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Tag Archives: documentary

1. Unfinished Father by Erik Kessels, published by RVB is a personal book about his father’s ‘hobby’. A beautiful theme, a graceful way of parting, by way of experiencing his meticulous proceedings, by feeling and smelling the environment, the tools and objects, and roaming the workshop. Erik’s father suffered a stroke and left his work in progress: restoring a Fiat 500, ‘a vero Topolino’, unfinished. The reflection on and dedication to the project and the olds mobile itself were meticulously exhibited in Reggio Emilia last summer.

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2. Find a Fallen Star by Regine Petersen, is published by KHERER Verlag. This is how the conversation with Regine starts:

I have never done a preparation for an interview in this way: I was leafing through your recently published ‘triptych’ Find a Fallen Star (2015), and enjoyed the ‘narrative’, or the lack of it, so much; I like your ‘style’. I made a random choice of pages, events, names from this poetic constellation, if I may call it so, your book project Find a Fallen Star, as the narrative unfolds and I discover links between pictures, documents, oral history and events.

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3. The Chinese Photobook From the 1900s to the Present curated by WassinkLundgren and Martin Parr, is published by Aperture. Ruben Ludgren is a gateway to China, he lives and works in Beijing. I feel so ignorant on the topic, that also counts for ‘the Japanese photobook from the 1900s to the present’ but this helps: a handbook which incorporates “an unprecedented amount of research and scholarship”.

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4. Alec Soth, The Song Book, published by MACK celebrated a second printing of the first edition in no time. There is always something innocent and childish about Alec’s work. His website reads and looks like a children’s book. “My name is Alec Soth (rhymes with ‘both’). I live in Minnesota. I like to take pictures and make books. I also have a business called Little Brown Mushroom.” The Song Book has that allure too. The manipulated documentary is about the artifice of social change, about ‘meeting’ and the absence of human interaction in the era of digital social networks.

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5. Thomas Sauvin’s SHUANGXI (Until Death Do Us Part)published by Jiazazhi Press in a first edition of 1000, contains found photographs compiled in a miniature booklet shaped in the form of a pack of cigarets showing Chinese marriage smoking ceremonies. This is about the most absurd book in my collection: in terms of photographic theme and in terms of book technical solutions. I received it wrapped in a spread from the Shanghai Business Daily from 2014.12.23. I saved it. All these photographs are selected from the Silvermine Archive. I bought a signed copy for 28.00 EUR and 3.90EUR shipping costs, through Kominek.

It reads:

Until Death Do us Part focuses on the unexpected role cigarettes play in Chinese weddings. As a token of appreciation, it is customary for the bride to light a cigarette for each and every man invited. The bride and the groom are then invited to play  some cigarette-smoking games of an unprecedented ingenuousness. This publication pays homage to a tradition in which love and death walk hand in hand.

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6. Bruce Gilden’s FACE, released by Dewi Lewis Publishing is meant as a counterpart of Facebook faces. And, Oh God, do they all look wicked and weird; too real to be true. The human face as an arid landscape.

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7. You Haven’t Seen Their Faces, by Daniel Mayrit, a Riot Book, is the photobook of the year, in fact of the past 7 years. THIS IS IT, in terms of content and book technical solutions. ‘They’ are ‘nailed’. Handwritten notes by Daniel, about wages, stock index, liaisons and scandals, are scattered on, what look like, CCTV portraits. The utmost provocative artist’s strategy towards found photography (blurry surveillance camera shots from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) – in this shortlisted book for the Best Photobook of the Year 2015 – is manifested in You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. A smart appropriation of surveillance technology to instigate photography as evidence in the current financial and economic crisis, targeting the 100 most powerful people in the City of London as criminals, assuming their guilt. The title is a wink to a survey about the desperately poor working-class people in rural America, the southern states, by Margaret Bourke-White, published in 1937: You Have Seen Their Faces. And once again, that title is partly reminiscent of a short story by Whittaker Chambers: ‘You have seen the Heads’ (1931).

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8. There is a relationship between WEALTH management and the fake Swiss WTF bank created by Carlos Spottorno in a website and a book.

This is a view of the world of the ultra-rich and their agents: a supposedly better life, where money does not always bring happiness and where the greatest luxury of all is being invisible, inaccessible, and therefore invulnerable.

It shows euphemistic pictures from the websites of UBS, HSBC, and LLoyds Bank, or an appropriated Patek Philippe swiss watches advertising campaign.  Faces of people are computer-generated into the pixelated images, into non-overlapped blocks, because face detection today is a common mechanism in security and entertainment. This time he did not appropriate the imago and features of The Economist, but a prototype of a bank brochure on ‘how to’ build wealth.The slick looking website contains fierce slogans like: ‘I have money. I just need to hide it.’ 

The crucial question remains, however: if given chance to be part of that privileged layer of society, would any of us be willing to redistribute our wealth, or would we simply tap our nose and play the game?

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9. Anders Petersen. Valparaiso is published by FIFV Ediciones. it’s a strong photographic essay carried out in 13 days, in August 2014, on Anders first visit to Latin America, during an Artist in Residence for the International Festival of Photography in Valparaiso. The booklet is just a little smaller than the classic Valparaiso by Sergio Larrain, and it doesn’t contain a poem by Pablo Neruda. It is all there: the people, the suffering, the roughness of life, the signature of Anders Petersen.

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10. (in matters of) karl, is a book by Annette Behrens and issued by Fw: Books. It’s more than a photobook, well documented and supported by a meticulous lay-out and design by Hans Gremmen. Annette hesitated to do it, being remembered of her own German roots and the history that goes with it. The screen print on the front cover leaves some ‘blood traces on the French title page. Reproductions of Polaroids are showing the picturesque Solahutte, in the year 2007. Other self-made images show the whole setting of the ‘Hocker album’ at the research department of USHMM. The personal histories and reflection on research findings by Annette, all in Courier letter font, read like a diary note or a forensic report, or both.

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11. Philip Toledano made a very personal document, after his parents died: When I Was Six. They left him a box full of personal belongings from his sister, who died an early age. The book has a pitch black linen hardcover, in a swiss binding, stitched with a light green cord. Little white dots, likes stars in the cosmos, are scattered around a hand written title. A story is arising from black matt pages, with a cold green coating on the backside, containing memories of his sister: ‘Claudia was nine, I was six’. Short personal statements in white on a black void, are hitting you like a hammer, or making you contemplate on the vastness of being and life experience. We see the baby birth facts on a perforated carton hospital card with ‘notes or recommendations’, two pages after that the printed card sent on behalf of both parents after Claudia’s death expressing their ‘appreciation for kind messages of sympathy’ by friends and family. A lock of her hair in cylophane, and handwritten letters of her ability to show empathy at such early age, her school photo in a paper envelope, handwritten captions by a parent on the back of her portraits. The tombstone design is her father’s.The book is literarily unpacking ‘nine years. into a box’. It is heart breaking, it’s amazing grace, amazing strength, I went through the book twice, I cried twice. And there is the cosmos, the infinity, to capture her soul.

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12. Christopher Williams‘ Printed in Germany (green edition) is one of three volumes, catalogues slash artist’s books if you wish, accompanying the major MOMA exhibition The Product Line of Happiness. The ‘Yellow catalogue’ is the first publication in the trilogy The Production Line of Happinness. It’s mainly a text book, in line with the sobriety of academic syllabi. It contains essays, manifests, formal oration footnotes, an ‘index’ and ‘supplement’, as well as painstakingly described captions of re-photographed material that re-appears as a ‘stand-alone visual object’ in the second, Green edition. Some pictures are added, some are left out. In the Yellow edition it reads: SOURCE (1981), the first image in the supplement, is a quartet of photographs, that Williams presented as part of his MFA degree exhibition at California Institute of the Arts  (CalArts).

The work resulted from a process of filtering images sourced from the archives of the John F. Kennedy Library through a set of selection criteria and enacting several procedures to reprint and re-present them. During the 1980s Williams continued to work with existing archives and complex systems of selection. […] These prints are noticeably well made.

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Although this specific image is not re-appearing in the green edition, in the supplement caption to SOURCE his rigid criteria for selection and technical procedure are described in extreme detail, and this artist’s strategy Williams has maintained for a lifetime.

1. From SOURCE: The Photographic Archive, John F. Kennedy Library,  Columbia Point on Dorchester Bay, Boston, Massachusetts 02125. U.S.A; CONDITIONS FOR SELECTION: There are two conditions: the photograph or photographs must be dated May 10,1963, and the subject, John F. Kennedy, must have his back turned to the camera. All photographs on file fulfilling these requirements are used. TECHNICAL TREATMENT: The photographs are subjected to the following operations: rephotography (4 x 5 ” copy negative), enlargement (from 8 x 10″ to 11 x 14″ by use of the copy negative), and cropping (1/16″ is removed from all sides of the rephotographed, enlarged image) […].

