Jeffrey Ladd

Jeffrey Ladd wurde 1968 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, geboren und begann 1986 zu fotografieren. Eine Freundin, die in New York Kunst studierte, brachte ihn auf die Idee, sich dort an der School of Visual Arts um einen Studienplatz für Fotografie zu bewerben, und er wurde angenommen. 1987 kaufte er sein erstes Buch über Fotografie, den Katalog Towards a Landscape: der Beginn einer langen und beinahe obsessiven Beziehung mit Fotobüchern. Er studierte unter Thomas Roma, Joseph Lawton, Lois Conner und Sid Kaplan und machte 1991 seinen Abschluss. Seither hat er selbst fotografiert, Fotografie unterrichtet, als »master printer« für verschiedene bekannte Fotografen Abzüge angefertigt und viel Zeit damit verbracht, nach schwer erhältlichen Fotobüchern zu fahnden. Seine Bilder wurden unter anderem im Art Institute of Chicago, International Center of Photography, New York, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, New York, und im Museum of the City of New York gezeigt. Zwischen 2007 und 2012 hat Jeffrey Ladd für seinen Blog 5B4 über 450 Artikel verfasst, in denen er Publikationen aus dem Bereich Fotografie und Kunst rezensierte. Er ist einer der Mitbegründer von Errata Editions, einem Verlag dessen Reihe Books on Books zahlreiche Auszeichnungen für die Wiederauflage seltener und vergriffener Fotobücher erhielt. Er schreibt regelmäßig für den Lightbox Blog des Time Magazine und lebt und arbeitet derzeit in Köln.

Jeffrey Ladd was born in Elkins Park Pennsylvania in 1968 and stumbled into photography after barely graduating high school in 1986. Encouraged by a girlfriend who was studying fine arts in NYC, he applied and was accepted by the School of Visual Arts as a photography-major. He bought his first “photobook” in 1987 - the catalog Towards a Social Landscape - which began a long and frequently obsessive relationship with photobooks. At SVA he studied with the photographers Thomas Roma, Joseph Lawton, Lois Conner and Sid Kaplan and earned a B.F.A. degree in 1991. Since 1991, he has spent a majority of his time photographing, searching for books, earning a modest living teaching photography and working 2-3 days a week as a “master printer” for several well known photographers. His photographs have been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, Museum of the City of New York among others. From 2007 to 2012, he wrote over 450 articles for his website 5B4 - Photography and Books, a blog dedicated to discussing and reviewing photography and art-related publications. Ladd is one of the founders of Errata Editions, an independent publishing company whose Books on Books series has won many awards for their scholarship into rare and out of print photobooks. He is a frequent contributor to Time Magazine’s Lightbox blog and is currently based in Koeln Germany where he is concentrating on new photographic work.

Revolutionary Archive by Jochem Hendricks and Magdalena Kopp

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Chorus: a discussion of Jochem Hendricks’s “Revolutionary Archive

Susan Sontag: Jochem, for years now you have had an extensive archive of police photographs in your possession, consisting of numerous files with negatives and contact prints as well as a crate with 16mm and super 8 films. In 2011, you started consistently drawing on the archive materials and processing them. Why did so much time elapsed between finding the archive and starting to work with it?

Jochem Hendricks: Sometimes you have to be able to wait! Many of my projects have had very long lead times, often several years in fact. Yes, of course you need patience and the confidence in the material and the idea underpinning the piece. I often walked around the two crates and looked at the materials there. I never doubted that it had the potential to be something exciting. It was simply that for a time I was not sure what. I simply knew something was lacking, and it was Magdalena Kopp who was then the missing link. That was clear to me the moment I met her the first time.

Roland Barthes: How should we imagine your stance towards this material? These are strong images without doubt and they are also politically explosive to a certain extent. But that is all historical, as these are anonymous found objects with a strong temporal link. Do you consider yourself a documentarist?

