Book Review: No One’s Land

No One’s Land

This stunning book from Ricardo Dominguez Alcaraz, a Spanish artist, is a step up in the world of print-on-demand. The images were selected and sequenced by José de Almeida, of the Camera Infinita publishing house. Peecho, the Amsterdam-based print-on-demand company, printed the book with subtle color and tonal variations.

My copy was mailed to me from Seattle, USA, and I understand that Peecho uses a distributed model of printing, with partners around the world.

Alcaraz told me that he and Almeida supplied images that they thought would print well through Peecho and were pleased with the first copy of the book they ordered. (Another Peecho user told me that he had to order a sample book and then resubmit his images after some toning adjustments.) In any case, the book is more attractive than ones I have made through Blurb, and quite a bit less expensive. I will be using Peecho in the future for my self-publishing.

Alcaraz’s book is full of intriguing images of suburbs, “intermediate places that are absolutely necessary for the city,” according to his introduction. My only complaint about the book is that Alcaraz’s thoughtful introduction is rendered in not-quite-perfect English. This is made up for by the eloquence of his images, which can be universally appreciated. He makes a poetry of wooden pallets, stunted trees, billboards, roadsigns and other ephemera of the suburbs.

Almeida skillfully sequenced the images into a flow that links one picture to another, building a work that is more powerful than any individual image. His touch demonstrates the value of a careful and thoughtful editor. Alcaraz told me in an email that he saw his work with fresh eyes when presented with Almeida’s sequences.

No One’s Land is a treat, and reminds me once again of how powerful the printed image can be when sequenced into a carefully-made book.

— Willson Cummer, Fayetteville, New York, USA

Misha de Ridder

© Misha de Ridder

Sometimes natural phenomena can become so estranged and mysterious that we are inclined to describe them as unreal realities. It might be the extraordinary shape of a tree, a mountain, a shadow, a cloud or the mirroring reflection of nature in a lake, but it is foremost the unfamiliarity of the natural aesthetics of reality. My works can be seen as attempts to capture these temporary phenomena and atmospheres of nature within the still medium of photography. By seeking for the absence of human intervention, by waiting for the climax of the temporal aesthetic and by pushing the camera to its technical limits my photographs become both exotic reports as autonomous artificial worlds.

— Misha de Ridder, Amsterdam, Netherlands

© Misha de Ridder

© Misha de Ridder3

Alfredo De Stefano

In my photographs from the last few years, I have intervened upon the landscape, creating scenes or sets with a wide range of natural and manmade elements. In this way, amidst the sometimes oppressive vastness, I construct and photograph intimate spaces: some of them are metaphors for the painful desertification of the planet caused by man, while others work as ironic allusions to our relationship with the desert.

The action I perform deals with reintegration: it’s a reflection on what the desert has lost, but also a way of restoring its ravaged memory through a personal intervention. Obviously, in the desert, this intervention is something ephemeral, but nonetheless transcendent in the photographic memory that has managed to lend substance to a desire.

— Alfredo De Stefano, México City, México

Book Review: Where Will You Spend Eternity ?

Where Will You Spend Eternity ?, by Sylvia de Swaan

De Swaan’s photobook contains poetry, an essay, an artist’s statement and an account from a couple who visited Utica, New York and stayed with de Swaan. The book is a meditation on her adopted hometown, a small post-industrial city in Upstate New York.

The 84 photos included are subtle, building as a body of work, a visual poem.

Take this extended sequence: an image of a snow-covered back yard leads to a picture of a snow-covered statue of Jesus, then a picture of a yellow ribbon in a wintry yard. Next we see a pattern of snow on paving stones — broken very faintly by one person’s footsteps. The series continues with a snowy scene of a house with a large peace symbol spray-painted on its door, and the word “peace” written on the front of the house.

De Swaan continues this riff with an image of a garage painted with the words “world peace in the streets.” Someone has spray-painted a thin black line through the phrase — still leaving it entirely legible. On the facing page is a bullet hole in a window. Turn the page and see blacktop with two figures painted onto it, appearing to walk toward each other. The final image in this series is a boarded-up house with the words “peace in the streets” painted on it. This time none of the words are crossed out.

While many of the photos portray a gloomy rust-belt landscape, de Swaan includes signs of hope: the Cambodian Buddhist procession, the painted wall with an image of Martin Luther King, Jr., the freight train with the words “No Remorse !” painted onto it. She also creates humor, as when she pairs a trailer with an image of a slumbering woman opposite a shot of a McDonald’s sign urging us to “Wake up Happy.”

De Swaan’s book title asks about eternity, but the photographer is fascinated by the details of the here and now — how we live out our days — whether at war or at peace, in wealth or poverty, alone or together.

Where Will You Spend Eternity ? was self-published, and is available through Blurb.

— Willson Cummer