Holy

By Donna Ferrato, reviewed by Jonathan Blaustein

… for the most part, i agree with Jonathan Blaustein, that Holy is a powerful book, though my personal reaction to it is that it starts to fall apart a bit in narrative intent at the end, in the “Other” section… i proudly own a copy though… it’s overall, fabulous… i commented on the post, expressing these sentiments…

04 If I Had $85

… i might get this book… it promises an interesting portrait of China… from the sales page of the book…

History of Life is a collection of 415 restored photographs chronicling the history of modern China, from 1910s to the late 1990s. Compiled from over 600,000 negatives, Cai Dongdong curated the book using salvaged negatives from ordinary Chinese citizens and public records which he developed, scanned and selected. Adding a few of his own pictures into the story, the artist crafted his interpretation of the birth and growth of modern China over 3 of the country’s most formative eras: the founding of the Republic, the cultural revolution, and the post-Mao era.1

03 Photography:

Fiona Véronique

… the images presented in this article are from “Riddle,” a recently released photobook by the artist…

Published as a photobook by Antics Publications in 2020, “Riddle” follows a road trip Véronique took with her sister, from Seattle, Washington to Elko Nevada.1

… road trips to “look for America” are a common theme for photobooks, by American photographers (Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places), and foreign born photographers (Robert Frank, The Americans)… there is a high bar for this kind of work…

… i don’t know if this book meets that bar as i don’t have a copy to look through, but i believe many of the images in the book are quite solid and evocative…

… this one in particular is beautiful and rightfully headlines the article… the flat landscape, the trucks, the edge of a parking lot, the place chosen to sun oneself, at the apex of the corner of the parking lot… all quintessentially American… tipped on an angle (homage to Frank?) to slope down (suggesting a downhill run for the nation?)…

… i click through to the book purchase page and buy one of 50 copies for $30… why is it so cheap?, why are there any left?…

03 Jenna Westra, Afternoons

… i’ve taken my first page by page tour through Afternoons, by Jenna Westra

… here is what i notice…

… the artist includes photographs of herself throughout and uses a cable release in several of the portraits which marks the portraits as self portraits and identifies her amidst the multiple women who are subjects of photographs in the book…

… thus, one woman in particular, the artist, has prominence in the book as the only individual with a name and a presence that goes beyond studies of form and the feminine… the choice to include herself without such clear identification for the other women is significant and shifts what the book would be without it… yes, the other women are sometimes identified in the title of a picture, all, i presume, are listed at the end… it’s not possible to be certain, as there is a list of names but only as individuals to be thanked, one wonders about these choices…

… keeping the female subjects of the photographs largely unidentified supports the feminine generalities of the book…

… there are full and partial nudes in the book… they are outnumbered by images of women with some kind of clothing on… only one of the nudes1 strikes me as being at all sexual, attractive to the male or female gaze… a woman’s sex potential is not an overt theme of the book, rather, it is feminine form, femininity and an intimate society of women together… it is not to be assumed that the women are lesbians either… they are there, with each other, as a sisterhood… or perhaps, as alter egos, different dimensions, of the artist herself…

… the book is well done, a mixture of black & white and color images, it has a nice pace…

… there are layers of intent and meaning to peel away, more is revealed with each pass through the book…

… a very nice photobook experience…


  1. Not surprisingly, this is one of three images used to represent the book, the idea that sex sells is alive and well, even in a non-profit store dedicated to the work of book artists. To say it promises more than the book delivers is an understatement. [return]

03 Afternoons, Jenna Westra

… i ordered this book prior to leaving on vacation, forgot that i had, was pleasantly surprised to see it in the mail pile when i returned…

… for some time now i have been interested in the subject of women in photography, as subject/object, as photographer, as critic… i became especially interested in the “male gaze” vs the “female gaze,” as i was noticing increasing numbers of women photographers photographing other women nude… i often found the nude images made by women as “male gaze” provocative as those made by men, and wondered how that squared with the feminist idea that it is not helpful that women are continually objectified as sexual objects, not to be taken seriously as intelligent accomplished beings in their own right…

… i ordered this book because it is entirely about the female body, singularly or with other female bodies, with some full or partial nudity, but as often dressed and posed in ways that allow an appreciation of youthful feminine form without being open to an overly sexual read…

… from the opening essay by Orit Gat…

Many of the photographs feature degrees of nudity. Once this book, these photographs, are out in the world, the tender consciousness of being seen between the models and the artist or the cameral shifts. Whatever eyes rest on them, though, will recognize different things in their freedom. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to talk about a female gaze without it reading like a translation of the terminology of the male gaze. The comfort nude women feel around one another will read as familiar to many, and like a secret society to others. The photos do not explore the difference per se, but they also do not generate tension around the history of nude representation. Instead, there is tenderness.1

… it’s a deep subject that has brought lots of feminist literature into my library, Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex, for example…

… the biggest thing i have learned is that consent, then intent, matter… the models should always have agency in both agreeing to be photographed, how they are photographed and how the photographs are to be used after being made… intent also matters… and even when intent serves a good purpose, is not objectification of subject, the image can always be appropriated as such when it engages the male gaze, which often is the case…


  1. Gat, Orit. Forward to Afternoons, Westra, Jenna. Published by Hassla, 2020. [return]

03 Love is Love

Loving: A Photographic History of Men In Love, 1850-1950

… one remarkable thing about this collection is the courage of the men being photographed… the world was far less enlightened than it is now, though there is still a long way to go… it reminds me of one of Simone de Beauvoir’s achievements in The Second Sex, which was to establish that gender and sex are not the same thing, the former being a social construct, the latter being a condition of the body… gender is fluid, sex, less so…

