They didn’t have any bowl hair cuts, and they also weren’t sporting matching suits and goofy grins, but boy, the combination of DutchDoc!Space (no, really, this is how this was spelled) and Erik Kessels’ magnificent Use Me, Abuse Me at this year’s otherwise sadly forgettable New York Photo Festival showed that photography is more alive (and maybe even more fun) than ever. It also proved that if you bring a can-do attitude and combine it with playful creativity then, well, you will make things happen. (more)
Use Me, Abuse Me took the spirit that you’re familiar with from the i heart photograph blog and translated it into a show. In the words of Erik Kessels
Use Me, Abuse Me shines a light on a number of individuals who approach photography in new and unusual ways - from squeezing endless images out of a single photograph, to embracing technical mistakes made by computers, to making the absence of photography a form of photography itself.I don’t know how new and unusual some of these approaches really are - but that doesn’t matter too much. You probably also found yourself muttering “Oh, give me a break” about some of the images - but then you’d walk around the corner and be completely amazed. If you’re the kind of person who misses humour in photography, here it was on display - and everybody I talked to, even people who come from completely different areas of photography, loved the show just as much as I did. Use Me, Abuse Me was a true gem of a show. And it was very, very well produced.
Of course, Erik Kessels’ is known as the mastermind behind KesselsKramer Publishing, possibly the most well-known of the many small book publishers in Holland. KesselsKramer Publishing produce the Useful Photography and In Almost Every Picture book series (photography taken out of its original context and found photography, respectively). Turns out many Dutch artists self-publish their work or rely on the many small publishers dedicated to, for example, documentary photography. DutchDoc!Space showcased some of those endeavours. I’ve been very interested in independently published photo books for a while, and DutchDoc!Space very forcefully showed what can be done and what can be gained from not relying on the often atrocious on-demand services that are so popular in the US.
DutchDoc!Space presented a large variety of books by literally having the spreads hang in some sort of labyrinth (see photo), which has the advantage that you can see everything and the disadvantage that it’s not a terribly attractive way to look at things. The exhibition made it very clear why Holland is one of the centers of photo-book making, a fact that deserves to be known much more widely. I just wish it was easier to come across any of these books, but of course the internet here hopefully will level the playing field.
As a medium, the book is ideal for photography, and the considerable hype about devices such as the iPad notwithstanding, independent photo book publishing is where all the exciting stuff is happening right now.
Kudos to the Dutch for bringing some fun and excitement to New York’s photography scene: “Beer and Photos = Perfect.” It would have been perfect without the free beer, but the tub of Pabst certainly topped it off.
images (from top to bottom): Some of Chantal Rens’ images in Use Me, Abuse Me, some of Eva-Fiore Kovacocsky’s, installation photo of one of Petra Stavast’s book at DutchDutch!Space, installation shot of the photo-book labyrinth at DutchDutch!Space, free beer courtesy of Erik Kessels