zaterdag 21 april 2018

Views & Reviews Poste Restante Christer Strömholm Photography

Publisher Art And Theory Publishing
ISBN 9789188031365
Idea Code 16620

Poste Restante was the first photobook by legendary Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm. Published in 1967 by Norstedts, the book included 96 images and a series of text fragments and anecdotes based on an interview with the photographer. Despite a rocky start with mixed reviews and bad sales, Poste Restante became one of the most collectible photography books from the mid-twentieth century. 

“This photographic autobiography details Strömholm's extensive travels across the globe in a book constructed as an existentialist diary. Juxtaposing the urbane and the macabre, combining portraiture and street scenes with abstract photographic fragments, the book uses metaphor and visual pun in an unrelenting stream of consciousness.”
(The Photobook: A History Volume I, Parr & Badger)


There’s a very helpful quote on the back of the reissue (finally!) of Christer Strömholm’s 1967 masterpiece, Poste Restante, from a contemporary review in the Swedish evening tabloid Expressen. “As far as I know,” the review goes, “this is the first time a book publisher (Norstedts) has dropped all demands that a photobook must have a subject in the ordinary sense—or at least that it must work on a social, documentary, or generally decorative level. Poste Restante is as exclusive and private in its conception as a modern lyrical poetry collection and in its expression, almost as closed and inaccessible….

“Poste Restante shows that Christer Strömholm is probably the person in photographic history who has been most effective in using photography as a symbolic or formal language for private experiences, for a subjective sensibility of life.”

I don’t usually quote other reviews, but I do so here to raise a historical question: Did Strömholm invent the poetic photobook?

That’s not exactly Expressen’s point, but still an interesting question, leading us to consider such forebears as Man Ray; Germaine Krull and her ode to metal; Moi Ver and his surreal superimpositions; Robert Frank’s breathtaking song of the American highway (Walt Whitman in photos a century later, now singing the radiant jukebox); and even William Klein with his “I also contain multitudes” epic bebop prose poem of New York (and of Moscow and Tokyo). But Expressen does have a point: In Poste Restante, Strömholm works with a far more private language of secret images and not-quite-explicable meanings than photographers before him. That in its way is a first.

I’ve written in these pages many times about how I look for story in photobooks, story as shorthand for a way of shaping a book, giving it direction, pulse, a rise and fall of emotion; but in essence my deep argument is that the best photobooks constitute a new form of literature. So why not the photobook as a form of poetry book?

What then has Strömholm written for us? What is this “modern lyrical poetry collection?”

Well, first off, that stark, disturbing cover photo of a dead, rotting dog on harshly pebbled ground. Not the only image in the book of death, of course: there’s the lurid wall drawing of a tiger biting into a terrified man’s shoulder; what looks like an Indian woman in her burial shroud; and a casting of a shrieking head in a box that’s easily the  photographic equivalent of Munch’s famous bridge-screamer—perhaps not death itself, but surely an image bearing down hard at us from the Hades Expressway.

Poetry thrives on running motifs. For Strömholm, death is a powerful theme; the magic in found images is another.

Indeed, Strömholm loves found images, the crocodile snapping at a she-lizard; a cast-off painting of a mustached burgher, a chip of canvas torn from his forehead; and a lurid drawing of a spotted carnival woman flanked by two bemused apes, this photo flanked by the actual carnie woman in her two-piece swimsuit, the spots liberally strewn over her mostly naked flesh.

Strömholm also loves carnies, it’s clear; further, he harbors a deep fascination with outré life-styles, too. Poste Restante has eight photos from the series that would make up his other great photo book, Les Amies de Place Blanche, his shots of transvestites along the Boulevard Clichy in Paris back in the 1950s (unexpectedly quiet photos, pace Henry Miller), but almost every shot in Poste Restante is curious if not downright strange and unsettling. What’s that child doing hanging at least a dozen feet up hoisted on a bamboo stick? Where did the photographer find all those oozy snakes? How about the wicker basket of broken-up doll parts? That demented looking blind child that might have given even Diane Arbus the willies?

