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.

The Double Elephant Press

DSC02794Double Elephant Portfolios: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand

Steidl/Galerie Thomas Zander, 2015

ISBN:978-3-86930-743-5

 

Back in the mid-to-late 1980s when I was a young photography student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City I was infatuated with the history of American photography and specifically that rich era of the 1960s and 70s. In association with names like Garry Winogrand, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander I had heard about these print portfolios that were created and sold in the early 1970s called “The Double Elephant” Portfolios.
DSC02797
I never saw one in person but I knew that to publicize their sale, the publisher Double Elephant Press also created posters for each portfolio. I knew this because one of these posters, for the Winogrand portfolio, hung in a small postcard and bookstore on Broadway near 4th street in Greenwich Village. I wanted to own the poster so desperately I offered the owner the outrageous sum of $50 for it – he wasn’t selling it.
DSC02799
In celebration of these rare portfolios and that tiny moment in photography history, the Galerie Thomas Zander and Steidl has released a box set of four books each featuring the individual portfolios that appeared before the short-lived project went out of business. An additional paperback booklet included provides on the history of Double Elephant Press.
DSC02799a
Each portfolio included fifteen photographs so each of these volumes is slim but elegantly printed and realized. Over the four portfolios, one can see that they contained many of the landmark photographs from each of the photographers, and perhaps as Susan Kismaric points out in her essay, “…some of the greatest photographs of the twentieth century.”
DSC02800
There is one annoying discrepancy to all of the information provided, there is no mention of the original selling price of the portfolios. This is something I always wondered about and sadly no answer is found here. Mention of the selling price would provide an important reference point to the ‘value’ at the time for photographic prints, which we all know was quite low. The medium was new, photographs were not valued as an investment or commodity like other mediums – the first gallery dedicated to the sale of photography Lee Witkin’s gallery, opened just a few years prior in 1969.
DSC02801
For many years I hadn’t ever seen the other three posters from the set until one day I stumbled across this Adam Bartos photograph from the late 70s. The tail end of the Manuel Alvarez Bravo poster can be seen hanging on the back wall.
DSC02801a
One last thought, if this portfolio venture hadn’t failed and continued to publish, would they have gotten around to a portfolio by a woman photographer? And who would that have been?

Nothing by John Gossage

IMG_7910There are many books which are made of ‘nothing’. More often than not, a book will amount to ‘nothing’ in the larger world. Publishing books can transform your money into ‘nothing,’ and the painful truth is, most books should have remained as a non-existent ‘nothing.’ Remaining ‘nothing’ can also be a way to preserve an important ‘something’. John Gossage’s new book from Waltz Books called Nothing however, is a shining example of something – great bookmaking.

IMG_7911 IMG_7912

In 1985, the photographer John Gossage was invited to photograph in ‘The Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia by Prince Abdullah Bin Faisel Bin Turki Al-Saud. Abdullah has asked Gossage what he might like to see in The Kingdom. Gossage replied that he’d like to take some photographs out in the desert. Abdullah replied, “You know there is nothing out there.” To which Gossage responded, “Yeah, that was sort of what I was looking for.” Hence the title Nothing.

IMG_7913

The notion of ‘nothing’ or ‘nothingness’ in photography might sound odd as photography deals with facts – light on surfaces, objects – the opposite of nothing. Nothing is a vacuum – a black hole. Gossage deals with black holes, or more accurately, blind spots in our vision. He makes (for me as a photographer) frustratingly interesting and complex images out of seemingly little or nothing at all: A piece of wood propping up another; a void of black with the slightest outline of something indefinable; some trash; an open tent flap; a cardboard box; the flat horizon between sand and sky. These are ‘things’ that most walk by – see perhaps for an instant – disregard and then erase from memory with the first sound sleep. Gossage’s pictures make us stop and again reconsider this world of ‘nothingness’ and strike us with sudden awe.

IMG_7915 IMG_7916

Nothing is broken into three ‘parts.’ The book design – a three-folded panel – reveals three attached booklets. The two outer are 32 page each and the center is a leporello-fold ‘panoramic’ of individual photos of the ‘nothingness’ that Abdullah mentions of the desert. Maybe it is a 360 degree view from which one might ask, if this was the stage, where did all of the other substance in the two booklets come from?

IMG_7917 IMG_7918

The printing is exceptional with separations by Robert Hennessey and inking by the firm F+W in Kienberg Germany. If I had to point to one modest flaw, the paper’s light weight allows a little of the verso image to show through, which for images with larger fields of light grey can be a little distracting.

