The Douglas Stockdale Mixtape
If you are new to our Mixtape features, The Mixtape Series presents profiles of movers and shakers in the fine art photography world, often reviewers at portfolio events and taste makers in their own right.
When Lenscratch was in it’s early incarnations, I reached out to other blog editors in order to expand my community. One of those connections was with Douglas Stockdale, who was creating two sites (and still is!)–Singular Images and The Photo Book. Like myself, Douglas was spotlighting photographers and publications as a way to connect and give back to our community. For almost a decade, Douglas has deeply considered the printed page and become an expert in all things photo book. I had the pleasure of reconnecting last summer, when we were both reviewing portfolios at the Los Angeles Center of Photography‘s Exposure Portfolio Reviews. Coming up in April, Douglas will be teaching a workshop at LACP: Introduction to Photobook Design workshop with Douglas Stockdale that will undoubtedly be of great value and interest.
Douglas Stockdale (American) is the Editor and Founder (2008) of The PhotoBook and has over 25 years of photographic experience. The PhotoBook e-magazine has featured over 400 contemporary photobook reviews and he has been a book review contributor for photo-eye and EMAHO e-magazines. He curated a photobook exhibition for Fotografia Internazionale di Roma (2012 Rome, Italy), and has co-curated with 10×10 Photobooks, FotoBookFestival Kassel and Photo Book Independent. His photobook Ciociaria was published by Punctum Press, 2011 and his self-published artist book Pine Lake was recognized as one of the Best Photography Books for 2014. His work is in the permanent collections of Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Reminders Photobook Library, and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and his photographs have been featured in LensWork, photo-eye, Silvershotz, EMAHO, Lenscratch and Looking at Photograph, among others. He leads an Introduction to Photobook Design workshop for LACP (Los Angeles Center for Photography) where he has been a portfolio reviewer. He will be a judge for Photo Book Independent’s International Photographic Book Competition again for 2017 as well as providing two curatorial talks during Photo Independent in late April (2017).
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography.
As a kid I was constantly doodling and my mother would always complain about all the drawings left around the house. One early memory, probably when I was about 13 years old, I was photographing my cat Susie indoors and being told that since I was not using a flash, it would not turn out, but I went ahead anyway. Although the store print did turn out poorly, I had a picture.
The experience probably relates to my current sense of experimentation/fun; try it and who knows what the results might inspire. I had thought about taking art courses at college while I studied industrial design at Michigan State, but the course times always seemed to conflict. Nevertheless during my junior year I was surrounded by guys with 35mm cameras, Pentax, Minolta, Nikkormat, a few extra lens and a piles of photographic magazines while I had my 120 Instamatic. I saw the potential of creative photography and one good friend of mine had a similar inspiration. Together we scrapped together a film processing kit and some borrowed 35mm gear to experiment with. After graduation I bought my friends 35mm manual-everything Canon that he had brought back from Vietnam that he could not figure out how to use. I have not completed a formal art program and am mostly self-taught through experimentation in conjunction with trial and error. I have completed an interesting mix of two-dimensional drawing & painting in conjunction with some photography courses at the local colleges and universities as well as some zone system workshops. I had a wet darkroom with a 4×5” enlarger and was using medium format equipment investigating the natural landscape until the silver shortage around 1985. Printing paper became unreliable and very expensive, so I switched creative mediums to drawing and painting for the following 15 years. I became re-engaged with photography and the idea of the digital photographic experience, having started working with Photoshop in 1991 to create images for my montage and experimental paintings. I enjoy exploring concepts related to memory and its preservation expressed in the form of a book object and on occasion, participate in a group photographic exhibitions. In of the last few months, I have been inspired to work on a political photographic project about the new administration.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day
Like most, I am not sure what a typical day is as it always seems to vary widely. I have a scientific day job that takes between three to five hours of my day to begin with. Then as a consultant to LensCulture, I am reviewing a couple of submissions per day. As the Editor of The PhotoBook I receive a constant flow of photobook inquiries and news from photographers and publishers, while some photobooks show up unannounced. Other books arrive in a more anticipated order. My goal is to publish one photobook review per week and I have a mired amount of tasks that I need to complete to meet this goal. After having taken some time to read the photobook and the supporting essays (yes, time drinking some tea while sitting in a comfy chair to casually read through a book is an essential part of my “job” that I enjoy every so much even though I do not get paid to do it), it involves re-photographing the book’s cover and 6 to 8 interior page spreads, then preparing the images for the blog-zine, writing the review and usually checking with the photographer on a few of the facts, uploading and getting final edits and fact-checks with the photographer, publishing the article and spreading the word on social media about the book/review. And I still try to wedge some time in for my personal photographic and photobook projects. A constant juggle.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
My family; two great children and now some creative and wonderful grandchildren and the successes that they are having. Early in the 1980’s I was part of a scientific research team that determined how HIV was lurking in the blood stream and that it was not a very robust virus that could be easily killed. As a part of that same research team we then make immediate changes to how human therapeutic plasma was processed, then helped implement these changes worldwide which probably saved countless lives. Another has been the wonderful response to The PhotoBook, now in our ninth year, with over a million views and having provided reviews for more than 400 contemporary photobooks. I think that this is now one of the longest continually running sites for contemporary photobooks, which is also a labor of love for me and one way I give back to the photographic community as it is truly a non-profit (actually no-profit) as I obtain no income for doing this. I really enjoy the contemporary photobook as an object and want to help get the word out about great books that others might want to consider. In the process I have met and connected with a lot of really talented photographers, book designers and publishers.
