#16/16: Sheila Metzner Fashion

June 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Metzner’s devotion to beauty and to art has brought us back to the body, to Apollo, Berger, Modigliani, Paglia, and to Yeats. But more importantly it has brought us back to the greatest faith, the rapturous, life-changing “faith of love” through art.” (From the Introduction by John Wood)

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Fashion, like each and every 21st Editions undertaking, is unique to the 21st Editions Collection of Word, Image and Artisan Bindings. A year in the planning stages and a year in the making, Fashion affords an alternative way of viewing, interacting, and sharing a classic and rare kind of photographic print (Fresson) and presentation. To encompass a career articulating fashion through the art of Sheila Metzner is not possible in five separate presentations, yet using some of those she is most famous for does pay homage to the importance of this artist in the history of fashion and of photography.

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Early on, after seeing some of the prints that Theodore Fresson initially printed for Sheila she wrote him: “Thank you for the fine prints. It is as though you read my mind. They are perfect…” She continues today to work with the Fresson family exclusively for her color work.

“Color is the key. Since Steichen and Outerbridge, who worked in the carbon process, color printing became a dye process. Dyes were fugitive, only three colors, no black. It wasn’t until I searched for, and found Fresson, that I felt I could work in color. The proces de charbon, a carbon print, made with pigment colors, is the only truly archival printing process on earth. You have all the colors a painter has, as well as blacks and greys. It was invented by Theodore Henri Fresson in 1891, and remains with his grandson, and great-grandson today.” -Sheila Metzner

#15/16: Imogen Cunningham and Rondal Partridge

June 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

I had met Joshua Partridge and his father Rondal (Imogen Cunningham’s grandson and son), years ago at Photo San Francisco. Not only did we meet Joshua and Rondal there, but also Ruth Bernhard who was being escorted by her close friend, Michael Kenna. It seemed to be a star-filled show and it was, indeed, when photography was still a film-based medium for the most part.

In 2010, I received a call from Joshua Partridge. Joshua explained to me that he wanted very much to contribute to Imogen’s legacy, something he hadn’t yet done, before he closed his lab to then contemplate the idea of retiring to a monastery and living as a monk. He suggested that we do a project on Imogen Cunningham. Intrigued, I flew out to Berkeley, California to meet Joshua, his brother Aaron, and his sister Meg, Director of the Imogen Cunningham Trust. That was the beginning of the the trilogy of books we embarked on with the Imogen Cunningham Trust.

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The first title in 2012, Imogen Cunningham Platinum and Palladium, must have been a great surprise to many because not only did it include ten platinum Imogen Cunningham Trust prints and three large palladium prints printed by Joshua of three iconic images, as well as a thirty year-old print printed by Rondal from her glass plates, but also, a vintage print printed by Imogen herself. Its success was immediate.

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The next year, 2013, Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist, followed also to great success with a collection of ten platinum Trust prints of her early symbolist work plus three wonderfully colorful free-standing gum-over-platinum prints.

“What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris…have had on the work of the great Modernist American photographer Imogen Cunningham? Hardly any, one might assume. Yet she claimed him as an influence, and his influence was intellectual, social, and visual.”  -John Wood

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During a trip to Berkeley and while planning the next two titles with the Imogen Cunningham Trust, the first stop was Rondal Partridge’s home. I had a rare and thorough tour of Rondal’s personality, home and archive. I was so awestruck at his raw talent and that he spent his entire life as a working photographer, that I proposed at our 21st Editions summit in Saxton’s River (the home of 21st Editions co-founder John Wood) a project with Ron. In fact, what I did was lay out some one hundred photographs to our team without disclosing the artist, and it was a unanimous hands-down yes by all even before knowing who made them! At that moment The Symmetry of Endeavor was born.

After the experience of seeing Ron’s work John Wood wrote in his Introduction, “Rondal Partridge is one of the greatest and most visually exciting photographers of the twentieth century. His vision is thoroughly and completely his own, and that his name is not yet enshrined in the pantheon of the other greats is a tragic accident of photographic history, an omission which likely has more to do with his mother’s great fame than with a serious consideration of his art.”