IMG_7919 IMG_7921

I am ending this month of Guest Writer for the Hatje Cantz Fotoblog with this book. I wanted to end on a high note and I can think of no other higher than this. I hope you enjoyed. Tschüss!

 

John Gossage: Nothing

Waltz Books, 2014

ISBN:9781939932020

Note: My photographs show a slight Moire pattern to the covers. The book’s covers are a fine grey linen without the stripes.

Bag Saga Blok by Krass Clement

IMG_7895Krass Clement’s new book from the Danish publisher Gyldendal, Bag Saga Blok, refers to an area in Vesterbro, Copenhagen behind an old movie theater that ran from the early 1940s until its closing in 1985. The theater, now sitting abandoned and succumbing to decay, sets the stage for Clement’s cast of characters and vignettes that spans almost a half-century.

IMG_7896

Bag Saga Blok opens with a short sequence of images of three people in a dark neon-lit parking garage. A woman at the center is looking intently at a thick book. It seems an odd place to look at a book, unless the book is the same as the one we now have in our hands – a screenplay of sorts and the three are the orchestrators of the film that is about to begin.

IMG_7898 IMG_7899 IMG_7900

Clement’s camera winds it way around the old theater buildings and finally out into the streets where characters are slowly introduced: a man who appears to be putting on make-up; an older man straight from Central Casting for an old shipyard worker; another younger man who appears to be wearing a dress; an older woman in a water-spotted raincoat who covers her head with a bag – fiction and reality blending together.

IMG_7901 IMG_7902

As the narrative winds deeper into the second act we are introduced to the darker, seedier side of Vesterbro populated by drugs, porn shops, and prostitutes. Two old men peek timidly into a porn shop window; a woman lingers in a doorway perhaps seeking a transaction; a man seeks a moment of peace in the hallway of an apartment building entrance perhaps to do drugs; condoms and wrappers lay in among autumn leaves; a spoon and heroin lay amongst litter on an apartment floor. The characters get more desperate looking, the photographic description of them blurred and unsteady.

IMG_7903 IMG_7904

As with almost every book from Clement the sequence is defined with cinematic repetition and slight shifts of view. He plies images from scene to scene effortlessly and jump-cuts to full effect; a short sequence of flea market sellers is for one frame interrupted by a woman’s spread legs on a doorway step – the words ‘Brug Matten’ (use the matt) just to her right.

IMG_7905 IMG_7906
IMG_7907In the final act, we have returned directly behind the old theater and a surreal but non-threatening play is being performed among some hanging sheets. Children play with an air rifle opposite a couple deeply intoxicated, a sign declares a thank you for visiting and a final image of streetlight lit construction cranes at night hovering over the area marks the curtain closing on an era.

IMG_7909

At 224 pages and nearing 200 photographs, Bag Saga Blok is one of Clement’s larger offerings. The dark richness of the printing adds to the overall mood which – although looks backwards through several decades – avoids sentimental nostalgia. Surprising that it covers such a long period of time, all seems woven together to feel like one epic film – part documentary, part fiction, and distinctly Krass Clement.

 

Krass Clement: Bag Saga Blok

Gyldendal, 2014

ISBN:9788702168167

Zeitungsfotos by Thomas Ruff

IMG_7534
Between 1981 and 1991, the artist Thomas Ruff collected over 2500 newspaper photographs from German daily and weekly publications. Covering a broad range of topics such as politics, finance, sport, history, culture, science and technology, the images were chosen because they struck Ruff as unusual or odd in some way. It wasn’t until 1990, motivated by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, that Ruff started to re-photograph these images to create his Newspaper Photographs series. I asked Christoph Schifferli, the initiator of this new book Zeitungsfotos from the publisher Bookhorse a few questions regarding this project.

 

Jeffrey Ladd: When did you discover Ruff’s Zeitungsfotos series?

Christoph Schifferli: The first time I saw a larger set of Ruff’s Zeitungsfotos was at an exhibition at the Mai 36 Gallery in Zurich about ten years ago. I was quite fascinated by this body of work and I went back to the gallery several times.

IMG_7535

JL: Was there ever an artist book made of that work before?

CS: No.  Actually the Zeitungsfotos have been rarely published at all, and generally only a few images at the time in a post-stamp size format – at least until the wonderful catalog for the exhibition at the Kunsthalle Vienna in 2009 showed a larger selection of these pictures.

IMG_7536

JL: Many other artists have been working with appropriated imagery before, for instance Ruff’s countryman Hans-Peter Feldmann, do you think Ruff’s series operates very differently from Feldmann’s work in his books like Voyeur?

CS: There are a number of artists who used images from the daily press as material for their work and quite a few published artists’ book using these pictures with their distinct granular newsprint aesthetic. Among the early ones were Klaus Staeck with “Pornografie” (1971) and Hans-Peter Feldmann with “Überfall” (1975).

