Books | Go Dutch. Lendeert Blok + Marie-José Jongerius

Narcissus ‘Polar Ice’, ‘St Agnes’, ‘Mount Hood’, ‘La Riante’, and ‘President Lebrun’

Lendeert Blok.
Les Extravagantes
Éditions Xavier Barral
Photographs Lendeert Blok
Text (in French) Gilles Clément
Cloth-bound hardcover
176 pp, 85 colour and
b/w photographs


Marie-José Jongerius
– Edges of the Experiment
Published by Fw:Books
Designed and edited
by Hans Gremmen
Texts (in English) by various
authors, including Jongerius
2 x softcover volumes in slipcase
340 pp

Remarkable plant photographer Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932), who would have been 27 years in old in 1892 when the first practical and commercially available colour process became available, and would live for another 40, evidently never used colour. Thirty years his junior, the Dutch plant photographer, Lendeert Blok (1895-1986), who took inspiration from Blossfeldt, but was passionate about photographic innovation, would, eventually become famous for his pioneering use of colour.

Blok had studied journalism in South Africa before returning to Lisse, near Amsterdam, and establishing his Photo Technischbureau company, for which he procured work from nearby horticulturalists, producing their display catalogues while experimenting with panoramic formats and colour photography. From 1925, when the use of colour photography remained relatively rare, he began using the autochrome technique, which involved making composite colour images from three colour separations – blue, red and green – on glass plates with potato starches. The resulting images were unique, and could not be duplicated.

Tulipa ‘Fantasy’

Iris ‘Ismene’

Whereas Blossfeldt celebrated the wonder of plants as nature created them, the pioneering Blok was drawn toward horticultural invention and manipulation. And, just as softness and radiance were anathema to the former’s painstakingly detailed and ultimately static, scientific approach, Blok’s images – shot, like Blossfeldt’s, in the studio against plain backgrounds – are strongly redolent of the outdoors. Remaining true to the original flowers, they suggest movement, shifting light and painterly romance, values that harp back to the 19th century aesthetic.

Gilles Clément, who wrote the text for Lendeert Blok: Les Extravagantes, is a French landscape designer, botanist and ecological theorist. He created the André-Citroën Park in Paris (1999), and designed the vast public gardens at the Musée du Quai Branly (2006) in Paris in collaboration with architect, Jean Nouvel.

As the publishers were unable to send The Blog a review copy, we are unable to comment on its design or printing quality.

In stark contrast to Les Extravagantes, Marie-José Jongerius – Edges of the Experiment is, at first sight, a bleak, two-book, boxed set about a bleak subject – America’s ruination of its western landscape, via its unquenchable thirst for water and development in areas where it is naturally scarce. However, somewhat contradictorily, the matter-of-fact images, the non-precious layout treatment and spare packaging contrive to deliver a washed-out, grungy kind of beauty.

Eschewing luxury, the books and slipcase are in various grades of recycled paper or board, while foil-blocking is used as an ironic gesture on both covers.

The opening spread of
volume 1: an arid smog-ridden
shot of Los Angeles,
photographed in 2007 by
Marie-José Jongerius

Hans Gremmen’s Cactus
Desert Scenes: Playmobil
Western, cactus from
the 5251 set
(2 variations)

The project’s editor and ‘curator’, Hans Gremmen, who received a Gold Medal in the Dutch Design Awards for his work on the book Cette Montagne C’est Moi (2012), was also responsible for the design of the complete package. Its feel – the way it is assembled, the layout and typography – has the mainland Northern European design aesthetic, literally, written all over it. More mood-board than structured non-fiction publication, this is collaborative collage, or printmaking in book form. It’s a publishing project, but also an art event and a design project, in which photography, design, journalism, history, and ecological protest, all form a part, and to which 17 international writers and artists, a curator, two architects, a translator, two photographers and an editor/designer have contributed.

Spread within a section
by Taco Hidde Bakker
and Felix van de Vorst,
illustrated with a Krazy Kat
comic strip, stills from
John Ford’s Cheyenne
, 1964, and classic
1950s desert scene
photographs by Josef Muench

One of a series of
diagrammatic spreads by
Hans Gremmen, this one
illustrating lakes and
surface water in California

Photographer and researcher, Marie-José Jongerius, is based in Amsterdam. In her studiously calm, simple documentary landscape pictures, over 60 of which, produced over a 10 year period, appear in volume one of Edges of the Experiment, she ‘looks for boundaries, limits and edges between nature and the man-made world.’ Volume two is a collection of essays about the making of the American landscape, illustrated with a wide variety of diverse imagery that includes simple, and beautifully-drawn food production and surface water diagrams, stills from Roman Polanski’s film Chinatown (1974) and westerns, Playmobil cactus scenes, maps, ariel survey photographs, and a portrait of musician Captain Beefheart, among many others.

Lendeert Blok: Les
courtesy Éditions
Xavier Barral,
© Leendert
Blok / Stichting
Spaarnestad Photo

Marie-José Jongerius
– Edges of the Experiment

courtesy Fw:Books

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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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2 Responses to “Books | Go Dutch. Lendeert Blok + Marie-José Jongerius”

  1. Taco says:

    Thanks for the review and showing a page I contributed too. Felix van deer Vorst should be written as Felix van de Vorst. Thanks, Taco

  2. PedroSilmon says:

    Thanks for your comment, Taco, and for your help in drawing our attention to our spelling mistake, which has been corrected

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