Interesting to note and unusual, indeed, is the fact that Ron was such a prolific and unrelenting artist, that he would generally only print one or just a few prints of any one negative. He was always creatively driven to find the next image, something new, something not seen, something eclectic. As a result platinum prints printed by Ron are rare, while the number of subjects and variations on subjects are plentiful. Ron was kind enough to donate one vintage print of his own to each of the portfolios of twelve platinum prints created for The Symmetry of Endeavor. Today, Ron is in his 96th year and still in Berkeley, California.

#14/16: California Artists and Creative Design

June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Following our work with many well know artists, we thought it important to turn our focus to three new, very promising, and up-and-coming (at that time) California based artists, Mitch Dobrowner, Charles Grogg, and Ben Nixon.

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The Prophecies of William Blake

While all of our titles are challenges unto themselves because the 21st Editions mandate is to start from scratch on all of our designs and never to repeat ourselves, Mitch Dobrowner’s The Prophecies of William Blake was a real test for us. Accommodating 11×17 inch platinum prints, the largest we have ever produced for a book, was just one of the many challenges. These are the only platinum prints Mitch has ever had printed of his work and he has stated they are likely the only ones he may ever make. The binding design, too, was something of a bear. It was created with handmade paper that was watercolored and molded and had an inset of palladium. The box was designed to open flat giving full access to the book and the three loose prints. The resulting 16×20 inch book was breathtaking. “Ambitious” might just be an understatement when it comes to this particular accomplishment.

The book was designed to mirror the storm and landscape photographs that Mitch is now so well known for. He travels with storm chasers to capture the very real and ever-changing landscapes. He was featured in National Geographic, won the Sony World Photographer Award, and Google even created a short film on his work.

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prints for Cracked: The Art of Charles Grogg

Charles Grogg was selected by John Wood as the winner of the 2010 Clarence John Laughlin award. Charles had come to our attention before but it wasn’t until we actually saw his platinum prints on Japanese Gampi Torinoko paper that we saw how wonderful a match his work was with the 21st Editions aesthetic. Charles agreed to both print and construct the platinum prints for The Art of Charles Grogg, something that only he could do, given the solar exposure, many hand-sewn elements and “Reconstructions.” Additionally, John Wood (the only two-time Iowa Poetry Prize winner) agreed to write a poem for each and every image, so we knew this was going to be something special. His brilliant poetry was also read and recorded on an accompanying compact disc. Listening to John read, you will find him powerfully lyrical and convincing, drawing you into a world unknown and palpable. We knew this would be unlike anything we had ever done or will ever do again. And, it was. Each 20×22 inch book has a handmade lacquered eggshell cover panel. The Art of Charles Grogg, which particularly takes on the feel of interactive performance art, was in totality, the art of John Wood, Amy Borezo, Crissy Welzen, Pam Clark, Michael and Winifred Bixler, and Charles Grogg.

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To the Wheatlight of June

To the Wheatlight of June brings together the brilliant minds of Harvard poet Steven Brown and 21st Editions Editor John Wood (introduction) with the work of Ben Nixon who printed silver-gelatin prints of another world. Ben, like Charles Grogg, uses difficult traditional processes. His silver gelatin prints are hand printed from wet-collodian negatives and then toned with tea. Paste papers, another even older tradition, are patterned or textured papers, often made by applying paint with brushes or handmade tools, and are an integral part of 21st Editions productions. In some cases the papers themselves are hand-made. The emphasis on the paste papers in this case extends from the book itself to the ingeniously designed portfolio case that doubles as a display stand. This book and portfolio set broke new ground for us both in presentation and execution.

#13/16: Yamamoto

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Sunday, November 7, 2011:

John Wood and I left about 8AM for Amtrack in Providence to greet Yamamoto Masao, his wife Reiko, and his manager Seiko Uyeda. We corresponded with Masao and Reiko with the generous help of Seiko as translator, but this was our first meeting. The three appear at once together and seem to recognize something about us. They are instantly delightful.

