sábado, 7 de abril de 2018

MICHAEL KOLLMANN : THE PHOTOBOOK AS A LIFETIME PASSION

DEUTSCH
                                                                                                                           

Since his teenage years, Michael Kollmann (current Chief Curator of Photobooks at Weslicht and Ostlicht Photo Galleries in Vienna, Austria) felt a penchant for photobooks which quickly evolved to a full-fledged passion.

A recognized international authority in the sphere of photobook, Michael Kollmann has seen throughout his professional career of roughly twenty years the constant changes experienced by this sector with the development of new technologies, ideas, materials, designs, layouts, texts, sequence of the images and typographies, until becoming a multidisciplinary entity in which every aspect is important, including of course the good photographs.

It has resulted in the setting up of a new standard in quality regarding the photobook scope and its transformation in a dynamic and evolving format, with the opening up of new ways of interpreting images as one of its fundamental aims.

And thanks to the integrated design and order workflow, hardcover bound photobooks with customized pictures and text can be produced very cost-effectively.

The upshot of it is that the traditional concept of photobook as a haptic entity with images printed on paper (in the same way as for example prints on baryta paper for exhibitions) has been preserved while simultaneously being very wisely enhanced by a number of new breakthrough advancements as to stellar print quality, superb binding, high quality papers and detailed handmade production stages, without forgetting the boundless possibilities in terms of sizes, formats, types, quality and grammage of paper, easy and intuitive bookmaking softwares enabling the self edition with a hugely comprehensive choice of options, etc.

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Obviously, the worldwide reference-class photobooks belong to the realm of highly specialized publishers like Pepperoni Books, Mack, KWY Books, Steidl, Aperture, Thames & Hudson, Phaidon, etc.

But now, professional photographers, artists, writers and a wide range of people yearning for creating a book with their images or experiences, can beget their own photobooks and personalize them adding texts and many more things, with a number of pages between approximately 28 and 160, following the basic principles and new model of photobook genre set up by Andrew Roth in 2011 with his The Book of 101 Books and Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in 2004 with their three volume series The Photobook. A History (published by Phaedon).

A meaningful example of this impressive revival of the photobook on paper has been the Vienna Photobook Festival, of which Michael Kollmann was one of its co-founders (along with Regina Anzenberger, Director of the Anzenberger Agency and Gallery, and Peter Coeln, Director of Wetslicht Gallery and Ostlicht Gallery) and key driving force of the event and its five consecutive editions held from 2013 hitherto,

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with great success of public, thanks to his remarkable knowledge of his work environment, deep insight of market circumstances, humbleness (he´s a highly professional and unassuming person oozing kindness and comradeship to spare), unswerving commitment and a tremendous working capacity.

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It can only be defined as a feat, something really heroic which has been achieved in the middle of a widespread worldwide economical crisis, by dint of love for the photobooks, painstaking attention to every organizing detail, giving his best to strengthen its unique position as a market place for independent publishers, artists, collectors and rare photobook dealers, as well as coordinating the different lectures and talkings held by prestigious guests from the photographic, artistic, curating, publishing and photobook making realms, to make them feel at ease straightaway.

Therefore, the presence in the Vienna Photobook Festival of such prestigious figures like William Klein, Bruce Davidson, Josef Koudelka, Michel Auer, Martin Parr, Olivia Arthur, Chien-Chi Chang, Hans Michael Koetzle, Carolyn Drake, Nikolay Bakharev, René Groebli, Michael Mack, Walter Bergmoser, Peter Sramek, Michael Mack, Ania Nalecka, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Magali Avezou, Gerry Badger, Krass Clement, Colin Pantall, Christina de Middel, Hannes Wanderer, David Campany, Thomas Bonfert, Stefan Olah, Leon Kirchlechner, Anastasia Koroshilova, Christoph Schaden, Michaela Bosákova, Horacio Fernández, Manfred Heiting, Michael Hagner, Corinne Noordenbos, Betien van Manen, Martin Kollar and many others, stems from very hard work and months of arrangements previous to each edition, which has made possible that interest for photobooks is growing geometrically as a very interesting, beautifully crafted and elaborately printed object to relish in your hands.

