Today we will be reviewing a new Street Photography magazine called Street Sweeper Magazine. It was sent to me by Jaycee Malicdan, a California-based street photographer born in Yokosuka, Japan. Jaycee is the chief editor and founder of Street Sweeper. I have to admit that before receiving a copy to review, I didn’t know about this magazine. It turns out though, I was positively surprised when I skimmed through its pages and I enjoyed it even more one evening when I decided to go through it slowly and take in the photos, the layout, the design and the feel of the mag. But more on that later.
This is my first try to review a published photo book, and I must say it’s not just any photo book but a very wild and daring one. I am pretty excited about it although it seems to me like a serious and difficult task but also a fun and challenging one. In my opinion, a book reviewer should have an open mind, a good sense of observation, be detail-oriented plus to possess a dash of humour, and to think out of the box. I shall focus, obviously, on the book insight, determining the quality of the photos in here and its contents, but examining also things like the design and the quality of the print.
Welcome to my second photo book / magazine review. I am very excited to start writing this post! Today I will be sharing my thoughts on another EYESHOT magazine. This time the issue I will be analyzing is called “Street Jungle”. But before I get started, let me remind you all what EYESHOT Magazine is in case you don’t already know of it.
This is my first attempt at reviewing a published photo book / magazine. I must admit that it feels like a much harder task than, lets say, reviewing a camera or an accessory. Gear is basically a WYSIWYG thing. You use it, check it, try it, compare it and you can form an opinion by analysing the facts that are presented to you. A book however is something totally different. Of course there are some practical points to examine such as the quality of the publication or the design, but basically the reviewer is called upon to offer his insight on the book and its contents, to determine the quality of the photos, how easy it is to read and how well it presents itself on multiple levels. Reviewing a book or zine in my opinion requires much more dedication and an open mind, which are tools that can help you also understand on another level the people behind the work presented. Up until a short while ago, expert book reviewer Andrew Sweigart would dissect any publication sent to us for review and share his thoughts with all of you dear Readers, but now that he has left the team for personal reasons,, it is time for me to give this book reviewing thing a try. I hope you enjoy it.
If you have followed Street Hunters for the past few years, you know that we are serious admirers of Khalik Allah’s work. Spyros first shared his work in one of our Street Photos Of The Week back in March of 2014. In July of that year we were fortunate enough to have Khalik participate in one of our Hangouts, which was undoubtedly our most powerful episode in the series. That August I wrote a piece on his personal impact in The Under the Influence Series, and that September we shared the announcement of his incredibly moving film, Field Niggas. There’s a reason Khalik has made numerous appearances on Street Hunters, and that’s because his work is some of the most riveting we’ve seen. However, we’ve only seen his work on the internet, not in the physical form of a book or zine. Selfishly, I yearned for just that. If anyone’s body of photographs begged for a printed collection, Allah’s was it. In fact, Khalik Allah’s style and strength as a photographer demanded it.
Street Photography can be more than clever. More than witty and whimsical. More than the perfectly-timed candid. More than layers. More than light versus shadow. More than shock-and-awe flash. More than the beautifully composed street portrait. Yes, all of these parts of the big, beautiful mess that is street photography are equally deserving of a home within the genre and it is the eye-candy that our visual palates crave and styles we desire to capture. However, street photography can be important, and it can be powerful. This can be found where street and documentary photography collide, and the results can be ground-shaking. Devin Allen’s A Beautiful Ghetto is a document of such a cultural/social/political earthquake whose epicenter was Baltimore, Maryland, a far-reaching event whose tremors can still be felt to this day.
In April 2015, the world’s attention was turned to Baltimore. Television and the internet were feeding eyes across the globe with images of a city that was literally on fire with unrest. On the 12th day of the month, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man was arrested by the city’s police department for carrying what the police said was a switchblade knife. On the police van ride following the arrest, in which the officers failed to properly secure him, Gray suffered injuries to his neck and spinal cord and fell into a coma. On April 19th, Freddie Gray died as a result of those injuries.