Jochem Hendricks: No, I’m neither a documentarist nor a sociologist, political scientist or historian. I am an artist and my focus is on the present. Of course I’m interested in all these things and references, they belong to the material as it were. My work involves extracting at various levels from their actual contents without erasing them, however! But working on them with artistic, I transfer the archive from a historical into an art context.
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Anna Oppermann: All of that remains very theoretical. So what is the artistic effort involved, what do you actually do in your studio?

Jochem Hendricks: Actually? Well, I have an archive here that I view through the eyes of an artist and with his thoughts. An archive of very strong images that were not taken by me and have a sensitive background because the material was compiled by the police. The content of the images is down-to-earth, historical and for very many people relates to their biographies. My task is to absorb these factors, transport them into the present, where many analogous events occur…

Arthur “Weegee” Fellig: You are alluding to the current protest marches, the assassinations, political acts of violence, etc the world over?

Jochem Hendricks: … yes, I present they are simply everywhere! There’s Occupy and Blockupy in the west, Mass demonstrations in Brazil, in Hong Kong, in Egypt, in the Middle East, in Africa…
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Anna Politkowskaya: … from where, thanks to the social media, a flood of images comes from an unprecedented scale. Do you see the “revolutionary archive” in this context? Is there a reference to everyday politics?

Jochem Hendricks: That happens automatically. If you are at my exhibitions has the images in mind anyway, as I do. But the archive is simply the wrong material and the surface of my work. I want to transcend the initial material, and the actual event is meant to become the archetype. Meaning what I focus on is precisely not archiving or storable analysis and certainly not on nostalgic mnemonic objects or putting my finger on the good or the evil.
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Aby Warburg: Many artists rely on archives, be they existing ones or ones they create themselves. Is the archive of interest to you as a mnemonic system, a system of order?

Jochem Hendricks: Not really. I tend to find collectors of material suspect and I definitely am no archivist. I’m happy if I manage to keep a handle on storing my own works and don’t lose anything. Which constantly happens… no, what drives me on is the potential in eight in this police archive, not the implicit system of order. Even if it is amazingly thorough. Art is an open game with no fixed results, and per se for that reason I don’t champion some special hypothesis. I want to maintain the political element, but not let it dominate the artistic part, my objective is to strike a balance.
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Bernd Becher: Back to the artistic practice. What’s the art component that you contribute?

Jochem Hendricks: Let me put it this way: I find the right people and take decisions. I set up a team of able players whom I’ve been coached unmotivated until we reach a result or the project fails. That’s how I tend to work. For the “Revolutionary archive”, meeting Magdalena Kopp set things rolling, and that was about eight years after I came across the collection. Then, my first basic decision was to reverse the sides/perspectives and have an ex-terrorist, a potential “victim” of police work, become the “active player” handling the material. In this way the two sides interact illicitly as it were…

Diane Arbus: … and what goes to make up the quality of the photos?

Jochem Hendricks: Thanks to Magdalena Kopp’s efforts, these amateurish snapshots become high-grade art photographs. She brings to the project not only a spectacular biography, but her skills as a photographer and as a veritable darkroom magician. Magdalena is so key to the project that she is always mentioned as the co-producer and jointly signs the photographs with me. We select the negatives and cropped sections together and Magdalena produces those marvelous gelatin silver barite prints in the darkroom we have set up in a Montessori school near her place. I had Cartier-Bresson in mind, and it’s not a great leap of faith to end up with Gunther Forg.

Gunther Forg: I disagree.

Jochem Hendricks: Your photographs are often out of focus, wobbly, and yet successful anyway!
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Hannah Darboven: The path from found archive material to the claim to Art is a long and ambitious one.

Jochem Hendricks: Perhaps it’s clear that way: By enhancing the images I stripped them of a bit of their political/historical surface and insert them into an art context. The photos are always classically mounted in passe-partouts and framed ready for museum display. I can also influence how they function in exhibitions by how I choose and arrange the images and films in line with criteria such as narration, contrast, formalization etc.

