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.

Ravenna by Gerry Johansson

Gerry Johansson’s most recent book, Ravenna is a walk along the city’s Candiano canal that leads from the city center to Porto Corsini at the Adriatic. His first visit in 2013 was spurred by an invitation to participate in a project called Adriatic Coast to Coast about the territories overlooking the Adriatic Sea. As the accompanying text states, “…he parked his car and started walking, alone, in the direction that seemed more inviting to him.” The 54 photographs were made over several visits between 2013 and 2015.
“When I am in a foreign country, I always read the signs and try to understand what they mean. In this case, I quickly realized that it was a place where someone was selling melons, which in Sweden have a similar name, meloner. Reading the sign MELONIMELONI, the sound made me automatically think of the words ‘melody’ and ‘meloncholy’. It was this combination of letters and sounds that urged me to start walking along via Bosca.” – Gerry Johansson
What I have always found refreshing about Johansson is the sense one feels of his enjoyment of moving through an unfamiliar landscape and responding with instinct to what is before him. The work forms not in the mind first but through the steps he takes and directness at which he looks. This is not unique to Johansson by any stretch but the sense of solitude and fullness of his frames are a reward for those who pause and look. Essentially, he trusts in the world to provide.
Ravenna as a bookwork is beautifully realized with a fine design by Leonardo Sonnoli. Many of Johansson’s books share the same size, almost like individual chapters to a larger work. This book is a sequence of loose leaves held together simply by the gutter fold and housed in an elegant black folder with silkscreened texts and cover. Published by Osservatorio Fotografico in a small edition of 350 copies, this will be gone before you know it.

Gerry Johansson
Osservatorio Fotografico, 2016

The Alphabet of New Plants by Robert Voit

In Robert Voit’s first book New Trees (Steidl, 2014), he traveled the world and photographed the typology of cellphone towers disguised to look like trees with the intention that they ‘fit’ in with the natural landscape – though the immediate perception is one of the fake and absurd.
Instead, they wind up looking like some alien device meant for harm, as if their creators had never really looked the natural predecessors closely. Towering palm trees sparse with fronds reveal metallic receiver panels; a saguaro cactus (perhaps the most realistic) with a black cable snaking from its trunk; unconvincing pines and redwoods with branches bunched only at their tops.
Voit’s latest book from Hatje Cantz is called The Alphabet of New Plants and again, deception is at work. Instead of the grand and physically large cellphone tower, he has turned his attention to a smaller form inspired by nature – artificial houseplants.
The Alphabet of New Plants has its precedent in Karl Blossfeldt’s Urformen der Kunst published in 1929, a book that found the intersection between science and art through photos of magnified botanical specimens so the details of the plant’s structure could be examined.
Unlike Voit’s previous project, one can easily be duped by these artificial versions. It is not until the viewer falls under the spell of the images that one starts to perceive the small ‘unnatural’ seems of a plastic-molded stem or the cloth texture of a leaf.
Comparing Blossfeldt to Voit one senses the inverse nature of both bodies of work – Blossfeldt’s were real specimens that when magnified become almost unbelievable that they are naturally occurring, while Voit’s specimens are completely artificial but appear remarkably natural to the eye.
The Alphabet of New Plants is clean in design much like New Trees. They share the same trim and plate size with captions on the left facing page. In essence one can see these as companion volumes – a set of two books that bridge nature, man, and the absurd.

The Alphabet of New Plants
Robert Voit
Hatje Cantz, 2016
ISBN: 978-3-7757-4046-3

Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous

Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous
Essays by David Campany, Jerry Thompson and Heinz Liesbrock.
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, 2016
ISBN: 9781938922947

The publication Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous is the first in-depth investigation into a series of the same name, which Evans published in Fortune magazine in 1946. On a Saturday afternoon in Detroit, Evans positioned himself with his Rolleiflex camera on the sidewalk and photographed pedestrians, mostly laborers, in his characteristically clear and unadorned way – an aesthetic he described as the “documentary style”.

As in his earlier subway portraits from the New York underground, his subjects were often unaware they were being photographed, but some of the pedestrians also looked straight into the camera. Representing much more than a simple typology, this photographic series does not offer a preconceived image of humankind or class, but – as foreshadowed in its ambiguous title – encourages critical reflection on such concepts.

