Photo Books for Sale
For the last few years I've had most of my collection of photobooks in storage in the UK. I've now started emptying the last few containers, and a few treasures have emerged and are up for sale.
So far they are:
- In Umbra Res by Paul Graham
- Touching North by Andy Goldsworthy SORRY - NOW SOLD OUT!
- The Perfect Childhood by Larry Clark
All are now long out of print, difficult to find, beautiful books, and key volumes in the artist's oeuvre. This is surely your last chance to obtain a copy at a sensible price. Brief details below.
In Umbra Res - Paul Graham
Paul Graham was born in 1956, in the same generation of British photographers that included, for example, Peter Fraser and Martin Parr, who first began to bridge the gap between documentary and conceptual photography, with a particular emphasis on the use of colour. These photographers were also marked by an interest in the photobook as an art object in itself, not merely as a container for photographs.
I won't repeat the Paul Graham biographies that are easily found on the web, for instance in Wikipedia and here in the Paul Graham archive. His importance as a photographer is clear, as his current one man show at the MOMA in New York testifies.
In Umbra Res was released in 1990 and was the output of a Fellowship supported by the British National Museum of Photography in 1989 and 1990. It was his last printed work on Northern Ireland, although he continued to be a close observer of the NI situation as can be seen in his Ceasefire portfolio produced 4 years later. It was also his last book to be as much social documentary as conceptual work of art. After this, with, for instance, Television Portraits and End of an Age, the idea progressively took precedence over the subject.
When the photos in this series were shown in the 1990 MOMA NY exhibition 'British Photography from the Thatcher Years' the curator Susan Kismaric wrote:
'As the youngest of the photographers whose work is included in the exhibition, Paul Graham has strayed farthest from the conventional vocabulary of social-documentary photography. In a sense his relative youth has given him the option to exercise artistic license. In addition to making his photographs in color, Graham has printed them in radically varying sizes (from 8 by 10 inches to 60 by 45 inches), and thought of them less as discrete objects to be appreciated individually, than as an installation to be experienced as an environment.
Like many other photographers of his generation, Graham's photographs are conceived as wall pictures rather than for reproduction in books or magazines, the traditional venue for social documentary work. While the exhibition of documentary photographs in galleries and museums appears contradictory to the aim of social doucmentary photographers, - the dissemination of their work to the widest possible audience – it is partially resolved by their persistence in publishing their photographs in books. More importantly, in this series of photographs made in Northern Ireland Graham has attempted to consider his subject obliquely, rhather than head-on, and by so doing has risked obscuring his intention.
In the past Graham has worked in a fairly conventional manner. His book Beyond Caring (1986) is a straightforward documentation of the demoralizing conditions in social service offices across Britan. While the phtoographs are also in color, and are printed up to 27 by 35 inches, the subject is readily accessible. His book Troubled Land (1987) makes a somewhat greater demeand on the viewer. Each picture in this series of color photographs of the landscape of Northern Ireland bears traces of the conflict between the various factions of the I.R.A., the Catholic population, the Protestan population, and the occuppying British forces. Upon first viewing these pictures of the pastoral countryside are benign and lovely to look at. Closer inspection reveals, however, evidence of prior violence, the continuing Britiish presence, or simply recognition of the omnipresence of the relentless conflict. For example, a panoramic view of a distannt coastal town, Warrenpoint, is seen from the vantage point of an approaching road. The photograph includes, in the near distance, an army stop-and-search of a passenger car. This activity is a small detail in the larger picture. In fact, the subject of these photographs is Northern Ireland's enduring physical beauty, where life continues despite a ubiquitous violence. As an English photographer working in Northern Ireland, Graham is an outsider. As an English citizen whose government has occupied Ireland on and off for centuries, his responsibility is clear. He takes his role of photographer-as-citizen seriously: it is, in fact a prime motivator of his work.
The photographs in the series In Umbra Res ("in the shadow of it") are a logical artistic progression for Graham, who has steadily moved away from straight documentary pictures toward photographs whose meanings are locked in their symbolic potential. The subjects of the sixteen pictures in the project are common enough – among them, a man looking up, a worn countertop, and a commercial wedding portrait in a shop window. It is not their ordinariness that is of particular interest: most of photography is about looking at the ordinary. It is the casualness with which Graham photographs them. His pictures are often out of focus, or partially blurred. The lighting is usually available light and therefore minimal, or it is supplied by the camera's flash and therefore hyperbolic. The result is a series of pictures that are both intuituve and expressionistic. As viewers, we feel we are seeing the immediate and overall impression the subject has made on Graham, and, at the same time, the symbolic content – the stereotypical characters and style of the photographs – seem to objectify Graham's inner experience. In the photograph of the green countertop, the foreground of the picture is out of focus, leading the viewer to the sharply defined portion of the counter where, among the names, numbers, and other notations is etched the word "religion". The picture of bricks pressed between the pavement and the skip is purely symbolic. The young woman feverishly inhaling her cigarette expresses the anxiety implicit in other photographs in the series. The overall impression made by these pictures is one of an omnipresent tension that has crept into the very fiber of a place in which daily life is permeated by an insidious, unseen enemy.
The book is also very interesting as an art object - it was emphatically not designed for the bookshelf, but to show the photographs to best effect. It's a huge volume, elephant folio - 18.5" x 14" (470mm x 350mm), of superb print quality, and filled with stunning images. Kismaric's note that Graham's photographs are primarily conceived for the wall perhaps helps to explain the massive size of this book.
In Umbra Res was produced in an edition of only 500 copies, all numbered and signed by the author.
I have a few of the copies remaindered by the museum (why is it that so many great photobooks were once remaindered?), and as such they are effectively new (apart from my having stored them for most of a decade!). The acrylic covers are, as always, slightly rubbed, but otherwise these copies are immaculate – not marked, not inscribed, not bumped. Fine books in fine dustcovers.
The price for these magnificent books is only £250 each (at current exchange rates this is about US$400 or €275) including worldwide postage. You will not find a copy either cheaper or better anywhere else. Drop me an email if you're interested.
In Umbra Res - Frontispiece
In Umbra Res - Bricks under skip, Belfast
In Umbra Res - Man watching TV news broadcast of lynching, Belfast
In Umbra Res - Copy number and signature
WARNING! If you don't buy this book, I'm going to cut it up and frame the photos!
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Touching North - Andy Goldsworthy
It's hard to place Andy Goldsworthy amongst sculptors. So much of his work is by its nature transient, using materials that decay, in constructions that change with the light, in landscapes that can never be the same from one day to the next.
He is neither a pure sculptor, like Anish Kapoor for instance, making objects to sit isolated in a gallery, nor a landscape artist like Richard Long, who manipulates his environment for primarily intellectual and conceptual purposes. Rather he is somewhere between the two – using the natural materials of his environment to make works of stunning but often ephemeral beauty that have deep resonance with the natural world and our place in it.
I love Touching North. It's a beautiful book of a wonderful project – a trip to the North Pole with an Inuit guide – constructing art works at each stop. The works are of course hugely constrained by the material available – no autumn leaves here, or pine needles or even rocks – just snow and ice in all its infinite varieties. But what delicate play of light and shade!
The record of Goldsworthy's achievement is very largely concentrated in his books – without photography his mark on the world would be negligible – so each one is important. Touching North was only his third book, published in 1989 (reprinted by DAP in 1991), and it stands out for me not only as a journal showing the physical and mental process involved in making the pieces, but also for its physical beauty. It's another large book, 16" x 8.5" (410mm x 210mm) in landscape format, beautifully produced, in a very small edition.
My copies are brand new, first edition of course - 20 years old this year! I have only two copies to hand; they are both in their original custom-made cardboard shipping boxes; both copies are immaculate with perfect dust jackets. One of them no longer has the shrink wrap (I removed it to take the photographs!) and some surface tearing on the box where the sellotape came off, hence will be a little cheaper than the other – pay less and save yourself the trouble of unwrapping it!
They're very hard to find these days, and as far as I can see never in this condition – brand new in shipping box. The shrink-wrapped copy shown below will be US$250 and the unwrapped one (identical apart from the wrapping) will be US$210, worldwide postage included. If you're interested in a copy, get in touch.
The shrink-wrapped copy of Touching North in its fitted shipping box
Opening page - Andy Goldsworthy with his first journal entry
Ice sculpture - 24-26 March
Ice sculpture - 30 March
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The Perfect Childhood - Larry Clark
I really don't think I need to say much about Larry Clark. His reputation was made by his first photographic book Tulsa and he went on to cement it with Teenage Lust and The Perfect Childhood. He's now better known as a filmmaker, responsible for Kids, Another Day in Paradise, and Bully amongst others.
I quote from Wikipedia:
"Clark's films often deal with seemingly lurid material but are told in a straightforward manner. Directors such as Gus Van Sant and Martin Scorsese have stated that they were influenced by Clark's early photography, according to Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures.
"In both his photographic and cinematic works, Clark pursues a set of related themes: the destructiveness of dysfunctional family relationships, masculinity and the roots of violence, religious intolerance and bigotry, the links between mass imagery and social behaviors, and the construction of identity and sexuality in adolescence."
About sums it up I guess - if you want more, a few links are provided alongside; Google will provide many more.
The typically overheated publisher's blurb for this book:
"Larry Clark’s work has always obsessively circled around adolescent boys, their awakening sexual drives, the enormous energies they have to harness. Clark offers the viewer a cultural anthropology of this transitory period that oscillates between painful pleasure and exuberant self-destruction. Clark is spellbound with the vital, unruly, and destructive force teen boys exude. Clark confronts us with lucid images of male sexuality and its equally creative and destructive impulses. He combines pop-culture imagery with his own photographs to evoke a myth ingrained in the heart of our culture.
"The Perfect Childhood combines an overview of Clark’s work-ranging from collages and found images to photographs from his native Oklahoma in the late 1960's-with a new series of tender and erotic portraits of a skater boy-the latest incarnation of the mythical eternal youth Clark investigates and idolizes in his work. Material from the past 30 years is combined to create one new work of art-overwhelming proof of the consistency of Clark’s artistic vision. The book is as raunchy and brutally straightforward as it is melancholy and affectionate. Its attitude will confound all those thinking in comfortable and complacent opposites-gay and straight, creative and destructive, tenderness and violence, good and evil. Clark's work is a mirror for those strong enough to face the truth about growing up as a boy."
This book was never released in the USA, neither in the true first edition published by LCB, nor in this identical edition published by Scalo, and it is now long out of print and very unlikely to be reprinted. My copies are all brand new, shrink-wrapped, in perfect condition (the apparent marks in the photographs are just creases in the shrinkwrap - the books are impeccable). You will not find better.
The price per copy is £65 (at current exchange rates, approximately US$100 or €66) worldwide postage included.
The front cover of The Perfect Childhood
The rear cover of The Perfect Childhood
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