This is the way my grandparents used to spend their summer holidays: renting a cabin (a little house called ‘GONIE’) for a week, on the beach of one of the islands on the northern coast of the Netherlands: Ameland. This time in 1936, August 10th till the 17th. My grandfather compiled a small photo album, containing some snapshots and miniature post cards, all glued in. He did the layout of the pages, drew some straight and diagonal vermicelli lines in black and white across a page. For decoration he cut of all 4 corners of the post cards. Even the brown carton album itself is hand made and has rounded corners.
They had two children, in some of the photographs is my father, Willy, who was then 4, and his sister, Annie, who was almost 8, then. My grandmother still has some hair, which she lost after giving birth to both of her children. That’s why she has a cotton hat on her head in most of the pictures. She already was wearing custom-made shoes on her rheumatic feet.
My grandfather is looking suave, smokes small cigars and pipe, and was then still able to walk. He was employed at the Dutch Railways. I only know him sitting in a wheel chair at home, with Multiple Scleroses (MS).
In many of the photographs my old-aunt Reina appears. She was the older sister of my grandmother. She smokes Stuyvesant cigarettes and sits wide-legged, like a man. She had a low voice, was a schoolteacher and rode a motorbike. I remember once, she shaved herself in the early morning at my grand mother’s house with a Philips electric shaver for men.
My grand parents lived in Arnhem. On my father’s 8th birthday (May 10, 1940) the Germans invaded the Netherlands: “The Moffen were in the back yard”, he would later say. My father lifted up his father to put him in his wheel chair, and transport the family and their belongings in a chariot. During the war they were evacuated to other family members in Laag Soeren. Their house was confiscated by the German military.
Later in life my aunt worked as a pharmacy technician in Arnhem. She was always wearing white gloves and braces around her thumbs, because of excema. She never married, but took care of both disabled parents until they died.
My father married a young orphan, living just down the street: my mother. She was then called Marga and a bride of 19 years old on September 10, 1958. My father studied at the University of Wageningen, with a major in Tropical Forestry and later worked at the national forest services (Staatsbosbeheer) and the company Grontmij. He shared the environmental concerns of the then popular global think tank the Club of Rome. In 1970 he started his own business as a landscape architect: a “workplace for environmental construction”. His commissioners were located ‘below the rivers’ in the provinces Brabant and Limburg. My mother started the art academy in Den Bosch when we were teenagers.
My parents needed always to disagree on something….
Every month or so, on a Sunday, we would drive up to Arnhem, to visit my grandmother, all dressed-up, touring the empty Dutch highways in one of my father’s various cars – sometimes a Citroen DS, a Saab 96 or Peugeot 404 – and I would stare out at the world through the car window frame. On arrival we had coffee with apple pie, a warm lunch and afterwards a drink, at times a glass of punch. My grandmother nibbled on a tiny glass of eggnog with a tiny spoon. We loved her homemade apple pie, wet and salty, and her meatball soup. Through a porthole between the kitchen and the living room I delighted in putting the warm plates onto the table. I liked to go down into the cellar and smell the fragrancies of jams and canned food.
My grandmother wore a wig most of her life, sometimes just a bandana, and lived in a confined space, hardly able to move because of the rheumatoid arthritis in her knees and feet. She took one Aspirin a night. I can see her still waving goodbye to us with her swollen and clamped right hand. She used eggshells and coffee grounds to fertilize her small garden. Every now and then she offered us (my borther, sister and me) a small plastic bag with pennies, that she had saved for her grand children.
Where do you want to go? Because NOW is the peak of photobook fairs, around the globe: Last weekend OFFPRINT was launched during the first edition of Photo fair UNSEEN at the Westergasfabriek culture park in Amsterdam. And this is the first home match of OFFPRINT, to be continued two month later, mid November, in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In between, mid October, you might want to stop at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Some publishers will have split their activities last weekend and were at the same time present at the London Art Book Fair or at the Tokyo Art Book Fair, or maybe both. In order to move on the last weekend of September to the New York Art Book Fair (NYABF) at MOMA PS1.
