#7/16: An International Year

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

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Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil)

John Wood suggested to Eikoh Hosoe that we pair his work with the poet, Charles Baudelaire, and Eikoh told John that Baudelaire was his favorite poet. They each initially selected 11 poems–9 of them matched! Eikoh, John, and I spent a full day, as John Stevenson hosted us at his then Platinum Gallery in Chelsea, for the signing ritual of the platinum prints and the colophon pages. Eikoh was methodical in signing all of his prints. He would sign for an hour and then close his eyes for 15 minutes or so. It was a real dance and an honor to watch. I admire him and his demeanor, which is not unlike what I would expect if I were to meet the Buddha. In fact, I believe I did.

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The Sonnets of Shakespeare

Flor Garduño does not speak English. I do not speak Spanish. So working with each other was a new challenge, even though we had a translator. This edition was three years in the making and contains many of Flor’s greatest images.

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Crowd and Shadows of the Dream

This set of books further challenged our standards of production. After printing all of the books letterpress with metal type and spending three days with Misha Gordin at the Hotel Northampton signing the mounts for the silver prints he made, the binder contacted us with a concern about very faint yellow fibers in the European made 100% cotton paper noticeable only if held up to the sunlight. While it seemed insignificant at the time, we had no way of knowing if whatever this was could migrate further. After meeting with a representative from the paper mill and bringing our own chemist in, and then months of further deliberation, we realized that we could not determine whether it was a problem or not. So, I decided that we had no choice but to start over again. And, even though it cost us tens of thousands of dollars, we have been able to sleep at night ever since.  

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The Shining Path

John Wood’s pairing of Brigitte Carnochan and Raúl Peschiera embellished our diverse offerings. Brigitte Carnochan’s personally printed silver gelatin prints and Raúl Peschiera’s epic poem of love, revolution, and violence in recent Peruvian history blends the life and loves of failed revolutionary Abimael Guzmán, the founder of Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path. Peschiera depicts him as both the passionate revolutionary and the passionate lover. Carnochan, one of the greatest photographers of both flowers and women, takes on beauty as her subject and theme. The result is a book of intense beauty–one that interweaves the floral and the feminine within the context of love and political passion. The book comes with one of Carnochan’s original, classic hand-colored prints.

#6/16: “Toward Omega” and “The Book of Life”

April 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

Life is serendipitous. In 1990 or so I found myself at the Saratoga Jazz Festival to see Dave Brubeck and Pat Metheny. They had artisan vendor tents set up and among them was a photographer who’s work I was immediately attracted to. I decided to purchase my very first photograph. It happened to be by Vincent Serbin, who 13 years later, I ended up crossing paths with again and decided to publish, provided that he was able to make all of the prints for the project. He did. John Wood paired Vincent’s photographs with the brilliance of Daniel Westover (poet, professor and literary critic) who constructed a poem for each image, which is a difficult task indeed.

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Equally difficult, as always, was the task given to the binder for the collection. He came up with an inventive vellum and patinaed copper binding, which helped to keep the tipped-in silver prints flat. Each patina was different over an underlying stamp. The book and collection are unique to 21ST Editions, as all of our titles are.   

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The Book of Life was a sequel to our first book with Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Listening to the Earth, and as successful. At the time, the ParkeHarrisons were receiving great acclaim within the circles of contemporary photography critics and collectors. Their shows in New York were close to selling out prior to the openings and we were grateful to have had the opportunity to create this unique set of books with 22 platinum prints.

Equally impressive was the poet, Morri Creech, in his execution of the collection of poems written for the ParkeHarrison’s images. In fact, these poems were subsequently published in Field Knowledge (Waywiser Press, 2006), which won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. In 2014, Creech was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Together, John Wood’s pairing of Morri Creech and the ParkeHarrisons early on helped to set a high standard for 21st Editions that continues today.

#5/16 Sally Mann

April 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

In one of the first conversations John Wood and I had about who he we would like to publish he asked me who I wanted to work with, above all others. I looked at him with my head tipped, as if he already knew, and we simultaneously announced to each other, “Sally Mann,” of course. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that Sally agreed to work with us, initially for Volume V of The Journal of Contemporary Photography. Then, in 2003, we started to hash out with Sally what proved to be one of the most successful Platinum Series monographs from 21st Editions, Sally Mann, winner of a 2005 Lucie Award.

What excited John (and me) was the possibility of publishing, with this early pre-family body of work, Sally’s poetry. John thought she was a very fine poet and it took some convincing. Her stance was modest and firm, but not completely unwavering. After all, Sally’s poetry had never been published and hasn’t been since, but she trusted John and I believe was happy she did.

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Grateful and excited to follow up Sally Mann with Southern Landscape, we enlisted John Stauffer, one of Harvard University’s leading scholars to write the text to accompany 14 of Sally’s yet unpublished landscapes from her Deep South series. Stauffer, whose expertise as an abolitionist scholar, brought a deep understanding of the history of place in the South, and particularly the locations of Sally’s focus. One year prior to John writing his deeply poetic and elucidating text, he invited Sally to Harvard as the speaker and guest for the acclaimed Massey Lecture Series. John recounts that it was the first time in his history at Harvard that he witnessed a standing ovation for the speaker.   

