Douglas Stockdale

Ciociaria is an urban landscape project that developed over a period of a year while I was in and out of a region in central Italy known as Ciociaria. What intrigued me was finding out that this region was not well-defined and better yet, lacked a known history, thus ripe for my personal investigation. My goal then became to investigate the memory of this place, which is a recurrent theme that recently has been taking on more significance for me.
My earlier landscape projects were topographical in style, urban landscapes devoid of any individuals, which was starting to feel very sterile. Yet I did not want to move to a reportage or documentary style and feel any responsibilities to exactitude, as I frequently edit the content of my photographs. So I attempted to bridge the two with a banal or neutral observation of the human-altered landscape and introduce individual subjects into the edges of the frame.
I was seeking, as Karen Jenkins, one of my book reviewers, stated so elegantly, “places where the strange becomes familiar and the familiar strange.” This was a region unlike my home in Southern California, with differences in language, customs and culture, yet I found that I could obtain a sense of what was occurring in my presence — but I was never sure.

— Douglas Stockdale, Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA

Book Review: Winterwald

Winterwald, by Emanuel Raab

Emanuel Raab’s book opens with a photo that includes a tree in the middle distance. It looks like it would be easy to enjoy climbing, with a thick trunk and low branches. But between the viewer and the tree is a screen of leafless vines and brambles that makes it almost impossible to approach.

Throughout Raab’s book (Winter Forest in English) these kinds of screen occur. We are in the “natural” world, but nature is blocking off access to herself. Raab presents streams, trees, and unknown bodies of water that are hidden behind impenetrable growth. There are no paths or trails in his photographs. We are unable to walk into the forest of our dreams — with large trees, clear paths and little undergrowth. Instead we are stuck in an impenetrable wilderness.

Eventually my focus moved toward the screens themselves, which are beautiful in an unconventional way. Flecks of red brambles, green moss, small leaves and curving vines create a surface of abstract delight. Raab photographed sometimes at dusk, resulting in a murky background that fades away from the viewer. He usually throws the background out of focus, increasing its distance from us.

Winterwald will not be available for sale in the United States, but may be purchased directly from its German publisher, Kehrer Verlag.

— Willson Cummer

Fergus Jordan

Low-voltage orange streetlights bouncing off wet black asphalt and yellow floodlights contaminating every inch of space. My perception of night ingrained in me from growing up in Northern Ireland, where street lighting stems beyond the norms of lighting parks and pathways to create a balanced, safe social space. Lighting becomes an instrument of social control and surveillance, while darkness is positioned as a space of tactical menace, exile and the unknown.

My latest series, Under Cover of Darkness, journeys through the darkened streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, orchestrating the sense of anxiety and paranoia that is present in these black-spot sectarian landscapes.

— Fergus Jordan, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Elisenda Pons

We are engulfed by a worldwide economic recession. Among other consequences, it brings a change about the use of a lot of things. That is so that things considered basic become dispensable and are sold out. Recession brings out new use for spaces: factories closing, households impounded, business premises closed, parking lots abandoned.

This setting has generated a new landscape of “For Sale” signs scattered all around the United States. On the other side, empty billboards announce their availability. I came to the understanding that the US was a “For Sale” country after traveling by car from Los Angeles to New York.

— Elisenda Pons, Barcelona, Spain

Book Review: My Own Wilderness

My Own Wilderness, edited by Christopher H. Paquette

Christopher Paquette quickly establishes the range of My Own Wilderness, in which he curates the work of 44 photographers. He opens the book with a picture of a scrubby desert landscape — a literal wilderness. Then he moves to an image of a factory interior in Russia, where lockers are painted with a wilderness scene of a man fishing. Paquette then presents a Photoshopped collage of a young man and old woman in a boat, coasting across a lake. A digital reconstruction of a mountain hillside follows, where the artist makes it appear that two large mirrors are suspended above a meadow. The images gain strength from Paquette’s sequencing, much as a poem gains strength from the combinations of individual words.

Paquette has a very generous conception of wilderness. He includes images that literally represent the wild, along with portraits that hint at an interior wilderness. There were many artists whose work I was not familiar with — some from Russia. A few artists were known to me, as I’ve featured their work here. (And I need to disclose that my own work is also part of the book).

Paquette gathered the images in a contest he held at PHOTO/arts Magazine, which he publishes online. The book is printed by Blurb and is offered for sale without a markup. The reproductions in the copy I bought were printed well, with accurate colors and a rich palette.