In a way, Poste Restante resembles Ed van der Elsken’s Sweet Life, as it roams the world seeking out the strange and curious, but when put side-by-side, Elsken’s book is more travelogue; Strömholm’s truly is “modern lyrical poetry.” How else as imagistic poetry do we explain why he chose to shoot a Pere Lachaise grave statue of two thick arms reaching out, two huge stone hands clasping? Or a white-cloth-covered motorcycle before an ivy wall? A couple splots of vomit on a brick road? A board full of hanging pocket watches? Two plastic bags carrying goldfish home?

The only explanation: All these images spoke to Strömholm. They contained a poetic magic that caught his eye, that only his camera could capture, and that this great photobook—each photo speaking to the next, in discord and harmony, in mystery and heightened consciousness—could bring to life.

That’s the essence of the poetic photobook: Images powerful and personal, correspondences between shots inexplicable yet telling, the power of a strong, vivid internal vision finding its correlatives in images somehow snapped by one’s camera. That’s the true secret: Internal mysteries only the artist understands (or intuits) made manifest in photos, not words. In a phrase, This speaks to me, and my poetic soul is so certain and present that what I photograph will speak to you, too.

Poets make poetry, meaning that those souls privileged (or damned) enough to see/feel what no one else does can render those transcendent glimpses into words. Poetic photographers, those who see/feel what we can’t, make poetic photobooks. Perhaps as simple as that.

I’m fortunate to own an original copy of Poste Restante, and after comparing that with the reissue, it’s safe to say that every photo in the new edition is crisper and richer than the 1967 version. Also different is that the interview with Strömholm that opens each book on gray paper (O.K., the gray paper in the original version is textured, thus more interesting, but so what?) is now in English rather than the original Swedish. Which means I can read it. And it’s worth going through. Strömholm was an intriguing cat. There are numerous tales of fighting Nazis in WWII, then wandering the world, especially the world’s brothels. Here’s a telling quote: “Personally I can’t cope with the same woman day in and day out. I want new bodies under me, want new confessions and new stories.”

New confessions, new stories … add to that new photos, new placings of images, new mysteries, new passions, new visions … and you get Poste Restante.

By the way, the title translates as “general delivery,” and as with any great poet, Strömholm’s work can see into the future. Those world-sweeping images of desirous geishas and pornographic wall scratchings, of snake ladies and Parisian transvestites, are no longer so forbidden, so outré. Indeed, you can probably have all of it turn up in the post with a few clicks on Amazon. General delivery, indeed.

Strömholm: poet, visionary, inspiration for photographers from Arbus to Elsken, from Frederick Sommer to Daido Moriyama, and all-around mysterian, to our great benefit back again in this reissue of his classic work by the Christer Strömholm estate. Simply essential … and ready to inspire other poetic photographers well into time.

Robert Dunn is a writer, photographer, and teacher. His latest novel is Savage Joy, inspired by his first years in NYC and working at The New Yorker magazine. His photobooks OWS, Angel Parade, and Carnival of Souls are in the permanent collection of the International Center of Photography (more info on Dunn’s own photobooks here; prints of his work can be ordered here). In Spring 2017, Dunn taught a course called “Writing the Photobook” at New School University in New York City.

POSTE RESTANTE / Christer Stromholm
1967, Stockholm, Unpaged, 207 x 247 x 15

dinsdag 17 april 2018

The Photographic Discovering of the Everyday Landscape Paysages Photographies: En France Photography

Paysages Photographies: En France, les années Quatre-Vingt. La Mission Photographique de la Datar 1984-1989.[Landscape Photography in France in the 1980s: The DATAR Photography Project, 1984-1989] Editions Hazan, Paris, 1986. 683 pp. Thick quarto. First edition. Clothbound in photo-illustrated dust jacket. 541 black-and-white and color reproductions. Photographs by Auerbacher, Baltz, Basilico, Dirsinger, Ceccaroli, Demeyer, Depardon, Despatin, Godeli, Doisneau, Drahos, Dufour, Fastenaeken, de Fenoyl, Garnell, Giordan, Gohlke, Guillot, Hannapel, Hers, Koudelka, LaFont, Maynen, Milovanoff, Monthiers, Pare Radot, Ristelhueber, Trulzch. 