On the way back to Cape Cod, Seiko shared a story that Masao told on the train coming in from New York to Providence. For some reason, he had had an encounter with a Master of sorts, a man whose Japanese sword–a Stradivarius of swords, a work of art–meant a great deal to him. He insisted that Masao take it home with him to photograph. Masao was nervous when he told him just to send it back via UPS! Upon his next visit with the Master, and to Masao’s surprise, he told him that the sword’s energy revealed that Masao had a difficult time photographing it. He was correct.
 
As soon as we crossed the Bourne Bridge, John suggested that we offer the front seat to Masao so he could photograph while we traveled toward Brewster on the old historic Route 6A. He reluctantly agreed and after a short time said that the road was “too beautiful to photograph” and that what he liked revealing in his work were imperfections.

I wanted to show everyone one of my favorite spots where a small bridge crossed an inlet with a strong tide. As I approached Keveney Lane to the left, I saw “Bridge Closed,” but I turned anyway. It was a cold day and on our way down this short road we passed a hooded young man on the left, walking slow and determined. He turned and nodded as if he expected us. Without having mentioned it to Masao, I was surprised that he later mentioned it to me.

I stopped the car in front of the gravel pile blocking the street and before the bridge, then opened my door to find a decomposing tree trunk hollowed on one side. In the center was a lovely ceramic vase with a partly broken rim at the narrowed top. I thought, imperfection! I looked at Masao and he jumped from the car with his camera like he was greeting an old friend. From the driveway on the other side of the car appeared a man who greeted us. He said that he had just placed the vase in the tree trunk, but at the time wasn’t sure why. Then, without missing a beat, the young hooded man we had passed on the way appeared on foot carrying a Japanese sword and explained he was studying Japanese martial arts and that he had been taking that precise walk for two years.

In those brief and lyrical moments, Masao, Reiko, Seiko, John, and I together were witnesses in unison to our own completely uninterrupted attention. Was this a gift brought by a Master? He would likely not have had intended it, because he was just being Yamamoto Masao.

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The three Prism book and print sets (Yamamoto Masao, Mitch Dobrowner and Jack Spencer) are a hybrid between the finest offset printing by the Studley Press and a Pam Clark and Travis Becker (Twinrocker Paper) designed handmade paper for the cover. With three different sets of prints, 21st Editions has presented a spectrum of printing processes from offset to platinum (Yamamoto) to silver-contact (Dobrowner) to hand-varnished pigment ink (Spencer). These traditional style monographs are presented with the intention of showing a broad range of the artist’s work with from 65-110 images. Scholarly essays by John Wood (Yamamoto), Dafydd Wood (Dobrowner), and Steven Brown (Spencer) reinforce the importance of the marriage of the word and the image as a primary 21st Editions objective.
 

#12/16: Listen to the Music

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Listen: Herman Leonard and His World of Jazz

I’ve told the story many times. It was the 2008 Lucie Awards at Lincoln Center in New York. Herman Leonard was across the aisle from me. Tony Bennett walked out on stage and told his story about a man, a photographer, and a musician’s friend, a fly on the wall in the 1940’s and 1950’s, who photographed for a decade in the jazz clubs of New York and Paris. An artist and friend of the greatest jazz musicians of all time with full access and without a face – unseen in the photographs he took documenting this definitive period in music. Herman comes to the stage and accepts his award, glowing, honored, and humble.

Later on that night, 21st Editions accepts an award for The Everywhere Chronicles from Amy Arbus. After the event, I was outside in front of Lincoln Center with my colleagues and Herman was with his. I walk over admiringly and introduce myself. “Herman, I’m Steven Albahari and I love your work. Do you know 21st Editions?” Herman says, “Sure I do man.” I said, “We should do a project together some day.” He says, “Sure, let’s do it man!” The following fall of 2009, I contacted Herman while I was standing in front of his grand exhibition at Lincoln Center and told him how awe struck I was at his accomplishments and how wonderful his exhibition was. That was the beginning of our project together.

