ZEKE Book Reviews: Briefly Noted
Edited by Michelle Bogre with contributions by Marissa Fiorucci
ABANDONED MOMENTS: A Love Letter to Photography
by Ed Kashi
Kehrer Verlag, 2021 | 136 pages | $58
Abandoned Moments is Ed Kashi’s version of combing through 30 plus years of archives and outtakes to select and lay out 68 “imperfect” photographs—those side glances that caught his attention but didn’t make the magazine or client edit. What’s imperfect for Kashi, an award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker, is still close to perfect. His layout, combined with a small amount of personal text, reframes each captionless photograph (captions are in the back of the book) as a poetic interlude. The book continually asks us to reconsider the photograph as something more than fact or information. Kashi’s choice to separate captions from photographs unroots the image from time and space and allows it to float untethered. But even more than reconsider the photograph, we reconsider this icon of documentary photography, this man who has spent most of his life on the road photographing. We see his humor, his passion, his eccentricity, his intelligence, and his love of life and people in these interstices where he found the serendipity of geometry, mood, emotion, and possibility uniting. This book is a celebration of photography and humanity’s potential. —MB
METRO: New York/London/Paris
by Herb Robinson
Schiffer Publishing, 2022 | 224 pages | $60
In METRO, renowned photographer Herb Robinson gives us a modern view of the human ecosystem of underground public transportation—subway, metro, underground—in three global cities. Subways fascinate photographers because human drama and visual performances materialize when social barriers dissipate and people are bound together with nowhere to go. Robinson’s keen observation shows us the duality of the daily metro ride –people are both interconnected and alienated even when packed shoulder to shoulder. Robinson, one of the founders of the legendary African American collective, the Kamoinge Workshop, literally shoots from the hip. The color images— close, tight, odd or low angles—feel claustrophobic; we are as squeezed in as the subway riders, and as viscerally tired as the weary travelers. His saturated color images also pulsate with the energy of a city because he is a master of reflections, blur and improvisation, and he has a cinematic understanding of edge tension. Eve Sandler’s design has a jazz aesthetic that fits the photographs. The book is rounded out with a selection of eclectic quotes that provide historical and cultural context, and essays from curators Sarah L. Eckhardt and LeRonn P. Brooks. —MB
MY BROTHER'S WAR
by Jessica Hines
Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2021 | 184 pages | $49
My Brother’s War is a personal aftermath book of memory and remembrance, lost time and lost lives, unspoken trauma, and the undeniable psychological destruction of war. Trying to reconcile why her Vietnam vet brother Gary—diagnosed with a version of PTSD—killed himself ten years post discharge from the Army, photographer Jessica Hines embarks on a forensic photographic exploration of old books, notebooks, and ephemera found in a small box, combined with visits to his war buddies and two trips to Vietnam. Trying to create images that suggest what we can’t see, she combines his personal documents with her original photographs, some documentary, some constructed in camera using techniques such as shadows, magnification, and reflections to reveal past and present as layers of memory. Among the more poignant are the images in which she combines a child’s toy soldiers (that he might have played with) with images of Gary or superimposed over documents. In the final chapter, “The Transmutation of Memory,” Hines photographs cherry blossoms as a metaphor for the cycle of her brother’s short life in remembrance of veterans of all wars and innocent civilians who suffer war’s consequences. —MB
A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR CHILDREN
by Andrew Feiler
University of Georgia Press, 2022 | 144 pages | $35
In 1912, Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington launched an ambitious program to build public schools for African American children across the segregated South, creating some of the first African American educational opportunities that fortified the generation who became the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement. Andrew Feiler’s, A Better Life for Their Children, documents these landmark schools and some of the people whose lives they’ve touched.
The book features eighty-five of Feiler’s exquisitely detailed duotone images of school interiors and exteriors, locations where some schools were, and portraits of people who have unique, compelling connection to each school. Feiler also wrote brief narratives for the photographs that tell us the inspiring stories about these schools, and how they connect to important African American historical events.
The book also includes an introduction from Congressman John Lewis, who attended a Rosenwald school in Alabama; and essays from preservationist Jeanne Cyriaque and Brent Leggs, director of African American Cultural Heritage at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who writes a poignant plea to preserve these historic landmarks for future generations.
ALIVE AND DESTROYED
by Jason Francisco
Daylight Books, 2021 | 144 pages | $40
For 25 years, photographer Jason Francisco has wrestled with the afterlife of the Holocaust, creating a large number of photo works and essays, including extensive work with the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków, Poland. His book, Alive and Destroyed, documentary in spirit and conceptualist in method, captures the haunting timelessness of the locations where the events we collectively call the Holocaust occurred.
His photographs don’t reduce the Holocaust to only the notorious places such as concentration camps or ghettos. He also shows us small and forgotten localities where the genocide occurred, such as slave labor camps, transit and subcamps, prisons and escape routes. He chose the combination of a large format camera and antique lenses because that allowed him to produce fragile and unresolved photographs that play with the zone of focus. The resulting images have a differentially blurred visual field, punctuated by some sharpness usually in the center, to replicate the differences between memory and remembrance. Collectively the images attempt to release the volatile mixture of incomprehension, argument, reclamation, and loss that constitute the Holocaust as an inheritance for the living.
LIKE A RIVER
by Daniel Jack Lyons
Loose Joints, 2022 | 112 pages | $44
Daniel Jack Lyons’ debut monograph, Like a River, continues the American artist and anthropologist’s long-term commitment to visually document the social and political rights of under-represented communities and to use images as a tool for social change. Lyons, whose background is in social and medical anthropology, began working in the Amazon in an artist residency at Casa do Rio, a community-based organization that celebrates and supports the cultural lives of teenagers and young people who live in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
His lush, deeply saturated and poetic color photographs, shot over three years, include candid portraits and well-seen small details that reveal the complexity of trying to reconcile Indigenous traditions and modern identity politics. The images, remarkably devoid of all clichés, visualize and empower the trans and queer communities of the region, elucidating their generational struggle to come of age and affirm their individuality amid the lush canopies and vegetation of the rainforest. The book also asks us to imagine what world these teenagers will inhabit if we don’t stop the toxic mix of environmental degradation, violence, and discrimination that permeates their communities.