Included in Parr & Badger, The Photobook: A History, Vol. II. 
In the 1980s, France's Délégation à l'aménagement du territoire et à l'action régionale (Delegation for Spatial Planning and Regional Action--known by the acronym 'DATAR') initiated the Mission photographique. This monumental project employed some of the most innovative photographers working in the 1980s; the resulting volume is an amazing period survey of photographic work at the cutting edge of the landscape genre. "Those responsible for the DATAR Photographic Mission viewed it from the outset as one more in a line of iconic projects in the history of photography: the Heliographic Mission 1851; the U.S. "New Frontiers" expeditions of the late nineteenth century and the Farm Security Administration (1935-1942)...The DATAR Photographic Mission is part of a political reflexion about the French territory, which focused in the early 1980s upon the concept of landscape. The late 1970s saw the emergence of a movement of interdisciplinary reflection on this concept, when the euphoria of the industrial and social development of the post-war boom gave way to environmental concerns and a search for territorial identity.
The landscape became the focal point and the translation of these issues."--Mission Photographique de la DATAR 

Depth of Field, volume 7, no. 1 (December 2015)
On Both Sides of the Ocean – The Photographic Discovering of the Everyday Landscape. Analyzing the Influence of the New Topographics on the Mission photographique de la DATAR
Raphaële Bertho


The influence of the American photographers represented in the now famous New Topographics exhibition (1975) on the orientation of European photographers from the 1980s is regularly presented as obvious, particularly in the context of the famous Mission photographique de la Délégation à l’Aménagement du Territoire et à l’Action Régionale (DATAR: Delegation for Territorial Planning and Regional Action, 1984-88). This statement raises some important historiographical questions on the conditions and the nature of this transnational relationship. It should be examined how and why a visual reflection on the North American territory, grounded in the New World’s own history and mythology, was also applied to the Old World. In order to develop a reflection on the relationship between two different periods and cultural areas, this essay moves in concentric circles, by analyzing the very nature of these two photographic moments, their relationship, their inclusion in a photographic history and more widely in the visual representation of the territory.

zondag 15 april 2018

Views & Reviews Covers Monographs on Art Films Graphic Design Piet Zwart Photography

Monografieën over Filmkunst, designed by Piet Zwart
Posted by Julie L. Mellby on September 4, 2009
Monografieën over Filmkunst (Monographs on Art Films), edited by C.J. Graadt van Roggen (Rotterdam: W. & J. Brusse’s Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1931-1933). 10 vols. All in the original wrappers, designed by Piet Zwart (1885-1977). Graphic Arts (GAX) in process

This set of monographs on early twentieth-century film is as important for the graphic design of the covers, as it is for the discourses on cinema inside. The individual volumes are:
1) C.J. Graadt van Roggen, Het Linnen Venster (The Linen Window), 1931.
2) J.L.J. Jordaan, Dertig Jaar Film (Thirty Years Film), 1932.
3) Henrik Scholte, Nederlandsche Filmkunst (Dutch Cinema), 1933.
4) Th.B.F. Hoyer, Russische Filmkunst (Russian Cinema), 1932.
5) Simon Koster, Duitse Filmkunst (Coastal German Cinema), 1931.
6) Elisabeth de Roose, Fransche Filmkunst (French Cinema), 1931.
7) J.F. Otten, Amerikaansche Filmkunst (American Cinema), 1931.
8) Menno ter Braak, De Absolute Film (The Absolute Film), 1931.
9) Constant van Wessem, De Komische Film (The Comedy Film), 1931.
10) Lou Lichtveld, De Geluidsfilm (The Sound Film), 1933.

Each volume has a unique design created by the Dutch artist Piet Zwart, who had multiple careers as an interior designer, industrial design, commercial typographer, photographer, critic and lecturer. At the close of the twentieth century, Zwart was named ‘Designer of the Century’ by the Association of Dutch Designers.

He preferred the title of form technician to graphic designer. His innovative typography and jacket covers steal from De Stijl in his limited palette and geometric layout, without being weighed down by its rules. He flirted with Russian Constructivism and was one of the first designers to consider issues of ergonomics into his industrial projects. Structure, balance, and repetition are constants in his work, which often incorporated photographic images he shot himself. When this film series was complete, Zwart abandoned typographic projects to concentrate on industrial and furniture design.