— Willson Cummer

Sergey Novikov

This story, bordered by river banks, is about the places and people beside the longest European river, the Volga. I looked at everything through the prism of soccer — a common passion here in Russia and particularly in those tiny towns on the Volga. I travelled along the river and visited the games of nine teams who took their names from the river. They are all called FC Volga, but from different Russian regions.

— Sergey Novikov, Moscow, Russia

Robert Schlaug

The houses in which people live all over the world are very different. In Germany, you used to be able to tell from the way a house was built in which region it was situated. Nowadays this is less and less the case. The availability of all possible construction materials has led to a standardization and uniformity of residential architecture. Each house can be found in any place in Germany. As everything is technically feasible, more and more anonymous, more-complicated and bizarre houses have been built. Simple designs have become a rarity.

Uniformity and banality on the one hand, and uniqueness and weirdness on the other hand, are of course a big attraction for the photographer. Therefore, these homes have been one my favorite subjects for many years.

What excites me about these houses can be well explained by the example picture:

At first glance, the viewer sees an unspectacular multi-family house that is very common for Germany, with a simple aesthetic. Utilitarian architecture without any artistic or creative value. However, if we take the time to have a closer look, a three-dimensional residential building with garages, a paved courtyard and a grass strip becomes a two-dimensional structure.

Upon closer examination, the realistic depiction of the house becomes more and more abstract, a picture composed of vertical and horizontal lines, colors and surfaces, of rhythmic subdivisions and geometric structures that make the real individual objects almost disappear. Instead, the forms and colors develop their own aesthetic quality. In fact, the photographic reality increasingly questions reality as we generally see it. The mundane and banal become something special.

The three-dimensionality only returns when the viewer’s gaze focuses on the trees in the background on the left or the bush on the right. Only these minor details are actually capable of dissolving the level of abstraction the photography has attained and of again restoring a sense of reality.

— Robert Schlaug, Nueremberg, Germany

Tyler Haughey

My current work centers on the industrial landscape, consisting of built environments found along the urban fringe of both cities and suburbia. By paying close attention to the formal aspects of the image, my work attempts to take everyday, mundane subject matter and heighten it through composition, color relationships, lighting and framing.

By photographing these odd industrial places with a 4×5 large-format camera I am able to capture the most minute details within a scene, allowing the image to convert ordinary subjects which are familiar to the viewer into strange, hyperrealistic environments.

— Tyler Haughey, Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA

Gary Warren Hubbs

The central focus of the photographs in Billboards is a specific variety of mechanical billboard which, utilizing a prismatic design and timed motors, scrolls through three different advertisements sequentially and continually. By photographing these signs with an exposure long enough to record all three ads on one single negative, an in-camera intervention of sorts takes place. The necessary clarity of the original images is obliterated by the combination of time and mechanical movement – effectively robbed of their intent, they become layers of and contributors to a new, incidental image. If the Bechers were looking for “anonymous sculpture” in the industrial forms of their subjects, then I have stumbled upon a form of “anonymous collage,” one that cannot be perceived with the naked eye in real time.

While the billboards in the photographs themselves contain photographic elements of a commercial nature, they could hardly be described as rephotography; nor are they descendants of Pop Art or a guerrilla-type of anti-marketing. The sign in the real world remains unchanged — the intervention happens only in the camera and on the exposed film. I later recalled the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto and his Theaters, and it could be argued that the two series share visual similarities; however, where Sugimoto’s exposures left no trace of the original image on the screens of his theaters, elements of the original billboard advertisements remain in the new composite image – logos, images and copy overlapping – the visual equivalent of a corporate “mash-up.”

— Gary Warren Hubbs, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Peter Calvin

I have been photographing the built environment in Texas and Mexico for the past few years. I have a particular interest in the space and resources we have set aside for the automobile, and the public spaces that begin where formal architecture ends, as well as the canopy of wires and cell towers we have built above our heads.

In the Middle Ages the introduction of a new harness for horses and oxen changed the way cities were designed, and in the 20th century the automobile, utility delivery and electronic communication defined the modern built environment.  

My interests include how the structures that society has built have changed, been adapted, reused or discarded. I collect things such as parking lot kiosks, intersections, athletic fields and repurposed gasoline stations. At times, it is a bit like doing archeology in the present. I have tried to photograph the natural landscape, but I always find myself searching for some sign of the human hand on the land, even if it is a barbed-wire fence. 

— Peter Calvin, Dallas, Texas, USA