Unboxing Mossless #3 & #4

“MOSSLESS is run by Romke Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh out of their apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Their publications focus on photographers who are actively contributing to online culture.”

I follow their tumblr and it alerted me to their Kickstarter for Issue 4. I picked up Issue 3 The United States (2003-2013) and Issue 4 Public/Private/Portrait for a relative song, and they’re completely different, but both interesting archives of contemporary-ish photography.

It’s been several weeks or a month or more since I shot this unboxing video… I’m so far behind on things. Alhamdulillah, I finally made it through Mossless #3 and am partway through #4, so I feel I can render something of a judgement on them.

The United States has very little text, just a couple of introductory statements, and then it’s wall-to-wall pictures. I tried—and failed—to discern some sort of order to them, geographic, season, topology, time, or color, and I’m sure there’s something there, but I couldn’t quite discern it. It’s definitely not West-to-East or North-to-South. It’s not desert-to-mountain-to-ocean. It’s not summer-spring-winter-fall. But there is a flow, and it works somehow.

Issue #3 contains over 500 pictures from 118 photographers, some with short 2-5 picture essays/series/collections, some individual and in a sort of juxtaposition-as-commentary arrangement. I wanted more from some of them, but it keeps me turning the pages and makes sense, in that The United States is meant to be a survey. I wish there was an index that I could use to find all the pictures by one photographer, but then I expect that would go against the editors vision.

Public/Private/Portrait is a collaboration of sorts with Charlotte Cotton and the International Center of Photography’s Public, Private, Secret exhibition, on view at the ICP Jun 23, 2016 through Jan 08, 2017. In this age of constant surveillance, the public and private have merged in a way, we publicize our private lives in the same ways as we privatize what were once public spaces. Artists and photographers on view in the magazine (and, presumably, the exhibition: I don’t really know, since I’m rather far away from NYC and likely won’t make it to the City before the exhibition closes) interrogate this divide in various ways, from screencaptures of Google Street View and Skype sessions to shooting motorists stuck in traffic from a bridge.

Issue #4 is split into two sections: ‘Look’ and ‘Read’ and I bet you can guess what they contain… the 70 or so pages of ‘Look’ are glossy and full color, single images or groups, one page per artist; ‘Read’ is a collection of short interviews, descriptive essays, and some longish criticism, one essay per artist, dark text on pink paper. I used to run two bookmarks in some texts, things with lengthy (and important-seeming) footnotes. Infinite Jest, for example, benefits from this strategy. I’ve found it a bit annoying with Public/Private/Portrait though, and I find the text a bit fatiguing to read.

As an art object, Public/Private/Portrait is a win, with it’s mirror-like cover and high-concept writing. And as a survey of recent photographs, The United States wins with its broad survey of the people and the landscape. They don’t make much sense sitting next to each other: they’re too different, but they’re both good.

You can pick up a copy of Mossless #3 The United States 2003-2013, one of Time‘s best photobooks for  2014, for $45, and Mossless #4 Public/Private/Portrait is available for $38. Photobook collectors should grab up copies while they can. People with an interest in Americana or Portraits will have more interest in one than the other, and can probably safely skip either. I guess I fall into the first camp, though I do look at the books I buy, and I return to some of them, and the ones I don’t return to get sold.

There’s good stuff and interesting stuff and stuff that I just flip by out of disinterest or misunderstanding in both, and I applaud Romke Hoogwaerts, Grace Leigh, and the others involved for their curatorial and editorial efforts, and their project, and I look forward to seeing what #5 has to offer, whenever it appears.

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