Book Review for Shutterhub

‘New realities’ of the everyday, vernacular, and the familiar are reimagined by Stephen Posen in his book Ellipsis: Dual Vision, which takes a poetic and creative approach to how the world and the everyday might be explored. More than this, the book explores a relationship with imagery and between images that seems previsioned; a coming together of a depth of experience of simply and not so simply, seeing.

From Ellipsis: Dual Vision by Stephen Posen copyright 2015

The pairing of images together gives this work its underlying structure, hence the Dual Vision of the title. The preface has Alexandra Posen reference Bachelard’s, The Poetics of Space, a book and influence I have long enjoyed in my own approach to image making. The notion being that the everyday, the things we see and take for granted such as a sea shell, a chest of drawers, a nest. Objects that are inhabited and used also have their own story, their own space in which to play a part in our lives; the elevation of the mundane.

Alexandra describes how her ‘father’s camera grabs at the incessant aesthetic happenings of everyday. The act of seeing becomes a giddy festivity of abundance.’

This sense of pure joy and delight is what we seek and sometimes gain in rare moments in our working and responsible adult lives, but Posen gives us an example of reconnecting with dreams, with the delight of a fresh vision and experience as though being allowed to re-experience the world anew.

From Ellipsis: Dual Vision by Stephen Posen copyright 2015

Posen’s images speak for themselves, that is if you listen; reading images is a skill that develops and Posen challenges us further to explore this and find the metaphors that hold the meaning together. That said the book contains a preface, forward, introduction, and essay giving four perspectives on his work and the context of it. The written text gives viewers unfamiliar with Posen’s work a clear overview of his approach and also an indicator for how we as viewers might approach the work. It is completed with an Afterword from Posen on his process of collecting and curating his own work.

There are numerous images that catch my eye and make me smile: a simple pleasure of recognising a shape, a missing jigsaw piece that resonates with its chosen pairing of a ‘daddy long leg’ spider (page 33). The juxtaposition is sometimes a visual extension rather than mirroring. The images of tree, sky and pruned hedgerow paired with a birds nest in a roof top building (pages 48, 49) shares elements, aspirations, and allows us to layer a new narrative.

This is a clever book, we are asked to engage our intellect as well as our senses, the spatial awareness of puzzle solving, or the mapping of colour, pattern, texture to explore diverse images. Posen’s background as a painter is evident in the abstract approach to this body of work and yet the fundamentals of image making and photography frame the concept. Its essence may be the simplicity and fundamentals of pattern, line, form, colour, shape, texture, and light; but it is the juxtaposition and choice of how elements are paired that create this vision. Ellipsis meaning a gap or something missing, in this case the gap creates the space to re-read, re-vision and spark a little synapse in our own creative minds.

From Ellipsis: Dual Vision by Stephen Posen copyright 2015

Posen, in the Afterword: Taking Inventory, reminds us of the role of the white border in framing meaning as well as imagery. For without this the images would bleed and merge, the absence or ellipsis would itself be absent. It’s in that ’third space’ that we see and create something new, just as Posen creates and offers us his ‘new reality’.

This is an enjoyable, creative exploration that engages our sense of play and stimulates the pleasure of connection between image, metaphor, poetry and abstraction. It’s a book to enjoy and revisit and just might inspire us as image makers to see a new reality in our own work and image making journey.

All images Stephen Posen © 2015
Hardcover: 216 pages
Publisher: Glitterati Incorporated (27 Mar. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 099038084X
ISBN-13: 978-0990380849
Ellipsis: Dual Vision by Stephen Posen is published by Glitterati Incorporated.


BOOK REVIEW :The Quiet Town of Tipton, by Mahtab Hussain (Dewi Lewis Publishing) First published on Shutterhub



 ‘On 12th July 2013, a bomb exploded close to the Kanzul Iman mosque in Tipton, West Midlands. The bomb had been packed with nails.’

This statement appears centered on the back cover of The Quiet Town of Tipton, the front cover is equally powerful in its simplicity of design and image choice. The cover itself can be no accidental choice in relation to the subject matter – it feels exposed, a matt, muted grey and stone linen finish, and seems delicate to hold, easy to tarnish. A single image of twisted sharp metal, at first glance creature like, intriguing; on closer study and in relation to the text, deeply shocking.

