Posts Tagged ‘Merrell’

Books | Flying in the Face of Adversity

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Burkitshi horsemen hunt with eagles in the Altai mountains of western Mongolia

Hunting with Eagles
In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs
Photographs by Palani Mohan
Published by Merrell
Hardcover + jacket
128 pp / 85 duotone illustrations
Available now

The exotically dressed chap with an eagle perched on his gloved hand set in a dramatic, mountainous landscape, on the front cover of this book, might be modelling Alexander McQueen menswear. Only he’s not. The photograph could be an example from an early 20th century anthropological study similar, say, to Martin Gusinde’s formidable work on the tribes of Tierra del Fuego. But it isn’t. It was taken just recently by Indian-born, Hong Kong-based photographer Palani Mohan in the wilderness of the vast and isolated Altai mountains of western Mongolia, close to its borders with China and Russia, and shows a real life, nomadic Kazakh using a golden eagle to hunt his prey, just as his ancestors have done for hundreds of years before him.

Unusual clouds form at high altitudes as the wind rises over the mountains

While the subject matter is lent a heroic, even stylish dimension by the photographs it is, nevertheless, infused with pathos. Ethnic Kazakhs, numbering around 100,00 are Mongolia’s largest minority, but no more than fifty to sixty true eagle-hunters or burkitshi, as they are known locally, are left. ‘I have an important job to do’, Mohan told Orazkhan, one of the oldest and wisest of the men who hunt with eagles, who sipped yak’s milk tea while howling winter winds brought fresh snow to the desolate valley outside, ‘to document the burkitshi before they disappear.’ And over the years he photographed them, Mohan would learn the intimate details of their relationship with the birds that are integral to the existence of these stoic people. How they take female eagles – larger and more powerful than the males – from the nest as pups then treat them as part of the family. How the burkitshi hand-feed the eaglets – as they do their own children – to develop a bond of trust, even love, before training them to hunt their prey: the foxes that provide food for the hunters’ wives and children, whose pelts are made into the warm clothing that is essential for survival in the harsh Altai climate. It is this close family bond that ensures the mature eagles return to present their kill to the hunters. Poignantly, however, after ten to fifteen years, the eagles past their prime, all bonds must be broken and every bird returned – with the reluctance of all parties involved – to the wild.

Golden eagles – like children – are treated as part of the family

Exceptionally well-printed – perhaps appropriately, in nearby China – on premium quality smooth coated paper, Merrell PublishersHunting with Eagles is simply designed in the tradition of the best documentary photography books, with all of the emphasis on Palani Mohan’s extraordinary pictures, which, judging by those on his website, are the most accomplished he has produced to date.

All photographs courtesy Merrell Publishers
© Palani Mohan

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

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Books | Horst, Photographer of Nature

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Photographic pattern, (unidentified)

Horst: Patterns from Nature
By Martin Barnes
Merrell Publishing
Hardback + jacket
104 pages
50 duotone illustrations

Its title deviating by only the replacement of an apostrophe and an s with a colon, a new publication Horst: Patterns from Nature focusses in on a little-know series of photographs, nine of which appeared in the final pages of the 1946 book, Horst’s Patterns from Nature, augmenting them with a large number of mainly previously unpublished works made around the same time. The book is an expanded version of an essay by distinguished author Martin Barnes that appears in the main catalogue for the current exhibition, Horst, Photographer of Style at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Susanna Brown, and as such complements the exhibition, while considerably widening our knowledge of the photographer, his methods, and the breadth of his oeuvre.

Photographic pattern, (Calladium)

Photographic pattern, (Xanthosoma Lindenii)

Barnes’ short introduction, succinctly places the esteemed German-born photographer, the former Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann (1906 >1999) – who later took the name Horst P Horst – into historical context. He provides us with an insight into how, starting out as an architectural draughtsman in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1930, taught photography by his lover, the great George Hoyningen-Huhené, Horst rose quickly to recognition and fame, becoming friends with Marlene Dietrich, Nöel Coward and Coco Chanel. Barnes describes how, Horst fled German conscription and was spirited away by Vogue to America, becoming a US citizen in 1943. Best known for his slick studio-lit fashion and beauty images – the sexy Mainbocher Corset (1939) perhaps the most well-known – there is evidence to suggest, Barnes explains, that Horst embraced natural light and organic forms towards the end of World War II, as a way of associating himself with such untainted pre-war German cultural figures such as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 > 1832). Goethe’s definition of art: ‘Art is Nature seen through a temperament,’ is quoted by Alexander Lieberman, a Horst collaborator and art director of American Vogue from 1943 to 1962, in his blurb on the back flap of the dust jacket of the 1946 Patterns book. The front of this jacket is shown inside the new book, as well as a number of the double page spreads that appeared in it. For comparison, examples of work as they appears in books by other revered, early to mid-twentieth century photographers of nature are included, notably by Edward Weston, Paul Strand and German teacher and photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1864 > 1932), who Horst acknowledged as an important influence.