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Williams appropriates front covers of Elle, winter holiday brochures from Switzerland, TAI Afrique campagnes, product photography of cameras manufactured in former German Democratic Republic. In case of the latter, his model is Christoph Boland. The re-photographing is mainly executed at Studio Thomas Borho in Düsseldorf. The green edition, is kind of a paper sample book: interleaved with plain green wood containing paper sections. On the front cover of each edition is a portrait of a black man: Mustafa Kinte (Gambia), each time slightly different – a moment after a moment. Mustafa is wearing a snow-white Van Laacken Shirt Kent 64. Printed in Germany is related to the preceding ‘orange edition’ and  exhibition catalogue dating from 2010: For Example: Dix-Huit Lecons Sur La Société Industrielle (Révision 11).

13. The WORST book of 2015, actually released in 2014, is The Bungalow by Anouk Kruithof, published by Onomatopee. It is number 106 in the publisher’s catalogue. Kruithof objectifies every single image; crops them, stacks them up, makes cut-outs. The subject is nullified, the content remains unspoken. The private collection of Brad Feuerhelm has earlier been delivering source material for a more thrilling artist’s book: Miss Titus Becomes a Regular Army Mac by Melinda Gibson. #Evidence is another Kruithof-twist of a collection of institutional photographs collected by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel in the 1970s. Kruithof: ‘claims the imagery as her own and robs it of her promotional intent’, which the authors intent was all together. Indeed her merit is much ‘less concrete, less stable, and less transparent’, to use her own words. Cutting and pasting and sculpting and re-photographing, photoshopping and cropping, till the image is a dead as a doornail. There is no new meaning, no added value. It totally ‘lacks integrity’, indeed ‘to be viewed as ‘pure evidence’.

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14. The second WORST book of 2015 is Lockdown Archive by Mike Mandel & Chantal Zakari. The publication is a typical Blurb book production, missing the finesse and craftsmanship of contemporary photobook making. It is simply a transfer of found photography on the Internet (the police manhunt during the Watertown lockdown of April 19, 2013, a suburb in the greater Boston area) to a rigid digital book format. Images are selected, re-organized by the artists, according to location or other ordering principles. I would not dare to call the end result an ‘artistic encyclopedic overview’. Poor printing, poor lay-out, poor typography, poor cover.

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15. Will Steacy’s, Deadline is a state of the art newsprint edition from the heart, a ‘FINAL CITY EDITION’. Full of large type front page headlines like: ‘The Disappearing storyteller’; ‘A quarter century at The Inky’. And it’s all about the era ‘When newspapers were a Family Business’. And his was. The cream of the crop is ‘section D. That’s The Press, Baby’, showing the Plate Room, the Press Room, an Ink Stained Wall. Deadline by Will Steacy is the first of two newsprint publications, I understand, deriving from the family archives, and is in line with Down these mean streets (2012). This first monograph and artist’s book by Will Steacy brings back in mind both the sketchbook of Hannah Hoch: Album (1933, 2004) and Pornografie (1971) by Klaus Staeck. Staecy is also a collage artist par excellence. In Down these mean streets self-made photographs on ‘fear and abandonment in America’s inner cities’ are juxtaposed to classy, banal, and propagandistic US newspaper clippings. Full page double spreads with headlines, cut out fragments of newspaper articles and handwritten notes on ‘financial crisis’, ‘zero jobs’, ‘bailing out’, ‘benefits and bargaining’ in American politics in the first decade of the 21st century as well as the historical events that got the country that far: post-World War II industrial growth, The Reagan years and 911. In short the ‘betrayal of the American Dream’. Excellent printing. It all has to do with ‘The Ink in His Blood’: His grandfather (I assume) wrote a college essay about his summer job at the York Dispatch in 1938.

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front cover You Haven’t Seen Their Faces (2015)

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Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

I sent you some questions, regarding your recently published unorthodox photobook, and I wondered, because I wasn’t acquainted yet with your work, is this your first book?

Daniel Mayrit (DM):

Yes, it is.

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MT:

The title is not printed on the front cover, nor is there a French title inside the book. In terms of graphic design the text on the cover, in red bold capital letters, reads like a typical American public warning sign: These Are The Faces Of The 100 Most Powerful People in the City of London. Use These Images At Your Own Discretion. Why is that? Why did you choose this kind of opening?

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DM:

Indeed, it is a very unorthodox book. We were certainly aware of that in the process of making it. We did not want to go for a conventional cover either. First, if we were to put an image on the cover, that image would already be inside the book, because there are only 100 images, that have to be depicted, referring to a specific list numbered from 1 to 100. I was picking up on the idea of the public warning signs. One of the references is obviously the ‘WANTED’ sign, from the Wild West. So this type of lettering might recall such ‘WANTED’ posters. The sentence itself is doing what the rules of making photobooks tell you not to do. The first sentence is very descriptive: just describing what is inside, without showing it. Like in old horror movies, where they don’t show the monster untill the very end. By doing so a bit of expectation is created. And the second text fragment is the most important; we did not want to make a book that is only made to be looked at and stored on a shelf. Rather we wanted to invite the public, to suggest the possibility, that you could actually, physically, with you own hands, make use of this book. It all relates to the kind of binding, the printing and the map glued onto the back of the book. You can handle it, you can manipulate this book yourself. To make that clear, we actually had a reason to write it out in words on the front.

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MT:

That is very clear, thank you. The actual title is: You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. And right away the historical reference pops up: a seminal publication by the American woman photographer Margaret Bourke-White. I consider your approach the most provocative artist’s strategy towards found photography (blurry surveillance camera shots from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), in the shortlisted books for the Photobook Award 2015. A smart appropriation of surveillance technology to instigate photography as evidence in the current financial and economic crisis, targeting the 100 most powerful people in the City of London as criminals, assuming their guilt. That is assumed to be the case. The title is a wink to a survey about the other side of society, the desperately poor working-class people in rural America, the southern states by Margaret Bourke-White, published in 1937: You Have Seen Their Faces. And then once again, I read in Wikipedia that the title is partly reminiscent of a short story by Whittaker Chambers -who looks like a criminal by the way – ‘You have seen the Heads’ (1931). Please elaborate further on these references.

DM:

I don’t know the story about Whittaker Chambers, I think he was a double agent or a Communist in the United States. The Margaret Bourke-White title was there from the very beginning, when I started working on the idea for the project.

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MT:

When exactly did Margaret Bourke-White come in?

DM:

At the very beginning … in 2012. When I started working on the images, two years before we made the book. There is something in documentary photography that I have always been concerned about. Documentary photographers tend to look at social context and whatever is wrong with the world, focusing on the symptoms. They rarely look at the causes. They stress the consequences, like Margaret Bourke-White, and Walker Evans and others were doing. That approach is not going to stop the problems from existing; you’re not aiming at the causes, at the core of the problem. It is a wink, but an analogy as well. Taking it in a way of what photography SHOULD do.

MT:

Yes, that is the title referencing. And there is some weight on surveillance technology to use photography as evidence.

DM:

I am making a statement. I am not making the statement that these people are all guilty. I am trying to play with the same techniques as the police do. This project was originally sparked by a leaflet, delivered by the Metropolitan Police of London in the letterboxes in our neighborhood.

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In this leaflet they are appealing for citizens’ help in recognizing a certain amount of people that initially were involved in the London Riots of 2011. Then again they were not saying they were guilty. But just because of the technique, these images invite you to assume that these people depicted are all guilty. The same counts for my approach: if you read the handwritten notes on the images in my book, in most cases, they probably would not be embarrassed about what I say, what I write, about them. It is more like how you read the pictures, than how we create the images. These sorts of codes: a high vantage point; very pixelated image; cropped to the face; low saturation, it seems like they already stand for guilt, whereas they are very arbitrary. It started at some point, making the first CCTV scan, that looked very ‘guilty-like’, and people decided it worked. So over time we all think, this technique – it is not more than technology – seems to convey that sense of guilt. Which is not necessarily conveyed in the picture itself but we are used to reading these images in that particular way.

MT:

So it is a matter of interpretation, of this specific kind of images, by the authorities, the public? It is not like a mug shot, is it?

DM:

Yes. No it is not like a mug shot, which is coded according to its own set of rules. The same counts for every genre of photography, be it documentary, studio portrait photography; every process of image making has its codes, in order for us to decipher what their meaning is. That meaning is not something that comes natural with the image; it is because we are used to read them in a particular way, for whatever reasons.

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MT:

It is a constructed reality.

DM:

Yes, that is what any kind of photography is about.

MT:

Before we talk about the genesis of the project, tell me: is it a book, or a manifest? Literally, pages are screwed together, in what I would describe as a block note. Oh, this is where the title is: on the spine! I didn’t notice it before!

DM:

As you said, you did not find it on the cover! You may call it the spine.

MT:

And so the 100 most powerful people are metaphorically ‘nailed’.

