This part of the Twenty-first Century marks the continuation of putting history in order. Especially in the Art world where everyday is important as it develops like a slow film process. Moves at the speed of transmission and huge like an iceberg in motion. The beginning of order is categorical.
A container with items placed inside for the purposes of illustrating a progression. A new blue covered book just became published very recently. Velvet to the touch and with street paint yellow title font color. The kind of yellow one would see as they drive an automobile or cross the paved road.
Also included into the design of the book is a deckle edged small vintage looking photograph. Unique to it’s spine is another photo that is also glued on. This one is elongated but not appearing distorted. The back of the book is that same blue velvet that one just wants to stroke. A blue that reminds me of a poetic thought that I had when I was traveling in Greece. The water surrounding the islands are a blue similar to antique blue ink.
The title of this new book is "The Book of Shadows", published by the collaboration of Fraenkel Gallery and d.a.p. publishing. With description and thoughts, let me tell you about it. Back to the cover design. That photo twice appearing in different sizes show a fantastic picture.
It is simple and yet totally haunting. A photographer shadow long and narrow from the bottom of the composition up the middle of the picture dark and transparent heads up to the photographer’s head where one can see or figure out that a camera is being focused.
That figure goes up towards the top white deckled margin about 85% of the height of the image. Amazingly, the picture is almost about nothing. The focal point is a V shape of two tree trunks. However one of the tree trunks has a shadow that works like a sundial and tells a bit of time.
The picture is about someone photographing a shadow of nature. Uniquely by an anonymous shadow of an unknown photographer. Segue as in a musical direction to opening the book.
The first five shadow photographs are totally brilliant in artistic selection to start. Reminding me of details within Harry Callahan’s work. Cinematic sequence equal to a slow zoetrope vision. Suggesting bright light in it’s white page hat. A quick glance at oneself.
All of the photographs show the genius of Jeffrey Fraenkel’s eye. His collection and sense of precedence and systematic collecting. Obviously astonished by these photos Fraenkel had to share the selected group of Vernacular pix with the public.
There are over 80 photographs that concentrate on composition and photographers shadow. I was told that the collection will go to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 08. I am going to highlight my way thru the book with visual information.
Initially the first snapshot rings the wake up bell to the viewer. Casually and friendly a young man has his left leg up against a building wall. He is shirtless and cool. Possibly an army barracks snap by a friend. The friend merges his body shadow onto the left knee and left hand of the subject. The shadow wants to both appear as the real shadow of the casual personal portrait and also the mysterious dark figure relating to this perfectly composed accidental treasure. The shadow in this particular case seems to have eyes, because the anonymous photographer was using a waist level camera allowing the focus and symmetry to form triangulations under arms.
The next couple is separated by page only. But they both say the same thing. Time is sensed in these early twentieth century people. A man on the left page, in a 1917 uniform military style stands stoic. A simple marginal caption tells of the month and year. A woman wearing a satin dress and white hat bridges the costume/ uniform of the previous soldier man. Both have the archetype shadow of the camera persons head and shoulder shadow at the bottom center. Two’s are the running theme of the next few great images. Subjects are in group shots of two people. All images have the mascot of the photographer’s shadow attached. Evenly, one image has the four people and an automobile outside somewhere. But it too is making one think of two people. In that one two young women in wedding dresses hold flowers and appear joyous are flanked by two guys. My favorite in this row of pages could be either the two women engaged in a passionate kiss accompanied by black shadow on the seam of a car door.
Or the one of the two farm girls who create an upside down V shape by balancing themselves by the shoulder against each other. In this incredible photo the gals miraculously construct an arch of shadow behind them. All the while included into the snapshot the photographers shadow heads in-between their legs. I guess now that I am making this description I choose this one best of the two’s.
The calligraphic quality of the four people lying on their backs or doing a headstand all show their legs in motion and expressive designed separations. This all takes place on a bed of snow with soft modulations of tone. The accomplice shadow is tucked into the bottom left portion of the framing of this one. The playing laying persons seem to spell out a word in my imagination.
Three people in this photo, two happen to be female all stand on a large mound of harvested corn. The group picture looks like they are on each others body with illusionist trickery. The barn in the background makes the picture geometric and gymnastic. The winter jacket shadow makes it’s way into the pile of corn as if it were thrown into it.
A trick photo shows the mentality of people in the 1930’s . It informs a sense of humor by knowing that this photo-illusion will make someone smile or wonder. Here in this snap there is a ten foot old trunk of a tree laying on the open grass with its roots showing at one end. A man lays on the other side of the trunk with his head and shoulders showing. He happily is smoking a cigarette.