Between the covers humanity emerges in the stories of the local Tipton community. Hussain introduces us to some of the individuals and families who form this community. Through the use of documentary and location images we get a sense of place, environment. Text and quotations from residents tell us the story through their experience, they give us a context and historical perspective as to the depth of this area, of the generations who have helped to move it from a ‘tip-town’ to a strong community. Through the statements we also get a sense of the longing and displacement of what ‘home’ means, of how work is such a driving force in the movement of people, identities and communities. There is a range of representation with the inclusion of young people and the women and men who form that community.

The portraits in the book are thoughtful, respectful and sometimes haunting. As the narrative moves towards the attempted bombing of the mosque we get a strong sense of how that is such a powerful focus for the community, it is symbolic but has also literally been built by the local people though physical work and financial support. One of the participants, Chaudry Aziz Ahmed states, ‘It was horrible that this man tried to divide the community – but it did not work’, demonstrating the resolve and depth of connection already established.

This is a moving and reflective body of work, commissioned by Multistory, a community arts organization based in Sandwell to collect and share oral histories. Every community would benefit from this, as would we as viewers and participants in each other’s lives.

Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (18 Jun. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1907893725
ISBN-13: 978-1907893728
Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 17 x 1.3 cm

The Quiet Town of Tipton is published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, supported by Multistory. You can buy the book here.

and more wet plate…

Took some more images on the 5×4 using wet plate collodion at the weekend, very pleased with my first solo attempt even though its too contrasty, then a second lot of flowers didn’t quite go to plan as frustratingly I kept getting a fogging across the image, took a while to realise the safe light I was using was just a little too close to and too light for the sensitised plate..now rectified but still getting some corner fogging.

Well wet plate collodion does keep you on your toes, seems like anything including the rate of pouring the developer, the heat and humidity in the darkroom and working out the exposure time for UV rays that light meters don’t register are all part of the fun!


White Poppy
White Poppy

Collodion wet plate

I had a fantastic day on Saturday messing with chemicals, large format victorian plate cameras, cutting glass, waxing tintypes…all under the careful guidance of Manchester based Tony Richards. At the end of an amazing but exhausting 12 hour session i came away with a car full of images on glass and metal all made that day and freshly varnished or waxed. The whole process was covered from use of chemicals, pouring techniques – nearly got there after mentally imagining a tequila slammer action, though over the plate not for consumption! My lovely friend Collodion Cath came along with lovely Tintype Sarah to pose late afternoon.

Collodion Cath
Cath – Collodion on black glass
Sarah Tintype
Sarah – Tintype

I’ve a nice set of images to work on and a few glass negs including a 12 x 15″ one ready for a cyanotype, watch this space, but in the meantime check out Tony’s blog which shows a fab overview of the whole day including more images –http://fourtoes.co.uk/iblog/?p=9275



Mario Algaze, Cotton candy, San Angel, México, 1981,

Mario Algaze, El principe del solar, Ciudad de Panamá, 1994,

Mario Algaze, El tigre y el tiburón, Boca de Chavón, República Dominicana, 1998,

Mario Algaze, Haciendo cambio, Bogotá, Colombia, 2000,

Mario Algaze, Plaza Mayor, Madrid, España, 1981,

Mario Algaze, Carretas, Ciudad de Gautemala, 1979,

Covering a 35 year timeframe, the movement of time and light is central to Algaze’s visual exploration of Latin America. As a mainly self-taught photographer his approach is fresh, unsullied and leads the viewer to new locations with a sense of awe and discovery. The pleasure of looking is in the clean uncluttered framing and on going dialogue with light.

The complexity of photographic devices extends to use of reflection in mirrors that may appear simple but actually have the effect of luring the viewer into an Aladdin’s cave of visual riches. For example, ‘Espejo barroco, Otavalo, Ecuador, 1988’ (pg 29), literally frames a narrative within a mirrored reflection, there are iconic clues, symbols, representations and stories unfolding and we become privy to this. The print that precedes it (pg28) is the keyhole through to the wider tableau. This pleasure in looking through the lens and exploring moments and tableaus gives us access as viewers to history, culture and social interactions that we would otherwise not have.

Images are mostly (but not always) still or poised rather than posed, before a scene might fully unfold. Algaze allows the light to create the scene, the notion or capturing an event is less an issue as the viewer is given space to look and feel this sense of time, of being in the now as shadows move and light lingers. Images such as The Shadow Knows, and U3671 (pages 34 and 35), allow you to pause and breath in the stillness of the scene.