DM:

Yes, you got it right: we did not want to be very respectful to the images themselves. It is a way of saying: these are supposed to be very important people, but they are printed on brown disposable paper, in low quality images. You can barely see the faces of some of them; it is difficult to identify them. On top of that we are screwing into their images. It was gesture; it is a metaphor, as you said. This is as disrespectful as we can be. It picks up some other reference we were considering, at the time of making the book: the police clipboard. Where they takes notes, listen to a witness’ confession. They hold it from the top, rather than from the side, to open it. That’s where that sort of binding comes from. We actually tried out different clips, which didn’t work. That is when the screws came in.

MT:

I think it works!

Since we are now describing sober book technical features: Are the CCTV portraits printed on, what you just described as ‘disposable’ paper and what looks like brown packing paper, post office approved?

DM:

The paper is called craft paper, generally used for wrapping, for industrial sources.

MT:

That is the metaphor you are using too…

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DM:

Yes, we are printing your face on the cheapest disposable paper. Actually there was another coincidence that made us go for this kind of paper. Craft paper is laid: lines are going from side to side. That brings forth this surveillance look. When you print them on white paper, they still have this surveillance look, but if they are printed on the brown lined paper, it resembles the old deteriorated images on VHS tapes, or back in the days of the very first surveillance images; they were interlaced. We found that out by chance, by trying out different types of paper, by finding out this holds it together.

MT:

It is texture in the paper, delivering a conceptual dimension in the project.

Some more sober, simple technical features: A small sticker on the inside of the carton back cover (hand numbered and signed) contains – I call it very chic – a ‘colophon’. An inserted and folded map shows numbered Google Maps balloons. I haven’t taken it out, because I’m always uncertain about ruining something… And because I haven’t taken it out, I am going to ask you: Are the balloons corresponding with the numbered portraits? To indicate where these men and women live and work, are spotted?

DM:

The map is meant to be used! I’m going to show you then! One side of the map is the grid with the faces again.

MT:

Aha…like on your website!

DM:

This column here indicates the name of the company where they work for, the government, or institution. Followed by the address where the company is located, and the telephone number.

MT:

Ha-ha…

DM:

When you turn it around, you see the actual map, and the number of every of these balloons corresponds to the person on the list and shows you where to go if you want to find them.

MT:

Their professional work environment?

DM:

Yes, obviously not their private home addresses; because that would be illegal, but the companies they work for. That makes it possible to use the book in a literal sense: you can stick it in your pocket, as a travel guide, if you may, that was one of the gestures: to make it a functional book.

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MT:

Thank you, that is very clear.

So, how did this project come about; tell me please about the genesis of You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. It seems to have started with the way the London Metropolitan police dealt with the London Riots in 2011, by distributing blurry portraits of adolescents that were caught on surveillance cameras because they ‘presumably took part in the events.’ And this is what it is about: ‘Images of very low quality, almost amateur, were embedded with unquestioned authority due both to the device used for taking the photographs and to the institution distributing those images’. Is my feeling correct: that’s what it is all about?

DM:

We assume, just because they are on the list, they are guilty; it’s the way the images are constructed.

MT:

Please elaborate on your intend to appropriate ‘the characteristics of surveillance technology’ for this set of images.

DM:

The project started in Tottenham, the London district where the riots started in the summer of 2011 and the leaflets were distributed by the London police, depicting images of people that were allegedly involved in the riots. It fitted too well to the cliché of the young neighborhood criminals. Most of them were non-white, wearing hoodies, and fairly young, in their early twenties. The stereotypical gun criminals in the neighborhood, in the outskirts of cities, and town. We assumed they look like that….

MT:

Stereotyping people…

DM:

Yes, it is so typical. This was 2011, and pretty much every week there was a new scandal. Some important banker had some fortune in some tax haven….

MT:

Could you mention a few remarkable examples from those days?

DM:

There were scandals after scandals, even earlier than that. The Libor fixing, an index they base trades on, indicating how much you can sell or buy your stocks for. That procedure was all fixed by the banks. It was a huge scandal. For example, Barclays, one of the largest banks in the UK, was fined. The top managers were fired. Lehman Brothers, HSBC, and UBS have been involved in it too. They had to bail out Lloyds, they had to bail out RBS

The point is every single week there was a new scandal, a new fine, a new corruption case. I’m Spanish as well, and in Spain we know a lot about corruption in governments and banks…

So back to the leaflets, the police were delivering criminals at your front door, in your letterbox. And the persons I collected are responsible in some way or another for the economic crises, and we don’t even know what these people look like, apart from the one or two that are top managers and have been involved in some media scandal. The rest of them run the economy, in Europe, if not worldwide. When newsreels talk about the IMF, the World Bank and the Troika we can not even put a face on them. I wanted to do something about that. This lack of representation enables them to do what they do. They are not subject to public scrutiny; they are anonymous to most people. And if we can’t even portray them, how are we going to be able to start asking questions, to sue them, to bring them to trial? I had to tackle this lack of representation.

MT:

And how did you take the next step towards the visualisation of these people?

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DM:

I went into The City, and spent many days just walking around, going to places where bankers meet, visiting the headquarters of the top banks, going to restaurants where these people have their business lunch or dinner, trying to attend important events organized by the banks. And trying to make pictures of them. It was a very naïve approach; getting 100 images that fit the purpose, in real life, obviously was never going to work. Some of these people spent maybe one day a month in London; you can’t even know what they are up to: they might publish on their website that they are attending some public speech, or an opening of a new branch in town; this might account for the top ten, but most of them…let’s say number #087 or #093, how you’re going to find out you’re at the right time, on the right moment, in the right circumstances in order to take a picture?

MT:

I understand that the selection of 100 most powerful people is based on the annual report Square Mile Magazine 2013. What type of selection procedure is involved here? How did you select them?

DM:

I didn’t select them. I got them indeed from a list made by a Square Mile magazine, which is to be compared with the Financial Times, or Forbes. The magazine makes a list of the most powerful people in The City of London. They call it the ‘Power 100’ issue. Every year there is a new list. I think Forbes lists the 100 richest people in the world. I did not want to focus on wealth. In that list even football players and celebrities are included.

MT:

So, this list is your point of departure?

DM:

I did not want to make choices myself: why interfere? Why this person, and not the other…? This list was ‘given’ to me. Lets use today’s techniques to create these images. So I went online and started to search for the images, all 100 portraits. And after selecting the 100 applicable images for the book, I manipulated all of them, so they would look like surveillance images.

MT:

Aha!

DM:

So the pictures in the book are not actually surveillance images. I didn’t hijack any surveillance cameras…

MT:

It is a form of appropriated photography?

DM:

Yes, …yes! I made them look like surveillance images, but most of them are press images, that photojournalists took at a summit, or inside the Parliament. They come from different sources; most of them are photojournalistic images.

MT:

So you didn’t have to go anywhere?

DM:

No, but I did spend months in front of my computer screen!

MT:

I had a completely different idea about your way of working: I had the impression you were using scans from these CCTV cameras…on the spot in the City of London.

How did you make the transition from the found journalistic images of these specific 100 most powerful people, plucked from the Internet, to the idea to make them look like CCTV scans?

DM:

Mainly by using Photoshop… I am talking about the surveillance society that London lives in. London is the city of the world with the highest rate of surveillance cameras per habitant. Surveillance and London are very interconnected; they go together. I read in some statistics that an average citizen in London that goes to work and back home on a day, is registered by 300 surveillance cameras.

MT:

It is very present.

Let’s look at the people depicted: not only lots of CEO’s from the City of London, maintaining it’s role as the world’s top financial center for 7 years, until 2014 I read in the New York Times, but also the mayor of London (#017) is selected, as well as the prime minister, David Cameron (#004), and other government people. There is the Cabinet Secretary Government of the UK (#051); Paul Tucker (#23) ‘retired from public sector.’ He claims 5 million Pound Sterling pension at 54 years old, you wrote with a ballpoint pen on the CCTV print. You must have conducted some research, collected data…

Then you have the printout of the image and start to write on top of it? Is that how you worked?

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DM:

Yes, that is actually what I did. This set of images was made in particular for the book. The first set of images was printed for an exhibition without the written information on top. Something didn’t work quite well. When we initially started to work on the book with Riot Books publishers, who are also the designers of the book, we decided to give some information to the viewers to make them understand more about the issue. There is information on salary, on net worth, in the bottom left corner. It wasn’t enough.

MT:

Why wasn’t it enough?

DM:

Because it doesn’t quite explain what the project is about. If you read one person makes 8M a year, it makes you wonder. You may consider that a lot, or too much, but then again, maybe he’s worth it… But if I tell you he is involved in many scandals, and another person has been into jail, yet others have properties they haven’t accounted for, they have money in tax havens… Maybe that helps the viewer to understand a little bit better what this is about; it makes them more angry. What is going on here is borderline legal. Still, we considered that information was not enough, that’s how the map came about. Indicating to the viewer if you still want to do something about it yourself, you can.

First, there is the reference to the police clipboard, their notebook in which they start to take notes. We didn’t want to be respectful with these images: I care so little about the images themselves that I write all over them.

MT:

Yes. How did you find all this information?

