Van Zoetendaal Publishers

Dec 22, 2014

Exceptional books 2014

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List of exceptional books on ‘photography’ 2014
(exceptional also in editing and design!)

Tiergarten, Johannes Schwartz (Roma Publishing)

Katy Grannan; The Ninety Nine and the Nine (Fraenkel Gallery)

Christopher Williams (Walther König)

Manifeste, Museum Folkwang Essen (Steidl)…

Whispers: Ulay on Ulay (Valiz Publishing)

Illustrated People, Thomas Mailander (RVB & AMC)

Walker Evans, The Magazine Work (Steidl)

Oct 25, 2013

SIGRID CALON

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A book I can’t ignore, even though you can’t really class it as a photo book, is the one by Sigrid Calon. I first came across it at the recent meeting in the Stedelijk Museum for Best Dutch Book Designs. Sigrid spent three weeks printing the whole book on a stencil machine. The images are of abstract patterns in bright, full colours. I refer to them as a kind of air grate or radiator. The variations in the basic system that she has thought up are extremely diverse; when you open the book up, you feel as though the images could just float off the pages. A book as an experience, an art book, an artist’s book, a dynamic explosion of a book. Circulation 450, format 21 x 16 cm with a dust jacket, around 280 pages including transparencies, Swiss binding (open spine) 75 euros, signed edition on request. A wonderful book. And the Jan van Eyck Academie is a truly inspirational place for artists who want to PRINT. www.sigridcalon.com

Oct 25, 2013

Sam Falls and Printed Matter NY

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I recently exchanged books with Max Schumann – I gave him a book by Frans Zwartjes, I got one from him by Sam Falls. These are the first few sentences of the introduction to the book.

Sam Falls began making a series of graphite rubbings of the various tools, plants and other items in his studio. Using an ‘automatic’ drawing method (called frottage) developed by Max Ernst in the 1920s, these rubbings were created using sheets of drawing paper and a selection of coloured graphite sticks. They soon expanded to include the studio space itself, with large sheets of paper used to record the surface of the floor, walls, and windows.While these large surface rubbings look very much like abstract drawings, they are actually a curious hybrid of objective mechanical copying and subjective image making. As such they are consistent with Sam’s body of work, which spans a range of media and techniques but retains a conceptual link to the photographic process – using objective mechanical systems to explore the action of time, light, and colour. They are obvious parallels here with post-minimalist system-based art. Simple everyday materials (in Sam’s case graphite, dye, pigment, paper, and cloth) are combined using step by step procedures to test material properties and the process of change. Systems are put in place but the results are governed as much by the character of the materials and the process as by Sam’s aesthetic point of view.This working method is apparent within the production of the large rubbings. Sam’s intention was to create an objective snapshot of his studio while at the same time undertaking formal experiments with colour and colour mixing. His idea was to refer to the process of making photograms but replace the photosensitive paper used in this technique with coloured graphite and drawing paper.

Beautifully printed with colour on opaque white on black paper, what a book this is, what an artist’s book! Max is certainly stretching the borders of photography. I only hope he was able to find his way back to NY because the handle of his suitcase full of 25 kilos of books didn’t survive the journey. I still hope that Max and many others are prepared to continue to transport books to gatherings such as this because the personal experience of holding a physical book in your hands and leafing through its pages is much to be preferred to a slide-show on your monitor. www.printedmatter.com

Oct 25, 2013

Indrek Sirkel and Anu Vahtra

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Only too often, I make the same mistake by believing I need to live like a hermit, isolated from all influences from others, in order to create my books and whatever else I feel the need to make. Once again I’ve been proven wrong. During a seminar on art books recently at the Academy of Fine Arts section of the University of Arts in Helsinki, I had the privilege to witness the knowledge sharing that took place between students and teachers, and to hear the many guest lectures given by (to name but a few) Indrek Sirkel and Anu Vahtra – who have started their own publishing company in Estonia – and Max Schumann of Printed Matter NY. What an inspiration these individuals were to me. At the same time I was also able to get a glimpse of the fascinating new publications emerging from Estonia, by recent graduates, publishers and book dealers (and many more). Book binders and printers were astonished at how impressive and original works could be created just by using simple resources at hand such as left-over paper. Yes, there’s no doubt about it – Estonia swings!

Oct 9, 2013

Geert Goiris

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Everything comes together in Geert Goiris’ latest book, Lying Awake. Goiris’ photos always give me the same feeling as when photography was first discovered as a subject of importance. Are these really representations of the planet we are living on? Yes, Goiris has that unique view on the world that causes me to lose myself in faraway places, even though those locations may actually be physically close by. Despite the fact that you will not see so many people in the majority of the photos, you get the uneasy feeling that you’re permanently being observed. Observed by your spirits perhaps, or those of your ancestors that roamed around in these landscapes, or even by the ghost of Goiris himself. This is the kind of continuous sense of apprehension that you experience when you look at the photos, as though you are under some kind of pressure. The photos force you to look at them, demanding your attention, due also to Goiris’ immaculate perfectionism that never strays into overstatement. Each photo (in the past we would have called it the technical plate camera technique) is superbly composed and illustrates perfectly the use of colour and subtle harmony. From the ratio of the images on the white of the perfect book format, the lithography (done by Goiris himself, I strongly suspect), through to the print work by printer Mart Spruijt (unfortunately forced to cease activities due to bankruptcy), everything is extraordinary. The design by Roger Willems is exceptional, the paper quality is superb, and with its hardbound cover with exactly the right thickness of plates, there’s no one today that can bind books as well as bookbinder Van Waarden. And as icing on the cake, there are three short essays to be discovered inside, printed on uncoated paper and in pocket format: in one word, unbelievable!

