Roa is so prolific that every time I see a set of photos of hew works I assume that I’ll find them boring as I’ll have seen it all before. Then I look at the the actual photos and they are always better than the last! Here are a few from INOPERAbLe in Vienna.

Heroes & Villains

There’s a relatively new kid on the book publishing block. Kirk Pedersen’s ZERO+ Publishing already has a strong selection of books and some potent personnel on the payrol. One of these is Blaine Fontana and anyone who’s been visiting Ektopia for more than a couple of years will know I’m a big fan. Blaine’s 2007 book, Sedimental Promises, was a stunning piece and was beautifully designed and it’s with Zero+ that his follow-up, Amalgamate, has been released. However, this isn’t about Amalgamate; it’s about Heroes & Villains and the reason that I mention Blaine is because he’s the one behind the designed of this remarkable new title.

Heroes & Villains is a book of two halves. On the one hand it’s a book full of fantastic portraits of (great looking!) artists and on the other hand it’s a book of interviews. I would have thought that it would primarily have to be one with the addition of the other (or vice versa) rather than have both subjects in perfect balance but it appears this equilibrium is what you get. Tatiana Wills and Roman Cho are two special photographers that have been able to capture hundreds of portraits – since 2005 – and chosen nearly one-hundred of them for inclusion in this book. Every one of them is unique in feel, atmosphere and composition but everyone of them hold together as part of a whole in the collection. This is pretty outstanding when you consider that two people are arresting the images. While they both admit to having their own styles, preferences and techniques, they are still able to put their individual egos behind them and capture the images of these artists with no care for who engaged the camera’s shutter. But why have they chosen these particular artists?

Well, Roman had been considering documenting the alt-comics scene and Tatiana had been considering a project documenting the street-art (I still dislike the way those words have stuck) scene; both had a focus on portraiture. They had worked together professionally before and wanted to work together again on a more personal project so it seemed that this was it. With these aspects of the art-world being so important, they both saw it was an ideal opportunity to create something with historic importance, both for the artists’ work and the artists themselves. Many of the artists included have graced Ektopia’s pages in the past (Ron English, Henry Lewis, Camille Rose Garcia, Ian Francis, Jeremy Fish, The London Police, Josh Keys… the list goes on and on) so this book just sits so comfortably in my arms. Many others are artists that I know and respect but not got around to featuring myself and then there are some that I’ve not heard of yet and that I look forward to exploring at a later date. The quality of the photography is spectacular. Of the artists I feel that I know through their art, the images speak volumes about their character. Tatiana and Roman seemed to have been able to capture their spirit and that can’t be an easy thing to do… in fact, it must be nearly impossible. This is the first reason for thinking that this book is so remarkable; these portraits speak.

But as I mentioned earlier, it’s not all about the portraiture; there are the interviews too. Now, first of all, not all the artists are interviewed. What we have here is fourteen interviews that are handled with such sophistication and depth that you don’t miss the omissions. Tatiana and Roman are photographers though and that’s where their expertise lays. For sophisticated interviews you need a sophisticated interviewer and they don’t come much more sophisticated than Amanda Erlanson.

I happen to think that Amanda is one of the greatest writers on the art-scene. I’ve been following her personal website, Erratic Phenomenon, since its early days. I simply don’t have the words to describe her writing style without saying that it’s engaging, has the perfect momentum and is always interesting in content and the language that she’s obviously so adept in. So, who better to ask the questions? I would say that no one is more qualified for the job and she proves it in the interviews. Each of the interviews are put together with thoughtfully composed questions and are placed to elicit and equally thoughtful answer. This is exactly what she gets in return for her trouble. Each question is well researched and tailor-made for their intended recipient and the artists open up, dig deep and reflect on their past and also discuss their future plans. I’ve wanted to interview artists on Ektopia for years but have never been able to come up with suitable questions (apart from the normal boring stuff) and reading Amanda’s questions has confirmed for me that it’s an art-form in itself. In the same way that Tatiana and Roman are at the top of their game, Amanda is too.

As well as the interviews, Amanda also handles an introductory essay and she does this in the same manner as she interviews. Gracefully, informatively and eloquently. I wondered how these particular artists were intertwined… what makes them a collection of artists that should be studied together. These are outsider artists and they neatly fit together and Amanda explains this in depth with ease. Heroes & Villains is a 32 x 25.4cm hardcover edition (cloth covered with a dust-jacket) and weighs in at 192 pages. The only thing that equals the photography and the text is the design and print quality. This book, along with Blaine’s book (which I’ll be reviewing soon), are among the best quality books I’ve seen. This is what will make ZERO+ Publishing a heavy-weight contender that will be hard to beat over the coming years, I’m sure. Oh, one last thing, the book is being launched in LA on the 1st of September. More info that here. Have fun if you get there you lucky thing!