DM:

All the information has been published, and is in public domain: in daily, mainly British, newspapers like the Guardian, the Telegraph, on the BBC, in Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, on news websites published by the established media. As I said, I spent a couple of months researching into each and every one of these people. Gathering information that was already available to me. I did not want to speculate and decided to leave out information on their private lives.

MT:

Some function descriptions make you wonder what these people do professionally. I am looking at the variety, the diversity of the population in The City: There is Lord Tim Clement-Jones (#051), top hedge fund managers (#057) and top lobbyists in the City (#091). Do you know what kind of work they actually do? Do you know what kind of work the job ‘financial conduct authority’ entails?

DM:

In fact the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are ‘the good guys’; it is an institution meant to regulate and supervise banking in The City. It is not government related, it’s an independent body for self-government of the banks in The City. They have the authority to impose fines; they have the authority to ban banks for a particular trade, so they regulate in the widest sense of the word. Because it is not a governmental body, they have not been elected by anybody, people working for the FCA (It used to be called FSA) have been bankers, working for one of these banks they are regulating now. How objective can you be?

MT:

Only 10% are women (#011; #029; #044, #059; #067; #069; #074; #075; #076; #099).

DM:

It happens in The City, it happens anywhere: women are under-represented. Actually there is this initiative called the ‘30% club’ aimed to get at least 30% of women on the top jobs, on boards of the 100 biggest companies in The City. Right now in the United Kingdom, about 25% of women have top jobs. Five years ago it was only 12%. So the percentage more than doubled in the past five years. I think it is peculiar how they would settle for 30%… This initiative was carried by one of the women on this list. Her name is Helena Morrisey. I don’t remember her number in the list….

MT:

We will get back to her later in the interview. Please tell me about the women at the top in the City of London. What do you know about these women, about their positions, their professional jobs, their influence?

DM:

They are not very different from the men, in a way that they all come from different backgrounds and have different jobs within the economical and financial system. The most powerful woman comes in on number #011 in the list; she is a CEO manager Anna Botin, a top person at Santander bank. She is actually Spanish. She is a CEO, because she happens to be the daughter of the former CEO, who passed away. It used to be his bank, now it is her bank.

There are a few women that work for the FCA. There are some female top lawyers. One of them is hedge fund manager and has a campaign group for gay rights in The City.

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MT:

Now that you mention this, is there a hierarchy from 1 to a 100? The first person #001 is the most powerful, according the list in Square Mile magazine?

DM:

Yes.

MT:

But not in terms of money making?

DM:

No, money is not an issue here. Some of the people that work for the government don’t really make that much money. There are some top civil servants in the list, but they make about 100.000 Pounds Sterling on a yearly basis.

MT:

Apart from collecting these digital press images and relevant information about scandals, liaisons, swopping jobs, claiming expenses, hourly fees from e.g., Martin Sorrell (#035) earning 3700 times the minimum wage which is really a statement in itself, I understand you also called up the City of London Corporation (#042)?

DM:

The City of London Corporation, again, is an institution for governing the City of London itself. In a way they have their own rules, and their own mayorship. The mayor, Boris Johnson #016, is actually not the mayor of the City. He has no power as such; it’s like a city within the city. It’s a different municipality so to speak. The laws that apply to the rest of London not necessarily apply to the City of London. That mayorship is already a thousand years old; it was there before London town. It is a very old structure; they have their own rules, their own hierarchy within this body. They’ve got an annual mayorship for the City of London; it rotates.

MT:

What are they allowed to do?

DM:

Not much! It’s more like a body that defends the interests of the City of London: A spokesperson.

MT:

Okay, I understand. Because of all the research, I presume you know more then we see in the book… Who are the most WANTED persons from these 100 influential people? And what is the message that is not conveyed by the book?

DM:

I can’t tell you that; it would be in the field of speculation, rather than facts. The top ten banks in the United Kingdom have all been involved in either money laundering, Libor scandals with index fixing, illegal trades, anything you can possibly imagine. It all has been published by the main media. And all top banks have been fined by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or the government. The problem is the record fine was over 600M Pounds Sterling, but that is only equal to 1% of their yearly profit.

And who are the most WANTED? There is a man; he has been jailed for 6 months for being involved in trading fraud. That scandal was made public; it was all over the newspapers. And still, he is back on the list already. And the queen honoured him. I think he is number #046…Yes! His name is Gerald Ronson.

DanielMayrit_YHSTF038

MT:

I don’t want to probe too much; but because you have gained this bird’s eye view on the topic, is there a conclusion?

DM:

When I was doing the research, the first thing I realized is that we know NOTHING about how this financial system works. Literary nothing…And I cannot emphasize that enough. We might think we know how economy works, a little bit at least …but NO, forget it! That was very striking to find out how little we actually know. And I am not an expert, but I have major interest in economy. I read the news, the economic news, books about finances; I am generally interested. And I still feel ignorant: I know maybe 1% of how this works. And second, everybody is involved in something. Like in detective movies, how they build up the plot: some guy that pops up in the very end relates back to one protagonist showing up in the beginning. It’s a bit like that, the feeling or sensation. But maybe there is nothing incriminate, or no one is to blame. The company involved in the trading fraud might have strong links with the person that went to jail, and these two were involved in money laundering; so every one is connected.

MT:

Does this interrelationship suggest a mentality?

DM:

Yes…It is how the system works. At some moment in the process we were deciding what information to bring out in the book: salary, net worth, scandals, financial properties, etc. There was one category: ‘connections’, links that a person has with all the people in the book. We had to scrap that completely, because otherwise the publication would be overloaded with arrows back and forth. Every one makes deals with each other; they are one. They all have close connections to at least another ten within the list.

MT:

Some accusations and facts need more clarification. Nigel Boardman (#039) – an appropriate surname for somebody in the corporate world – is ‘called for banking deregulation on FT’, which stands for Financial Times, I guess? What does that mean? What did he actually do?

DM:

That is a matter of opinion. I believe, regarding the economical crunch, it goes back to the seventies, when they started deregulating the financial system in the United States. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan started to deregulate everything. Then Bill Clinton went a bit further, and his follow-ups chose for deregulation, or laisser faire, after him. Boardman is a top lawyer. And he was claiming that the banking system is still going bad because of too much financial services regulation and government policy. Whereas history has proven that every single time further deregulation is approved, society is getting into deeper trouble for the majority of the people. So, basically, Boardman wrote some articles, claiming that further deregulation will be better for everyone’s economy, which is an opinion I deeply doubt.

MT:

On a yellow memo sticker you write ‘need better image’ of Peter Martyr (#041) – another interesting surname in the context of your book – Global Chief Executive at Norton Rose. But it is an amazing picture: like starring into a black void and his face is popping up. It’s an artwork in itself.

DM:

For the sake of keeping the reader engaged, we wanted to give an esthetical quality to the book, create a flow in the book. All the images per se are boring. So, I play slightly with the quality of the images. That is why that particular image is very dark. It could have been any of the other images instead. Regarding the yellow post with the note: It is a way of saying: this project is not finished. On another post it reads: we ‘need more info’.

MT:

In fact you manipulated the image and created a ‘bad image’. The information is kind of playfully misleading.

DM:

Yes. We wanted to make a gesture to the viewer; you can go on and proceed with the research yourself. We did not want to claim: we are the artists, this is it. This is an on-going project. If you proceed with the project another ten years, more news will be coming out, more scandals will come to the surface, and different people will be involved.

MT:

What kind of company is Norton Rose?

DM:

I think it is a legal practice firm.

MT:

Now we get to Helena Morrissey (#044). She is a mother of 9 children, lives in Nothing Hill, in a 2.4M house. She is a board member of the Royal Academy, and as you mentioned earlier, Founder of the 30% Club, and ‘net worth’ $3.8BN (billions). What does that mean ‘net worth’?

DanielMayrit_YHSTF041

DM:

Net worth is a person’s and entities overall fortune: the total amount of assets. The money he or she has got in the bank.

MT:

Including real estate?

DM:

I don’t think it includes real estate…It might count shares and holds. Real estate is probably not the main chunk of their fortunes.

MT:

There is another notion I would like to discuss: some people are based in a ‘tax haven’: (#055) Brunswick (Delaware) and (#056) Bluecrest (Guerwey). What do you know about the London-based tax havens?

DM:

Brunswick is the name of the company. I think it is a public relations company, working in advertising and communication strategies. The person, number #055, is good friends with the prime minister of the United Kingdom and deals with his public image. They make a lot of money. What do I know about tax havens? Well, it is a way of licencing your company in a different country, or part of a country, in order to pay taxes there. Instead of paying taxes in the country where you operate, or where you should be paying your taxes. It is absolutely legal, that is one of the problems. That said; we have to ask ourselves if that practise should be legal? The Netherlands is a tax haven, as is Luxembourg, Gibraltar, the Caiman islands, Jersey Island, and Switzerland of course. There are a good number of tax havens in the world.

MT:

In some cases salary information remains ‘undisclosed.’ Why is that?

DM:

After months of research, we weren’t able to find information in a reputable newspaper or news agency.