There’s both a feeling of sadness and the joy of discovery when first exposed to a photographer’s work with a posthumous book release. Much more so when the photographer is one who worked in relative obscurity. I’ve experienced this before and written about it in my reviews of collections from Vivian Maier and Leon Levinstein. The feeling of sadness is genuine, though. These previously unheralded photographers practiced their craft not for glory, but because they were compelled to. It really is a thought that is hard to comprehend in these times, where over-sharing is the norm. Granted, social media was not a factor in decades past, and the notion of making photographs for one’s own self, without self-promotion, may seem absurd to many today. But, as crazy as it may seem, some do and their reasons are not to be questioned. If anything, we just need to be thankful that a curator/editor realized that the photographs needed to be published for us to enjoy.
William Gedney (1932-1989), I have to admit, was unknown to me before I received a copy of William Gedney: Only the Lonely, 1955–1984 (University Of Texas Press, 2017). That being said, Only The Lonely provides a grand introduction to a photographer who surely deserves the recognition and appreciation that escaped him while he lived.
Mexico. As a citizen of the United States, the country has become more than just our southern neighbor. It has become a hot-button issue. The country itself seems to be a point of contention. Immigration, “The Wall”, trade, crime, drugs. These topics all flashpoints for argument and also fuel that helped to put the Trump administration into the White House. Debates on issues involving Mexico are not likely to end soon, either. No matter how one stands on such issues, one thing is certain… most of the news reported to us here in the U.S. about Mexico is negative.
That being said, Mexico has been on my mind. I’ve never been there, but it has always fascinated me. I know depictions in movies and television are not the most accurate and news bits only give a taste, a sampling of more negativity. I wanted to see the beauty that I knew had to be there. I’ve seen fragments of it. And these fragments often fueled vivid, imagined scenes, often paired with the mandatory and ubiquitous classical guitar. I wanted to see photographs and I wanted a book of them. I wanted to be able to linger on the images and savor them. Fortunately, there were two fresh options from two photographers whose work I truly admire. There was Alex Webb’s ‘La Calle’ and ‘Mexico: Photographs’ by Mark Cohen. Due to budget constraints, I could choose only one. I ultimately chose Webb’s offering only because of the fact that I didn’t own anything by him. I knew he had worked in Mexico a good deal, and samples of his work from there were gorgeous. There likely wasn’t a bad decision to be made, but I must admit that I’m very pleased with my choice.
Embracing unconventionality in photography, as well as in writing about photography, is a polarizing venture. As with any art, going against the grain can be reviled or exalted. Middle ground typically is not found until the scales are tipped to the advantage of the embracers by campaigning from the early adopters themselves. Whether this is done consciously or subconsciously, it’s only from the pimping of “challenging” work that the endeavor becomes popular, or at least, “accepted”. However, the endgame of truly challenging work does not have to be about winning the hearts and likes. About becoming wildly popular. About becoming a mass-market darling. The endgame can be the challenge itself. The challenge to make the observer think and, at the highest level, inspire.
The few street photography manuals I’ve read have not been exactly challenging, and for that matter, inspiring. Manuals, by definition, are not meant to be inspiring. That’s not to say they haven’t been helpful, fulfilling on their promise of instruction, providing tips and tricks. They offer similar bits of direction and tend to be geared towards the fledgling street photographer. That being said, a bit of dread crept over me when I found a link to Michail Moscholios’ free e-book, Anti-Manual on Street Photography in my inbox.
Shooting at festivals, fairs, carnivals and the like can be a mixed bag for a street photographer. The obvious benefit of shooting at these events is the bang-for-your-buck factor. What I mean by this is there’s a large amount of people in a relatively small space. It’s a target-rich environment that offers big value for the street shooter. Providing great opportunities to sharpen skills, these events are a godsend to the photographer who doesn’t live in an active urban setting or is pressed for free time to shoot. The only drawback I’ve seen with collections of festival shots is the feeling of sameness, that I’m left with. Often, I’ve seen what amounts to be hodgepodge clusters of “character” shots. Now some are excellent quality, depicting some truly unique and colorful characters. However, quite a few groups of these photos fail to capture the atmosphere, flavor or spirit of these events. There’s a lack of “moments”.
Chris J MacDonald’s ‘Field Of Dreams’
That being said, receiving Chris J MacDonald’s‘Field Of Dreams’ zine in the post was a delightful surprise and a visual treat. Self-published this past fall, ‘Field Of Dreams’ is a brief, but gloriously colorful and vivid essay on British summer music festival culture. In just 23 images, MacDonald taps into the essence of these festivals with an entertaining mix of characters and moments.