#4/16: Tress, Halliday, and ParkeHarrison

April 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

2003 was a very busy year for 21st Editions. We published the second title in our Silver Series, The Perfect World of David Halliday and two Platinum Series titles: the surrealist work of Arthur Tress paired with Apollinaire in Memories; and the brilliant and highly acclaimed work of Robert ParkeHarrison in Listening to the Earth, with poems inspired by and composed specifically for this title. A companion title, The Book of Life, was also published in 2005. Morri Creech then went on to publish these poems separately and won the Anthony Hect Poetry Prize in 2005 for Field Knowledge.

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Listening to the Earth is an early iconic image in Robert ParkeHarrison’s career that was the impetus for the Platinum Series title by the same name. Like most of the earlier work, this photographic panel (shown below) was made by hand with traditional analog processes, unlike the digital processes now being used by the ParkeHarrisons, as well as most photographic artists today. They created the scene using handmade props and found objects, and Robert is the subject. With a finished surface of encaustic wax, this panel is a pivotal piece and an important one to the history of photography. The George Eastman House originated the first major exhibition of this work, of which a panel from this edition was a part, that traveled the U.S. and Europe. Around the same time the work of Robert ParkeHarrison began to be credited to both Robert and his wife Shana who work as a team then and now. This unique artist proof was acquired directly from the artist(s) and was outside an edition of five panels, all of which sold out prior to the show it premiered in.

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#3/16: 21st Editions Silver Series is Born

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

In 2002 we announced our inaugural Silver Series title, Cante Jondo, with hand-toned silver gelatin prints by Josephine Sacabo. The Silver Series allowed us to follow the trajectory of our Platinum Series monographs while giving us the opportunity to honor yet another important photographic technique, the silver-gelatin print.

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Cante Jondo

I have heard more people than I can recall describe their first experience of seeing a Josephine Sacabo image. They say things like “I loved it”or “I just had to have it.” I remember my own experience on first seeing one of her works; it was like an electrical charge rising out of the image and directly striking me. I thought, “I want to be able to look at this image every day for the rest of my life.”

Our inarticulate attempts to describe the effect of her work is the result of having confronted Sacabo’s duende, having been brought close to the precipice, and having felt, in the words of Spain’s great poet Lorca, that “jet of blood worthy of her pain and her sincerity”that the duende inspired.

-John Wood

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The Duino Elegies

Over the years we continued to work with Josephine on The Duino Elegies and Gilded Circles and Sure Trouble, as well as a rare gum-over-platinum triptych from her Ophelia’s Garden series.

Josephine Sacabo

Gilded Circles and Sure Trouble

From the moment I made my first gravure, I realized I’ve been trying to do this for thirty years in the darkroom . . . jumping through every hoop I can think of to come up with this effect. This is what I’ve been looking for . . .  

-Josephine Sacabo

gum-over-platinum triptych

gum-over-platinum triptych

 

 

#2/16 from the Publisher: Working with Joel-Peter Witkin

April 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen posts we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy it.

It was 2001 and we had just finished New York, our first Platinum Series title to great success. John Wood and I wanted to include Joel-Peter Witkin in our first anthology, The Journal of Contemporary Photography: Volume I, but he declined. On August 28, 2001, however, I sent Joel a fax proposing Songs of Experience. He faxed us within 15 minutes accepting our offer. Songs of Innocence followed in 2002.

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Many have asked: “What is Joel like?” Having worked with him over the past 13 years now and after having completed four titles with him, I have gotten to know him pretty well. Joel is a religious man, and at the same time very funny too. There were periods when working on our books together that Joel would call weekly just to tell me a joke or two. For example: “What did the 0 say to the 8?…..nice belt.”

What humors me is Joel’s conviction to his jokes and his delivery. He can also be very serious, which is reflected in much of his work. Because many people seem very curious about the man behind the work, I jumped at his offer to publish his journals culminating in The Journal of Joel-Peter Witkin.

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A very interesting story relating to The Journal of Joel-Peter Witkin, is a letter that he received from Christine Grant just weeks before sending me his materials. Joel agreed that the letter should be the introduction:

April 12, 2007

Dear Mr. Witkin,

I could not find your email address or I’d have cluttered that rather than your home mail. I happened upon your work, then read that you had been influenced by an accident you witnessed as a child in New York City in which a girl was decapitated. My father was there that day and saw the same accident and the vision of it did not leave him, either. It had to have been the same accident-I can’t imagine such a thing is a common occurrence. He spoke of seeing the head rolling in the street. He said he could not sleep or eat for weeks after and he had nightmares about it throughout his life.

Indirectly, my sister and I were also influenced by that event. His telling of it brought mortality into our lives much too early. We never had the comfort of believing that only the old died-that death was far away in some indeterminate future. Then and now, we have the weight of time’s limitations on our shoulders. Your work seems to have upset a fair number of people. I am glad for you that you have been able to forge your demons on the anvil of creation. I wish my father had been able to do the same.

Best regards,
Christine Grant

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