Via repetition and mirroring techniques, and some influence from surrealism – Horst also collaborated with Salvador Dali – he pushed nature into the realms of semi-abstract pattern. Helpfully, by showing a succession of images – first the single original shot, then a group of four of these fitted together, the top ones a mirror image of those below, followed by a complete picture made up of sixteen images arranged on the same basic principles, Barnes demonstrates how the complete final images were made up. Some of these, in the run of plates, which make up over two thirds of the book’s content, are very graphic, while others are much softer, prettier, almost dream-like. Somewhat reminiscent of the images one sees in a kaleidoscope, but in square rather than circular format, not all of them are constructed solely from close-up shots of plants. For some the photographer has stepped back, thus changing scale in order to include, for instance, large palms trees, or palm fronds together with architectural details, or sections of a wicker chair.

Photographic pattern, (Prunus Pennsylvania Bark)

Photographic pattern, (Palm Trees)

Horst’s Kodak negative album of 1946, fits into the palm of the hand, and is reproduced at actual size in the new book, along with one of the negatives and a representative selection of the contact prints it contains. Barnes discovered that the negatives used to make the original large prints are not the same as those chosen for the construction of the complex patterned images that became the subject of the new publication. Ever the modernist, despite his respect for classical influences, Horst said of these: ‘[They] are photographs shown in simple repeat. The resulting patterns are immediately applicable to industrial fields, such as textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics, glass, ceramics, china, leather, bookbinding and jewellery.’ He went on to explain that they were also a demonstration of how modern design can be achieved through modern means. It’s possible that some of them may indeed have made it to a production line somewhere, but, so far, Barnes has been unable to uncover any evidence of this having happened.

Horst: Patterns from Nature is the end-result of inspired and painstaking investigative research by Martin Barnes, who, as it happens, is also Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. The images in this book are as surprising as they are beautiful. While the text in photography and art books can sometimes feel like unnecessary padding, here the writing is an integral and indispensable element of the package. Merrell Publishers are pretty choosy about what publishing projects they get involved in, and with obvious relish have gone to town on this slim volume’s production values, reproducing all of the images in exquisite quality duo-tone, spot-varnished on heavy matt coated paper.

All images from Horst: Patterns from Nature
All images © Conde Nast / Horst Estate

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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, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Design | Made in Japan

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Made in Japan: 100 New Products
By Naomi Pollock
Foreword by  Reiko Sudo
Merrell Publishers
September, 2012

It’s not surprising that in a world that gets smaller every day in terms of communications, and where cross-cultural influences ebb and flow like never before, that modern product design, increasingly aimed at global markets, has taken on homogenous characteristics. There are of course exceptions but while, for instance, many contemporary Scandinavian products from furniture to glassware remain recognisably Scandinavian, the majority of people would be hard pushed to say whether an item in London’s Skandium shop, which stocks exclusively Scandinavian products, is of Swedish, Danish, Finnish or even Norwegian origin. One wonders whether the inhabitants of these countries themselves can tell the difference. Reiko Sudo, artistic director of Japan’s award-winning Nuno Corporation, in her thoughtful foreword to Japan-based American architect Naomi Pollock’s Made in Japan, thanks her for for identifying the common threads that link Japanese traditional culture and the country’s present day products and recognises that they are perhaps more easily identified through an outsider’s eyes.

The one hundred 21st century products selected for inclusion by Pollock are carefully chosen for their ingenuity, shape and fabrication and tell a story of Japan’s unique design heritage, which has survived partly due to the country’s self-inflicted 200 year isolation, spanning the 1630s to the 1850s, a period in which its borders were closed to foreigners and foreign trade severely restricted, and despite the rapid industrialisation that followed – accomplished with much British help – and major wars it was involved in, in the twentieth century. Still fiercely proud of their rich culture and handicraft tradition, combining cutting-edge technology and precision with stylish design, Japan’s contemporary product creators elevate everyday functional items – paper products, kitchen utensils, flooring, furniture – into works of art that are frequently but indefinably Japanese.

Pollock describes how observations and contributions from outsiders have often been of importance to Japan’s designers. One product in particular, the Ripples bench, above, by Toyo Ito of Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects, designed in 2003, was originally produced in steel and concrete until Luciano Marson, founder of Italy’s Horm, asked: ‘Why don’t we bring it to life?’ His question led to the bench being redeveloped using layers of different laminated wood into which circular, bottom-sizes depressions are bored before hand-sanding and oiling meld the layers into a single flowing, continuous surface. It’s anecdotal details like this that demonstrate the depth of Pollock’s knowledge and painstaking research and make this book special and well worth spending time reading.

As an object itself, Made in Japan, is interesting. The attractive and unusual binding – cloth spine with hard covers – is reminiscent of one of my favourite books in my collection: How to Wrap Five More Eggs by Hideyuki Oka (originally published by Wetherill in 1975, recently republished version available from Amazon) the definitive guide to Japanese traditional packaging. Looking at the two books side by side, the content is different but the sense of continuity is unmistakeable. Unfortunately, designwise however, between the covers it’s another story. Whereas How to Wrap… is laid out with sensitivity – pictures played off against one another or against white or black space – and with an eye to creating rhythm and drama, Made in Japan , aside from the introductory pages is strictly regimented and dully repetitious – product pictures on the right facing equal lengths of text and almost identical display type on the left – and suggestive of a trade catalogue.

Images from top
Plugo extension leads by Masayuki Kurakata/Monos, 2007
©Isuo Sato/Masayuki Kurakata
Standing rice scoops by Marna
Ripples bench by Toyo Ito/Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects
©Giani Antoniali/Ikon

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