MT:

Who are ‘we’? In general you use the first person plural.

DM:

Yes, that is true! I mean myself, and my publisher/designer. All the research I conducted myself. The book is 50% their input, 50% mine.

MT:

Okay, I understand. Let’s discuss Andrea Orcel (#060), co-chief executive investment banking UBS and receives $13M salary on a yearly basis. Judging by the name I thought it was a woman. He obtained a bonus of 21.3M Pound Sterling in 2008, ‘Year of the Crook’ you wrote in the right corner on top of his portrait.

DM:

‘Year of the crunch’!

MT:

Aha, ‘crunch’! The word is spelled differently. Would you please explain that notion ‘year of the crunch’ in this context?

DM:

That year Lehman Brother collapsed, and the world’s economy went down. It is very ironic that Orcel gets paid a 21.3M bonus, the year that everyone else is going to the pit, and the government has to bailout banks.

MT:

The art world is also represented in your book. Christian Levett is an art collector and founder of MACM (Musée d’Art. Classique à Mougins), worth 75M Pounds Sterling. Sir Ronald Cohen (#089), Director of the British Museum has a 15M worth home in Nothing Hill. How guilty is the art world?

DM:

I don’t think the art world is guilty of anything. These people use the art as just another way of speculating with money, and generating more wealth. That is probably the ‘guilt’ that the art world has to deal with.

MT:

Still, they are in charge of important art institutions, museums.

DM:

Did I say director? Yes in that case, there is a conflict of interest. You’re putting your money in art and run an art institution: meanwhile, you may not be so objective as you are expected to be. I think these people invest in art the same way as they invest in real estate or any fiscal material.

MT:

Yes, these people are institutionalized. They have this other way of being morally responsible in the art world.

DM:

I wouldn’t be bothered too much with the art world, judging the information in the book!

MT:

Okay, that helps! I think only in one specific case ‘no image’ is available (#071): Jonathan Sorrell, Chief Financial Director of Man Group. Why is he selected?

DM:

Man Group is a hedge fund. Again, he is not selected, he happens to be number #071 on the list. He is the only person; I couldn’t find a single image of. After months of searching, finishing 99%, I sensed this missing image is going to wrap up the whole project. Since this person has the power to remove his image from the Internet, he must have a lot of control and influence. If somebody would ask me to remove myself from the Internet, what would I do? I close my Facebook account; Instagram; delete my pictures….And still your images will show up. In fact, this person is a very public figure, a powerful person in Europe. The fact that his portrait is not public, explains how this system works, in this anonymity.

MT:

How transparent is it… you wonder. It’s remarkable.

What does a woman like Ann Cairns (#075) do wrong. It is all about wrong doing in a way, in her position as ‘President of International Markets Mastercard Worldwide’?

DM:

This person is one of the few we needed more information about. In general there isn’t anything wrong with what these people do; in her case, she runs Mastercard, it’s a company like Visa, Maestro, or American Express. I have collected some information about her, but we considered it not appropriate. It was a deliberate choice. At some points in the book we decided to break up the flow. Nothing was particularly dodgy about her.

MT:

You mean a kind of pause? You had information, but did not use it for this specific person and page?

DM:

Yes, …yes.

MT:

Who earns the most? Louis Bacon (#081)…he earns 400M on a yearly basis? And related to that is your statement: People in the City get an 18% salary raise (#093) while there’s a salary freeze in the public sector.

DM:

(#093) Rupert Harrison is an adviser to the Chancellor, the economic affairs minister in the UK. That is number #002 on the list; he is second in command. Because of the crisis, and the austerity plan in the UK a public sector pay freeze was held, for doctors, policemen, and civil servants. And again, the top people put their salaries 18% up. It is legal, but not very fair.

MT:

Those are powerful statements, just one-liners, but they give us so much information. That is a particular strong feature of the book.

DM:

We tried to be synthetic: condensing relevant information.

DanielMayrit_YHSTF097

MT:

The last question has to do with the modern day techniques. There is a remarkable variety in digital scanning options regarding the appropriated photojournalistic images simulating CCTV scans. (#097) Jan Hall’s (the biggest head hunter in the City) portrait is like an abstract painting. Did you create that?

DM:

This is an aesthetic decision. Again, 100 images, looking all the same, the viewer would not stay engaged. We needed some variety, some subtle differences. And the images of surveillance cameras don’t look all the same; there are different tones, different textures, and different size of the pixels. We needed to reference that the pictures are coming from different sources.

MT:

Could you explain why they are so different? How do these surveillance camera’s work?

DM:

Many factors are involved: the resolution of the camera, the technology used: VGA, or more contemporary video recording system, the original size of the image, to mention a few.

MT:

So how has this particular image (#097) been processed? One looks like a newspaper image, another like a still from a television screen…

DM:

In Photoshop. Every image, one by one, has been processed. It is custom-made software, a mixture of different techniques. I applied a special filter. For some of the images I would use several filters, or different patterns. The work all together took about a year.

MT:

Did anybody from The City, or Square Mile Magazine come after you legally?

DM:

No, not yet, and I hope it stays that way.

MT:

What comes next?

DM:

We might consider a second edition. This first edition is a print run of 350. After it is sold out we will probably put the images on the Internet, so people can continue to access the information.

Right now project wise, I have a work in progress about the police in Spain. The current government just pasted a law that criminalizes different protests: from demonstrations to spreading a banner. The aim of the law is to make these public actions illegal. Among those features in the law there is one paragraph that says it is forbidden to take any pictures of the police. Journalists are not allowed to take pictures of the police anymore, nor publish them. And secondly, they apply these loosely designed paragraphs to every circumstance. Everything could fit. The result is a lack of presentation of the police. Spain has a history in police brutality, and the repression of protests. So the aim of this paragraph is you cannot make recordings of a demonstration and put them up on Youtube. People have no longer access to this kind of images.

MT:

This is censorship.

DM:

Yes, basically so. I am working around that issue, and how this new unspoken censorship works. How can we still make images that are relevant, and fill that gap? Yet, I don’t know yet what the outcome will be like.

front cover WAREHOUSEback cover  gedraaid

Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

I saw the announcement on Facebook: The king of the Netherlands, Willem Alexander, received the first copy of WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY presented by the author-photographer Henk Wildschut. A few days later I purchased online a signed and numbered copy from the photographer’s website. It said, handwritten on the French title page: ‘SE#04’ – number 4 out of 100 copies. While leafing through the book publication I realized I had obtained a contemporary company photobook in the tradition of new documentary photography.

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WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY is a state-of-the-art company photobook on futuristic high-tech ‘agriculture’. The publication is accentuated by the clever, clean and clear layout concept from Robin Uleman. I sent an e-mail query to the graphic-designer to explain the title, some of the technical terms regarding e.g. the sleeve for the map; the folding of the map; the kind of ‘system typography’ used for the inner work of the book, and the letter font. Uleman’s replies are inserted in this review, highlighted in purple.

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Robin Uleman (RU):
Since the building is qualified as industrial heritage, the exterior of the old warehouse has been largely kept intact while the interior has been stripped completely and will get an overall renovation. It was built at the end of the fifties, during the heyday of company photobooks. Most of those publications had a sturdy and alluring look. Hardcovers depicting full bleeding black and white or duotone pictures, with just the book title printed on top, or simply bound in cloth, with monumental type faces embossed in or foil-blocked on top of it were the convention. In the layout of WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY I refer to those days and combine the homage with a shot from the new interior. So the book has a hardcover clad with a canvas-like grainy paper, on which a picture is printed, so sleek and mysterious that it might as well be a still taken from a science fiction movie. The foil-blocked title puts the metaphor of the spaceship firmly on the ground and adds to the earthly tactile sensation of the canvas cover in your hands.

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Such books are rare these days. Let me compare a few examples compiled by Dutch photographers and /or designers in the past 20 years. The robust hand glued accordion fold Interpolis (2006) by Frank van der Salm is an artist’s book containing abstracted images of the interior, the exterior, and the location of the insurance enterprise.

All Ferrari Engines (2002) is a sample book collection of 7 technical drawings and 91 color photographs of Ferrari engines collected by an elderly employer from the period 1947-2002. The publication documents the technical history of a car manufacturer and is designed by Irma Boom. How Terry Likes his Coffee (2010/2012) is a non-commissioned documentary photobook by Florian van Roekel. The oblong self-published book is the result of a fifteen-month exploration of five different offices throughout the Netherlands. It documents a candid reality of the changing perception of people in office culture. Mensenstroom (1997) has been setting the standard for a new documentary approach to the genre. This documentary / company photobook is both a commissioned and self-published by Bart Sorgedrager, following the closure of the nuclear plant Dodewaard. Mensenstroom ultimately is a farewell gift for the employees, handed out on their last day of work.

