|Written by Leo Hsu|
|15 May 2008|
I wasn't really expecting a slideshow, but if you're going to watch 40 minutes of images, you could easily do worse than:
Brian Finke's 2-4-6-8 and Flight Attendants
Slava Mogutin's Lost Boys and NYC Go-Go
Joseph Rodriguez's East Side Story, Juvenile, and Flesh Life
Jamell Shabazz's Seconds of My Life and Back in the Day
Leora Kahn's Darfur and Child Soldiers
Harry Benson's RFK
A really nice range of different visual languages, describing different communities and subcultures...
Daniel Power graciously introduced each body of work, explaining how he or someone at powerHouse had found value in the work. In some cases (ie Lost Boys) the work represented new territory for the imprint, in others (RFK) an opportunity to publish the work of an already legendary figure. Some books (Back in the Day, Darfur) defied expectations for sales. Back in the Day, in particular, has been reprinted again and again, and sells not in bookstores, but in urban sneaker shops and clothing stores.
As the photographers spoke, their commitment to their projects came across strongly, and most of these were, in some important sense, very personal projects, where the second project delves more deeply into ideas that may have been introduced in the first, or which may complement the first. In either case, there's a parralax effect where you get a better sense of where, say, Leora Kahn or Slava Mogutin is standing when you see the kinds of worlds the photographer describes and imagine where earlier and later projects might intersect.
Jamell Shabazz made an interesting comment, that in his work, many of his subjects were no longer alive, and that he included them in his books to help provide closure for their families. His edits are informed by this sense of connection to the communities he photographed, taking a higher priority than aesthetic decisions.
It's all good work, and Power seems to have a talent for choosing work that has a strong sense of its own visual language, and a sense of its own audience.
I know it was getting late but iIt would have been nice to have some q&a and more discussion about the books themselves. There's no question that these works deserve to be seen, and that their audiences generally will reach beyond photography book collectors. But I'm curious to know how the projects are selected as potentially profitable, or at least, as being able to pay for themselves, and what kind of market research goes into those decisions.