Compared to Feldmann’s Voyeur or similar works like Sol Lewitt’s Autobiography (1980) or more recently Batia Suter’s Parallel Encycloedia (2009), Thomas Ruff renounces any given combination or juxtaposition of images as they can be arranged in different sequences for every exhibition.

IMG_7538

JL: Much of Ruff’s earlier work made around the time of this Zeitungsfotos series held a straight and clear description exemplifying what photography does best which is describe faithfully what is before the lens – I am thinking mainly of his portraits – and it seems from these newspaper images onward Ruff’s work is progressively breaking faithful description and perhaps testing its limitations by introducing blur, unsharpness and pixels. On the surface, this seems in distinct contrast to much of work from other “Becher School” students, how do you see this work in comparison?

CS: That’s an interesting question. My feeling is that Thomas Ruff’s approach is actually quite consistent with the aestethic of the “Becher School”, since he takes very precise pictures of these blurred and partially fuzzy images. That’s one of the aspects of this body of works that fascinated me from the beginning: Ruff used a color film to shoot these black and white newspaper images and later on printed them as color photographs.

IMG_7539

JL: By removing the texts and picking these images solely on their merits as images, there is an interesting play happening where the viewer might know some of the historical information about the photos but maybe not the whole context for that specific photograph. Those bits of factual information do however linger while the viewer tries to look at the image objectively yet (at least in my case) cannot totally dismiss the bits of context that his or her mind is piecing together. By showing random newspaper photographs, say of Hitler, do you think someone is capable of viewing them completely and only as their merits as images without that battle of historical context creeping in?

CS: Probably one of the most efficient ways to “neutralize” the intrinsic meaning of an image is to change its context. That’s exactly what Thomas Ruff did by recreating these images as photographic color prints and showing them in a museum or gallery context.

JL: I am curious about the book’s size, which is rather small. The images are maybe even smaller in this book than they were when originally published in newspapers. Can you elaborate on how the size of the book was chosen?

CS: Yes they are smaller. We wanted the book to be compact and handy which is not an easy task when dealing with 800 pages. We wanted something you can grab for a short time and browse for a sequence, as well as for longer periods which can evoke a feeling of “reading.” While working with the material, this parallel became more and more obvious. It’s very much the lack of text that gives you the feeling of reading, provoked by one’s own associations. From that point of view the book neutralized the images and offers open readings.

IMG_7540

JL: Also, the placement of the photographs is interesting as they sometimes run a little bit into the book’s gutter depending on their size or cropping. I am probably reading too much into this, but, is that placement important to remind the viewer how any original image is ‘disrespected’ a little when printed in a newspaper? Printed on cheap paper, broken up by a large printing screen and then most likely viewed for about 5 seconds and then thrown out?

CS: We tried to work with a few designs that could be applied to all of the images. What we finally decided was to start with the largest image onto a double-page spread in maximum size as a kind of baseline. From there the size of all other images were adapted on the page accordingly and in keeping with their original proportions. Generally placed on the right side of the double-page spread, surprisingly few made it into the gutter. In the sake of “objectivity” we could not save those few from running into the gutter. We enforced the rigid system we set up believing, after all, they could take it. On the other hand we put a lot of work into image correction, to avoid “moiré” patterns.

JL: Did Thomas have much input while creating the book?

CS: When Lex Trueb, the designer and publisher of the book, and I saw an exhibit which gathering all 400 images glued to cards for presentation purposes at Mai 36 Gallery, it became obvious that this would make an interesting book. We were attracted by the specific form and quality of representation and we’re thinking either about making the book with facsimiles of the cards or working with the gallery’s digital documentation files.

When we approached Thomas Ruff with the idea, he had doubts about such a book, assuming that it would be boring after 50 pages. Happily we convinced him that the book’s condensed form would offer new ways to perceive the work. Especially the series “wholeness” would become more important and the sequential arrangement would develop some narrative.

As the papers from the different newspaper aged over the years, we agreed on eliminating the different background tones and replace them with one unified beige tone on which the images were printed in black. In that sense the single image is again being “objectified” in favor of the series.

Thomas then offered to re-photograph the original newspaper cutouts digitally which adds another interesting detail; the images in the book are not mere reproductions of the artworks – it’s a new work on it’s own – an artist’s book.

 

Thomas Ruff: Zeitungsfotos

Bookhorse, 2014

ISBN: 9783952339152

Also by Ruff:

Thomas Ruff: Editions 1988-2014

Hatje Cantz, 2014

ISBN: 9783775738590