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In February of 2010 while we were just getting started, his assistant, Geraldine Baum, called me to let me know Herman had been diagnosed with leukemia and said the doctors were giving him 5 months. I was shocked, then asked if Herman still wanted to do the project and the answer was an unequivocal “yes.” Without thinking that it often takes us at least a year to get to a finished prototype, I said, “Then we will do it, and I will fly out to L.A. to deliver it to him.” After hanging up, I was then faced with a new challenge, indeed. On July 10, I arrived on his doorstep with my good friend and jazz historian and audio-biographer, Jim Luce. We sat with Herman for three hours and went through the book page by page. Herman said, “These are the best platinum prints I have ever seen.” I read Quincy Jones’ introduction and my afterword out loud to Herman while he closed his eyes. We bonded, shared the music, the photographs, the production, the stories, made both a video and audio biography on the spot. He gave us two and a half solid hours of his intense focus. We left and he was drained. Having to rest, I trust he did so with some closure and a smile. Five weeks later on August 14, 2010, Herman passed. Two months later Listen: Herman Leonard and His World of Jazz was nominated for and won a Lucie Award. He was there, all encompassing, as we accepted the award together.

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Love, Graham Nash

Graham Nash’s music was pivotal in the adolescence of many of us. I remember being 15 and listening to Nash’s Simple Man album, as well as CSN&Y’s Deja Vu. The music came to represent a page in my life (and surely the lives of many, many others). It exemplified heart and soul and instilled faith and trust in the future. While Nash and his contemporaries were fighting for peace and for an even playing field, the music was laying out the options for us. It was our choice then which road we would take.

When I got word from Pam Clark and Crissy Welzen (in LA at the time) that Mac Holbert, Graham’s partner at Nash Editions, suggested that Graham and I do a book together, I was, of course thrilled at the idea. After meeting with Mac Holbert in New York and about a year after Mac’s initial thought, I called Graham. He was driving up U.S. Highway 1 overlooking the Pacific, while I was sitting in my car overlooking the Atlantic from Cape Cod where I live and work and where the 21st Editions offices are. Between us was 3000 miles and Graham greeted me as if he had known me a lifetime. As I got to know him, I saw that he greets everyone with equal respect and attention, as if you and he were the only ones on the planet. The man gives you his attention. He gives you his all.

And so it began, a four year project that culminated in a one-of-kind testimony to a man, his, music, and just one of many marks he has so far left on this world. Love, Graham Nash got its title from the way Graham often signs his emails with “Love.” It’s a word whose meaning emanates through his music and in the way he seems to move through the world. In walking down a New York City street with Graham you find that if someone recognizes him, he doesn’t hesitate to stop, talk and become interested in who this admirer is. This is a man deeply interested in what’s in front of him.

The task, then, was to produce an equivalent to a man and his music that so many love and are inspired by, cry to, and contemplate. All of the elements of this unprecedented production, then, had to be integral to this task.

1) It started with facsimiles of Graham’s original manuscripts of 17 of his famous songs, written out on scraps of paper, napkins, hotel stationary, and even the back of a Ray Bradbury book, that are works of graphic art themselves.

2) Then, we complimented these with photographs that he took of his family in this same era (Susan, Will, Jackson, and Nile) and of his musical partners, contemporaries, and others who influenced him (David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leon Russell, Jerry Garcia, Johnny Cash., etc.).

3) Not only are his photographs wonderful in and of themselves, but because Graham and Mac pioneered fine-art digital photographic printing at Nash Editions, it was a gift to the project that he agreed to make the prints there, and yet another whole other layer of history folded into this project. There are 21 bound and 9 loose prints included, each one printed at Nash Editions.

4) What, then, is a manuscript without the final version of what was ultimately performed and still performed to this day? So, we decided we would letterpress the lyrics as they were finalized in an accompanying book. To this we added a portrait of Graham that was, at the time, his wife Susan’s favorite. For us it became a platinum photograph after a daguerreotype taken by the great contemporary artist, Jerry Spagnoli.

5) The introduction was integral to the project because I wanted someone who could address not only the music and the time, but the man himself. Graham emailed Neil Young and in a short time he responded from Zurich, Switzerland, simply with the introduction exactly as we have published it.

6) The final element was a CD of the 17 songs we selected. Before a concert date in Boston, Graham, his wife Susan and I looked at materials for the book and it was Susan’s point of the finger that decided on using Bubinga wood for the box and binding for Love, Graham Nash. It was a true labor of love for me and my team and to this day one of the highlights of my publishing career.

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