Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Spoils from Germany and Holland

One great thing about traveling for me is the discovery of many books that are hard to find in the States. This trip was particularly fruitful and by the time I arrived back home I had two large boxes waiting for me. Here are a few things that caught my attention in no order of importance.

When in Germany, look for German books. I found a great copy of a book I passed on buying twenty years ago and have regretted it for the past ten. Michael Schmidt's Waffenruhe has now made its way onto my shelf. I paid a bit for it but a very good price considering thanks to getting it from a friend of a friend. Thanks Egbert and Sebastian.

I also found a small catalog from the Kunsthalle Bremen, Michael Schmidt Fotografien. Published in 1999, it is a good selection that seems to be a mini-retrospective but the printing suffers a bit. Solely for Schmidt obsessives and in Germany they can be found for just a few euros.

I found three super cheap Christian Boltanski books: Zeit, Les Suisses Morts, and Sterblich.

I have always wanted a copy of Fischli and Weiss's Visible World and found the German edition readily available at regular prices. There is no text so it reading Sichtbare Welt as the title is something I can live with.

I met Krass Clement at the Fotobook Festival so I bought his new book Novemberrejse (November Journey). This is a really good one which I will spend more words about soon. Highly recommended. Krass also gave me one of his
older titles Hvor Ingen Talte which is another fine book of photos he made at a state funeral in Moscow. This will also be covered here at a later date.

My fascination with Russian works was sated by the discovery of a reprint/study of Mayakovsky and Rodchenko's Pro Eto which was published in 1994 by Ars Nicolai. This starts with a facsimile edition in the front (black and white illustrations of the Rodchenko collages) followed by essays and additional plates that show the same collages in full color. The texts luckily are in Russian, German AND English.

Following closely in excitement was finding the reprint/facsimile of El Lissitzky's About Two Squares which was released as a two book set by MIT. Now out of print, these facsimiles themselves command some expense. What I found is only one of the books but it was only around 10 euros.

In the "books on books" department I found 'remainder' copies of Russian Book Art 1904-2005 available for 14 euros. This is a book I saw first through Ursus in New York with a large price-tag of $90.00 dollars. Funny how that happens right?

John Baldessari: National City from the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego is now a remainder in Germany of all places so I picked up a very cheap copy.

For rarities, my other discovery besides Waffenruhe was Ed van der Elsken's Sweet Life (German edition) for a mere 75 euros. That is a very good price but this same book can be found in varying conditions actually starting fairly cheap
ly at around 140 dollars plus shipping. This copy is virtually unread interior with only very slight chipping on the dustjacket at the edges. My luck was in force as this copy had literally just been bought from a person selling books to the store and the bookseller had just started to clean the cover when he asked me, "Do you know this book by Ed van der Elsken?"

Eva Leitof's Rostock Ritz published in 2005 made it back to NYC. I reviewed her book Deutsche Bilder eine Spurensuche 1992-2008 last year. This book is one title I couldn't buy at PhotoLA just because I had no way of actually getting it home.

Raimond Wouda - who's book School from
Nazraeli is going to get full treatment here soon because it is a new favorite of mine - made two other books that made their way home with me, Sandien and A'dam Doc.k. Sandien is a brilliant book which was recommended to me by no less than 6 people within a week so it was imperative that I get a hold of one while in Amsterdam.

Ever since the inaugural issue of PA magazine from David Campany that featured Patrick Faigenbaum along with Jeff Wall, I was compelled to get a copy of Faigenbaum's Tulle. I may tackle that book at some point.

One of the most exciting discoveries was a book by the Russian artist Ilya Kabakov, My Mother's Album published in 1995. My initial impression was that this book has a similar seductive quality as Boris Mikhailov's Unfinished Dissertation with its ephemeral quality. I can't wait to spend some time with this one and see what its all about. This will get some space featured here soon as well.

I found two books by Koen Wessing the author of Chili September 1973. O Mundo de Koen Wessing is a good hardcover exhibition retrospective from Portugal on this fine Dutch photojournalist. The second is a copy of Koen Wessing's Flashes from South Africa an oversized 36 page booklet published in 1993.