There is humour and engagement as well as observational approaches to the work, Don Celimo Marigal de Leon, (pg 49), engages directly with the subjects gaze. He looks directly at us through the lens, with a quizzical expression and pose and then we notice the long sheathed work knife strapped around his apron, what appears straightforward then becomes a visual puzzle.

Lima, (pg 61) is a 1985 photograph of a beautiful display of wooden and glass cabinets of drinks in a bar. A scene that we hope will have not changed much in thirty years, but again there are direct gazes from a young boy in the foreground, mirrored in the stance of the adult male in the back bar room, a representation of time, change and possible futures.

There are many ways to read images in terms of representation, construction, social meaning and change and Algaze’s work whilst offering this, really gives the viewer an opportunity to step into time, another time, but mainly the presence of time, space and light. This is reflected in his introductory statement, ‘When I landed in Mexico I took one deep breath […] I understood the simplicity of that moment: I am Latin, this is my identity’.  His work stays true to the origins of photography in use of film, emulsion, chemicals and physical materials; a heady mix of technique, concept and awareness of personal and social identity.

The prints are thoughtfully edited, presented and printed to ensure a coherence that is sympathetic to the content and mood of the work. It is a body of work that will appeal to a wide range of viewers and lovers of photography for the historical and social observation, as well as the delight in representation of light and shadow in a specific context.

A Respect for Light: The Latin American Photographs 1974-2008 by Mario Algaze is published by Glitterati Incoporated 

BOOK REVIEW: Navajo Nation 1950: Traditional Life, by Jonathan B. Wittenburg

This book documents the journey and experience of a specific point in American history and yet the images are timeless. As a young student, Wittenberg stayed with the Navajo tribe for several summers in the early 1950’s to become embedded in their culture rather than a swoop in for a cursory tourist glance.

The images transport me to representations of ‘western’ movies, the landscape and cultural references clear as a bell – if it were a John Ford movie, but this is a different story, a different perspective.

The book is laid out in eight sections, which reference specific geographic landscapes and regions, within those sections images include vast and empty landscapes. Quiet observations of people – men, women and children, sometimes watching curiously back, others seemingly conspire in a classic rendition of an iconic tableau. The beauty of this book is the quiet, authentic engagement between the white American photographer and the Native American Najavo people. There is complicity and agreement in the images, the gaze is comfortable, the images themselves only made possible by the acceptance of the outsider.

This engagement and acceptance allows us a way in to view these images, not as voyeurs or observing an ‘other’, but rather with a fascination and awe that such landscapes exist and are the natural environment for the Najavo people. It is not clear why Wittenberg undertook this journey or the steps that led to his interactions and acceptance for that period of time.  However, the images are respectful and observant and take us back to a period of cultural history that has often been mediated for us by television, film and constructed representations. Blowing the tumbleweed away and making the work available to us as a 21st century audience offers a refreshing look at the role of photography to embrace and capture the moment. The time shift from the 1950’s also leaves room for questions in the inevitable change of perspective from a personal project to a public audience.

Using a 6×6 twin lens reflex camera would have been challenging in strong sunlight and shadow, travelling by horseback and working with available light and slow grain film. Images are not always pin sharp and shadow can intrude across a face, or heads move as the shutter opens, but it doesn’t matter, the essence of the journey and of a set of customs and culture give in abundance. The images are inspiring, vast and rich in narrative. Yet there is also a sense of a controlled narrative, the glimpses we see are composed from fragments of a bigger story; the everyday, the gaps and spaces of everyday life left unfilled.

Images such as the lone horse in Canyon de Valley (p112) offer an Ansel Adams inspired awareness of nature and scale in this environment, a classic rule of thirds applied to scale you up or down from a vast open cloud formation sweeping across huge jutting three dimensional formations, to a lone grazing horse. Such images are visual poetry. Interestingly Adams did also photograph in Canyon de Chelly in the early 1940’s.

The end section documents aspects of a shooting chant to offer healing to a young girl. The process of this resonates over sixty years later in the quiet, considered, respectful rituals involved. Sand, stone, coloured pigments are created from the earth and natural environment, shapes, icons, and representations take on symbolic meaning and interpretation. The connection with the earth, with what is freely given is then given back as the materials are returned to the desert on completion of the ritual. The young girl plays an active part, she is guided by her elders but engages with it in asking for healing. A simple and powerful illustration of creativity, healing and responsibility that reflects brightly at us in our busy, cluttered contemporary lives.

The real strength of this book is that it gives us a glimpse into a beautiful and timeless landscape that taps into our own psyche; we can enjoy it as distant observers through time and cultural reference.