eyecurious books etc.

eyecurious_logo_books I've decided to launch an eyecurious offshoot over on tumblr: eyecurious books etc. I have started this little side-project because of the photo-books that are overtaking my small Paris apartment. For a number of reasons, including compulsive buying, getting sent review copies and amazingly generous photographers, I get my hands on a fair number of photobooks. I would love to review them all on eyecurious, but I just don’t have enough words in me for that and so I have decided to start this blog to feature some of the weird and wonderful photobooks that are finding their way into my life.

The plan is to focus on pictures of the books themselves and maybe to set up the odd book swap. The reviews and other photo-related writing will stay right here on eyecurious.

Paris in Amsterdam


I have just written a piece on Michael Wolf's Paris Street View for edition 22, Peeping, of the excellent Foam Magazine run by the Amsterdam museum of the same name. The museum got as excited as I did about this new series and decided to go the extra mile by putting up an outdoor installation of 24 XXL prints from Paris Street View in Amsterdam's Zuidas area (on the street where Google has its Dutch office) which is in the process of being redeveloped. I made the trip up for the launch and to find out a bit more about the Amsterdam photo scene.

The Paris Street View installation is very impressive (which this terrible installation view taken with my phone camera does not do justice to at all) and the work takes on an added dimension when displayed in amongst the city, rather than just on the neutral white walls of a gallery or museum. Wolf likened it to a "monument to privacy lost" and these massive figures dotted around this modern urban landscape also create an interesting warped sense of scale, making the buildings in the background look like scale models. It will be interesting to see how people in the area react to the works over time and whether the work can provoke some further debate over these issues. (Update: Michael Wolf just kindly sent me some proper installation views so I have uploaded one of these instead).

I also swung by Foam itself. For a museum that only opened in December 2001 in a small European country, Foam cuts an impressive figure on the European photo scene. The venue is not huge, but they use the space intelligently and a look at their programme schedule shows their ability to combine crowd-pleasing fare with 'important' exhibitions.

Ari Marcopoulos

The current programme is a great illustration of this as the ground floor is occupied by Amsterdam-born photographer and filmmaker, Ari Marcopoulos who has photographed street culture for several years on both US coasts. Although much of the photography in this exhibition left me cold, I was more interested in Marcopoulos's large-scale xerox prints which reveal the influence of Andy Warhol, for whom he was a darkroom printer. But the highlight of It might seem familiar has to be a 10-minute video of Marcopoulos and an accomplice skating down a very steep road in California wearing matching pastel blue suits. This is far more exhilarating and revealing of the culture that Marcopoulos has spent 30 years documenting.

Alexander Rodchenko, The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky

The upper floor is devoted to an exhibition of vintage work by the Russian avant-garde artist, Alexander Rodchenko, which was first held at London's Hayward Gallery in 2008. This is a very complete look at the photographer's extraordinarily inventive and experimental career, from his early use of photography in graphic design in the 1920s to his later work on human movement. Every section of this show contains masterpieces, whether it be the early magazine covers, photograms or photomontages, the portraits or the later work on movement. The prints are all vintage and with a significant number coming from private collections this is a pretty unique opportunity to see this many quality Rodchenko's in one place.

Between Paris Street View, the Rodchenko exhibit and the city of Amsterdam itself, there are more than enough reasons to make a visit.

March Madness: 1 month, 2 exhibitions

Shigeichi Nagano, Workers at 5pm, Marunouchi, Tokyo, 1959 Blogging has been slow this month since I am curating two exhibitions opening in March. The first of these, Tokyo Stories, with work by Hiroshi Hamaya, Tadahiko Hayashi and Shigeichi Nagano, opens at Stockholm's Kulturhuset on 6 March. I'll be giving a talk from 1-3pm that day on Japanese photography and photographing Tokyo, so for any Swedish or Stockholm-based readers out there, do come along. The show runs from 6 March to 2 May 2010, and you can find out more about it here and here.

Eikoh Hosoe, Ukiyo-e Projections #1-1, 2002

Then on 20 March, Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory opens in Cologne at the Japanese Cultural Institute. We are producing a catalogue for this show, which I am very excited about so keep an eye out for more news about that in the next couple of weeks. You can find out more about the exhibition here and here.