Harun Farocki: We should definitely dwell a bit on the subject of films. Magdalena Kopp presumably does not play a role there?

Jochem Hendricks: No, not actively, but we reviewed them together and discussed them at length. The films are as important as the photographs. Both address the same topics: demonstrations, surveillance, evictions, terrorist bombings, department store arson, exchanging hostages, etc. Sometimes the photos and films were shot on the same day and on the same occasion. One red thread running through all the archive material and my project is the constant, redundant images discourse among all involved, in all the different variations. Photographers photograph photographers and cameramen and vice versa, policeman photograph or film demonstrators and they shoot back, people photograph one another, or reciprocate. For an artist that is of course marvelous material!
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Nan Hoover: Does your treatment of the films differ from that for the photographs? They are related media, but do differ significantly in key areas.

Jochem Hendricks: in my exhibitions, the films assume the physical side to things, as it were. Films are per se more overwhelming than photographs. And I emphasize this with the presentation in large, closed and dark rooms with projection screens that run from wall to ceiling, each seamlessly abutting the next, surrounding the viewer. If the budget were to be there, I even put projections on the floor and ceiling…

Bernhard Blume: Do you really think that you will be visible as an artist as a consequence? That your work will simply because it is exhibited in galleries and museums be perceived as art?

Jochem Hendricks: Well, I retort by asking: Why does it get exhibited in museums? Of course the question then is: where’s the artist and where’s the art? Now, I developed the idea, structure the setting for the project, fine-tune things select and combined the people, elements and levels, like a movie director as it were, and transform them into a new whole. With each exhibition and each publication anew.
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Charlotte Posenenske: Is it even important to be visible as an artist?

Jochem Hendricks: I ask myself the same question. Just like, where is the material from which part is made?

Bernhard Blume: Well, in terms of art theory that’s quite ambitious. You disappear as the producer, as it were, and yet claim to be there as the artist. The photos and films were not taken by you, neither are they ready-mades nor are they pieces made by assistants with your instructions. Magdelena Kopp is the co-producer, but not the co-artist. I can’t really pigeonhole this, it’s as blurred as the one or other of the photos…

Jochem Hendricks: If meant seriously, artistic work does not rest on solid foundations. But Art is not just analytical, it always has to do with emotions as well, with physical and psychic stimulation, especially if there’s a strong visual portion, like there is here. Which is why the films are presented as a large physical installation but the photographs as intimate portrait formats. And of course the enjoyment of images is also at work here.

August Sander: Unfortunately I didn’t catch any of your shows and ask myself whether your approach can actually be conveyed to others. Does the “Revolutionary Archive” also make sense to young people? And don’t the older ones simply get bogged down in memories?

Jochem Hendricks: The response was, at any rate, always unusually pronounced. Depending on the generation of viewers, biographical, historical and contemporary context are called into play, memory and the presents are then related to each other. This in itself serves to exaggerate things to the point of archetypes. Here, a prime example is the first presentation of the “Revolutionary Archive” in 2011, that took place exactly during the social unrest in London and in other English cities – at the time when Tottenham was on fire.

Text originally reproduced in the book Revolutionary Archive.

Revolutionary Archive
Jochem Hendricks and Magdalena Kopp
Koenig Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-3-86335-506-7

