Friday Inspiration: Gerry Johansson

Bridgeport, Nebraska: Gerry Johansson

I’ve been enjoying finding photographers that are new to me and exploring their work. I recently came across Gerry Johansson, a Swedish photographer known for his black and white photographs of what would otherwise be unremarkable places.

Gerry has a ‘geographic’ focus have produced books of work from photographs taken in America, Sweden, Germany, Antarctic and Tokyo. I like his thinking in that the book is really the tangible product of his work because exhibitions are too fleeting. Gone after a couple of weeks.

He clearly has a love of photography books as you can see in the video below of Gerry in his studio going through some of his photo book collection.

I wonder whether the books that he selected to discuss influenced his decision making about his own books which are often relatively small by some standards. I think that these smaller books, smaller prints and images call for a closer engagement with the work and for a more intimate experience.

Gerry talks about his work in the video below. The audio is in Swedish, if you don’t speak Swedish there are captions in English so that you can follow along with the conversation. Check out Gerry’s website here to learn more.

Chapbooks and Zines

Dark of the Moon

I’ve been enjoying an exploration of ideas for handmade artists books. I was started off down this rabbit hole by a ‘how-to’ video that I saw on the Peg and Awl website.

Whether stitched or stapled this kind of single signature book is the foundation of Zines, Pamphlets and Chapbooks. I have yet to find a good explanation or description that really differentiates between the three. My interpretation is that it’s the production value that really sets the three apart but even then that’s not cut and dried.

I had been thinking of zines as being a bit rough and ready, a home made DIY magazine. I had come across zines before in the context of music – fans diy efforts to put together a magazine that supports their local music scene or their favorite band.

A collection of zines from Another Place Press

Photo book publishers such as Another Place Press and Kozu Books are producing zines, using the term zine to separate these smaller books from their other books. For Kozu books this means perfect or pur binding rather than thread sewn. While the zines (Field Notes) from Another Place Press are folded and staple bound. Take a look below:

I definitely think that a short body of work could be printed and finished by hand in a similar way to these more ‘commercial‘ zines are. Looking forward to giving this a go in the next couple of weeks.

More about Chapbooks soon!

Feeling Bloated

For a variety of reasons my diet went south at the end of 2020. I indulged in making all the things I enjoy but I’m not supposed to eat – ice cream, pizza (I could live on these alone!), bread, cookies and cakes. A few months of that has left me feeling bloated. Happy but very bloated. Fortunately my choice of clothes can tolerate a 10lb swing in weight. I’m now following my version of the Fast800 diet and back into a zone my doctor would rather I be in.

Thinking about this and the bit of spring cleaning that I have been doing in my office has made me recognize that I need to trim back on some of the stuff.

I love books, so it’s always hard to consider getting rid of them. Low hanging fruit are the manuals for long gone versions of photoshop and light room. I like Scott Kelby’s 7 point processing system which is described for Photoshop CS3 (Wow – that was 2007) while a little dated the thinking is still sound. I’ll hang on to that one until the new edition comes out later in the summer but the others – Lightroom 4, Lightroom 5, Photoshop CS5 and more – will all have to go.

I have boxes and boxes of prints that I made when I was first starting out. While it kills me to do it, these also really need to go. I’m never going to use them for anything – the prints are my first attempts to make art prints, long before I met Bob Korn and had some foundational lessons in how to see color in a print.

I also have boxes of gear that need to be purged. I found recently that the speed lights I have didn’t work because the batteries in them had corroded. Oops! An expensive mistake. How much other stuff that I have that is in danger of going the same way?

How about you? How often do you have a good clear out? Where are you in the scale of minimalist to horder? How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

Friday Inspiration: Do Lectures – That Crazy Dumb Idea

Stay Curious – How we created a world class event in a cowshed Clare Hieatt

I’ve been thinking a lot about community recently – how do you build it and how do you sustain it. Even harder as we live through the challenges thrown our way because of COVID-19.

David and Clare Hieatt seem to have built a great community with the ‘Do Lectures’. I was flicking through the book ‘Stay Curious’ about the first 10 years of the Do Lectures in search of inspiration.

Clare and David started the Do Lectures with the simple goal:

‘To gather together the world’s Doers – disruptors and change makers, experts and pioneers – to share their stories, and encourage others to go and Do.’

Looking through the list of speakers by year I was curious to see when they hit the mainstream and ‘big names’ started to appear. I recognized some of the names – Tim Ferris right there at the start, David Allen of GTD fame in 2010 and others that I think I know from the Do Lectures themselves.

Rather than make the Do Lectures a huge circus they’ve stayed true to their core values and purpose, kept the event intimate and made a good deal of positive change in the world.

I couldn’t resist finishing up with the video by Andrew Paynter ‘A Visual Language’ about his journey as a photographer and the recommendation to check out his book Do Photo.

An Alternate to the Folio – Boxes of Prints

Having written about folios as an alternative to a book I thought it was worthwhile pointing to another solution which is the box of prints.

I understand that historically these might have been matted prints but a trend that I am seeing emerge over the last few years is for photographers to offer boxes of prints to their audience. These prints can range from a representative collection of prints spanning a few years, the output from the previous year or just the most recent season.

I was exciting to receive Simon Baxter’s first box set of prints recently and thought I would show you how he pulled this project together as a case study for what excellent could look like.