An interesting artist book made from found images called I Want to Eat by Mariken Wessels was irresistible and will get some coverage too.

Marijaana Kella's book which was in Parr/Badger Vol. II has a body of work I like very much, the Reversed portraits. This was the sole deciding force to bring this one home.

I was able to get home safely a copy of Jens Liebchen's oversized Playing Fields published in 2005 by J.J. Heckenhauer. I hope Jens gets to work on a new book because he has a habit of challenging perception.

Vija Celmens' intricately detailed drawings are a favorite of mine but few books published of her work do it justice. A hardcover catalog from the Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt features larger illustrations and the best I have seen so far, so it has found a new home.

In the "who the hell is that" department, Jutka Rona's 1975 conceptual artist book Wolvenstraat was a great suggestion from Yannick Bouillis of Shashin Art Books in Amsterdam. This book will be covered further later.

And lastly, one book that I was extremely critic
al of but did not have has finally broken my resistance will power. Empty Bottles by Wassinklundgren is now in my house. I am tempted to write a re-evaluation of this book to more clearly express my views.

I think that's all...any more would just be the work of madness.


Anonymous said...

Nice haul. I believe of the Lissitzky About Two Squares volumes one is the facsimile and the other volume is the translation and essay. I have a facsimile printed in Germany in the early 90's.

How is the printing quality on Pro Eto? Is that a belly band over a hardcover?

Jeff Ladd said...


Thanks for the info about the 2 squares book reprint. Makes sense as the second book is called "More About 2 Squares."

That is a belly band on the Pro Eto book. It is actually a somewhat thick book which a full study of the original book. The first part is a complete facsimile on grey paper (I saw a real copy of this at an auction preview and don't remember it being on grey paper though). Then there are English, Russian and German translations of the poems. Then the best part is that it reproduces all of the collages again but in full color (the original book was in black and white). It also shows a couple collage variations plus some that weren't used. Then it has an essay about the whole thing.

Its out of print and a little pricey but good none the less.

Matt Weber said...

You lucky guy you,

I can't afford to add much to my collection these days being "I've got debts no honest man can pay" but I do like Waffenruhe. I guess I'm waiting for you and Steidl to reprint all the titles I missed on the first go round...

Anonymous said...

This is the most depressing post I've ever read. Books I'll never see, couldn't afford even if I could find them.

And there seems to be some sort of renaissance in photography books going on now. Maybe it's all visual medium. I suppose it's the ease and relatively low cost to put one together now that is inspiring people. And 5B4 only covers books they like (usually) which means there must hundreds more that suck.

All which comes down to the fact that my knowledge of photography will stop around the rise of Gursky.

Jeff Ladd said...


With the exception of Waffenruhe and Sweetlife, most of these books are actually available and very affordable. I just got them last week and the ones I bought I did not spend very much on at all. Most were cover price or even highly discounted because they are "remainders."

Anonymous said...

All due respect Mr. Ladd, but even cover price is too much these days. Sorry to vent on your blog.

Unknown said...

Waffenruhe... now I'm truly jealous.

Knowing your appreciation for rare titles, beyond the mere commercial value, it couldn't fall on better hands.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to review Dana Lixenberg's, 'The Last Days of Shishmaref'.
Please do :D

Daniel said...

First Anon,

Who was the publisher of the Two Squares book printed in Germany?



Rik Plomp said...

Hi Jeff,
a very minor correction, the book by Wouda is titled Sandrien, not Sandien. It is a very nice book indeed.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, the facsimile of the Two Squares book I have was distributed by the Gingko Press. It's a nice single volume thin card-cover edition that I picked up new in the gift shop of the Neue Gallery for $12.95 in New York back in 2000. ABE shows no copies for sale currently. Amazon shows it (unavailable) at this page:

William Stout in San Francisco shows a copy for $60 but the image is for a different book. The Amazon page has the right cover.