A photobook trend

The four books below were produced between 1948-1953. They all follow a similar formula of a leading question followed by a comic photographic response. Know of any other books that follow this trend?

The Frenchman, 1948

The Stenographer, 1950

The Candidate, 1952

Oh, Dr. Kinsey!, 1953

24 pieces by Allen Ruppersberg

Since listing Allen Ruppersberg’s fantastic exhibition catalog in my list of Top 10 Photobooks of 2009, I’ve been doing more investigation on Ruppersberg. In the late 60’s and early 70’s he experimented with the way banal images, once combined, create narrative. Ruppersberg published three books juxtaposing pictures of motel rooms with other ordinary pictures sometimes containing narrative clues (ketchup drizzled on a table, a picture removed from a wall). These three books were called 23 Pieces (1968), 24 Pieces (1970) and 25 Pieces (1971).

I was able to track down a copy of 24 Pieces. See the whole thing here.

Note the colophon: “Design and Photography by Gary Krueger.”

Dissection table writings

For Valentines Day, Nurse Rachel gave me a copy of  Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930. It might not seem romantic, but it sure is interesting. In the 19th century, anatomy professors had a hard time legally obtaining bodies for their students. So they hired “resurrectionists” to dig up recently buried bodies from graveyards. The process was shrouded in secrecy. Professors and janitors guarded the dissection room and students were expelled if they divulged the identity of their subjects.

Despite all of this secrecy, there was a strong compulsion to document and commemorate the process. As photography became more accessible in the 1880’s, medical students across America began posing for group portraits in front of their cadavers. Through the 1920’s, this genre of medical photography became a quasi-ritual. Of the hundred or so pictures compiled in Dissected, many share remarkable consistencies. To me the most fascinating stylistic attribute is the phrases students would write in chalk on dissection table:

Happy Valentines…


My recent post on Viaggio sul Reno, Settembre 1974, brought to mind David Hockney’s photographs from roughly the same period. I’m particularly fond of Hockney’s story that accompanies these two photographs:

“In the winter of 1968 Peter and I took the Orient Express to Munich, to see a show of mine. I remember one morning when we were both on the bottom bed, we opened the curtains, and it was snowing. It was fantastic to lie in the little couch with a nice warm body next to you, gazing out the window at the cute little Bavarian villages half hidden under the snow. It’s a wonderful way to travel. I never photographed it, but I remember it vividly.

Later, we went onto Vienna. We took the subway and Peter went in the next carriage; there he stood, looking back at me as I photographed him. At the next station he joined me and I again took a photograph, still looking at the same place, and he is gone. It was not planned, it just happened that way.

From David Hockney Photographs (Petersburg Press, London, 1982). This book is unusual in that it emphasizes his single images rather than the better known photo collages.

Italian treasure

I’m back from the Italian leg of the Little Brown Mushroom World Tour (next stop: Lincoln, Nebraska). I was hoping to track down some vintage fotoromanzi, but didn’t have enough time. Nonetheless, I still picked up a couple of treasures. I spent most of my time in Milan with the curator Francesco Zanot. Francesco is a raving book nut and, at only thirty years of age, one of the most knowledgeable and exciting photo curators I’ve met. Francesco gave me a copy of Vedove/Widows, a book he recently produced with Takashi Homma (more info here).

At a signing at the excellent Mi Camera Bookstore, I’m embarrassed to report that I bought more books than I signed. After some frantic browsing of the shelves, I discovered the flat files behind the front counter where they keep the little vintage books and ephemera. Treasure trove!

Followers of this blog know that I have a keen interest in narrative photo books. In the flat files I found a truly stellar example by Franco Vaccari. I’ve been curious about Vaccari since picking up a survey of his work, Exhibitions in Real Time, last year. Vaccari is a conceptual photographer that Francesco Zanot accurately described as ‘the Italian Baldessari.’ But what I love about the book I found in the flat file is that it isn’t a conceptual or performance exercise. This sweet, staple-bound booklet, Viaggio sul Reno, Settembre 1974, is nothing more than a travelog. But the text is funny, lyrical and works with the images extraordinarily well:

See the whole book here.

How To Avoid Corner Corner Love

I’m currently in Ann Arbor, Michigan as part of the Little Brown Mushroom World Tour. Tonight my host dropped me off at Dawn Treader Book Shop. The treasure for the day was ‘How to Avoid Corner Corner Love and Win Good Love From Girls.’ It isn’t a photobook, but it has an excellent photographic cover and only cost me $6.50.

The book comes from Onitsha, Nigeria. It isn’t dated, but probably comes from the mid-1960’s. It exemplifies the genre called African Market Literature. It represents Africa’s first popular literature and is closely tied to their oral storytelling tradition. Part of the pleasure of this genre is what the African Market authority Kurt Thometz calls ‘Mad English.’ Note some of the other fantastic titles in the series (click to enlarge):

Carl Johan De Geer

At a recent visit to Dashwood Books I picked up their lovely self-published book, Carl Johan De Geer’s Long Live the Large Family. I was excited to feature this excellent book here, but 5b4 beat me to the punch.

So instead I’ll show another book by De Geer: Pengar Eller Livet (Money or Life). I purchased the book because of my interest in photo novellas, but unfortunately can’t read Swedish. Nonetheless, I’m a sucker for this kind of loosey-goosey comic book design.

More images here.

Sergio Larrain’s untitled ‘Home’ book

In Jeffrey Ladd’s review of Nothing But Home, he mention’s my recent book, Allowing Flowers (also reviewed by Jeff here). Soon after, Sébastien Girard emailed me. He wrote:

Reading about Allowing Flowers, it immediately made me think of an unordinary book I found in Santiago de Chile. An unknown book by one of your Magnum colleagues: Sergio Larrain. A few years ago I decided to go on a trip to Chile to meet him without knowing exactly where he was living, without appointment…A very hazardous trip. On my way I found this charity book! A good sign for the journey. Amazing layout! Amazing photographs! Something close to your project. I look forward to see your reaction.

Well, my reaction was half excitement, half jealousy. What a find!

See more images here.