This publication anchors the series in Evans’s oeuvre and presents a selection of more than fifty photographs from the series along with contact sheets, drafts for an unpublished text, notes, and letters from the Walker Evans Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

© Brian Griffin 1978

A couple weeks ago Bernd Detsch at Art Book Cologne offered me a curious little booklet by the British photographer Brian Griffin. It was 34 pages including the cover, staple-bound with seventeen black-and-white photographs accompanied by curious line drawings in the page margins. There was seemingly no title except for a tiny script below the cover image that stated ©Brian Griffin 1978.

I have admired Brian’s work for some years after buying a paperback copy of his book Work published in 1989 by his imprint Black Pudding. That book has remained a favorite of mine, and one I recommend often as an overlooked gem in the photobook world.

His commissions for corporate portraiture began when he was ‘discovered’ by the Swiss art director, Roland Schenk of Management Today. His book Open was featured in Parr/Badger’s The Photobook: A History Vol II, of which Badger describes Griffin’s style of portraiture as “…always slightly subversive, its surreal qualities gently ‘biting the hand that feeds him’.”

A press release for his upcoming show at Steven Kasher Gallery describes his work a bit more succinctly than I can: “When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, business was empowered and labor was belittled. To capture the heroes and victims of Thatcherism and globalization, Griffin invented a new photographic style, Capitalist Realism, parodying Socialist Realism. Griffin’s photographs embody the essence of the decade, modish white-collars, rock bands suited up in business-casual and tin lunch-pail toting masons. Inspired by the bureaucratic and claustrophobic world of Kafka, by the French filmmaker Jacques Tati and by German Expressionist cinema, Griffin turned the workplaces in which he photographed into stages and his subjects into actors.”

I decided to ask Brian Griffin a few questions about this quirky little find.
Jeffrey Ladd: You refer to this as a ‘zine, was it intended as a promotional piece for your professional commissions or an artistic statement?

Brian Griffin: It was an artistic statement. The whole book is a self-portrait of me at the time, with symbolic representations.

JL: How many were made?

BG: Maybe 500 copies.
JL: Was it ever officially for sale?

BG: It was for sale at £1 but I only sold one! I then stored it for 30 years!

JL: There are large differences between the selection of images in the printed ‘zine than on your website. Were there limitations to the printing cost or another reason that caused this different edit?

BG: To my website I added further images from the time as an afterthought. The images that were included in the ‘zine were my favorites for this project at the time.
JL: I am curious about the four images towards the end that appear as full page bleeds. What prompted the diversion in design?

BG: When the images expand to full bleed it was meant to take us into another zone.

JL: Were most of the subjects friends of yours? On your site you mention Simon Callow the film actor was a subject, who are the others in the photos?

BG: Charles Woods and Martin Cropper were friends. Martin Cropper is featured on the front cover and five other images. Charles Woods in two.

JL: There are two photos made near the ocean, they seem to greatly differ from the others.

BG: Those two were from a press session made for the band “The Pop Group” and shot near Weymouth. You have to remember that I was young, enthusiastic and really into expressionism. I was just starting to work on my music photography and that’s how I met Barney.
JL: On your website it mentions that “Barney Bubbles (who was an English graphic designer known for his album cover art and design) came to my flat in Chiswick London one evening and we came up with the concept for this ‘zine.” He contributed the graphic drawings?

BG: Yes, each graphic symbolizes what I felt about each image and Barney could only use a line, which of course could be curved.

JL: One could easily mistake the book for having no title. Originally was Brian Griffin Copyright 1978 intended to be the title?

BG: That was the original title. That was a Barney’ism!
JL: I had heard that this might be the first British self-published books from a photographer of your generation. Do you know if this is true?

BG: Yesterday I asked my friend Martin Parr to verify this, and to his knowledge, it is.

JL: Thank you Brian!
One last bit for music fans, one photo that appears in Copyright Brian Griffin 1978 is from a shoot for photos that graced the band Devo’s B Stiff e.p. in 1977.

Copyright 1978 and other work is appearing in a show entitled Brian Griffin: Capitalist Realism starting February 25th 2016 at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York.

Thanks also to Anatole Desachy!