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By JULIE TURKEWITZ

After failing to capture his vision for a project, Ivan Sigal unmoored himself from his preconceived story and went on a dizzying trek through Russia and Central Asia.

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TIME Photo Department

TIME LightBox presents a new monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web—from the Reportage Photography Festival in Sydney and a new Mitch Epstein book to Martin Parr’s ‘Life’s a Beach’ at Aperture in New York and an André Kertész show in London.

‘The Guide’ on LightBox will be published monthly. If you have submissions or suggestions for upcoming round-ups of the best books and exhibitions, feel free to pass them along via email before May 10. We’ll also be updating this gallery throughout the month.

See the previous Guide for April 2013.

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Paul Moakley

“[In nature] we may even glimpse the means with which to accept ourselves. Before nature, what I see does not truly belong to anyone; I know that I cannot have it, in fact, I’m not sure what I’m seeing.” —Emmet Gowin

The allure of the American West has captivated photographers since the earliest days of the medium. Photography was used as a tool to decipher the vastness of the new and unknown frontier. One can see a rich photographic form of manifest destiny stemming from pioneering documentarians like Timothy O’Sullivan in the 1800s to preservationists like Ansel Adams in the 1960s. Although the intentions of these photographers have shifted over time, the landscape has provided consistent inspiration for our deepest desires. In more recent history, our concerns about our footprint on the environment have led photographers to investigate deeper than what’s easily accessible.

David Maisel is a photographer of the current wave of contemporary artists concerned with hidden land — remote sites of industrial waste, mining, and military testing that are not yet indexed on Google Maps. His latest book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime (Steidl), observes the land from a god-like perspective of the sky and with an obsession with environmental destruction.

“The original impetus for the work was informed by looking really closely at 19th-century exploratory photography,” explains Maisel, “and then, an arc through the New Topographics work of the 70s.” He cites the work of iconic black-and-white image makers like Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams — photographers who focused on man-altered landscapes — but felt inspired to “push it further.”

This epic project began almost thirty years ago in a plane over Mount St. Helens. Maisel, a 22-year-old photography student, was accompanying his college professor, Emmet Gowin, with his work. “That experience of being at Mt. St. Helen’s was really formative,” says Maisel. “I don’t even know if I’d be a photographer. It was an essential moment for me.”

Flying in to view the crater of the volcano formed by the extreme force of Mother Nature, he photographed a large swath of deforestation, something the young photographer had never seen growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, N.Y.

“As a kid at that point who had grown up in the suburbs of New York, I just never had seen a landscape put to work in that way by industry. Especially on that scale,” says Maisel. The phenomenal destruction revealed a conflict in modern life that he’s been fixated on since.

Courtesy of David Maisel

Courtesy of David Maisel

In the 1980’s, talking about the environment through art seemed out of step with the dialogue that was happening around Maisel as a young art student. Looking back, his formative work now stands somewhere between classic documentary and abstract expressionism. “Just bringing up Robert Smithson (the pioneering land artist) makes me remember. When I first got interested in him in the early 80′s, that’s not where the art world was at all. And it’s not where this society was at all. This idea of looking at the environment and changes to the environment, was like, ‘oh, that’s ecology, that died in the 60s, we’re done with that.’”

In no way did that attitude derail his fascination in the environment — instead, he began creating an artistic dialogue in nature as the inspiration. But it’s Maisel’s distinct intentions and conceptualization that separates the photographer from your average eco-activist, who’s motivation to shoot may be based in a desire to preserve natural spaces or reveal the evils of industry.

The work in Black Maps, unlike more polemic natural disaster photography, relies on abstraction. He creates full-frame surrealist visions of toxic lakes and captures the maddening designs of man-altered landscapes. In the abstract series The Lake Project (slide 15), viewers are overwhelmed by alien colors, allured by frame after frame of man-made destruction. The repetitive nature of viewing this destruction from a distance creates a sublime beauty in a classical sense. In less abstract work such as Oblivion (slide 7), which looks at the cityscapes of Los Angeles, the images become scorched black and white metaphors for the complete obliteration of a natural state.

Over the years, Maisel published a few of these projects as separate volumes, but in Black Maps, the intention is to see their power as part of a dialogue with each other. “I think the feeling of being kind of overwhelmed is almost part of the aesthetic of the work,” he says.

“There are just certain real conundrums on how we are developing the planet and changing the planet, and I think that’s what I still want to pursue,” says the photographer. But where Maisel could accuse, he instead becomes reflective on these issues,  providing evidence of what he’s seeing and crafting in his printing process.

“I was also really conscious that these sites were American,” says Maisel. I was making a book about the country that I live in and that I know the best.”

He’s also keenly aware of the ethical contradictions of making photographic work in this way — with chemicals, computers and papers. “On that first excursion out West, I came back and I processed all my film and made my contact sheets and then I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing? How can I? — I can’t,’ I was paralyzed. And it took me a while to work through that, to realize that I’m embedded in this. At that moment in my life, I was living on the coast of Maine in this renovated barn that we heated with a wood stove, and it was about as far off the grid that I have ever gotten. I just realized I can’t remove myself from the society I live in and from my own way of wanting to communicate. But yes, I’m as guilty as the next person and I am complicit and I think that we all are complicit. This work isn’t meant to be a diatribe against a specific industry or industries.”

With that understanding of the interconnectedness of man and industry, and the conundrums involved in being a human in this era, Maisel’s work becomes a meditation on ourselves and what we’ve done to the planet. He say’s, “I think that these kind of sites correspond to something within our own psyches.”

“I think that … maybe these are all self-portraits. There’s something — we collectively as a society have made these places, that’s my take on it. And so, they really do reflect us. And so, it’s not ‘them’ making these places, it’s us.”

David Maisel is a photographer living near San Francisco and is represented by Institute.

Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime is published this month by Steidl. The work is on view at the CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, February 1 – May 11, 2013, and will travel to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 1 – September 1, 2013.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmoakley.

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As we increase our understanding of the history of photography as defined by its great accomplishments in bookmaking, the question of the availability of that printed history becomes central. The coveted first edition of a classic photo book can at times demand a higher price tag than even original photographic prints. The art of “the book,” in some circles, has overshadowed the offerings of the gallery world.

Reprints of older photobooks, commonly known as second editions, have been one way for newer generations of photographers and students of photography to become familiar with and learn from artists who came before them. Books have served me by informing and inspiring me throughout my own photographic practice for more than two decades.

But where multiple printings are common with books of literature or non-fiction, reprints are not as common for many visual books after they are considered out of print. This usually rests on two main factors: First, in the world of art book publishing, there is rarely financial gain for the publisher involved, let alone the artist. The second factor is that artists tend to be resistant to repetition, thinking that reprinting the same exact book, edition after edition, seems to be an unnecessary act.

The result is that the books tend to become rare and increasingly valuable to collectors, leaving them sought-after but difficult to see firsthand. In a medium where the book plays such an important role in its progression, it is an unfortunate fact that so many examples of some of the greatest photobooks have been essentially lost to history. That notion fueled my own publishing project, Errata Editions, which offers studies of rare photobooks that won’t see a traditional reprint because of the aforementioned reasons.

In the Errata series of “books on books,” each volume is dedicated to the study of one photobook that has been recognized as important to the history of the genre. They present images of all of the page spreads contained in the original books, along with contemporary essays about the book. Within three years, we have published twelve volumes that include studies of books by Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Chris Killip, William Klein, Paul Graham, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, David Goldblatt and others.

Artists open to reprinting their books often tinker with their creations by reediting. However, a complete reenvisioning of the book in its entirety was apparent with Josef Koudelka’s book Gypsies. That book represented a kind of revisioning in reverse, as the 2011 edition is actually closer to Koudelka’s original vision for the book, whereas the 1975 edition was a construction of Robert Delpire, the editor and publisher.

For many other artists, what might be seen as the flaws of youthful instinct give way, over time, to a desire to clean up the editing or design in any given book, or to revisit contact sheets and give new life to many images that were left out of the original book. The Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson has republished some of his classic books, such as East 100th Street and his recent new edition of Subway, both of which present newly edited material. Davidson has also taken the advances in printing technology to heart as additional attention has been made to color-correct the images to Davidson’s current slightly colder palette.

An interesting case in point is William Klein’s masterwork Life is Good & Good for You in New York, first published in 1956. When Klein revisited those same photographs in the mid-1990s, he completely redesigned and reedited the work—removing much of the original’s energetic and experimental design—until there was little, if any, similarity to the original book. “The first book was about graphic design. The second was about the photography,” he says of the two editions. Whether you agree or not, that resistance to repeat is apparent.

Over the years a resurgence of reprints has hit bookstores, and a few have come from the German publisher Steidl. Last December saw a set of facsimile reprints of several important, if somewhat obscure, political photobooks with The Protest Box, edited by the British photographer and photobook historian Martin Parr. Elsewhere, Dewi Lewis has released another printing of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken’s exquisite 1954 Love on the Left Bank, which is faithful to the original. And a new edition of one of the top-selling photobooks of all time, the 1972 Diane Arbus monograph from Aperture, is now available.