RU:
The title WAREHOUSE / LABORATORY stems from the design process. I like to have that kind of freedom in designing a book: not only to develop the edits, but also to play with titles, chapters and words in order to direct the viewer’s attention and shape the editorial content.
PlantLab’s experiments with cultivating crops under totally controlled conditions, which are purely scientific in nature, so the title had to mimic a scientific formula or comparison, like different states of aggregation that are juxtaposed. In this book a building changes from one state – a former warehouse – into another – a laboratory for the future.
The book is divided in four chapters, in line with that same idea of transformation: STAGE 0 / WAREHOUSE, STAGE 1 / DEMOLITION, STAGE 2 / CONSTRUCTION and STAGE 3 / LABORATORY.

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The introduction text by the board of PlantLab is business-like; not what you would call a prosaic opening, describing ‘explosive growth’ (from five to 35 people, from 200 m2 to 20.000 m2 working surface); ‘preserve talents’ and ‘deliver results’. PlantLab, founded in 2010, ‘is a mission to change the way the world is fed’. The ultimate goal of the enterprise is ‘to ensure that plants can reach their full potential, so that we can have a world where everyone has access to a sustainable source of safe, affordable and nutritious food’. How to implement that mission, I wondered. Well, by merging know-how related to:
A. Plant physiology
B. Mathematical models
C. State-of-the-art technology.

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This business model carries a wonderful name: ‘Plant’s paradise’. So what they do is design and build Plant Production Units (PPU’s). These units are hermetically closed ‘growing environments’ with optimized climate control conditions applicable to all worldwide growing conditions. The consequence and environmentally friendly result allows shortening supply chains inasmuch as food is grown locally. In short, we look at sterile conditions for crop cultivation behind closed doors. All this is happening in a former warehouse, the nostalgic De Gruyter Factory (famous for making chocolate sprinkles and a highly flavoured sweet anise powder called ‘crunched Muisjes’), now a state-of-the-art innovative research facility.

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The documentary style of Henk Wildschut, as demonstrated in his recently published book Food (2013), is a remarkable in-depth study on the food industry in the Netherlands, and fits the recording of PlantLab’s culture like a glove. Inasmuch as post-war company photobooks were released as commemoration/ anniversary books to inaugurate a new factory building and in some cases to document the production process and manufacturing, WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY documents the revolutionary renovation of a piece of cultural heritage into a ‘spacelab’.

 

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RU:

To be honest I don’t know what would be a more appropriate term for the ‘sleeve for the map’. I guess that description comes closest to what it is. In terms of bookbinding it’s not a very common solution to create a sleeve from the last gathering of pages. The final two pages are folded inward like in Japanese bookbinding and subtly glued at the bottom. I didn’t want to insert an ugly triangular sleeve glued onto the end papers at the inside of the cover to hold the map. It’s a common solution, but in my opinion it’s better to avoid it, since it looks like an afterthought. I wanted it to be elegant and simple, an integral part of the object. NPN printers suggested this solution, which was created and executed in cooperation with Van Waarden, the bookbinders. The map itself is folded half through the horizon and then folded like an accordion.

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A schematic field report, tightly fit in a exceptional sleeve in the back of the book shows on a map, in floor plans, on the front side the different stages of transforming industrial heritage into a testing ground for indoor farming. On the backside the construction of laboratories is visualised. And this is new, not only within the genre itself: Numbered pink arrows on the map indicate camera standpoint and angles of every single image. So each photograph is indexed with A. a unique number, B. a location, referring to the coordinates on the field report, and C. a date, indicating when the photograph was made and in which stage of the renovation (demolition 0 + 1) or construction of the laboratories (2 + 3). This information is systematically put in a vertical sidebar perpendicular to the images (construction and interiors are full spreads, individual people and single objects are depicted on a single page). The book is divided into four chapters, according to the four stages.

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RU:
System typography
The book is all about the transformation of an industrial monument, the former De Gruyter warehouse in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NL), into a laboratory for research at the cutting edge of indoor farming. It documents the first phase of the whole makeover, which will take another year or two to fully execute. The first section was opened in September 2014. The completion of the renovation will take place in the course of 2015 and 2016.
At first glance the book offers an impression of the construction process, showing overviews, details, some action and portraits of the workers at different points in time. At second glance the pictures are embedded in a system. To avoid a simply evocative experience, we wanted to stay close to the architectural nature of the book project and give it a topographical root, something both accurate and detailed to involve the viewer and to provide him with a tool for orientation. Specific locations in the building were documented, some repetitively at different stages. These locations function as a point of reference and make you aware of the actual transformation. To enhance this notion the typographical system visualized on the sidebars of the pages helps you to navigate through the building and offers additional information about the stage of the process, the date the photograph was taken and its actual content. The images carry a number, the floor number and the coordinates that correspond with the map showing all camera standpoints and angles. To make the narrative breathe the air of architecture and science all text has been typeset in Akkurat. Especially when restricted to the use of capitals this font creates an atmosphere of detachment and objective registration.

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Stage 0 shows the former storage room, the ramp for transporting goods, and the remains of temporary workspaces for musicians/artists. From 1980-2013 the former warehouse, a two-floor building with concrete arcades (windows beneath the arch), and tall concrete columns were then used for exhibitions and events. A corridor in green and blue led to rehearsal rooms for musicians. The book opens with a neutral and serene – almost blunt – view on a wide window above two central heating units, covered with five light cotton curtains, kept tight together with some pins, in order for the daylight not to peak through. Alongside are 1970s style orange painted walls in this former artist’s studio.

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Stage 1starts where stage 0 ends: the demolition of rehearsal rooms and studios. We look at how divisions between floors are removed. Pallets, plaster, loose wiring dangling from ceilings, piles of bricks. But in general the overview of each space is there. The first demolition worker is portrayed, sitting in his caterpillar, using his mobile phone while smoking. Single people, demolition and ground workers, are portrayed frontally, like the dockworkers in the photobook A’dam Doc.k (2007) by Henk Wildschut and Raimond Wouda. And unlike that publication, the name, age, profession and employer of the person portrayed are mentioned. On another spread an extraction installation for the disposal of construction waste looks like a red caterpillar crawling out of the window. A standard blue tarp, used as a contemporary chute for collecting construction waste reminds me of a temporary refugee shelter, much like the ones Wildschut photographed near Calais, collected in the book Shelter (2011).

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The daylight captured in the book is as serene as that in a museum exhibition space and the way the different sections of the building are recorded: Each former studio, each pile of disposal, the fluorescent red outlines for drilling and milling on the iron tiled floor are like art installations per se.

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In STAGE 2 / CONSTRUCTION you get to understand pre-heated paint, and a paint gun is needed at low outdoor temperatures. Walls are glued. An altimeter placed on a tripod in a ‘Mondrianesc’ coloured room measures the level of the entire second floor.
You get a glimpse of the temporary canteen during a break. In the kitchenette in front of a microwave and a coffee machine, a Makita battery charger is loading a cordless electric screwdriver. An electric outlet and cord is popping through a wall. Apart from constructing 22 Research & Development (R&D) units, 10 Plant Production Units (PPU’s) are installed and 28 km of heating tubes. On the following pages we witness how on top of twisted pipes a poured self-levelling concrete screed flows out. In this section of the book we see more people, more daily workers, most of them wearing safety helmets, and a few too many pictures showing the pouring of mortar.
Further in the book more pouring of screened floors is depicted on photographs 65-69, this time in Plant Paradise 1.
You could curate an exhibition in a PPU, they are very similar to museum spaces identified as ‘White Cubes’: a sterile white box. You could start a prison of a cooling enterprise behind the sliding doors of a R&D unit. And photograph 56, portraying the installers measuring high plain walls of the units with a red level, is like witnessing an art performance in itself.

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 spread 69spread data

RU:
From daylight to LED-light, from RGB to CMYK and day-glow
The last chapter shows the new laboratory in action: a typical purple, pinkish light radiates from the so-called Plant Production Units. PlantLab creates an ideal environment to grow crops: micro-climates with pitch perfect humidity and temperature and ideal light conditions, provided by LED-lights. ‘Ideal’ means that they are only exposed to those parts of the light spectre that are beneficial to them. Green is taken out, which leaves red and blue, to which far red (a colour invisible to the human eye) is added. Every photographer and designer knows that you loose depth of colour when translating RGB images into CMYK, necessary for printing, but within those limitations these pictures were not suitable to translate into something credible and satisfactory. The reproductions were dull and boring: not resembling the spectacular originals. Finally, I considered replacing a substantial amount of magenta by a day-glow (fluorescent) pink and add this to the regular CMYK line up, it would do the trick. Test prints demonstrated that this strategy worked. In print the result comes closest to the stunning effect your eyes experience when you visit a working Plant Production Unit (PPU). The arrows used on the map are printed in the same colour to create consistency.

spread 74

spread 79

In the final chapter of the book STAGE 3 / LABORATORY the fluorescent purple colour (like on the cover photograph) appears, showing Plant Paradise by night. And this is what it is all about: ‘The plants are exposed 24/7 to ideal light spectre that only consists of blue, red and so-called far red, that cannot be seen by the human eye’.
Photograph 074 is the only picture showing an actual crop: wheat drenched in purple light, creating an atmosphere like in a nightclub: artificial, trendy and sensual at the same time. The research is focussed on finding the optimal climate for wheat. In Plant Paradise it is possible to test over a 100 different climates simultaneously.
A young man behind a microscope is inspecting wheat plants to find out whether ears are developing. His job description is ‘plant paradise profiler’. The engineering control is in-house expertise, as well as the installation design, and production supervision.

