Exhibition catalogs hold a curious place in the world of photography books. At one level, they are souvenirs. They serve as artifacts to take away from the physical presentation of images framed on a wall. They are a subset of the exhibition, a program to hold onto after the main event. Your visit is finished, but you pack a memory into your bag.
On the other hand, the best exhibition catalogs are also their own thing. They exist independently of the exhibition. While the exhibition would have been the catalog prompt, the two display methods follow parallel, independent trajectories.
As most of you know, the FRAMES Photography Circle recently had an exhibition hosted by the wonderful Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts. The exhibition ran from November 16 until December 30, 2023. (And then it was extended a bit into the new year.) The exhibition hosted 56 images representing 45 photographers. (Full disclosure: two of my own images were in the show.) I did have the good fortune to attend the exhibition, which was elegantly presented in two rooms at the second-floor gallery. David DeMelim, Managing Director of the gallery, put a great deal of thought into how the room would be visited and experienced, how it would be engaged with from the moment you walked in the front door, circling left and right, returning to certain images and eventually leaving.
It was deeply satisfying to be in the room when a group of art students, who knew nothing about FRAMES Magazine or the artists on the wall, suddenly appeared as part of an evening’s art tour and, to use a technical term, were gobsmacked. They stood, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, in front of the images, amazed.
(A side note: one of the many reasons to like Providence, Rhode Island, is a gallery tour program wherein you are chauffeured by trolley car to gallery after gallery. At least on this one evening, it was very popular.)
As I write this review, however, it’s been several weeks since that evening, and I keep coming back to this wonderful book, which does not need the experience of the gallery at all. The images are breathtaking. Holding the book in my hands, I can linger over any and every image. The experience of the book is quieter, more reflective, and less social than the gallery. While the group energy is thrilling in the gallery space, the personal sense of discovery is equally special in the book.
René Derome’s “Last Generation” still causes me to gasp. Anais Faraj’s “Radiance 2” is both sensual and peaceful. Anne Helene Gjelstad’s “Koksi Leida’s Funeral” is profound. I could go through and sing the praises of every image in this book, many of which I have seen before in the variety of venues that FRAMES Magazine provides. But I want to call attention to the work in this particular form. In this catalog, every image gets its own full page. Every image is a talented solo in a larger symphony. Every page has a small bio for the photographer and some contact information.
Many of us will not have had the opportunity to attend the exhibition, so I recommend this book emphatically. It is an eloquent description of the quality and depth of merit in the FRAMES Magazine community. Even if you have no idea what FRAMES Magazine is, this book will be evidence of what photography can do in terms of documenting, representing, interpreting, and making an argument about the contemporary world.
While at the gallery show, I also picked up a book by Reed Pike, someone the FRAMES community knows well. A resident of Rhode Island, Reed coordinates Special Projects at the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts as well. His book, however, has nothing to do with the recent exhibition. Titled “In Living Color: A Kodachrome Project – Experiments in Color Digital Post Processing,” the book is a collection of images that seek to recreate the famous and recognizable look of old Kodachrome. As Reed says in his introduction:
This project was intended to be a short-term exercise, an attempt to do something different to reinvigorate my photographic practice. At some point, it took on a life of its own. I ended up taking the express elevator down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole. And now I am not sure I want to go back up! …My goal was not to produce “normal” color imagery from the start. I wanted to do something different. I had an inspiration!… my goal was to produce work simulating or emulating the Kodachrome look digitally.
The result is a satisfying and talented collection of images taken from all over the world. Color postprocessing is an idea that holds the book together, but not the only one. Every image is composed through the benefit of an insightful and perceptive eye. Reed has a nuanced understanding of line, color, and shape, and his work provokes the best kind of curiosity and wonder. His subjects range from the allure of patina and rust to the playfulness of umbrellas overhead, to a poignant discarded tiny boot, to a commonplace shrub up against a wall. The images come from Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Colorado, Palestine, Israel, China, and elsewhere.
Thinking only about color, every image is a revelation about how ideas of color influence and create our emotional and aesthetic response to photography. But to say the book is only about color decisions would do it a great disservice. These are images with rich content, gentleness as well as irony, and a love for the visual world.
Neither Reed’s book nor the FRAMES exhibition catalog are on bookstore shelves, but they are available from the Blurb website. Both books are now treasured parts of my collection. I urge everyone to get a copy.
They are available here:
A note from FRAMES: Please let us know if you have a forthcoming or recently published photography book.
Every year we release four quarterly printed editions of FRAMES Magazine. Each issue contains 112 pages printed on the highest quality 140g uncoated paper. You receive the magazine delivered straight to your doorstep. We feature both established and emerging photographers of different genres. We pay very close attention to new, visually striking, thought-provoking imagery, while respecting the long-lasting tradition of photography in its purest incarnation. Learn more >>>