A couple of weeks ago I purchased and received On Ground by Simon Gabriel, a self-published photo book featuring 100 selected 35mm images created between 2014 and 2016.
I really enjoyed this book and although the first run edition of 50 has already sold out, I recommend watching Simon's website to check if a new run will be published.
Who is Simon Gabriel?
The book does not provide any clues at all. Or maybe one: One of the images actually contains a Vivian-Mayeresque self-portrait. His Instagram profile only says "Film Photographer and Pedestrian, from Merseyside" (England, UK). Yes, it is the area The Beatles are from, but other than that...
To start with: I really love the images!
They are a collection of color film (35mm) images taken in the USA and Great Britain, and - as far as I can see - one from somewhere in China, and one from the inside of an airplane.
The colors are great and show the photographed subjects at their best. Simon's selection of subjects resounds very well with my artistic vision of "wanting to share not the obvious but what we usually are unable to see." To me, the images in this photo book show how day-to-day stuff, sometimes banalities can have beauty.
The book provides no explanations or background regarding the images or the photographer. The website only states: "Featuring 100 chosen archive 35mm images from 2014-2016, On Ground is a self-published photobook".
Although the images for this book have been "chosen", I do not really see specific grouped or themed subjects. It actually seems as if the images have been arranged as casual encounters, i.e. not arranged at all but sequenced as you might stumble onto the locations in real life.
In fact, these images almost remind me about Robert Frank's "The Americans". But without (almost) any Americans in the frame. And in color. They are a collection of real, everyday places in the USA and the UK. The images in the book share the stories about where people live, and ask the question "what do these environments tell us about the people who live, love, and work there?" Can we from these images tell anything true about the inhabitants, or do the images expose environment as a stage that only reaffirms stereotyping?
The cover, binding, and paper quality of the book are very good. It has a very nice matte, laminated soft cover, and the 200 gsm silk paper renders the images really well. As mentioned above, it contains 100 color images, and the book size is 21.0 x 21.0 centimeters (about 8.3 x 8.3 inches).
Is there anything I do not like about this publication?
Hmmm....let's see...not really...but...
To start with, I would really love to read some background about the photographer. And why did he select these specific images? I'm always interested learning what vision other photographers have for their work.
With regard to the images, I would like to have seen the US and UK ones separated. And I do not really see why Simon has included the odd China one and the one in the airplane (which is definitely not "on ground"...). The image of the airplane seat actually could have been used as a "divider image" between the US and UK images. Another reason why I would like to have some more background information about the photographer's vision for these images and the book.
"On Ground" is a well-executed book, with beautiful and thought-provoking images of places in the USA and Great Britain. Although the first run edition, unfortunately, is sold out already, the content and quality of this book definitely justify another edition. Whenever available, I highly recommend purchasing a copy. Check the book's website for more info and some insight into the book. Simon also has great images on Instagram and Flickr.
Simon Gabriel is definitely someone to watch and follow!!
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