So what actually happens in these units? Here it is getting really interesting: photograph 57, on floor 2, in field J6, depicts a dividing wall, a processing area where crops are sown, re-potted and covered with black sound insulating fabric and finished with birch panelling, the caption reads. It could as well have been a wall in a cinema theatre.

The special light conditions result in a growing speed that is often twice as high, and the annual production is three to five times higher. Bathing in the purple light, both the uniformity and transformation of the R&D units and the PPU’s stand out as rhythmical elements in the book.

view towards living room, library and first floor bedroom

outdoor fireplace west facade

This summer my collection of company photobooks, mainly seminal photobooks published by captains of industry in postwar Holland, as well as annual reports and derivations of the genre, has been sold to the renowned collector Manfred Heiting (Malibu, CA).  Prior to the sale a salon was held on June 16 in my office space in Amsterdam. Read also the newsfeed on PhotoQ.

Right now I am preparing a chapter on the history of Dutch photography from 1939 to 1969 for the encycpledia A History of European Photograhy Volume II 

Another work in progress is An Anthology: Photobooks on Found Photographs, an online database to be accessible and consulted in 2013. See for a preview: https://iphorblog.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/preview-an-anthology-photobooks-on-found-photographs/

kitchen and cellar entrance

From now on the Researcher in Residence (RiR) in the Southers Vosges is OPEN for applications. Researchers, writers, historians, photographers, designers, curators, scholars are most welcome to apply.

southern side granit wall and facade

    

the clinical approach

‘So, you were one of the first ones obtaining fragile, directly from me’. This is the first time I hear Raphael Dallaporta’s voice, and this is his first sentence. Raphael Dallaporta (1980) is a Paris based upcoming documentary photographer who received the Paul Huf Award 2011, among other prestigeous awards. Maybe I’m so intrigued by his latest book fragile because I studied physical therapy in the 1980s and we were practising on human specimen: arms and legs of dead people – without skin – soaked in phormaldehyde. All justified, in order to be able to discover muscles and tendons, bones and joints. The straight forwardness with which organs and body parts are depicted in the anatomy books we studied then, is similar to the way Dallaporta photographed a sternum, a spinal cord or a brain of deceased people on the table of a forensic pathologist, working at the Raymond Poincare University Hospital in the outskirts of Paris, close to Versailles. The clinical approach is sustained throughout this 5 years project. It is rarely done in photography, not at all in the tradition of new documentaries. Anatomical plates, is what Dallaporta wanted to realise. In colour. Call it a more contemporary interpretation of those medical illustrations, working with simple case studies, faits divers, and text. As in the case of his earlier books, fragile is the result of a long term collaboration with professionals from different disciplines. Be it a land mine cleaner  (Antipersonel), a reporter covering social issues intersecting with justice and law (Domestic Slavery), or, in this case, a forensic pathologist. The working method in itself: the collaboritive, is not new. Just look at the way Susan Meiselas realised her book project Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997/ 2008). Based on long term collaboratives with archivists, historians and antropologists in order to create a memory bank for the global Kurdish Community.

How fragile la conditione humaine is

In each of  Dallaporta’s book projects the photographed subjects are stripped off to the bare minimum. Be it a blast mine  from the Czech Republic or a heart with previous bypasses that belonged to an 81 year old man, discovered in the swimming pool of his place of residence around 10.45 AM. The body was floating in the water. Declared dead at 11.25AM, according to the autopsy report. It was through an archeologist (working with him currently on the project Ruins on scientific archeological sites in Afghanistan) that Dallaporta was introduced to a paleo-pathologist, working full time in the Forensic Medicine and Pathology department at Raymond Poincare Hospital. There, he was introduced to the director, Michel Durigon, and decided to start a collaborative project based on his expertise. Why? ‘Maybe because at a certain age you start to ask questions about ‘death’, you have the disposition to start to explore this theme. Maybe the death of other people, brings you into this experience’.  The title fragile  refers to the functional stickers on a crate used to transport the large format fragile portfolio. That portfolio was shown in hand-made vitrines during the New York Photo Festival, in an exhibition curated by  Kathy Ryan from New York Times Magazin. For the first two years the working title used to be ‘autopsy’, stemming from the Greek word ‘autopsia’, meaning: seeing with one’s own eyes. After four years, when the director of the institute was reaching his retirement and leaving the institute, Dallaporta considered that the right time to finalize the project. It was then he started to ask himself, why he went for four years in a row – a week per month – following forensic autopsy. ‘The main thing I learned from this experience is, how fragile la condition humaine is. Sometimes the cause of death is very banal, violent or sad. For example, the book starts with a story that is quite similar to that of Kain and Abel in the Bible’. Plate IIa. is showing the sternum  and sections of cut out ribs. And between those ribs, muscles pierced by a kitchen knife. The whole thing, photographed from above, is looking like a salmon steak. The caption reads: ‘According to the information that we received, M. [..], aged 25, was a victim of a stabbing at around 2.30pm at his home [..]. The single wound was inflicted by his brother in the context of frequent fights. The knife (not present at the time of the autopsy) was a sharpened kitchen knife of 19.5cm in length (handle, 10cm; blade, 9,5cm) with a single cutting edge’.

‘I was not fascinated by the death while following the autopsies at the institute, I was much more fascinated by seeing the organs, the body parts; what they look like. How we are composed’. To project yourself, and life, in there’. During the autopsy in the auditorium, the object was handed over to Dallaporta. He had to be ready, shoot fast. Taking the picture in the same circumstances, under the same conditions, as which the experts were using to look for the cause of death. ‘Wearing different pairs of gloves I manipulate the object, transfer it from the autopsy table to my set-up. Which is basically a glass plate. Below the glass there is an absence of light, because of a black velvet cloth that absorbs light. All in order to create a shadow in the background. And to use the light only for the specimen. I am photographing from above with a Sinar P2 camera. In a couple of minutes I shoot, load my film, return the organ, clean the glass plate, and wait for the next signal from the professionals’.  Capital Roman figures for each chapter, a selection of images per chapter (co-edited by Jerome Sother), showing generic examples, and plain titles defining the cause of death, all together determine the structure of the book. ‘So there is no confusion whatsoever about which body part refers to which cause of death. Two shot per cause of death. One story per chapter. And that’s it. It is pretty close to the way the surgeons and pathologists work’.

A society without forensic pathologists is a sick society

There are three levels of text: the title of the chapter, the caption of the image and the abstract of the autopsy report (the original text is in French). Except for the translation, it is the original text, cropped from the report. That could be the conclusion or a description in the middle of the report, written by the forensic doctor. These short text fragments on a blank page, leave more space for your own imagination. The identity of the victims is not known. ‘I prefer to erase the names and leave an empty blank. It is more respectful. Also in order to leave room for self projection. And to talk about absence. A metaphor for absence. The only restriction I had to deal with was that the body could not be photographed recognizable’.  There has been no contact with family members. The autopsy is not assigned by the family but by legal procedure, by the prefecture. Dallaporta finds his source of inspiration rarely in the world or art and photography. His main influences come from the professionals he works with and their functional approach to photography; their strictly functional needs for the medium. ‘For fragile the main influence was a 19th century book on quadrichromy engraves, I consulted in the library of medical studies in Paris. And a text by Michel Foucault, in Naissance de la Clinique (Birth of a Clinic), entitled ‘Ouvrez quelques cadavres’, invited me to actually go to the clinic and start this project. An excellent text around obscurity, death, and how important it is for a society to open up somebody’s corps. A society without professional forensic pathologists is a sick society. That could politically and in terms of crime have major consequences’. In a two page interview in the back of the book, Michel Durigon explains under which rigurous circumstances and in a calm spirit an autopsy should be carried out. Did you know the police personnel helps to undress the body before it is opened? And each piece of clothing is identified and weighed? And did you know before the body is washed, swap samples (mouth, anus, vagina) and samples from under the nails are taken, as well as those to establish the presence of gunshot residue? And there are different  methods for level-by-level ‘evisceration’ of organs. The protocol – a detailed guide to the rules of pathological examination – stems from the 19th century, from a Prussian autopsy rulebook.

regular police report

Kummer / Herrmann transformed the project into a not over-designed book. The Dutch graphic designers stepped in during the final selections. ‘A dry, minimalist, simple and efficient lay-out, is what they came up with, as well as that delicate green for the cover and the text pages. Green is a color that is very absent inside the body, so in anatomical plates it is usually used as a background. And if you look at your arm, the green of your vanes is also close to this color’. In book technical terms it is a subtle and fragile design. The choice of cheap paper, a simple Swiss binding and one sided printing are all referring closely to  the format of a regular police report. ‘We wanted the book to be like a police report, but at the same time to be similar to neutral anatomical plates. So the simple file and the excellent printing, these two aspects, in one book’. Fragile is published by GwinZegal in an edition of 500 copies. This French publishing house, also an art and research center, has choreographed a low budget exhibition now touring Europe andf the US, combining  fragile with four other projects by Raphael Dallaporta.

