Jason Roberts Dobrin has created a book/zine of landscapes, published by Hamburger Eyes called “Mountains.” This is a small, printed on a laser printer, stapled, edition of 100 that sold for $5 (currently sold out). You can see the series on Dobrin’s site.
Discussing how contemporary photographers approach (or flee) the legacy of Ansel Adams, I linked to a portrait on Polaroid film, suggesting we expand what we think of as “an Ansel Adams.” Artists still explore natural places with cameras. Context and presentation distinguish today’s timeless landscape from the timeless landscape of 90 years ago.
Adams’ most frequently published work isolated landmarks, and these particular passes, peaks and valleys became iconic. Dobrin’s approach with “Mountains” is the opposite. His compositions are conscious fragments of vast landscapes, making it difficult to identify landmarks. But it’s no less compelling. Often, the effect of Adams is that you want to see his scene, stand in the same place. The effect of “Mountains” is you want to go hike in this place, see things like it, but not necessarily exactly what is shown in the photographs.
How Dobrin’s “Mountains” achieves this effect is through layout. There are a few traditional two-page spreads showing mountain scenes. But others are more challenging: a stream on one page at first appears to continue on the facing page, but it’s actually a different angle or different stream altogether. Another spread has the curve of a mountain side meet in the gutter with an entirely different slope. There’s a subtle influence of Ed Ruscha here: the book delivers what it promises on the cover, but leaves it up to the viewer to contextualize specifics and sequence.
The resolution of a laser-printed book would suggest that much of the detail is lost, but many photos are taken in full sunlight, which matches the high contrast print. The first time looking through “Mountains” I quickly forgot it was a zine and found that familiar pleasure of nature photography. This is a compelling case for print: the surprise of a viewing experience that far exceeds print quality.
I asked Jason a few questions about the book:
Where were these photos made?
These photographs where taken in the mountains in Rio Negro province of Argentina, but are not intended to be site-specific but instead
are an examination of the mountain just as that a mountain and not as a wandering object as the metaphoric meaning is altered through
the context it is viewed this being a common archetype for seeing in contemporary culture where meanings are in a constant state of flux.
You are not exclusively photographing nature or landscapes - what’s your process of shooting or editing this subject matter and how is it different from the other work?
I approached this body of work the same as any other I took a lot of photographs and then edited them down by finding connections and
themes in visual content and building a constant out of them to speak to a specific subject.
In the book you have some traditional two-page spread vistas, but you also have a handful of more interesting combinations.
What was your goal with the sequence and layouts in the book?
The goal in the layout was to keep the viewer engaged by creating a cadence that controlled the ebb and flow of the zine by using some
more approachable layouts and designing others to be more complex.