Arthur Mole: Living Photographs

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I am not certain that photographs like those made by Arthur Mole in the early twentieth-century are purely an ‘Only in America’ phenomenon, but their patriotism towards Mole’s adopted country of the United Sates of America certainly make it seem so. Starting in the early days of World War I, Mole was commissioned to create spectacular images where thousands of people, properly arranged and photographed from a high vantage point, created a unified image of various patriotic symbols and emblems that included; the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and a huge portrait of Uncle Sam. A new book by RVB features many of Mole’s epic ‘living photographs’.
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The logistics of Mole’s photographs are staggering and took at times more than a week of elaborate planning for a single photograph. Shot with an 11X14 inch view camera high atop a towering platform, Mole’s partner John Thomas would direct the positioning of upwards of 25,000 people into the exact shape desired.
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From these elevated vantage points, the foreground might have contained just a few hundred soldiers, where as the distant background, in order to keep the proportions correct might require tens of thousands.
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Living Photographs presents 27 photographs in a creative design as is typical with RVB’s books. Blue tinted heavyweight plastic covers with white lettering and a red thread binding set the star-spangled tone. A fine essay by Louis Kaplan called “Photographic Patriotism: Arthur Mole’s Living Photographs” provides the historical context of Mole’s life and work.
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Living Photographs
Arthur Mole
RVB Books, 2015
ISBN: 979-10-90306-27-1

Auto Body Collision by Shannon Ebner

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A late discovery but one of my remaining book favorites from 2015 was Shannon Ebner’s latest book Auto Body Collision. Ebner has always found an intersection between symbols, letters and words and photography. Whether found within the everyday or constructed in her studio, she dissects the linguistic and visual representations in unexpected and meaningful ways.
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By presenting the repetitive language of auto repair culture and subverting the intended meanings of those words, she draws a deeper metaphor of the self and the sense of interchangeability between language of the body and of the vehicle.
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Part photography, part sculpture, and part performance, this ‘artist book’ combines equal amounts of text and photographs where “…the works involve the principle of collision where artist and viewer alike are confronted with the experience of treating photography as a language to be read, seen and experienced.” She has her way of slowing down the process of reading to a stand still, causing us to linger on alternate notions of meaning in the most common phrase.
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As excited as I am about the work, I am less excited by the actual book. Ebner’s past publications, The Sun as Error (LACMA, 2009) and Strike (Mousse, 2015) were books made that felt like complete objects down to material, here though the type of paper chosen for the content, covers etc, has an feeling that doesn’t, in my opinion, suit the work. One might stretch to argue that the material feels like an auto-body repair manual but I am not convinced that was ever a consideration. Here is great work, take the body it came in, and hope someday it gets repaired.
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Auto Body Collision
Shannon Ebner
Carnegie Museum of Art
ISBN 9780880390576

Publisher Spotlight: Cafe Royal Books

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Last summer at the Photobook Bristol festival, one of the publishers in the book market was Café Royal Books. I had heard of Café Royal for a few couple years but never managed to actually see any of their publications in person which probably speaks more about me than them as they have published over 300 books since 2005.
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Shankly One by Ken Grant, 12.02.15, 28 pages, 14cm x 20cm, b/w digital, Edition of 200

Concentrating on small documentary projects by mostly UK based photographers they publish books on a weekly basis. The books feel like a half-step between a ‘zine and a book, usually on one subject. Those subjects often feel like a great short photo-essay as one would have seen in magazines of the 70s and 80s.
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One Day in July near Cable Street Southport by Ken Grant, 09.07.15, 28 pages, 14cm x 20cm, b/w digital, Edition of 200

The authors range from the likes of Martin Parr, Daniel Meadows, Ken Grant, Homer Sykes to the lesser known Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Colin Shaw, David Solomons and many others. Parr says of Café Royal, “A great archive of much forgotten documentary from the 70s and 80s.”
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Shankly Two by Ken Grant, 14.05.1528 pages, 14cm x 20cm, b/w digital, Edition of 200

Café Royal was founded and is run solely by Craig Atkinson, based in the North West of England. Atkinson has a background not in photography but in architecture and himself has published dozens of the publications on his interest in the shifting face of architecture through his own photographs and in some books by using archival sources.
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Chinatown 1984 by Martin Parr, 18.06.15, 36 pages, 14cm x 20cm, b/w digital, Edition of 250

The publications share the same cover design and are typically 28-36 pages, digital offset printed and priced usually £5- £7. The print runs are short, usually in 250 copies or less. Check them out, but be warned, it is very easy to become hooked on these small unassuming books to the point of becoming a collector before you realize it.