Portrait photographer Koos Breukel and artist Roy Villevoye (working with the medium of photography in an antropological context on cultural codification and identity) travelled together to Papoea-New Guinea, to the village Ti, one of the most remote areas on this planet. At the entrance of the stand from publisher/designer/gallerist Willem van Zoetendaal in the Gas holder building a blow-up is mounted on a free standing wall. It is a group portrait of about 20 inhabitants of the village. They are standing, one by one, men, women and children, in colourfull western clothing (we would call it ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ style here in the western world), on top of a mud hill, or half way down, staring at the boat coming down the Unir river, bringing the artists into their world, In fact, what you see is the following: these young and old people are completely aware, involved in this moment, each of them. They are not posing, don’t even know what that is; the SELF is not in the center of their awareness, that’s what makes these portraits so remarkable. Koos Breukel built a studio on the spot and made singular sober portraits. Villevoye made group portraits of the indeginous people. In April 2013 Van Zoetendaal will publish a book containg the portraits of all 120 villagers, photographed by both photographers on the same day.
The way the French gallery VU’ has approached the fair’s title UNSEEN is a revelation to photobook cognoscente. On one wall, which is part of the genious environmental design by Muller van Tol (just imagine slicing an orange in half and looking from above on the inner circle – containing a cafe and champagne bar- connected through long white membrans, separating the segments of fruit, that’s where the gallerists are located) several vintage photographs by Anders Petersen and JH Engstrom are lined up. This unpublished work is related to two seminal photobooks, respectively, from the series Cafe Lehmitz, 1967-1970 and Trying to dance, 1996-2001.
Julie Cockburn should have won the Dummy Award with her reworked (stitched, caleidoscopic cut-outs) found photographs presented at The Photographer’s Gallery and Flowers Gallery. She will get there anyhow; her first book will be noticed.
He has the most adaquate surname, you can imagine, looking at his first book, oblong size, entitled A Natural Order: Lucas FOGLIA. It means ‘leaf’ in Italian. Lucas himself grew up living off the land, not far from New York City – although his parents did have three tractors, four cars and five computers. The slogan of life is ‘LIVE SLOW’ and ‘DIE WHENEVER’. A photograph in the book shows this text is hand painted on Tod’s vegatable Oil Van in North Carolina. Foglia documented the principles of the back-to-the-land movement, curious to ‘see what a completely self-sufficient way of living might look like’. Lucas Foglia interviewed, photographed and befriended people throughout the Southeastern United States, maintaining a self-sufficient lifestyle, although they are not completed isolated from the mainstream. People in these communities have updated websites, lap tops, cell phones and solar panels. In his photographs the mixture of the modern world and rustic life is not made explicit, the focus is on the lather. Together with the book you receive a counter culture pamphlet, which reads like a flower-power handwritten diary, describing what a ‘100% hunted /gathered diet looks like’.
And of course I felt morally obligated to visit Yossi Milo Gallery and see the work by Pieter Hugo from the documentary series Permanent Error, 2009. Because that’s what it is, the consequence of the merging of old economy, globalization and white collar crime: a permanent error.
In the Flatland Gallery stand I looked at tiny, pale and vurnerable young boys, lined up in their red or bleu sportswear: a group of wrestlers in Osmanyurt, in Russia, photographed by Rob Hornstra. He presented at UNSEEN the third year publication in the Sochi Project Sketchbook Series. The photographs in KIEV were taken using an old Soviet camera with technical defects. The camera was a gift to Rob Horstra, given to him during the summer of 2011 while being in Sochi, by architect, DJ and designer Pavel Lesnevsky. This card board fold-out booklet can be fold out such that you end up with two linear strips of colour photographs on summer life in Sochi on the Black Sea coast. On the back side of the zig-zag strip one large colour photograph of pink oleander bush unfolds. According to his gallerist (Flatland Gallery) Rob Hornstra now copes with the fact that it is more and more difficult to enter Russia, and might not even make it to photograph the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014. Another card board fold-out, though more intimate in size and content, and hand made, is Don’t Forget, self-published by Mariken Wessels. 14 pages concertina folding, according to the technical data. In the booklet Wessels questions the notion of memory and collective memory, repressed and forgotten memories and the distortion of truth. You can order the booklet eg. through Johan Deumens gallery in Amsterdam.
