Self-published photo books go from last resorts to treasures at MOMA

Andrew Miksys

Andrew Miksys

The books, Phelan says, are “the closest you can get to the actual product," the experience of looking at a work of art the way the artist envisioned it. And getting that experience takes some doing: The majority of his books are issued in limited editions that are sometimes hand-numbered or signed. That makes them fetishized works of art in and of themselves, and they're snapped up in practically no time.

And why? Because they're self-published. While book publishing in general is ailing, self-publishing is thriving — even though it still has something of a bad rap in the literary world, an option of last resort for those who couldn’t get their book past the traditional gatekeepers.

“And yet here in photo books, particularly in self-published photo books — we have this incredible oasis where it’s flourishing,” Phelan says. “Books sell out in days sometimes, not even in weeks.”

That’s right, self-publishing is hot, so hot that Phelan helped create the first international self-published photography book prize, the Anamorphosis Prize. Entries have already begun streaming from all over the world; the first package Phelan opened contained a book about spaghetti Westerns from Italy.


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Spanish photographer Txema Salvans captures a unique view of prostitution happening in urban and rural roadside locations along Spain’s Meditarranean coast in The Waiting Game. Collected over a period of six years, these images are remarkably intriguing. Blending into the surrounding scenery as if part of the landscape, these women are not the central focus of Txema’s frame, rather they sit waiting just on the periphery. The women also seem to be in the middle of nowhere, and in fact, they are. They are on the side of highways, secondary highways, and small byways that run from town to town. And while these roads are considered more discrete and low-key, they are still well traveled—many take them to avoid having to pay the toll for the main highways, and trucks carrying goods and fruits take these roads from Andalucia to France.


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VERSUS // Leica Monochrom vs. M246

Leica's recent announcement of Monochrom Type 246 is taking the world of black and white photography by a storm. I see much debate over the merits of making the switch to the new CMOS sensored M246 and those who feel that the previous version of Monochrom is perhaps the better choice of the two. 

Just yesterday, I had numerous inquiries about the new Monochrom camera asking if it would be a wise decision to buy one. I said 'it depends on your goal in photography' which is the reason why I am writing this comparative review to shed light on the differences between the two cameras.

Firstly, let's talk about the previous version of Leica Monochrom. It features a CCD sensor that is 18 megapixels which simply means in that the sensor will use more 'energy' to capture images compared to a CMOS sensor. Getting back to the 'goal' in photography, if your aim is to do a lot of shooting the new version will serve to give at least twice the amount of images per charge of a battery. This is additional image capturing is also partly due to the larger battery size of the M246 as well as the differences in the sensor size.


EXHIBITION // Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs 1946 – 1996

Exhibition: April 24th – June 6th, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, April 24th, 6 – 8 PM 

Woman and Shopping Cart, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, 1985 

Steven Kasher Gallery is proud to announce Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs, 1946 – 1996. This is the second exhibition of Liebling’s work at Steven Kasher Gallery. The show features 50 black and white and color photographs taken in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx over a five decade span. The exhibition highlights Liebling’s roots in, love for, and inspired representations of his home city.

Jerome Liebling (1924-2011) was born in Harlem and grew up poor in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. In 1942, Liebling quit his first semester at Brooklyn College to enlist in World War II, serving in the notoriously deadly glider infantry. The carnage he witnessed fueled his creative impulse to “figure out where the pain was..." Liebling returned to Brooklyn College in 1946 to study art under the G.I. Bill. Ad Reinhardt's Bauhaus-influenced design classes honed his formal sensibility; documentary photographer Walter Rosenblum opened his eyes to the power of the photographic image.

In 1947, Liebling joined the Photo League, a socially minded collective of photographers who fanned across New York to document hidden corners of the city. For Liebling, children surviving the rough-and-tumble city streets became a symbol of fortitude. "Their faces could inform all that they felt, from grace, to reflective questioning, to supreme prescience," he said. "Sometimes there was a hint of defeat, but more often there was improvisation and brilliance." One Easter morning in Harlem, Liebling encountered a young child dressed in his Sunday best: broken shoe-laces, tattered trousers, a threadbare tweed coat and cap.  Hands buried in his pockets, the boy spread his coat open wide, and the click of Liebling's shutter transformed him into Butterfly Boy. This image of a winged superhero who could soar away from his impoverished world has become a beloved icon, appearing on public posters and billboards in New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Japan and elsewhere.

In 1949 Liebling accepted a position teaching photography and filmmaking at the University of Minnesota. Twenty years later, he returned to New York to discover that the city of his childhood had vanished. ''I came back, and it was a disaster," he said. Liebling's 1970s photographs of the crumbling South Bronx depict a bleak realization: theButterfly Boy may not have escaped to a better place after all. The young man in the picture Charlotte Street is trapped amidst ruins, in devastation as harrowing as Liebling's wartime experiences. Despite their imagery of senseless destruction, his photographs reveal the ever renewing spirit of humanity pushing up through the cracks.

In the late 1970s, Liebling rediscovered the long-lost Brooklyn of his childhood in the oceanside neighborhood known as "Little Odessa" in Brighton Beach. He spent three decades photographing there in brilliant chromogenic color as the old wave of Jewish denizens gave way to the new wave of Russian immigrants.

Liebling’s daughter, filmmaker Rachel Liebling, says “There was nothing as exciting as wandering the streets of Brooklyn with my father.  He found mystery and intrigue around every corner. The people on the streets – with their indefatigable energy and their human foibles – became larger-than-life through his lens. Human struggle took on mythical proportions; the perseverance and ingenuity of everyday people was heroic in his eyes.”

Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs, 1946 – 1996 will be on view April 24th – June 6th, 2015. Steven Kasher Gallery is located at 515 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM. For more information about the exhibition and all other general inquiries, please contact Cassandra Johnson, 212 966 3978,


VERSUS // Leica M 240 Classic vs. Advanced Metering

Like most digital cameras these days, the Leica M 240 was the first Leica to provide Live View as well as sensor-based advanced metering, unlike the classic metering found on all other Leica M cameras.

I found that the Classic metering was easily fooled by back lighting so I turned on Advanced metering which opens the shutter and allows the sensor to do full image-based metering.


It was able to handle complex lighting much better, being anywhere from 1-2 stops brighter than the classic metering, which was significantly underexposed.

Below are the resulting images, both with corrected exposures in Lightroom. The black and white preset used was VSCO Kodak TriX.