04 Jörg Colbert, Deutschland Deutschland

Every country’s past is contested to some extent. But there might be no country as extreme as Germany. To begin with, there is history that is largely uncontestable: World War 2 and especially the Holocaust. I added “largely” in that sentence because the contesting does happen, albeit at a different level (for example, members of the neo-fascist AfD party have been talking it down, claiming it doesn’t matter as much in the context of German history as a whole). But the basic facts stand, and denial of the Holocaust is a criminal offense.1

… as i read this, it is not possible to avoid thoughts of all the denial of January 06, 2021 that is going on by right wingers… the idea of such denial being illegal is appealing… perhaps there ought to be laws that make lying to further fraudulent or destructive aims in public forums of any kind illegal… i don’t think speech should be free if it’s demonstrably false and destructive…

… JC is reviewing Ruckshaufehler by Eiko Grimberg… the book is dedicated to the symbology of the German State… it sounds like an effective critique of where things stand… nationalist/fascist sentiments are on the rise… attempts are being made to minimize the Holocaust… if it weren’t illegal to do so, there would of course be denial that it happened…

… human beings are an ugly species… the so-called rational mind has given us the capacity for duplicity and, i might argue, little more…

… JC gives the book a highly recommended thumb up…

… I look for a place to possibly purchase, i find this article by Brad Feuerhelm, who gives it his highest recommendation…

05 The Shabbiness of Beauty

…photographs by Peter Hujar and Moyra Davey… review by Jorg Colberg… i have seen a number of reviews of this book, all of them good…

04 Jenna Westra, Afternoons

Jena Westra, from Afternoons

… Brad Feuerhelm gives this book a highest recommendation, stating that it is as near perfect a photobook as could be… i recognize the name of the artist which makes it likely i’ve run across the work before…

In the case Jenna Westra’s Afternoons (Hassla, 2020), several factors within the book suggest a return to the body as an act less of political dialogue, but more as an act of balance. Westra employs gesture and a number of interesting sculptural tactics to create a world where the feminine is embraced without men involved at all and unlike Girl Pictures, the emphasis is not on fantasy, but on reality, collaboration, and intimacy.1

… the book is about the shape and form of women… young women… it feeds my rabbit hole… i ordered it…

06 Dan Wood, Black Was The River, You See

… very nicely composed photographs, about place, anchored by a river…

Dan Wood?

the article attributes the photographs to Mike Gaynor(?) in their captions, but the book, and one believes, photographs are decidedly by Dan Wood?… confusion… i don’t know that there is anything exceptional about the book other than very well made photographs… there are many books about place anchored by a flowing body of water, Sleeping By the Mississippi comes to mind…

06 Carl Corey

… nice article in Lenscratch on this Guggenheim Fellow photographer… many amazing images, this is one of my favorites…

©Carl Corey, 8922 • Sault St. Marie, Michigan

… many more in the article…

08 Keld Helmer-Petersen

Brad Feuerhelm tells us he is a pioneer in the use of color photography, not completely groundbreaking, but with significant accomplishments…

Being first or the most original is not everything. I can say with 100% conviction that though Helmer-Petersen may not have been the first artist to invoke a particular affinity to konkrete Photographie, Deformations (After Penn) geometric abstraction, or silhouetting as found in many of his sub-interests, I can say that his execution of these subjects was masterful.1

… this need to break new ground, to be masterfully breaking new ground, what is it?… isn’t it enough to be a master of the ground you stand on?…

… these sentences catch my attention…

Largely due to the lack of economy afforded to artists working in photography at the time, unpaid work could largely be de-manacled from its relationship to the market. As the market would not develop in American until the late 1970s, this allowed artist working with the medium in the first half of the twentieth century a freedom to create bodies of work which existed independently from one another. The artists were not expected to form a career from highly stylized and easily recognizable features thus making experimentation a pursuit that would be rewarded with approval from one’s colleagues over the pressures of the gallery to perform sequential hits. The downside of course is that one’s life in photography may continue on forever unobserved outside of intimate circles.2

06 Shooting hoops: a visual celebration of basketball

… the game i most loved to play, even if not the game i was most competitively successful at (that would be soccer, which i was able to play competitively through college)… this article talks about Common Practice: Basketball & Contemporary Art

Firemen put out blaze while youths play basketball by Paul Hosefros for The New York Times, 1975

_“Basketball is a universal language, much like art is. There are other sports that are likely more popular, but none are as influential as basketball from a cultural standpoint,” says artist and filmmaker John Dennis. “It transcends barriers in music, fashion, art, and pop culture, and also draws attention to pressing issues in the social and political arena.”1

05 Marvel Harris wins MACK First Book Award 2021

Inner Journey is a raw and introspective portrayal of Harris’ experience as an autistic, non-binary, transgender artist, tracing their struggles with mental illness, self-love and gender identity1

… on the one hand, i am sympathetic, empathetic, struggle at the fringes of acceptable societal behavior sucks… on the other hand, i grow weary of self-centered trauma art projects bringing home the bacon… it is important attention, but is it the attention of a society that loves train wrecks, or a society ready to change?… contrast with the trauma Laia Abril chronicles in her ongoing project A History of Misogyny… is the photography good?… its hard to tell, the story dominates… i hope Marvel Harris finds peace in their life and that LGBTQ+ people find ever increasing acceptance in the world…

03 How to Look Natural in Photos

… i looked at a number of photo projects this morning before landing on this one… i prefer conceptual projects which this one very much is… here is an intriguing pairing from the book:

Spread from the book “How to Look Natural In Photos” © Beata Bartecka and Łukasz Rusznica

All of the photographs in the book are assembled from the Institute of National Remembrance: Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN), which examines Polish history between the early 20th century and the fall of the totalitarian system.1

… buy it here