Geert Goiris, Lying Awake (Roma Publications) 2013

Oct 9, 2013

Mike Brodie

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Awe-inspiring photographs require no explanation. When a photo hits you between the eyes you just don’t have time to start asking yourself: does this fall into the category of conceptual or documentary? In terms of art history, that’s a totally irrelevant debate. You simply look and experience with breathtaking wonder. That’s exactly what happens when you look at a Mike Brodie photo. In a pure, authentic way, he portrays his personal experiences of his meanderings across the southern states of the US. We feel privileged to be witness to his intimate observations. The love and friendships he encounters during his period of illegal train hopping, the often harsh and poverty-ridden circumstances in which he and his associates find themselves, the romance and the freedom of this simple and sober existence – all are starkly conveyed in his photographic account. The orange sunlight, the odour and the bravado exude off the pages. Simply overwhelming. A Period of Juvenile Prosperity is the title of the book recently published by Twin Palms Publishers, a publisher I’ve become a devout fan of due to their long tradition of creating astonishingly magnificent photo books. Editing and book design is by Jack Woody and the typography by Arlyn Nathan. The book consists of 104 pages and is 29 cm wide and 34 cm high, hardbound with dust cover (American folded). Front and end leaf are a full bleed, full colour image of a set of train rails, taken from a moving train. As I stated right at the start: Awe-inspiring photographs transcend all else; in the same way, the photography works in spite of the book design. The format is rigid and the cardboard used for the book cover is extremely thick, printed on solid mat mc. For this type of dynamic photography I would have chosen a subtler and more elegant – and perhaps even less sacred – ‘edifice’. But the pure quality of the photography, combined with superb lithography and exquisitely printed with a glossy layer in China, easily overshadows any attempts to reduce its impact.

Mike Brodie, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (Twin Palms Publishers) 2013

Aug 28, 2013

Ann Goldstein’s work is done

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“Now, nearly a year since our reopening, we have achieved our long-anticipated goal of a fully functioning, international museum with an exhibition schedule that prepared for the next two years. I announced my resignation to the Supervisory Board on June 26, 2013, confident that my work is done and the museum is firmly poised for a new artistic director to lead it into the future.”

Jun 28, 2013

Robby Müller

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Robby Müller is one of the greatest Dutch cinematographers ever. Born during the Second World War in Willemstad on Curaçao, he has worked all over the globe, making films both in Europe and the USA, but only a few in the Netherlands itself. Now in his seventies and unfortunately bound to a wheelchair, Müller can look back on a highly impressive career, having worked for lengthy periods with cinematic maestros Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, and on two occasions with enfant terrible Lars von Trier, and many more. In March 2013, Müller was awarded the International Achievement Award by the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), making him the first Dutchman ever to receive this prestigious award.

Although Müller is cherished and held in the highest esteem by film fans and the industry in the Netherlands, on Thursday May 24, the ultimate accolade was granted to the cinematographer when a four-week retrospective was launched featuring 21 of the films made according to the cinematic vision of Müller. The event was launched in the EYE film institute – which opened its impressive new location in Amsterdam-North last year – with the presentation of the publication ‘Cinematography Robby Müller’ and which was presented to Müller by Linda van Deursen and Marietta de Vries who created the book, featuring a foreword by Wim Wenders.

The book is published by JRP|Ringier and designed by Linda van Deursen. Its robust format is 32.5 x 24cm and is crammed full of film stills taken from his work. The stunning print work was done by RobStolk printers in Amsterdam making use of a brand new HUV (dry offset) press.

Jun 28, 2013

Open mouth

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The EYE film institute is one of the most elegant and striking buildings in Amsterdam, designed by the Viennese bureau Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. The building itself reminds me of an enormous futuristic yacht or a sperm whale, with its white skin reflecting the sunlight across the water. The building lies on the northern side of the IJ, currently a lake but previously an estuary, opposite Amsterdam Central Station.

I was shocked to notice that the film institute had had its logo painted on the exterior, instantly transforming the building’s appearance into that of a small ship with a wide-open mouth – the only thing missing is an anchor. The film institute had already made the disastrous choice to call itself the EYE film institute – as if there weren’t enough institutes in the world bearing the same cliché of a name. Advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy is responsible for the third-rate house style, which resembles the excretions of a provincial tourist office. The logo is meant to represent an eye but looks more like a mouth that has stayed open too long. The typography on the print work and especially the posters is unashamedly cheap. It continues shock me to have to observe once more that the world of film and those responsible apparently have little idea of collaboration with disciplines other than designers, and that (certainly when it comes to taste) they overrate themselves immensely.

Jun 21, 2013

The Arrangement by Ruth van Beek

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The recent presentation of Ruth van Beek’s new book ‘The Arrangement’ made a profound impression on me. Designed by Xavier Fernández and published by RVB-books, it’s a genuine masterpiece. Its format is quite striking, in the form of an elegant house enclosing, as it were, large-scale photo collages. The works themselves are fascinating, and the choice of the large format has the effect of swallowing you up completely. The selection is flawlessly balanced and edgily edited, with superb use being made of a paper white background. And we mustn’t forget the truly phenomenal linen jacket cover in proud yellow! It’s one of my favourites and will certainly feature prominently in my top ten books of 2013! I consider Xavier Fernández a self-assured designer and a major talent. His unique style complements perfectly the selection and sequence of the images. Indeed, this manner of presenting images as a collage makes it extremely hard to establish a rhythm since autonomous ‘illustrations’ (just like paintings) are notoriously difficult to link together to form a harmonious whole. But he has certainly mastered the art of avoiding clashes, or static ennui. In fact, his works possess an extraordinary level of musicality.