It’s easy enough to to buy a photo box off the shelf pop your prints in and call it a day but Simon went beyond this. He has his logo embossed in the box lid, the lid itself is hinged and held closed with a small magnet – a nice touch! Inside the box is a colophon/text sheet describing the project and the package of prints. I was impressed – the small details took it to the next level. Take a look in the video below.

Check out more of Simon’s photography at his website here and take a look at his videos at his YouTube channel here.

Engaging with the Masters

In looking at the work of Peter Dombrovskis over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but wonder about how we engage with the work of the ‘photography masters’. My preference of course is through books. Based on my Peter Dombrovskis experience this is a challenge.

There are of course the exceptions. Access to Ansel Adams’s photographs are readily available through books and calendars. It’s even possible to get prints from the original negatives printed by Ansel’s assistant Alan Ross.

Not every photographer has the kind of machinery behind them that Ansel has. What about the others. Is there space for periodic ‘remastering’ of classic books in the way that classic records are remastered. A very different undertaking but certainly possible.

I feel like one of my favorite photographers, Eliot Porter, received this kind of remastering in 2012 when a new edition of
‘In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World’. was published to mark the 50th anniversary of the first edition.

The Getty Museum also published a collection of Eliot’s work at around the same time, ‘Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature’. This book rather than a new edition is a great survey of Eliot’s work and for me is reminiscent of the Peter Dombrovskis book I recently acquired.

I wonder how many of the masters will get this additional chance to reach a new audience through a book, how many will achieve something similar through the internet and how many will fade away.

Friday Inspiration: Peter Dombrovskis

I love hearing who inspired you as a photographer. Not only does it provide insight into who you are as a photographer but also provides me with a jumping off point for a new exploration. I can then share the results of that exploration here.

Peter Dombrovskis was one such photographer that I heard about during an interview with Joe Cornish. Down the rabbit hole I went.

Peter Dombrovskis was an Australian photographer most well known for his photographs of Tasmania. His photographs of the Tasmanian wilderness were instrumental in conservation efforts, most notable was his contribution to the campaign to prevent the damming of the Franklin river.

Looking to dig into Peter’s work I was keen to get a hold of some of his photobooks. They are hard to find and often very expense. Perhaps because of his geographic location there isn’t a big pool of his books on the used market here in the US. Fortunately there is a relatively recent book of his work ‘Journeys into the Wild’ that can be be found with a bit of effort. I ordered a copy and had it shipped from Australia. It arrived a little battered but I’m pleased that I was able to get a copy. Take a look at the book in the video below.

I very much enjoyed hearing Joe Cornish talking about Peter Dombrovskis’s work – take a look below. To learn more about Peter please visit his website here and also see the article at On Landscape here.

Ways to Present Your Work

Having looked through the boxes of prints that I have it made me think about how we share our work with the world.

If you’re like me then one of the most exciting was to offer my work into the world is in the form of a book. To do this using the traditional offset printing route can be an expensive undertaking. Print on demand services such as Blurb or MagCloud are certainly a pragmatic alternative but the unit cost of the book can be a little steep.

I’ve been thinking about alternatives to the print on demand style books such as handmade ‘artists books’. More about that in coming posts.

An alternative to the book is the folio – a concept that I believe Brooks Jensen originated.

A folio is a collection of loose prints, with or without text, in an enclosure. I made some for my ‘Going Coastal’ project many years ago, take a look at the video below to get a better a sense of this.

I really like this idea – it’s a book like object, manageable in size and can be produced relatively easily. I think more of us interested in presenting our work as books should explore the concept.

Spring Cleaning

Wow – how did we get into April so quickly. It feels like winter zipped on by and now we are on the doorstep of the summer boating season. The arrival of spring is usually marked, domestically, by a period of spring cleaning. I rarely feel moved or motivated to pick up the duster but this year is different. After a year at home with no travel my office has gather some barnacles that need to be scraped off in readiness for the next part of the adventure.

I have indulged, splurged would be a better word, on a number of photobooks and art books in general that have yet to find their place on my books shelves. This is also an opportunity to rethink how the shelves are arranged and organized. I also want to get the paper I have for printing organized so that I know what I have and can find it!

Perhaps for once I will get everything off the floor and be able to run the vacuum around. Ha! Wonders will never cease.

Friday Inspiration: David Gentleman

The view from Primrose Hill, by David Gentleman.
The view from Primrose Hill, by David Gentleman

When I took a dive into the world of Urban Sketching over the Christmas break I came across David Gentleman. Actually having grown up in the UK I had seen David Gentleman’s work many times before, on stamps and also on Charing Cross Underground Station in London. David has been incredibly prolific over the course of his career – working in watercolors, wood engravings, illustration and design. He’s created stamps, coins, cards, books of his own work, illustrated books for others, murals it goes on and on. Impressive and something for us all to aspire to.

Primrose Hill   David Gentleman 'My City

David lives in a part of London called Camden Town and his studio is at the top of the house. Check out a tour through his studio here. Most of David’s books are out of print, some of which go for a shocking amount of money used. I’m fortunate enough though to have a couple of his books – the most recent one is ‘My Town: An Artist’s Life in London.’ Check out Danny Gregory talk about David’s Book Britain in the video.

Finally listen to David himself talk about his life and his book ‘London, You’re Beautiful: An Artist’s Year’ in the video below. To find out more about David Visit his website here.