Based on a Skype interview by Mirelle Thijsen in Amsterdam with Raphael Dallaporta in Paris on January 13th, 2012.

         The aim of log. is twofold. First, to give a factual description of content and form of photobooks in the tradition of new documentaries that have been signaled in the past calendar year. Taking into account strategies of editing and selecting, be it self-made photographs, or  images found in public and private archives, reproduced post cards, amateur photographs from family-albums or documents from corporate inventories. Second, to give insight in the reception of the photobook. HOW has the book, over time, been received and assessed by critics, in online art reviews, in daily newspapers and professional magazines, on blogs?

James, Jennifer Georgina (2010) was launched during a book salon at the University of Amsterdam, Bijzondere Collecties, just after the summer of 2010. Two of the main actors, James and Jennifer, were present. Georgina, their daughter, was at the time studying in the US. Bookshop Nijhof & Lee, in fact just recently located in the same university building, has the most accurate content description of this non conformist artist’s book. Designer Irma Boom was sharing with the public, the many different stages of the unusual book design, showing several of 17 dummies. 1.136 postcards have been written between 1989-1999, all related to one family. One postcard for every day they were apart. A rather uncommon story of the Butler’s family unfolds in the notes, handwritten and mailed from mother to daughter. All taking place during a 282.000 miles trip in the first ten years of Georgina’s life. The journey was undertaken by James and Jennifer to fight James’s addiction to alcohol. The production of this remarkable book took two years. Costs: over 250.000 euros. This unusual ‘taxi-yellow’ volume, large and heavy as a brick, fits into a cassette. Most striking is its unique and innovative binding method: a threefold embossed  spine. The volume, in a limited edition of 999 copies was sold on the day of the presentation for 666,00 euros. The selling price was, then, 999,00 and is now 435,00 euros. The story unfolds through 210 reproduced postcards, 1 on each page, a selection of family photographs and a series of therapeutic dialogues. The transcription of the dialogues was an idea of Irma Boom. In fact, conditional for her taking part in the project. The book is a ‘memoir’, a physical evidence of a family affair, made public. The 210 selected postcards, some are handmade collages or family pictures, are followed by 21 unedited dialogues, conversations that were recorded 10 years later, in the hope to achieve some sort of closure. The volume is prompted by Georgina’s 21st birthday in celebration of which the 210 selected postcards have been reprinted and transcribed. The content is divided into 6 chapters: ‘beginning’ is a biting introduction by Jennifer. ‘I took him on road trips to dry him out’; ‘The postcards’ – reproduced in landscape format is text and image and transcription, each on a separate page – and many more in thumbnails; ‘stop’ is a statement by James, looking back on rehab, anger, ‘the battle with the bottle’ since 23rd August 1999; followed by ’21 conversations’ between the family; ‘perspective’ is written in 2006 by, then, a 17-year-old Georgina. ‘I would stay with my English nannies in the south of France while my mother fought the drinking in a foreign country’. [..] ‘She sent me a postcard every day, many of which she made herself. On one side she glued pictures, maps, articles, or invitations. On the other side was the lesson of the day. “Don’t ever be dependent financially”. “Rely on yourself first”. ‘Don’t mary a man with crummy shoes”. “A woman must never seem in a hurry”. The volume opens with three stately portraits by Erwin Olaf of James (1936), Jennifer (1945) and their daughter Georgina (1989). James Butler is the son of Richard Austin Butler, Chancellor of Exchequer.  Jennifer is the adopted daughter of model Orlene Gladstone (Miss Camel). In the 1960s and 1970s Jennifer herself was modeling for Chicago’s American and later became a writer. Her father, George Gladstone was leading a medical practice in New York.

From ‘Beginning’: ‘In these cards there are 142 prison visits with and without HRH the Princess Royal. Whole generations of ants in picnic sandwiches. There are 37 references to Spanish Farmacies to buy Grippal, the only miracle cure for flu. 2 bullfights. 1 speeding ticket. 53 unpaid parking tickets, 13 cancelled flights. Delayed trains. Many ferry crossings then, sous la manche, the Channel Tunnel. When launched Pavarotti sang. 1 bomb scare. 1 puncture. Petrol empty twice. 205 church stops, candle after candle lit in hope. Hidden drink, broken promises. French stamps more elegant then British, but British stamps more quirky. In those 10 years we took 205 flights, we drove 268,162 miles. We traveled to save James and to shield our daughter from drink’s indignities’. (6-7)

Conversation one started 28 November 2009 in the process of surviving together. One quote from each family member:

Georgina: ‘What if I woke up at forty and I find out I ‘m like Daddy’? (935)

James: ‘And Mumm didn’t even know how to get a cork out of a bottle’. (936)

Jennifer: ‘Why do you like putting me down? Why can’t you acknowledge what I have done instead of putting me down in such a nasty tone?’ (944)

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For more reflections on the making of JJG, its design, and an interview with Jennifer, which is a revelation in itself.

James Jennifer Georgina has been reviewed mainly in the art world, like in Mr. Motley , a review in Dutch, in which the different postcards sent by Jennifer are categorized.

 

Photobooks on care environments and matters of life and death in post-war Holland: THEN and NOW

 

This publication focuses on the meaning and significance of photobooks concerning health care environments. Heart-rending, intimate stories on matters of life, sickness, death and personal loss, are observed and experienced by consecutive generations of photographers working in the documentary tradition. Martien Coppens (1908-1986), Koos Breukel (1962), Carel van Hees (1954), Rince de Jong (1970), Roy Villevoye (1960), and Albert van Westing (1960) unveil various aspects of the everyday lives of their friends and family, as well as people in their professional environment who suffer from a severe illness or find themselves facing grim adversity. The photographers record how these people, some of whom are very dear to them, try to deal with their illness or misfortune with a need to hold on to memories of a happier past, and to understand their slow deterioration and the bewilderment that comes with it. There is often a great sense of urgency: the clock is ticking.

The world of the loved one, the patient, is turned upside down. Suddenly, life is built around medical care and attempts to find a new sense of meaning and purpose. A new dimension is added to the concept of ‘home’: ‘home’ is no longer a safe and protected place, and consequently the patient no longer experiences it as such. ‘Home’ turns into a health care environment. Simultaneously, a different kind of reality suddenly becomes of vital importance close to home: the care facility. That turns into a new ‘home’ of sorts, in the shape of a transitory location of controlled care and attention. The hospital, the nursing home, the mental institution; they are like hotels – a temporary accommodation, often born out of necessity, sometimes unwanted; a place to meet fellow sufferers. The photographer infringes upon that environment; he/she considers the ‘home away from home’ his/her work environment.

The core of this publication is shaped by photobooks published by and on the Dutch public health care. In addition, photobooks on consumer driven health care and loss within one’s domestic circle and circle of friends are discussed, self-published by modern day photographers. Those publications are considered to be an extension of the genre. Within the genre, photobooks since post-war reconstruction constitute a category of their own.

After World War II photographers recorded their fascination of the harsh reality of human suffering in a number of photobooks. Each of the 25 photobooks selected represents a photographer’s strategy regarding the documentation of medical and personal care in public and private space, then and now. Not only do they show the progression of personal tragedy; they also display the development of care environments in The Netherlands, and the birth of a genre in documentary photography. In this publication you will find visual narratives on academic hospitals by the first generation of photographers to work in a tradition of humanist photography and who were members of the Dutch photographer’s guild (GKf). Among them are Eva Besnyö (1910-2003) and Ad Windig (1912-1996). Photobooks that were published after the Second World War are composed around the verb ‘to live’. Moralistic and patronizing in tone they speak of nursing and nurturing in a confined workplace; mental bewilderment and daily care; a ‘day in the life’ of a patient in a care environment that tries to mimic a home life. These publications subsequently make way for self-published and digitally produced book projects. The personal involvement reflected in those projects is domestic and local in nature, focused on the photographer’s own environment and family. Books by contemporary author-photographers like Linda-Maria Birbeck (1974), Annelies Goedhart (1979) and Jaap Scheeren (1979) reveal that approach.

Photobooks are selected that were groundbreaking in their day and in the way they depict the socially, often highly sensitive, themes of health care in text and images. Further, the books stand out for their technical execution, layout and way of photographic storytelling. In sum, this publication is about commissioners, photographers, graphic designers and graphic industry that have played an important role in the history of photography and graphic design.

Paul Kooiker Utrechtse krop/Utrecht Goitre

Roy Villevoye Kerven/Carving

Annelies Goedhart The Day Daddy Died

Albert van Westing ziek/ill 

ESSAY in DUTCH 25 fotoboeken over zorgomgevingen in naoorlogs Nederland

Bibliography NL photobooks health CARE environments