At the bottom end of the severed tree at the root side is a pair of legs from the knee down, exposing the feet and shoes of this same person. Of course we know that it is actually two people hidden behind the long trunk. But it does look like one. At the center of this horizontal composition is a round dark nipple shape of the photographer. Nourished by a funny group of minds of the period. A super color shot of an automobile. Recognizable as the sixties or seventies shows the red double head-lighted muscle car.
Parked along a cliff side the unknown owner had to get out and photograph his car. In this one the shadow is looking like an alien. In this beach sand shot two pals play with each other. One is on top of the others back and shows his strength by pulling the laughter laden pal by the head. The shadow in this play is pictorial and looks like a soft ground etching shaded area.
A toddler is about to do a summersault, his head to the ground and ready. the photographer probably his father manages to get his shadow fitting exactly in the right place. The dark shadow’s body joins at the heads. Allowing the shadow to have the appearance of a detailed head instead of a figure of total darkness.
Here is a beauty. It is simple. The woman showing her figure makes the observation of her body memorable. She lifts her skirt a touch. Showing her luminous legs. The shadow of a soldier takes the picture to bring back to his military post to remind him of his girl. One dated from 1920, as the caption in the white margin reads is special. A rural portrait of a young woman standing near a wooden building in bright light. She stands near the edge of the house where the architecture turns toward the side.
The photographers shadow is located seemingly separated from the main focus. The shadow is located on the side of the structure where one would walk away from the house. It is uniquely disjointed. Three girlfriends stand affectionately each holding their box cameras. They stand collectively at the edge of a wooden pier. They all have their feet and shoes pointed inwards very feminine in style. The shadow of the photographer probably someone directed to please take this of us, forms an association at their feet. T
he water in the background is choppy and the girls have wind blown hair. Here is a fun picture. A shirtless guy wearing swim trunks, also has a hat on his head standing in an area of desert like quality. He has a shoulder bag strapped around his chest and holds a rifle to his side. Some mountains in the back as well to complete this outdoor shot. Un-mistakable is the indelible hand writing caption that reads: "me myself" the words are double underlined over the surface of the photo near the bottom corner. Actually there are two shadows located under the writing at the bottom right corner. Making one wonder who the two shadow people may be?
"Me myself" as a self written caption makes this a wonderful piece. A circa 1910 postal card real photo shows a sense of the African American band in uniform. The card photo is broken and stained but it makes the look of the photograph authentically better. The picture documents a group of young black musicians with their instruments. When looking at this picture closely some of the boys look like they are in black face makeup.
The shadow seems to be on it’s belly photographing the group and positioned near the shape of a brass horn. This image needs observation and more thought. Here is a bordered snapshot of a young man. Not thinking about it the photographer tattoo’s his shadow right into the picture portrait. The shadow occupies at least 35% of the pictures plane.
A disaster photo documents a collapsed house. The location is near the seaside. Every disaster photo that I have ever seen makes for a unique composition. This one also. The scale of the building that is down to broken qualities are much larger than the lonely shadow at the bottom right corner of the picture. It shows how big trouble can look. In this se
pia tone 1900 photo it is showing mostly a row of buildings together. The architecture looks made in Europe but it could be anywhere. Standing invisible in the empty street is the visible shadow of a photographer clicking or squeezing the bulb of a cable shutter release on his camera on tri-pod. In this quiet photo time is recorded in action stopped.
Ending photo is really great! Shows two men. It could be Halloween or it could be real life caught. One of the 2 men on the left is short and funny looking. He stands upright with a smirk on his face and hands to his side. He is wearing a plaid suit that looks too small for his small body anyway. On his head wearing a bowler black hat. His pal looking like a wizard or witch wears a black shiny cape made out of an unknown material and a cone black hat. He seems to be saying something. There are two shadows that have captured this incredible image.
Finally after all of the photos, there is one last picture. It shows itself after one reads an unusual story. Written in 1813 by Louis Adelbert von Chamisso. The title is from ‘The Man Who Lost His Shadow" The end picture is a simple white chest of drawers with two key locks and four handle pulls. There at the top of the chest is an oval mirror. There is a self portrait of the photographer in the oval’s shapely reflection.
There is some stuff on the shelf of the chest including what looks like a picture of a head of someone. At the right of a French curve that holds the oval mirror is a real smiling head. Surprisingly right in the same complete picture. On the right side where two of the handles are located is the shadow of the photographer. That makes for a special dimensional quality. A total of four heads and the viewer is oneself.
have to rate this book highly. It is a must have for your Photography/Art library!