Nina Poppe‘s serene book Ama (2011) presented at Robert Morat gallery, is another discovery.’AMA’ is Japanese for women who, for as long as two millennia, earn their living by diving for abalones, which are large edible sea snails. An abalone looks like a huge lubricous femal sex organ. The profession is dying out; the average female diver now is sixty years old. Ama contains a glossary on delicate sea blue coloured paper. We learn ‘awabi’ is the Japanese word for abalone. And ‘amagoya’ is the hut where the women gether, eat and warm up before diving, where they store their equipment. On this blue fold out some covers and black and white photographs dating from the 1920s onwards are reproduced, such as The island of the Fisherwomen (1963) by the antropologist Fosco Maraini, among other studies on this extraordinary profession. These images are showing the young, strong and sexy women, walking bare food on the sharp rocks, wearing only a waist cloth and a white head cloth, believing the colour white would protect them from sharks.The book is a hardcover, and has no spine. An open spiral structure, if you wish, just like the abalone.
Working in FilemakerPro on a database, I like to give you a preview of an anthology in progress. The challenge is sorting and categorizing photobooks on found photographs, published since 1966. Sofar 61 titles have been collected and described. Erik Kessels, Joachim Schmid, Elisabeth Tonnard, Mariken Wessels and Peter Piller provided me with lists of their favorite book titles. Any suggestions regarding a potentially interested PUBLISHER?
What is the content and concept of a book in which the leading role is played by found photography? Be it a collection of photographs from a corporate archive, like ‘a street vendor photographic firm’ (074.III.A/ 074.III.B) or from a realtor (103.III.A). And what about re-made, re-created and re-vived antrophologists’s photographs, in the 1950s selected for the sake of scientific research and cultural exchange (067.IV)? Yet another book contains advertising photographs created by aircraft and weapons dealers (100.IV). Some bring together personal memorabilia, in part family-album (102.V.A) part scrapbook (087.III), others are displays of lots that were sold in an online auction (103.III.B). In one case the content is a chronicle of an escape attempt in the former DDR (106.V). In another case the book is ‘a container for unstable images’, made by a male nurse who served at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (108.III). In some cases fake archives are created with self-made images (107.II).
Booktechnical information, references and quotes are sorted in fields. Different categories are created, related to strategies of editing and selecting. Indexes are made. A typology of photobooks on found photographs is the result. In which subcategories indicate e.g. the different genres of photography represented in these books, from ideological war photography to encyclopedic imagery. Also noted is the provenance of the material retrieved, be it a menu card in a Chinese restaurant or reproductions out of books on Adolf Hitler from a private collector, a former pathologist.
What all books selected for this anthology have in common is that they are compiled with humor and intelligence by the artist/editor. These publications are the result of attemps to deal with, and new artists’ strategies towards, the narrative and authorship. And in doing so, the documentators, the editors, are working towards shifting intersections between art-as-photography, advertising, the private versus the public, and politics. These editors take into account the vast quantity of images that western culture produces, be it corporate reports, family albums from World War II, or stills from old home movies. In many cases a vast quantity of images is being collected by the artists, sorted over the years and categorized within the personal archive.
Yellow Pages Las Vegas
Year of publication: 2010
Type of binding: hard bound cover
Number of pages: 154
Number of illustrations: 151 black&white [toned]
Type of illustrations: advertising photography
Provenance: Yellow Pages, Las Vegas (2000); personal archive Andreas Schmidt, London
Type of reproduction: offset
Print run: 100
Printer: on demand
Editor/documentation: Andreas Schmidt
Designer: Andreas Schmidt
Category: COLLECTIONS of found photographs/film and SELECTIONS of vernacular photography/film
Collection: Mirelle Thijsen, Amsterdam
‘Between 1998 and 2004 Andreas Schmidt undertook numerous and occasionally dangerous trips to Las Vegas, Nevada whilst working on his first photo book Las Vegas, published by Hatje Cantz in 2005. During one of his stays in Sin City he acquired a copy of the July 2000 Yellow Pages, Las Vegas. Almost every photograph of the one thousand nine hundred and ninety one pages strong original was re-photographed under extreme, non-scientific conditions by Schmidt approximately 10 years later in his studio in London. Yellow Pages Las Vegas is the extraordinary result.’ From: Andreas Schmidt, ‘new books by Andreas Schmidt’, http://abcoop.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/new-books-by-andreas-schmidt/ posted September 3rd 2010, consulted on March 29, 2012.