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Michael Kollmann is a real pundit on photobooks, knowing their history, as well as utterly grasping their significant role in contemporary visual culture and their legacy harking back to late XIX century when the autotype became a printmaking method pioneering the simultaneous printing of images and texts, without forgetting the great remarkable influence of Shinzo Fukuhara with his photobook Paris and the Seine (made in 1922 and featuring twenty-four unique black and white pictures resembling the impresionist painting, giving great importance to luminic gradations and the tones of light and dark they deliver as a means of expression) and the arrival of a paradigm shift during the 1960s with the new electronic printing technologies and masterpieces like the artist´s books of Ed Ruscha, Hans Peter Feldmann and others.

It all staying true to the unwavering keynote of photobook as a work in itself, a book in which pictures construct the narrative and respond to an original concept.

In addition, recent years have seen a period of great expansion for photobooks, which are currently placed in a central position in modern photography, to such an extent that today, more books are produced than ever, being bought and sold, swapped and collected, within the frame of a top level niche product.

It´s really fascinating that mostly thanks to digital technologies, we are seeing a return to the printed object, a format that for many artists and photographers is not only a useful means to show their images, but also a very adequate space for experimentation and creativity.

On the other hand, Michael Kollmann has always deemed that his mission as a photobook curator is to bestow this medium the acknowledgement it deserves as one of the most significant pillars in photography and an autonomus art form in itself.

This way, finding solutions for a timely presentation of photobooks in specific spaces intended for it becomes top priority, so he incepted and developed the " Publisher in Residence " project, through which a single publisher, photobook artist or photographer is offered the oppotunity to present his/her own repertoire of works for a period of three or four months, with the added advantage that a brand can show itself framed within an innovative drive in sales technology, as a further choice complementing the bookshops and using the new tools that have redefined the self-publishing ideas that emerged in the sixties, getting final products of unprecedented quality that can be highly efficiently displayed at both Westlicht and Ostlicht galleries, which also work as meeting places.

Michael Kollmann revelling in the viewing of different photobooks in one of the tables of the Vienna Photobook Festival 2015. © jmse
                                                                                                                                  
And among his vast array of valuable qualities stand out his unselfishness, his steady discreet hard work, his outstanding professionalism and his constant availability to help everybody at any moment (there have been a lot of examples of it throughout years, as happened on September 22nd, 2015 during the premiere of Elliott Erwitt´s Paris Exhibition at the Leica Gallery in Vienna, whose previously announced speaker was to be Erich Lessing, who finally couldn´t attend, so Okky Offerhaus, Elliott Erwit´s assistant during the first half of sixties, occupied his place and pronounced a speech on the Magnum photographer, while Michael Kollmann devoted himself to the task of selling as many copies as possible of Okky Offerhaus book EE & OO  " but a plastic rose is forever " along with Elliott Erwitt´s catalogue book, while the rest of attendees enjoyed the event ).

Furthermore, Michael Kollmann, a man able to elaborate on photobooks for hours, has made some forays as an editor with works like:

- Summer into Winter, a 20 x 25 cm format and 120 pages photobook telling a journey into the heart of Europe, looking back where he came from, the place where his ancestors had a home for more than 300 years, before the exodus which took millions of people to the great cities. The author was eight years working on this project, from 1992 to 2010.

- Ren Hang Poster Photobook, edited by Michael Kollmann and Calin Kruse. It features 96 pages in 28 x 40 cm format and 60 colour illustrations.

And if that weren´t enough, he is a great enthusiast and collector of photobooks and vintage magazines, having made a documentary film on Allan Porter´s mythical

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Camera Swiss photo magazine.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza