Daniel Reuter – ‘Providencia’

I pulled Daniel Reuter’s Providencia off the to-review shelves largely based on the attractive spine (gold lettering against mottled/variegated grey :chef’s kiss:). I don’t remember the circumstances around acquiring it, and expect I bought it based on Jorg Colberg’s review. I encourage you to read Colberg’s take, as mine is likely to be much more wishy-washy and banal. Apologies in advance, dear reader, and to Reuter as well.

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Glen Luchford – ‘Roseland’

tl;dr: I regret purchasing Glen Luchford’s Roseland. This feeling is a first for me, I think. The photography would be interesting and potentially of historical interest, but it’s entirely ruined by very poor layout and printing decisions.

If you want to continue on, please feel free…. If they come out with a repaired edition—perhaps one printed in landscape orientation or square or something where the subject (Kate Moss) isn’t swallowed by the gutter—it might be worth picking up. Stay far, far away from this book.

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Stephen Leslie – ‘Mostly False Reports’

I discovered Stephen Leslie thanks to (if I recall) Alec Soth, who praised Leslie’s Show & Tell series on YouTube, and if you’re not familiar with Soth’s or Leslie’s YouTube channels, do yourself a favor. Despite being on a photobook buying hiatus, I leapt into action as soon as he announced the Kickstarter, and despite not knowing much about his actual photographic practice. Unlike most other books I bought during my (ongoing) photobook-buying moratorium, I had and have no regrets whatsoever…

Full disclosure: as you may have gathered, I kickstartered Mostly False Reports, Stephen Leslie‘s excellent, photobook-of-the-year 2023 runner up, if not grand prize winner.*


One thing on the Kickstart itself. In its earliest days, shipping fees weren’t appropriately calculated for US purchasers. Leslie reached out to backers and asked that we update our pledges to cover the cost. I updated my pledge; some/many others did not. I felt bad and sent Leslie a bit of cash to cover shipping for a few people. In return—he didn’t have to, and I didn’t expect it—he included a zine “Hereabouts” and 3 large print/greeting cards in the package. I am indeed blessed.

Ok. With that over with, on with the review.

Leslie is a capital-S, capital-A Street Photographer. I’d go so far as to call him a street photographer’s Street Photographer. Gestures, glances, interesting faces and stances? He’s got it. Strange sights, puns, jokes? He’s got them. Repetitions, series, mini-projects? They’re all here, and mostly shot while walking (or driving) on the street. Matt Stuart and Charlie Kirk spring to mind out of a failure of imagination more than anything, and Leslie holds his own without question. How have I never stumbled across his work before?

To be honest, though, as good as the photography is—and it’s great: page after page of well-paced bangers—what really grabs me, and why Mostly False Reports sits at the top of my (nonexistent) best-of list for 2023, are the short stories that accompany each picture.

Nearly every spread has one picture on the right and a short story (or statement, or chat dialogue, or whatever) on the right. Some of these go on for a couple of pages. Most are hilariously funny; some are a bit sad or strangely nostalgic (ymmv); a few seem to be more straight-ahead self examination, wonders about the craft, reminiscences, and the like, which may also be fiction. I hope at least some of them are….

Regular readers of this blog—if you even exist, thank you!—know that I’m a sucker for books that combine image and text. It’s not easy to pull off, really. Some photographers can’t really write; some writers can’t really photograph; some trigger my logophilia and make it impossible to see the photographs, for good or ill. Leslie pulls it off wonderfully, with great writing, mostly hilarious, some more poignant, and excellent, well-seen Street Photography.

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Overall, Mostly False Reports earns a highly recommended, go buy one now 4.85 stars.

Strangely, I believe Leslie has copies available. His website says “You can buy a copy for £30 from me here, just send me a message via the contact page or send me a message via my Instagram.” If you haven’t already, go buy a copy now. It’s sure to eventually sell out. If you’re cynical, you should buy one just to resell for a huge profit once they do sell out; the rest of you should add it to your library for some inspiration and just to wonder at and about. Mostly False Reports is a masterwork.

Before I forget, and mostly as an aside, the “Hereabouts” zine is likewise a bit of excellence. According to the end matter, “All of these photographs were taken within walking distance of my [Leslie’s] home. …as I walked around Brokley, Nunhead, Peckham, Greenwich and Lewisham.” This seems like a pretty large area, really, especially to a Texan, but then we Texans don’t walk much, compared to people in the UK. I don’t have much more to say about it. Great stuff. If you find a copy, snatch it up.


*There is no 2023 best-of list on this blog. Apologies. I haven’t looked at enough photobooks to warrant a best-of list.

Blake Andrews – ‘Portland Elegy’

As a long, looooong time fan of Blake Andrews—without his excellent blog and book reviews, this blog might not be here—when I stumbled across his “Portland Elegy” zine last year during a rare visit to Instagram, I bought a copy immediately.

Good thing too, as it sold out very quickly. Apologies if you’re late to the party.


“Portland Elegy” is a selection of @swerdnaekalb’s street work, made sometime between 1996 and 2005, as he roamed around his Portland neighborhood and ventured out to run errands or whatever. The selection leans heavily—nay, entirely—towards the classic joke/pun type of street photography with which we’re all familiar, and that Andrews found in his wanderings at least 30-odd times.

Nearly every picture has something in it that goes ba-dum-tss and the best, in my mind, might require a minute or two of looking to really spot it. The few that aren’t, are very much about patterns, the ways in which a photograph transforms its subject into flat planes, and the distortions that result. Regardless of type, in every case, the payoff for close looking is a nice dopamine hit.

It makes me think about walking more…. I have too many hobbies, pulling me in too many directions these days. I end up not doing much at all. Ho hum.

There’s not much more to say about this, really.

Unrated.

Insofar as “Portland Elegy” is out of print and unobtanium, apologies again for bragging about my collection again. I don’t mean to.

If you’re not following @swerdnaekalb on Instagram, or Andrews’ excellent photobook reviewing at Collector Daily or PhotoEye, or at least occasionally checking his blog for new articles or interviews, do yourself a favor and get acquainted. Andrews is a personal favorite, and after a few email exchanges over the years, I count him as a sort of friendly acquaintance, almost a friend, and definitely a sort of elder brother-type to look up to, and this admission sorta makes me want to cry for some reason.

Edit: I realize that this appeared on 12/25… I don’t celebrate that day at all, and so it never struck me, but this zine is really a gift. I intended to review it long before now: it sat on the side of my desk for nearly a year, occasionally getting covered by notes or other books or something, and never getting really looked at. What a blessing to come across it recently and spend some time with it. Good stuff.

Nicole Jean Hill – ‘Encampment, Wyoming’

Encampment, Wyoming: Selections from the Lora Webb Nichols Archive, 1899-1948 is an interesting document of social life from the titular town over the first half of the Twentieth Century. It received a ton of press at time of publication, and I have passing interest in archives owing to some graduate study during my time at Stony Brook, but I really picked it up because I had an addiction that I’ve since kicked….

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Taryn Simon – ‘The Color of a Flea’s Eye’

For The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection (2012-2020), Taryn Simon (and the Taryn Simon Studio) selected images from the New York Public Library‘s storied Picture Collection, collaged them onto large posters, and exhibited them in the library, alongside original images (recto and verso), indexes, purchase orders, acquisition and deaccession records, and the like. This large, heavy, volume is an exhibition-in-book-form sort of catalog of the work.

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Sofia Coppola – ‘Archive’

I preordered Sofia Coppola’s Archive direct from Mack in mid-2023 about 12 seconds after I opened the announcement email…. As such, I received and unboxed it very close to its launch, and my goodness… the response was epic. At time of writing, the analytics are astonishing: my unboxing videos typically get about 100 views—100 views, ever. Archive hit 1000 views in 25 days and here, just over 2 months after its release, viewers have clicked the video 2083 times and watched for a total of 117 hours and almost a dozen left comments. Viewers typically watch my videos for about 3 hours and almost never comment. And I’m absolutely positive you’re not here to hear about my unboxing video’s metrics, if you’re here at all…


Archive is a collection of photographs and ephemera from Coppola’s films: stills, picturess of locations and actors lounging about or engaged in their work; bits of advertising and clothes and little collages of things; pages from scripts, tear sheets, storyboards, and the like; and so on. For a Coppola fan, it’s an instabuy without question.

Now. I wouldn’t call myself among Coppola’s fans, per se. Of her oeuvre, I’ve only seen Lost in Translation (and, as of the day before publication, The Bling Ring). What I am a fan of is archives, and find it sort of fascinating to see what photographers (and photography-adjacent figures) collect and how those collections impact their work. And I love the sort of photobook-as-collage or, rather, collage-as-photobook form that Archive takes.

