Books


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Bubbie looking at scarves, from Mommie: Three Generations of Women, published by powerHouse Books, image © Arlene Gottfried

""Mommie: Three Generations of Women" is a remarkable photographic portrait of three generations of women in the family of photographer Arlene Gottfried and an intimate story of aging and the inevitable passage of time. Pictured within, we are introduced to Gottfried's 100-year-old immigrant grandmother, fragile mother, and reluctant sister over the breathtaking course of 35 years."

I am thrilled to see another book from the archives of the one-and-only Arlene Gottfried. Arlene is one of my all-time favourite people, and well deserves the recognition her fabulous historic records of New York are receiving. Off the streets and into her own home, Arlene's "Mommie" shows what it was like "living as many mid-century Jewish New York families did, the Gottfrieds were not wealthy and lacked any trappings of luxury. Close examination of their world on Avenue A in Manhattan's Lower East Side reveals a dimly lit small apartment, cartons of budget saltines and groceries, chipped paint, damaged floor tiles, guarded loose change, and well worn clothes - details natural to the lives of many families of immigrants in New York."

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Mommie and Karen

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Karen and cherry blossoms

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Mommie kissing Bubbie

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Bubbie
All images © Arlene Gottfried 


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From Detroit: Unbroken Down, published by powerHouse Books, image © Dave Jordano

"Detroit: Unbroken Down is not a document solely about what's been destroyed, but even more critically, about all that has been left behind and those who remain to cope with it."

Dave Jordano was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948. He made a series of photographs around Detroit in the 70s as a burgeoning documentary photographer. He says on his website, "...eager to join the ranks of such notable heroes as Walker Evans, Eugene Atget and Robert Frank, while all the while sitting in my ivory tower, oblivious to the responsibilities of my post-graduate responsibilities and entering the work force. Reality ensued and I became a commercial photographer, leaving behind my documentary aspirations." Jordano's bio lists him as leaving the commercial world for fine art in 2003.

Now forty years later, Jordano returned to Detroit and for the last few years has been producing a more positive representation of his childhood city than the media has since the recession. There are many wonderful, warm images over on Jordano's site, replete with informative captions. It promises to be a great book.

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Read more over at Dave Jordano's website.

All images from Detroit: Unbroken Down, published by powerHouse Books, image © Dave Jordano. Out now!

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In 'Face,' the latest book from Bruce Gilden, the extreme-close-ups are cited as "collaborative," with the subjects giving permission to have their picture taken in a departure from his usual street habits.

From the publisher: "A defining characteristic of Bruce Gilden's photography is his creative attraction to what he calls 'characters', and he has been tracking them down all through his career." 

Janette Beckman photographed Gilden earlier this year for Jocks & Nerds magazine so I asked if she would like to review the book.

"Every photographer has their own artistic vision, especially portrait photographers; I am one of those and my vision is to collaborate with the subject, documentary-style, to portray them as they are at that moment.

In March I photographed Bruce Gilden, the author of 'Face,' for a British magazine. We met on a street corner in NYC. He pointed out he was dressed like a "bum" and mentioned that no one messes with him as he is "kinda aggressive." He told me a story about throwing a famous photographer up against a wall because he didn't like some comment he made. 

"I idolized my father. He screwed me around," said Gilden in a 2010 interview with The Guardian. "The reason I stick a flash in people's faces is to get back at him in some way."

All of this may contribute to his current oeuvre: extreme close-up flash-lit images of faces ravaged by life - the intro talks about the "babies and sorority sisters" on social networks and states in contrast "here are Bruce Gilden's family." Yes they are extreme portraits, not easy on the eye.

Avedon in his 'Out West' series showed a similar sort of folk but with a certain beauty - Gilden's portraits have none of that and anyone stepping in front of his flash lit camera should be aware that he is not out to capture beauty, but the harsh side of life. In some ways these days with the cult of the selfie, retouched images and social media I can understand where he is coming from but it ain't pretty." Janette Beckman, August, 2015

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Bruce Gilden, 2015 © Janette Beckman

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From Primordial Landscapes, images by Feodor Pitcairn, published by powerHouse Books

"Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed elegantly explores the diverse and raw beauty of Iceland's extraordinary landscapes through striking images by photographer and naturalist Feodor Pitcairn and the inspired words of geophysicist, author, and poet Ari Trausti Guðmundsson."

We don't need the official press release to help us fall in love with these spectacular images and this cracking-looking book. Otherwise, Feodor Pitcairn's production company specializes in underwater work, and indeed "Mr. Pitcairn took delivery of the first Sony hi-def handy camera delivered to the U.S. in March of 1988, and has been shooting in HD ever since." 

These were shot on a Hasselblad. Jolly fabulous they are too. The book is out July 7, 2015, from powerHouse Books.

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From Primordial Landscapes, all images by Feodor Pitcairn, published by powerHouse Books

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Watching New Yorker Susan A. Barnett build her series "Not In Your Face" into a fantastic collection over the last couple years has been a pleasure, and now her dedication to capturing T shirt messages has resulted in a really great book, from Dewi Lewis.

"With over 200 images of t-shirt 'messages', "T: A Typology of T-shirts" looks at those individuals who stand out in a crowd through their choice of the message on their back." Here are but a handful, from a request I made to Susan for more "sassy, edgy" messages. Susan's off to continue shooting abroad so stand by for some messages from other cultures.