While not all photobooks considered great or groundbreaking will see a reprint, one can hope that enough will exist to maintain a full sense of photobook history.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his blog here.

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Among a group who legitimized color as a serious medium for art photographers in the 1970s and 1980s, Joel Sternfeld first came to prominence in 1987 with the publication of American Prospects. The book, which featured pictures taken on a series of road trips across the country, subtly documented underlying socioeconomic issues in America with irony and humor. Both poignant and formally beautiful, the images are now considered one of the most important works from the period, and the tome a landmark contribution to the history of American photography. American Prospects was the first of a number of highly regarded and influential books by Sternfeld, which also includes On This Site and Stranger Passing. And though First Pictures, published this month by Steidl, is the newest by the photographer, the book actually pays tribute to Sternfeld’s beginnings.

The book is comprised of Sternfeld’s formative work—mostly unseen until now—and brings further understanding and context to his oeuvre. Featuring Sternfeld’s images from 1971—when he first started taking color pictures — to 1980, First Pictures is broken down into four series: Nags Head, a North Carolina beach community; Rush Hour, street photography taken outside the Macy’s in New York City, At the Mall, taken in New Jersey and most interestingly, Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face, a disparate series of images taken during road trips across America, which serves as a direct precedent to American Prospects. At the time, Sternfeld was working with kodachrome and a 35mm camera rather than the 10×8 format that he would later use to fine tune his aesthetic. The book showcases work that would secure Sternfeld the first of two Guggenheim photography awards and lay the foundation for American Prospects as well as the work that followed. While some images are indicative of Sternfeld’s trademark style —a pastel color palette, compositions that place seemingly insignificant objects in the landscape to reflect a sometimes ironic, cynical or tragic situation, and a socially conscious eye—other photographs seem to relate more formally to the work of other color photographers such as William Eggleston or Helen Levitt.

First Pictures will be a fitting companion to writer and curator Sally Eauclaire’s three book series on color photography: New Color PhotographyAmerican Independents and  New Color New Work, published in the early 1980s, each of which placed Sternfeld’s images directly alongside that of other pioneers in color, including Steven Shore, Joel Meyerowitz and Eggleston. First Pictures goes back a little further and reveals how Sternfeld consciously reacted against the influence of some of his contemporaries—particularly Egglestone and his “poetic snapshots”—in order to create his own voice in color photography through narrative photographs that, individual and in sequence, speak not words or even phrases, but sentences, paragraphs and stories.

First Pictures, published by Steidl, is available now. An accompanying exhibition will be on display at Luhring Augustine gallery in New York from Jan. 7-Feb. 4 2012.

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By Rebecca Horne

Between the pages of Mitch Epstein’s new book Berlin from Steidl is an elegant collection of photographs showing a city nearly devoid of people, under pale blue skies. Epstein directs his lens at architecture, art, infrastructure and other markers of history that Berliners have purposefully kept as reminders. A personal foreword by Epstein offsets the cool and precise images.

Epstein came from a Jewish American family that refused to visit Germany because of kin lost in the Holocaust. Breaking with family tradition, Epstein visited Germany. He found Berlin to be a source of fascination. He and his family moved to Germany for a six month residency at the American Academy in Berlin. Epstein writes: “I looked for the remnants of those tormented wartime and postwar histories; they were often overt, and sometimes lay just below the thin skin of contemporary Berlin. With an 8×10″ camera, I started at Sachsenhausen concentration camp in January and ended with the Dalai Lama speaking at Brandenburg Gate in June.”


Jewish Cemetery, Weissensee — the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, established in 1880 for Berlin’s substantial Jewish population.


Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). This artificial hill was built from World War II ruble on top of a Nazi technical college.


Checkpoint Charlie. This was an East-West crossing in divided Germany from 1961 to 1989. The original guardhouse and sign were moved to the Allied Museum and replaced with an on-site replica.


Lichtenberg. These Soviet inspired pre-fabricated Plattenbau (panel-building) housing complexes became prevalent in Berlin after WWII. The elephants were part of an itinerant circus.


Dalai Lama, Brandenburger Tor. The gate was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace and constructed in 1791. IN 1933, storm troopers held a torchlight procession through it to celebrate Hitler’s rise to power. Languishing in a no man’s land between two portions of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, the Gate was the site of speeches by US presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.


Stasi Memorial Garden. The rosebushes were cultivated by former Stasi prisoners.

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