December 12, 2014

Friday Round Up - 12th December, 2014

This week on Friday Round Up it's week two of the book review special. A diverse collection from John G. Morris' Somewhere in France, to Andrew Chapman's The Long Paddock and Zun Lee's Father Figure. Ten more examples of the many gorgeous photobooks waiting for a home on your bookshelf! Happy reading.

Book Reviews - Part Two - John G. Morris, Michelle Frankfurter, Zun Lee, Andrew Chapman, John Gollings, Majid Saeedi, Vlad Sokhin and more
Somewhere in France – The Summer of ‘44
John Godfrey Morris

John G. Morris at home, Paris, October 2013
(C) Jane Evelyn Atwood/Marabout

My interview with John Godfrey Morris starts with laughter, which peppers our talk throughout. Morris turned 98 last month, but his gentle eyes twinkle with the vigour of a much younger man. He’s remarkably sharp, correcting himself, editing as he goes, making it word perfect. But it’s not vanity, it’s because John G. Morris is a newsman and getting it right is ingrained.

We’re talking about his book ‘Somewhere in France’, named after the code that soldiers used during wartime to let their loved ones know their rough location, as specifics were not allowed.

‘Somewhere in France’ provides a personal snapshot of World War II told through the sharp eyes of Morris who at the time was the London picture editor for LIFE magazine. Later he went on to be picture editor for the New York Times.

“My privilege over the past 75 years has been to work closely with great photographers, photojournalists. My job was either as their boss or their servant. As a servant I would carry camera bags or in the old days hold flash, but I preferred to be the boss and tell them where to go,” laughs Morris. “Sometimes I would tell them specifically what to shoot, but largely I wanted photographers who were smart enough to figure that out for themselves when they got to the scene.”

But in 1944 he decided to join LIFE photographers - Robert Capa George Rodger, Robert Landry, Ralph Morse, David E. Scherman, and Frank Scherschel - in Normandy and Brittany, France. Armed with a camera and 14 rolls of black and white film Morris photographed events for his own record. Sixty nine years later Robert Pledge, founder of Contact Press Images unearthed the pictures and suggested to Morris he publish a book.

“When I first saw my pictures I thought my god they’re better than I thought they were,” he laughs again.

Morris’s photographs are classic observational documentary style pictures. He may not have considered himself a photographer, but clearly working with some of the world’s best photojournalists rubbed off on him. These are truly wonderful pictures that capture ordinary moments for both soldiers and civilians, rather than the heat of battle. Mothers feeding children in the midst of rubble; families checking casualty lists in the town square; soldiers taking respite from fighting. And the young soldier being arrested. This photograph, says Morris, stopped him in his tracks. “This boy would have been around 15 years old. This was the face of my enemy” (see photo below). It was a sobering moment for the confirmed pacifist. “I don’t believe in war, I believe in peace”.

But what makes this book truly different are the love letters that Morris wrote to his wife who was back in the US with their young son. “I was away about 14 months and I had a son who was almost a year old before I ever saw him. It was hard,” says Morris who wrote numerous letters to his wife during their separation.

The reproductions of Morris’ Western Union Cablegrams to his wife firmly put us in the moment taking us back to a time when letters were a standard way to communicate. Typed on a manual typewriter, errors crossed out with “x”, Morris shares his adventures, as well as imparting very personal sentiments with his wife.

One letter sent on 27 July 1944 also captures Morris’ feelings about confronting the enemy. “Today I saw and talked with my first German prisoners. It is very hard to hate them when you see them close up – you just feel sorry. But perhaps that was mostly because they looked like such human wrecks and not fighting men at all”.

The book also features some of Morris’ dispatches to the LIFE office in London giving an insight into his role as picture editor. Sent on August 9, 1944 one dispatch reads: “This is Capa’s early stuff on St. Malo. I left him near there this morning in order to return to base and ship this. His stuff today will probably be a lot better, as the town should fall today and it will be possible to move around. At any rate, I suggest you go easy on first stuff until the later stuff come in”.