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All images © Susan A. Barnett

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From Project Lives, published by powerHouse Books, image © Margarita Colon 

The photographs making up the new powerHouse book Project Lives were created by residents of New York's housing projects. They learned about photography in an intensive 12 week course, and set out to document their lives. "This is photography from the inside out." The new photographers featured include Marcy Morales, 72, living in public housing for 30+ years who says "It's not where you are being raised, it's how you raise your kids, right?"; and Jared Wellington, 12, who says "I try to find myself in the photos... My mom used to live here when she was younger, and played on the same basketball courts I play on now." The newly discovered artists were given single-use film cameras and set free to record their own experiences of living in the city's seemingly never-improving housing. 

The program was instigated by photographers and educators George Carrano, Chelsea Davis, and Jonathan Fisher. The book includes some wonderful full page photos, commentary, and a ton of NYCHA facts (like the 422,639 backlogged repair requests.) Read more and buy a copy over at powerHouse.

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© Jared Wellington

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© Elodie Jean-Baptiste

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© Aaliyah Colon

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© Alina Navarro

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© Sheik Bacchus

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© Margaret Wells

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From Kill City, images by Ash Thayer, published by Powerhouse Books

I had moved to New York by the early 90s, when Mayor Guiliani finally decided to evict the squatters, who were mainly living down on the lower east side of Manhattan. It was big news at the time. My parents don't read my blog so I can confess that I spent a fair amount of time in squats in London in the mid-80s. I don't know how else I would ever have learned to cook lentils or stomach hash. Ash Thayer moved to a squat in 1992, and began documenting "New York's legendary LES squatters." As Luc Sante writes: "Anyone wondering about the end of bohemia can consult this book, which documents its last incarnation, at least in New York City. Few bohemians can ever have worked as hard as the squatters, who earned their homes and their lives; they were rewarded with forcible and violent eviction. Ash Thayer's remarkable pictures chronicle a time, only two decades ago, that seems impossibly distant now." (b-t-w Sante's book, Low Life, about the seedy history of NYC is a great read.)

This is a fabulous photography book; large, and packed with double-page spreads, it includes stories of learning how to build and repair, plant gardens, stay warm, and how some of these kids came to be squatting in the first place.

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The press release is as usual a great read so here it is in its entirety:

After being kicked out of her apartment in Brooklyn in 1992, and unable to afford rent anywhere near her school, young art student Ash Thayer found herself with few options. Luckily she was welcomed as a guest into See Skwat.

New York City in the '90s saw the streets of the Lower East Side overun with derelict buildings, junkies huddled in dark corners, and dealers packing guns. People in desperate need of housing, worn down from waiting for years in line on the low-income housing lists, had been moving in and fixing up city-abandoned buildings since the mid-80s in the LES.

Squatters took over entire buildings, but these structures were barely habitable. They were overrun with vermin, lacking plumbing, electricity, and even walls, floors, and a roof. Punks and outcasts joined the squatter movement and tackled an epic rebuilding project to create homes for themselves.

The squatters were forced to be secretive and exclusive as a result of their poor legal standing in the buildings. Few outsiders were welcome and fewer photographers or journalists. Thayer's camera accompanied her everywhere as she lived at the squats and worked alongside other residents. Ash observed them training each other in these necessary crafts and finding much of their materials in the overflowing bounty that is New York City's refuse and trash. The trust earned from her subjects was unique and her access intimate. Kill City is a true untold story of New York's legendary LES squatters. - Luc Sante

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All images by Ash Thayer, from Kill City, out now from Powerhouse Books

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Jay Uhler © Francesco Mastalia 
From "Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley" by Francesco Mastalia, published by powerHouse Books.

For this two-year portrait project, Francesco Mastalia photographed over 100 farmers and chefs located around New York State's Hudson Valley, a region known for its organic and farm-to-table principles. Mastalia decided to use the wet-plate collodion process, producing these appropriately earthy images. The amber toned photos are collected into Mastalia's new book, which is out now from powerHouse

""Organic" is one of the most misunderstood and often misused words describing food today. In narrating their own stories, the farmers and chefs share their philosophy about what it means to grow and live organically and sustainably. "Organic" is not just about growing and producing food, it is about the life of the planet. It is about preserving an agricultural tradition that will safeguard farmland for future generations."

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Jody Bolluyt

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Jeff Bialas

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Eugene Wyatt

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Hanna Bail

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Guy Jones

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After clocking up some thousands of kilometers, Dan Eckstein has completed his lovely project about long distance truck drivers on India's vast motorways, full of colourful characters and customized vehicles. I'm pleased to report that the book of the series launched this week - "Horn Please: The Decorated Trucks of India" is out now via PowerHouse Books

""Horn Please" could be considered the mantra of the Indian highway, and some version of the phrase is written on the back of practically every truck on the road in India today." 
 
Learn more on the Horn Please website.

See the previous post about this project, from 2012, here in the aCurator blog.

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Horn Please: The Decorated Trucks of India by Dan Eckstein, published by powerHouse Books. 
All images © Dan Eckstein



A new book from the archives of the one and only Jim Marshall, made posthumously, but as he had outlined in a notebook that was found after his death. I count myself damn lucky to have shared a glass of wine or three with Mr Marshall a few years ago, thanks to my mentor and pal, another one and only, Jim's close buddy and peer, Baron Wolman.

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