In between all of this, I am planning to turn at least a couple of the 20+draft posts that have been staring at me for weeks into published ones.

Tokyo highlights

eyecurious has made a slow start to blogging in 2010. However, this was due to a great, albeit far too short trip to Tokyo. I was in Japan preparing two exhibitions that will open in Stockholm, Sweden and in Cologne, Germany in March of this year (more on these in the coming weeks) and laying the groundwork for a third, but as usual Tokyo afforded its fair share of surprises.

Exhibition-wise the first week of January is not the best in Tokyo or elsewhere for that matter, but I did manage to stumble across some good things. I only saw one museum show, the Tokyo Metropolitan's joint Ihee Kimura and Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition (on until 7 February 2010). This isn't exactly ground-breaking stuff, but it does provide an interesting new perspective on these two masters of the Leica and illustrates just how different their styles were. Kimura's photographs will probably be less familiar to non-Japanese readers, but given my focus on Japanese photography they are as familiar to me as HCB's. Kimura was a furious snapper and often photographed his subjects from many different angles, however his pictures retain a much looser, natural quality than Cartier-Bresson's. After walking through three rooms of Kimura, the Frenchman's compositional rigour and prowess is both impressive and a little bit overwhelming. So many of HCB's images are works of complete virtuosity, but after several rooms worth of such masterpieces I am left craving more open and less controlled pictures. The best part of this show is the final room in which the two photographers' annotated contact prints are displayed side by side. These provide a fascinating insight into the genesis of some now legendary images, revealing before and after outtakes and proving that while HCB may not resort to any cropping he didn't always get the image he was looking for in a single exposure.

Daido Moriyama prints at NADiff Gallery

Aside from this blockbuster show I managed to take in a minuscule Daido Moriyama show at NADiff Gallery (the first time I have seen any of Moriyama's colour work), Hajime Sawatari's very hot but a little vacuous Kinky at BLD Gallery, the final days of an exhibition by promising young Chinese photographer Muge at the recently opened Zen Foto, and an exhibition of new work by the ubiquitous Araki which had several images with absolutely no signs of bondage in them!

The highlight in terms of exhibitions turned out not to be a photography show. The French Embassy has relocated to a new building in Tokyo and they have given over Joseph Belmont's 1957 building over to a group of over 70 Japanese and French artists from all kinds of different disciplines (sculpture, video, graffiti, calligraphy, design, photography, etc.) for a 'carte blanche' exhibition of work inspired by the building itself and integrating its contents into the works. The results are predictably hit and miss but they are always interesting and the experience is exhilarating. The proof of No Man's Land success for me was the audience: this was the busiest exhibition I saw in Tokyo and the visitors came in all ages, shapes and sizes, including a group of a dozen octogenarian grandmothers who were thoroughly enjoying themselves.  This is the kind of open, interactive art initiative that we need more of. The show is on until 31 January 2010, so if you're in Tokyo do not miss it.

No Man's Land at the former French Embassy

Throw in a meeting with master book designers (and brothers) Satoshi and Hikari Machiguchi of Match and Company, a visit to one of the only remaining analog photo-labs hidden away in a tiny basement where a handful of master printers appear to be making most of the best fine art prints coming out of the Tokyo photo world, a few hours in the unmissable Sokyu-sha bookstore, and a highly entertaining few hours at Gallery Tosei with Dan of Street Level Japan and Kurt of Japan Exposures and you have the recipe for another terrific week in Tokyo. Tosei is first and foremost a publishing house, but they opened a small gallery in their offices about five years ago, the first I've been to where you have to take your shoes off to come in. Tosei's head honcho, Takahashi-san, is a force of nature and his riffs on the state of photography and some of its practitioners are both fascinating and completely hilarious.

Future of photobook creation

I'm still in Japan stocking up on material for a few weeks worth of blogposts so things will remain slow at eyecurious for a few more days. In the meantime, check out the three-part Future of Photobooks Discussion that is being hosted on the Livebooks Resolve blog. I am moderating one of the 3 strands of discussion: "How should photobook creation evolve in the next decade?" There are already some very interesting and challenging questions being raised and it would be good to get some more from eyecurious readers.