The book opens with an interview with Lynn Hirschberg and proceeds directly into the films, starting with The Virgin Suicides and proceeding through Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere, The Bling Ring, The Beguiled, On the Rocks, and Pricilla, which came out in late 2023, after the book appeared. Coppola introduces each film and shares brief anecdotes about various photographs throughout, and through these I came to recognize a sort of kinship with the director, a kind of kindred spirit thing.

Coppola is about 6, 7 years older than me, and so a solid Gen-Xer, where I’m at the tail end of that brilliantly forgotten generation, part of what’s known as the Carter babies or the Oregon Trail Generation. Anyway, you might imagine some little bit of similarity in our worldviews or whatever, insofar as two people, born 1000 miles and nearly a decade apart, and part of two completely different economic demographics would ordinarily be, which is to say, not at all alike, not really anyway. But the Coppola talks about meeting Hiromix—or seeing her photographs at least—in Japan and having a similar reaction to mine, so there’s that. And I too have—or had—a tendency to collect research materials, create little archives of periods or eras or moods or whatever.

Two brief anecdotes.

One: I used to collect little mementos of things from different activities: receipts from dates, birthday notes and balloons and valentine cards, ticket stubs from movies and concerts, the baggie from the last bit of redacted I bought, newspaper and magazine clippings, obituaries, etc. I kept them all in a shoebox, if I recall. Then, sometime in the mid- or late-1990s I found a groovy notebook thing with a metal cover and after some time trying to think of something worth writing in it, I grabbed a glue stick and some Scotch tape and started pasting and taping all that stuff into it, forming a sort of archive of my mid- and late teens. I should scan this thing and put it up here on the blog maybe… or film a FlipThrough of it…. Anyway.

Two: In the early 2000s, I took part is a handful of paid surveys. I was about 6 months away from moving to Illinois to go to Art School, and I took part in one for Boone’s Farm, yes, that Boone’s Farm, where participants were told to bring a collage of their interests and whatnot. Well… I threw myself into it. A friend gave me a box of old canvas bank bags. I took a seam ripper to them and *boom: I had a bunch of medium sized canvases to paint on. I took one of those canvas bags and painted on it, stuck various things to it—including an empty quart can of linseed oil, and other things I don’t recall—and brought it into the survey. Every other participant, of course, came empty handed and the first hour of the survey was spent with them clipping and ripping things out of the sports and car magazines provided by the survey company. These were all scanned and kept by the survey; my thing was scanned in 6 parts and then given back to me, as it couldn’t be filed.*

So what does any of that have to do with Coppola? Well… look at Archive and you’ll see something very, very similar. In my teenage archive/journal thing, I ran out of cool stuff with a handful of pages left. Rather than wait to collect more groovy things, I took my stack of concert ticket stubs and stuck them in, three to a page, in rough date order one night under the influence of something or other. I flip through it maybe twice a decade and I’m always disappointed in my young self for not just ripping out those pages, for just phoning in the last couple pages. And there’s something of that in Archive too.

The documentation from Coppola’s earlier films feels looser, more experimental. As Coppola gains experience and renown, the archives turn, become more obviously work-product-like, to my eye anyway. Some of it comes down to Coppola getting older and all: my own archival instincts have changed dramatically: this blog (and my YouTube) is evidence, not that anyone is paying attention. This is not to say that Coppola’s more recent archives are lesser, but they are tighter, more focused, as they probably should be. Coppola has been making films for nearly 30 years: she certainly knows what she’s looking for, even when she’s between projects with no idea what to do next, and the archives show her development and progression and its fascinating to watch.

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Archive makes me want to see more of Coppola’s films, and overall, I rate it a solid, recommended 4.5 stars.

Archive certainly was popular. The first printing sold out, and Mack saw enough demand to immediately reprint it. The second printing is expected November 28, 2023: if you’re reading this at time of publication, you have about a week to get in a preorder direct from Mack; if you’re reading it later, you may or may not be able to find a new or used copy elsewhere. If you have any interest in archives or filmmaking or Coppola in particular or her films or her particular sort of GenX view, then do yourself a favor and snag a copy while you can. It’s a great one.


*If you’re curious, the survey was an attempt to find ways to market Boone’s Farm to adult males in their early 20s. We ended up recommending an alcoholic Boone’s Farm energy drink, and as I recall, something like that appeared a few years later. Of course, I now find no evidence of it