For more information on Zwart, see: Arthur Allen Cohen, Piet Zwart, Typotekt (New York: Exlibris, [1980]). Marquand Library (SAPH): N6953.Z85 C654 1980

For informaton on Princeton University’s Film & Video Program, see:

A Complete Set in 10 Volumes
Piet Zwart [Designer]
C. J. Graadt Van Roggen et al. [Authors]
Piet Zwart [Designer] and C. J. Graadt Van Roggen et al. [Authors]: SERIE MONOGRAFIEEN OVER FILMKUNST. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V. , 1931 - 1933 [10 Volumes, all published]. Quartos. Text in Dutch. A complete set of the Dutch Film Art Journal uniformly bound in red cloth [6.81 x 8.56] with the Piet Zwart wrappers retained and tipped onto each cover. Each of the fragile Zwart dust wrappers have been carefully trimmed about one-eighth of an inch on each side. Zwart experimented with a fragile heat-activated tissue laminant on these covers to give a glossed varnish to the type and photos in his compositions. This laminant has stiffened over the years and has rendered this whole series virtually impossible to find in collectible condition. Offered here is a uniformly fine set, with trivial rubbing to a few covers, with Volume 7 lightly chipped and worn. Previous owners notations to title pages of two volumes, otherwise interiors unmarked and very clean. A full set of these Journals in exceptional condition; rare thus.Each edition features cover design, title page typography and interior layouts by Piet Zwart -- these covers of have been reprinted countless times in 20th century graphic design anthologies and stands as true high points of Avant-Garde graphic design.

C. J. Graadt Van Roggen and Piet Zwart: HET LINNEN VENSTER [Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 1]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 72 pp. 90 black and white illustrations of early film actors and directors, including Carl Dreyer and Sergei Eisenstein.

L. J. Jordaan and Piet Zwart: DERTIG JAAR FILM [Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 2]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1932. Original edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 80 pp. 84 black and white illustrations of early film actors and directors, including Lilian Gish and imagery credited to Germaine Krull.

Henrik Scholte and Piet Zwart: NEDERLANDSCHE FILMKUNST [Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 3]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1933. Original edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 64 pp. 98 black and white illustrations of early Dutch film actors and directors.

Th. B. F. Hoyer and Piet Zwart: RUSSISCHE FILMKUNST[Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 4]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1932. Original edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 84 pp. 90 black and white illustrations of early Russian film actors and directors, including Sergei Eisenstein.

Simon Koster and Piet Zwart: DUITSCHE FILMKUNST [Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 5]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 74 pp. 110 black and white illustrations of early German film actors and directors, including Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau and Hans Richter.

Dr. Elisabeth de Roos and Piet Zwart: FRANSCHE FILMKUNST[Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 6]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 59 pp. 32 black and white illustrations of early French film actors and directors.

J. F. Otten and Piet Zwart: AMERIKAANSCHE FILMKUNST[Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 7]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 70 pp. 32 black and white illustrations of early American film actors and directors, including one shot of Josef von Sternberg engaging in his notorious foot fetishism.

Dr. Menno Ter Braak and Piet Zwart: DE ABSOLUTE FILM[Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 8]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 50 pp. 100 black and white illustrations of early film actors and directors, including work by Carl Dreyer, Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, Fernand Leger, Ruttman, Fritz Lang, Hans Richter and others.

Constant van Wessem and Piet Zwart: DE KOMISCHE FILM[Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 9]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1931. First edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 56 pp. 40 black and white illustrations of early comedic actors and directors, including Larel and Hardy and Charles Chaplin and even Mickey Mouse.

Lou Lichtveld and Piet Zwart: DE GELUIDSFILM [Serie monografieen over Filmkunst, Volume 10]. Rotterdam: W. L. en J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij N. V., 1933. Original edition. Quarto. Text in Dutch. 79 pp. 53 black and white illustrations of the early technology of sound in motion pictures.

Zwart's use of photomontage and typography for this 1930s series of 10 books on modern cinema show the Dutch "typotekt" at the height of his powers. With nearly a decade of typographic experimentation under his belt, Zwart flexed his considerable muscles on the covers of the FILMKUNST series, being a stunning vitality to each volume. A highly recommended artifact from the heroic age of graphic design.

Piet Zwart (1885-1972) worked in many spheres, including graphic design, architecture, furniture and industrial design, painting, writing, photography, and design education. His association with the Avant-Garde and his acquaintance with artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Theo Van Doesburg, Vilmos Huszar, and El Lissitsky all helped to crystallize his own convictions and aesthetic visions.