What do you look for when attending a portfolio review , in creating a photobook submission or a LensCulture portfolio submission?
As Editor of The PhotoBook, I am constant fielding photobook submissions and inquiries which is in many ways similar to the face-to-face portfolio reviews and the submission reviews I critique for LensCulture. I have four key attributes I look for with number one being the quality/originality of the photography/art, second is the concept of the project, third is how they edit & sequence the work (more relevant for photobook submissions) and production/presentation of the photographs (or photobook). I really enjoy the dialog with the photographers as they relate with me about what they are doing. And on occasion being surprised by some brilliant work.
Any advice for photographers coming to a review event?
Try practicing (e.g. a dry run) what you are going to say and share a couple of times before you leave home, as usually you have 20 minutes and that time will seem to fly fast. Practice for not more than 10 minutes as you want to leave lots of time available for give and take with the reviewer. Bring something to take notes for after the review is completed to capture what you believe were the salient points made about your work. Many photographers want to make a strong impression and have a lot of photographs and projects to share, usually too much of everything. They need to think of this as editing and sequencing assignment; one project with a strong first impressions, supporting body of work, then a strong closing image. Also be prepared to leave something behind; after a full day of reviewing, the photographers and their work begin to blur, as the reviewing process can be as intense for the reviewer as it is for the photographer.
What is some unexpected that we don’t know about you?
That I am perhaps a bit of a Renaissance guy engaged in a mix of the arts, literature and science, since I work as a CMC consultant for the Life Science Industry and I am currently developing therapeutics for Sickle Cell Disease, Stroke, Renal Transplant and Childbirth Hemorrhage. I enjoy skiing and after some bad falls and subsequent surgeries, I am not as quick to go down the double-black diamonds. Italian food is my favorite and since working in Italy off-n-on for an intense three years, I am told that I get a little picky.
And since this is a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band and do you dance?
I have been listening to an eclectic music selection for a really long time; in the beginning with the Beach Boys and Beatles, then came along James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Alan Parsons Project, Dave Mathews, with now Coldplay. Recently I have taken up acoustic guitar which is great to practice during a long download of a mega digital file. And yes, I do dance, just not very well ;- )
And now we turn the Mixtape over to Doug:
Every day is always an interesting mix in juggling of my responsibilities; dad, grandfather, husband, brother & friend in conjunction with my scientific day-job and my desire to creatively express my vision in both my art and words. Time is so precious, so I try to enjoy and make the best of it each day. No regrets for the past and I don’t try to dwell too much on what the future might hold other that some basic planning and then see what eventually comes of it. Until the recent elections, I was pretty much apolitical as I did not really think it was necessary to become engaged as I felt the country was moving in a solid direction. So to now find myself developing political oriented photographs is an interesting experience, which has also opened me to the past political work of others. I think I am developing a fine appreciation of earlier political oriented work.
I am attempting to balance this immediate political concern with my long term investigation into the preservation of memory. I have a number of family members who developed dementia and I have seen the tragic consequences when someone loses all of their memory, thus losing their entire individuality. By attempting to illustrate the consequences of memory loss I am trying to raise awareness while hopefully inspiring my fellow scientist to develop diagnostic tools and effective therapeutics to combat this terrible condition.
Last, the giving back to the photographic community in conjunction with the photobook blog is our attempt to be inspiring to others (myself included) by presenting/promoting a diverse collection of interesting and great book work by photographers, book designers and publishers. It’s really hard to stay on track sometimes when a brilliantly produced photobook suddenly finds its way to the front door and grabs my full attention.
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