in pursuit of fame, or some greater or lesser grail. But the more time you spend with the work, the more apparent it becomes that Katy’s work is about so much more than victims of the California Dream. Her subjects are not portrayed cruelly, but they exude a complicated mixture of aspiration, delusion, and disorientation. As the artist writes, “They thought it would be different here but the reality is crueler and far lovelier…”

Boulevard is printed by our friends at Fraenkel Gallery, and they present the work with the compassion and patience they are known for. Each subject appears on their own page, giving the viewer an opportunity to really look. We at PIP urge you to dive in, and let yourselves be haunted…

Purchase Boulevard

Before Color by William Eggleston

Before Color, Photographs by William Eggleston
Steidl, Gottingen, 2010.
200 pages, 152 Quadratone plates, 9”x10″.

In 1976, John Szarkowski wrote in the introduction to William Eggleston’s Guide: “I once heard William Eggleston say that the nominal subjects of his pictures were no more than a pretext for the making of color photographs … I did not believe him, although I can believe that it might be an advantage to him to think so, or to pretend to think so.” Traveling through Steidl’s recently released Before Color, we can see why one of Eggleston’s earliest champions saw something deeper in his black & white work. We pass by the broken woodlands of northern Mississippi and suburbs of Memphis, wide gray skies, vacant motels and half-empty diners, peacefully desiccating homes and the beginnings of asphalt jungles. While these are motifs that would come to shape Eggleston’s canonical color work, there is something enchanting about experiencing the master’s work with the color stripped away.

Steidl has put out some of the most significant books on photography, and Before Color is yet another testament to the press’ sophistication. The magnitude of the work covered is impressive, yet the book still manages to move at a nice pace. The page and a half bleeds coupled with the smaller side-by-side images create interesting relationships between the photographs. Steidl’s clever sequencing of the work facilitates our understanding of the larger project: namely, to uncover an artist’s developing visual vocabulary. And as always, the work is beautifully printed. All the plates in Before Color have been scanned from vintage prints developed by Eggleston in his own darkroom. The fact that these prints were made by the photographer himself adds another thrill to looking at the work. Before Color allows us to witness an emergence of a young photographer who would go on to define a generation, and offers us a second look at a world we thought we knew. -PIP

Purchase Before Color

Wilderness by Mischa de Ridder

Widerness Photographs by Mischa de Ridder
Artimo, Amsterdam, 2003.
72 pages, 54 color illustrations, 12”x14½″.

This book was published five years ago, and we are shocked that it is still available. It has a series of 18 wonderful landscapes, and a set of double sided pages that can be removed to form two different wall sized photographs. The pieced together image is not a Gursky, but it would make any dentist from the 70’s envious, and have flashbacks of their waiting room. In the current economical climate you probably will hold off on buying that Gursky, but you can afford to purchase this book before it’s out of print. Right now, Wilderness is a steal at $42…add one to your collection. -PIP

In this book, lushly photographed flora isolated in nature alternates with enlarged details from the wilderness compositions that emphasize the four-color separation methods used in commercial printing. The detail pages encourage appreciation for the graphic qualities of the quiet views of undeveloped nature where tree bark ridges and layered flowering branches become organic patterns. The book’s pages are perforated for easy removal as the included images can be assembled to create two wall sized installations, each 1644 x 2082 mm (64.5 x 82.1 inches). -Artimo

Wilderness is available at Ooga Booga

Pretend You’re Actually Alive by Leigh Ledare

Pretend You’re Actually Alive Photographs by Leigh Ledare.
PPP Editions, New York, 2008.
color and black & white illustrations throughout, 8¼x10¾”.

This is the first book by Leigh Ledare a recent graduate of Columbia University. It is an intimate look at his mother, and their sometimes oddly close relationship. Included are personal writings by Ledare…interesting, yet sometimes skanky photographs documenting their artistic collaboration. Ledare employs a raw, intimate, “snapshot” aesthetic placing him into the lineage of Nan Goldin and Jim Goldberg. He knows how to manipulate this genre, and does not fall into the trappings, which many young photographers who dabble in this lineage tend to do. Ledare’s work feels indulgent, but more performance based when compared to his peers. The book feels very personal, and you inevitably feel like a creep probing through someone’s dirty undies.

The design of the book has the look and feel of Raised by Wolves, but the spine doesn’t break as soon as it’s opened. It is also housed in a graphic slipcase, which does not give any signs of the intimacy within.

Regardless of your moral compass, this is an interesting book with strong design. Add it to your collection before it is out of print, and out of your price range. -PIP

Composed in its entirety of photographs, written anecdotes and ephemera, Leigh Ledare’s first book, Pretend You’re Actually Alive, is a searingly intimate investigation of the artist’s relationship with his mother, a once-promising prodigy ballerina.

Both a revealing family album, and an unfolding of the relationship between Ledare and his muse/mother, Ledare’s photography and video work involves creating strategies to navigate the themes embodied within this extraordinarily complex relationship. Pretend You’re Actually Alive can be viewed as an archive of a mother and son’s shared, private moments amidst the desperate attempts to renew her identity as a dancer - this ­time working as a stripper in a club beside her parents’ apartment. Pretend You’re Actually Alive is also a mapping of Ledare’s mother’s efforts to commodify herself –initially through her precocious childhood talent, later through her overt sexuality, and eventually through the portrayal of herself as an archetypal victim – in efforts to find companionship, attention, financial security, and a benefactor before her youthful, marketable currencies expire.

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is foundational to Ledare’s continuing investigations around portraiture, issues of authorship, collaboration, performance, authenticity, and an ongoing inquiry into the ways in which personal boundaries complicate subjectivity. -PPP Editions

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is published in an edition of 1000 slipcased copies.

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is available at Amazon

On Duty by Arnold Odermatt


On Duty Photographs by Arnold Odermatt
Steidl, Gottingen, 2007.
244 pages, color illustrations throughout, 9½x12½”.

We love this book…it has been in the collection since it was published in 2007. PIP is looking forward to Odermatt’s follow-up Off Duty, also being published by Steidl in 2009. Keep an eye out for it, and add On Duty to your collection today. -PIP

Arnold Odermatt joined the police force in his native Swiss canton of Nidwalden in 1948, when he was just in his twenties. When he retired more than 40 years later as Vice Commander of the department and Lieutenant Director of Traffic Police, he found sudden, unexpected fame as an artist. His photographs of the vehicle accidents that had been part of his professional life, collected in the book Karambolage, led to international recognition: his work was shown at the 2001 Armory Fair and Venice Biennale, followed by solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002 and at the Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2004.br/>

In addition to his car crash photographs, Odermatt has also used his camera to recreate scenes from his days in law enforcement, spurred on by the fears of the shrinking Nidwalden police force, in hopes of enticing the village youth to join its increasingly unfashionable ranks. On Duty collects these images, which are populated by Odermatt’s colleagues reenacting their daily adventures, in a compelling sequence of colorful tableaux. It is a strange and impressive document offering unexpected insight into a hidden world. -Steidl

On Duty is available at Amazon

Finding Thoughts by Cuny Janssen


Finding Thoughts Photographs by Cuny Janssen.
Photographer’s Gallery, Amsterdam, 2006.
80 pages, 40 color illustrations, 6¾”x9″.

It took us forever to get our hands on this book. It was worth the wait because the book is terrific. Cuny Janssen is making some of the most interesting books currently. Pick up any of her books, you will not be disappointed. -PIP

Dutch photographer Cuny Janssen’s landscapes and portraits of children track her travels from Iran to India, Macedonia, France, and back to the Netherlands. Her social concern is evident in the choice of locations and subjects, and even in her timing: she went to Macedonia after ethnic violence had left many families displaced. Although the sitters are not identified by name in her final works, Janssen spends a substantial amount of time with each child and his or her family. What emerges is a highly contemplative body of work, and an ultimately optimistic view of matters of survival and beauty. Janssen cites among her influences Thomas Struth, Robert Adams, eighteenth-century Swiss portrait painter Ferdinand Hodler and Marcel Proust. Accordingly, a commonplace book of quotes from sages including Man Ray, Carl Sandberg and Pipilotti Rist is printed on the tissue paper that is interleaved with the images. Among the quotations appears a motto of sorts for this portfolio: “Let’s be proud and friendly.” - PG

Finding Thoughts is available at Amazon

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