In 1923 Zwart began an extraordinary client-designer relationship with the Nederlandsche Kabel Fabrick (Dutch Cable Factory). For the next ten years, he produced no less than 275 advertisements for the NKF. These typographic advertisements constitute Zwart's major contribution to Dutch typography and form. The NKF assignment can be divided into four segments: the magazine advertisements (1923-1933); Het Normalieenboekje (Normalization Booklet) (1924-25); the 64-page catalog published in Dutch and English (1928-29); and the information booklet Delft Kabels (1933). Het Normalieenbockje, one of Zwart's least known works, represents a turning point in his typography. One major difference is the use of an additional contrast, color, which was absent in the advertisements. However, color was included not as a decorative element, but more as a graphic cue.

Like most others during this period, Zwart was self-taught in typography, and although he had been designing printed pieces since the end of 1921, acquiring the Nederlandsche Kable Fabriek as his main client made him realize just how little he actually knew about printing technology:

"The first design that I made for the NKF was hand drawn. I was still not finished with it when the publication had already come out. At that time I realized that this was not a very good way to work and then plunged headfirst into typography. The nice thing about all of this was that I actually learned about it from an assistant in the small printing company where the monthly magazine in electro-technology was being produced.

". . . After going through the bitter experience of that piece being too late, I made more sketches and then played typographic games with the assistant in the afternoon hours, how we could make this and that . . .

"Actually, that's how I came to understand the typographic profession, I didn't know the terms, I didn't know the methods, I didn't even know the difference between capitals and lower case letters."

Zwart referred to himself as typotekt, a combination of the words typographer and architect. To a large extent this term did indeed express Zwart's conception of his profession — the architect building with stone, wood, and metal; the graphic designer building with typographic material and other visual elements. Le Corbusier defined a house as a machine for living, and in the same sense Zwart's typography could be called a "machine for reading."

Kamergymnastiek voor iedereen. In 10 lessen. W.P. Hubert van Blijenburgh. Rotterdam, W.L. & J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij, [1930]. Binding design by Piet Zwart. Brusse A 681

Piet Zwart
The extensive series of advertisements made between 1923 and 1933 for the Nederlandse Kabelfabriek in Delft was the major source of Piet Zwart's (1885-1977) fame as a typographical designer. In these advertisements he experimented above all with a wide range of mostly sans serif types, ingredients from the case of display types, and lines in all shapes and sizes, but from the end of the 1920s he added an important new dimension to his work by the use of photomontage. The best-known examples of this composite work are Delft Kabels, a brochure from 1931 and of course Het boek van PTT from 1938. In addition Zwart made a number of eye-catching covers for the Brusse publishing house in Rotterdam, in which photomontage featured largely and prominently. A striking example is the design voor Kamergymnastiek voor iedereen, by the ardent promoter of gymnastics, Hubert van Blijenburgh, who published five other works on the subject with the same publishers.

The design strikes us as very consistent because the lettering runs parallel to the fundamental elements of the photograph, while a dynamic vitality befitting the subject is achieved, which is intensified by the sharp diagonal between the orange, illustrated instruction sheet and the window frame. However, Zwart's work for this book was restricted to the binding design; the lay-out of the text block could hardly be called revolutionary - the preface starts with an orange ‘D’ from the Hollandsche Mediaeval series of initials by De Roos.

Bringing in a designer like Zwart is characteristic of the care taken of their publications by the Brusses. Earlier (cf. no. 85) they had already given an innovating designer like De Roos all the scope he needed, now they did the same to the pioneers of Realism Revisited. Examples resulting from such a broad-minded, progressive attitude are Zwart's binding designs for the famous series ‘Monografieën over Filmkunst’, and interesting typographical experiments like Paul Schuitema's design for Stad by B. Stroman (1932).

K. Broos. Piet Zwart 1885-1977. Amsterdam 1982
W.L. & J. Brusse's Uitgeversmaatschappij 1903-1965. Rotterdam 1993.

Andere auteursMenno ter Braak
Rotterdam : W.L. en J. Brusse; 50 p;

Fransche filmkunst, No. 6 van die serie monografieën over filmkunst onder
door Piet Zwart (Designer), Elisabeth; van Roggen de Roos, C. J. Graadt (ed.