Photography Book Now

2009 winner, Black Sea of Concrete by Rafal Milach

Blurb, the online book publisher, is running the third annual Photography Book Now competition. This is an international juried event with a first prize of $25,000, awarded to a book of photographs self-published on one of the online print-on-demand publishers. Self-publishing has risen in status due to developments in printing technology and many people who would never expect to be published can now have books of high quality printed at reasonable cost.

The economics of online printing are the opposite of traditional offset printing. A single copy of a full colour book of photographs printed online might cost $70. The same book printed in offset, the way almost all  retail books are printed, will cost many thousands of dollars just to set up. The design, printing and binding of online are not as good as mainstream publishing but are still of a high standard. If you only need a few copies and don’t have the public profile to be published mainstream, online printing becomes attractive.

American Photo magazine ran a survey of these online services last year, looking at Blurb, Lulu, Asuka, Apple, Embassy Pro Books, Mypublisher Fastback Creative Books. It found there they all offered there own special angle on self-publishing but all offered a good service. I’ve used Blurb to produce a couple of photographic books. It comes with book design software called Booksmart as a free download and allows you to design your book using various templates. It works well although  it’s not like having a real designer do the job. You can see the draft version of my new book Big Heads on the Blurb site.

.

.

Advertisements

Impressionism at Bundanon

Kari Henriksen’s new exhibition opened yesterday at Collingwood’s Catherine Asquith Gallery. Kari is a painter who now paints photographs. Working with pigment inkjet prints of her photographs, she adds a watercolour effect that dissolves and softens their sharper details. It gives them a painterly look, somewhere between the two mediums of photography and painting.

The work is the result of a residency at Bundanon, the rural property in New South Wales gifted to the state by Arthur Boyd.  Kari wanted to capture “the changes in light, and the atmospheric affects of weather” and “the ‘writing’ produced by tidal detritus.”

.

.

.

.

.

Art or Luck

What are these ? Here is the story. In 1988 I went to Sydney with my young son Daniel to see the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. It was a happy day on Sydney Harbour and I shot a lot of 35mm slide film. Later, some were put in slide mounts but the remainder were left in the long plastic sleeves from the lab.

Several years later I found them in the garage, severely damaged. What happened? My belief is that leaking rain water created an environment for bacteria which ate the organic gelatin emulsion (made from animal products). Once the gelatin was gone, the dyes of the image were free to move around. Further rain probably created movement. With the photographic dyes unhooked from their role as registers of optical reality, you realise how gorgeous the palette is. It’s luck rather than art, but many students I’ve shown them to have been convinced I was a painter before turning to photography.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Pencho Balkanski

Recently in Sofia at the National Art Gallery of Bulgaria I saw a retrospective of a 1930s photographer called Pencho Balkanski. Presumably unknown or forgotten outside of his own country, and even probably within it, he was a successful photographer doing creditable photojournalism, portraiture and fashion before turning to painting after the war. The exhibition was a little unusual in that it presented paste-ups, books and magazines, cameras, and several hand-worked portraits. Some of it wasn’t under glass so you could appreciate the physicality of the silver rich photographic papers of 80 years ago, their worn condition adding to the effect.

Balkanski was not one of the great “form-givers” of the time like Brassai (from Romania) or Kertesz (from Hungary). His work is sometimes too earnest and kitsch – you can see what you think here. But I’d like to share one example of his work. It’s part photograph, part illustration and has that razor sharp lighting of Holllywood Glamour photography. I think it’s one of the very best examples of a certain type of iconic image of the Modern Woman in the thirties.

.

.

.

.

Amy Stein

Amy Stein’s exhibition Domesticated at New York’s ClampArt gallery last September featured fine colour photographs of wild animals intruding into human settlements. She was in Australia recently and showed the work at the Australian Centre for Photography. Stein has an excellent and popular blog which has a link on my blogroll (I hope she doesn’t mind).

The confrontations of human and animal are compelling, funny and disturbing at the same time. If you’re unprepared you wonder how she managed to capture these momentary encounters without the usual flaws of quickly grabbed shots – camera shake and blur, tilted horizon etc. It soon dawns on you that they are set-ups, staged for the camera.

A gallery visitor strode up to the counter and asked, “So how does she do it?”

The eventual answer: “I believe she uses a lot of … taxidermy”.

.

.

.

.

.