Thursday, September 29, 2011

American artifacts / Lynn Sugarman photography / 1987

In 1987 photographer Lynn Sugarman and designer Paula Scher came up with a clever concept to promote her studio: create some imaginary characters using only objects. The result was a large thirty-six-page book (16.5 inches deep by 11.5 wide) with fifteen still life photos using artifacts from fifteen Americans. What I thought was really clever about these still life photos is the way they convincingly create an image of an unseen person, helped by some short biographic detail on each left-hand page.
    I recently spoke to Lynn and she told me that it took about six months researching, collecting and shooting these remarkable photos. Each one pulls you into the composition and your eye wanders around the layers of detail. Have a look at thirteen: Melissa Shepherd. Aged twenty, lives in Virginia and works as a Congressional secretary for $23,000 (1987 rates). The photo creates Melissa with Liquid Paper, the Washington Post, a While You Were Out slip, Psychology Today magazine, secretaries spelling book, a loose key with ‘Bob’s Key’ written on a piece of paper (she seems to work for a Congressman called John) a partially eaten donut, coffee and more. Speculate all you want on the red panties and Excita condom!
    My favorite is the center spread, a knockout photo that could easily be a poster. Betty Donaldson, aged forty-three, housewife and all-American mom. A giant-size Wonder loaf jumps off the spread, surrounded by a TV Guide, jar of mayo, Velveteen crackers, son Arnold’s bagged lunch, a dry-cleaning bill. Even the little bit of visible wallpaper says something. If you live in the suburbs Betty could live next door to you.
    A nice touch, at the back of the book, is Lynn making herself the sixteenth person though unfortunately using a much smaller photo than the others. She told me that between six and seven thousand copies were printed, it won several awards and her career really took off.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Capone Annual Reports / Simpson Paper Company

Annual Reports always seemed to be a favorite for paper companies to show off their papers. These two from Simpson’s and promote their Vicksburg Vellum and Starwhite Vicksburg using two different colored papers in each. Both were designed by Steve Jacobs Design and written by Maxwell Arnold.  The 1931 Report was produced in 1981 and I assume the 1929 one was done a year or two earlier.
    The Reports work together. The Executive Advancement spread in the 1929 report (pages nine and ten) is used in the 1931 Report though two executives didn’t advance: Charlie Fischetti and Mike ‘De Pike’ Heitler, they now sleep with the fishes.
     Both Reports have interesting covers. The 1929 one is blind embossed and includes bullet holes, for 1931 the title cleverly uses gold ink. Maxwell Arnold’s text in both is worth a read, too.