On August 10 he wrote to his wife about St. Malo. “It is tough fighting there but we managed to return each night to Mont St Michel for a good dinner with white wine, fresh eggs and meat and Breton butter. Then a good night’s sleep on clean sheets, or rather between them. Got back to find several cheery letters from you and a very enthusiastic cable…about the piece I did on Rennes, saying that it was used in Time along with a name mention and everything. So tonight I am really set up and feel that my mission to France has accomplished something”.

As our interview comes to a close Morris tells me he is currently immersed in his next project. “I’m working on a book called My Century, and my century is 1916 to 2016, December 7th,” he says sharing an anecdote about his birth date. “The Japanese ruined my 25th birthday by attacking Pearl Harbour. My wife was baking a birthday cake when the news came over the radio and I never had a piece of that cake!” Morris hopes to have the book published “before I turn 100”.

Since the release of Somewhere in France Morris has been travelling the world talking about his experiences, attending exhibition openings and book signings. He's now on the other side of the media, in the spotlight. You’re having a second lease on life aren’t you? I ask. “Yes, it’s incredible, it’s crazy and it really doesn’t make any sense at all,” he laughs again. “That’s a good quote for you.”

Somewhere in France
John G. Morris
Available from Contact Press Images 

Michelle Frankfurter

This new book published by FotoEvidence, Destino (destination/destiny), documents the story of illegal migrants who attempt to cross into the USA from Mexico. Many are from Central America, have travelled for weeks, often alone, wandering in the wilderness, too afraid to turn back, each step made in trepidation of what may lie ahead. It is a harrowing tale and Michelle Frankfurter’s photographs capture the anguish and hardship of this rough road, a journey she shared in part with her subjects.

“Many of the migrants I met along the train route…express a desire to stay in their native countries but are afraid for their lives,” says Frankfurter who migrated from Israel to the USA with her family when she was six. “They shoulder small backpacks containing no more than a change of clothing. They trudge through the brush in sweltering heat to dodge Mexican police and immigration officials. Along the way they are robbed, beaten, raped, extorted and kidnapped.”

Frankfurter says that while the storyline of this book is “grim and heart wrenching, there are moments of beauty and tenderness that serve as an affirmation of humanity”. I agree. Destino captures the remarkable spirit of these people and their arduous journey in the hope for a better life.

Published by FotoEvidence
Photo editor: Tom Kennedy
Text editor: David Stuart
Design: Mark Weinberg
80 B&W photographs
Shot on a medium format Bronica 6x6 camera

Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood
Zun Lee

Exploring the personal through photography often leads to the revelation of greater societal truths and the breaking down of normative perceptions around behaviours that can marginalise people and perpetuate cultural stereotypes.

German-born physician and photographer Zun Lee’s new book “Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood” is a case in point. This body of work came about through Lee’s exorcism of his own demons: as a child Lee was the victim of an abusive father, and only learned as an adult that his real father had abandoned him before birth. Grappling with how to deal with this emotional tempest, Lee turned to photography. 

Creating the pictures in ”Father Figure” has proven personally cathartic, and at the same time provided a discussion point around the perception of Black fatherhood. In “Father Figure” Lee’s intimate portraits capture that unique bond between father and child - adult arms provide shelter, a pat on the head gives approval, and an unguarded moment reveals tenderness. But these pictures also draw focus on the struggles that continue for many Black fathers. In these images we see the weight of marginalisation and the worry of an uncertain future, their own and their offspring. In the roll of a tear, or the shadow of a smile we begin to know their stories.

Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood
Zun Lee
Published by Ceiba
124 pages, 61 B&W photographs

The Long Paddock
Andrew Chapman and Tim Lee

The image of the drover on his stock horse moving cattle along a dusty bush track evokes the very essence of outback Australia. Enshrined in folklore, celebrated in verse and ingrained in the national psyche the droving tradition is alive and well. It flourishes along the vast network of travelling stock routes that thread their way across rural Australia. Yet it is a lifestyle few know of firsthand, and is certainly foreign to us city slickers.

These public lands, many of them famous stock routes, are known colloquially as “The Long Paddock.” They date from colonial days when herds of stock were moved from the boundless plains of the inland to feed the cities and towns along the eastern seaboard. 

Photographer Andrew Chapman along with author Tim Lee have followed the pathways of the present day drovers to capture in images and words the people whose nomadic lives are governed by the seasons and whose main concern is the welfare of their animals. The characters they meet are hardy, colourful and resilient. They are a repository of bushcraft and wisdom, a connection to colonial Australia. 

The Long Paddock 
Andrew Chapman and Tim Lee
Published by The Five Mile Press

In Brief:
Photographers' Sketchbooks
Stephen McLaren & Bryan Formhals

Photographers' Sketchbooks gives insight into the creative processes of 49 photographers from around the world, both established and emerging artists including Susan Meiselas, Roger Ballen, Michael Wolf, Louie Palu and Peter van Agtmael as well as Australians Katrin Koenning and Trent Parke. 

Each chapter begins with a short biography of the artist and then a first person account of how they work followed by several pages of images. Susan Meiselas writes: "I always kept little notebooks. Sometimes they combine contacts and details about a shoot and other times they are filled with diary-like entries, perhaps recording a memory from a particular day. They are never very systematic in style or content, but each shoot has a corresponding notebook."  

Christophe Agou

Everyday Africa

Jim Goldberg

Martin Klimas

Overall this book is a valuable contribution to understanding the creative processes of these artists and to know that everyone has their own way of approaching projects. Yet there is a central message, which rings true for all creative pursuits: finding your style is a process of evolution, of trial and error, experimentation and passion for the medium. This is a book that is sure to inspire. 

Photographers' Sketchbook 

Contemporary Photographers: Australia 
Set of Seven Books

You can buy all seven of the books in this fantastic series on Australian photographers for the special Christmas offer of $160, a saving of $50. The titles are David Moore, Lewis Morley, Wolfgang Sievers, Michael Coyne, Graham McCarter, Ian Dodd and, the latest, Rob Imhoff. Available at Write Light publishing.

Beautiful Ugly: 
The Architectural Photography of John Gollings
Joe Rollo

Arguably Australia's greatest architectural photographer, this book celebrates the career of John Gollings spanning more than four decades. In addition to showcasing Gollings work, Beautiful Ugly is also an historical journey through the various architecture styles that have shaped our cities. 

Beautiful Ugly
Joe Rollo
Thames & Hudson

Life in War
Majid Saeedi

In 'Life in War,' award winning Iranian photojournalist Majid Saeedi has drawn focus on the everyday existence of those living in war torn Afghanistan. "War is not the only thing going on in Afghanistan,” he says. “In my work in Afghanistan, I have focused on everyday life. The good that people live even during war. The most important thing for a photographer, I think, is to live with the people as they live. To experience life as the people experience it. I reached that in Afghanistan.” (To read the full interview with Majid Saeedi and see more images from the book please click on the Book Reviews tab at the top of the blog).

Life in War
Majid Saeedi
85 B&W images
Introduction by Ed Kashi
Personal note from the Afghan Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah
Published by FotoEvidence

Crying Meri
Vlad Sokhin

Through “Crying Meri” photographer Vlad Sokhin has drawn focus on a story that few outside Papua New Guinea had any understanding and his work has undoubtedly contributed to altering the perception of domestic violence in that country. (To read the full interview with Vlad Sokhin and see more images from the book please click on the Book Reviews tab at the top of the blog).

Crying Meri
Vlad Sokhin
Published by FotoEvidence
97 colour images/127 pages

The Fields of Landscape Photography
William A. Ewing

From the moment you pick up 'Landmark' with its sumptuous, almost suede textured black cover, you know you're in for a treat. This is a beautifully printed book that takes the reader on a walk through the various fields of landscape photography, from the sublime to documentary, from celestial to abstract. Featuring more than 100 photographers and 240 photographs Landmark is one of my favourite books of 2014.

Landmark is split into ten themes - Sublime, Pastoral, Artefacts, Rupture, Playground, Scar, Control, Enigma, Hallucination and Reverie. Both established artists such as Edward Burtynsky, Andreas Gursky, Richard Misrach, and Susan Derges are featured along with newcomers Penelope Umbrico and Olaf Otto Becker amongst others. They way these artists view and capture the landscape finding moments, angles and perspectives that are unique to their eye, make Landmark a rich visual resource, and an eye opening read.

The Fields of Landscape Photography
William A. Ewing

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