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Report from the Other Side

Report from the Other Side

Title: Report from the Other Side

Photographer/s: Philip Zimmermann

Contributor/s: n/a

Date of publication: 2013

Place of publication: Tucson, AZ

Dimensions: 5.5″x8″

Edition size: Unlimited, print-on-demand.

Type of binding: Perfect

Type of paper: 80 lb. digital text

Type of printing: HP Indigo.

Number of pages: 96

Number of pictures: 96

Printer: MagCloud

Publisher: Spaceheater Editions

Designer: Philip Zimmermann

Editor: same.

Language: English

ISBN: 978-0-9841980-8-5

Category: Artists’ book

Price: USD $24.05

Summary: REPORT FROM THE OTHER SIDE by Philip Zimmermann is a contemplation of the human impulses behind building barriers and fences separating different peoples and cultures. What follows is much of the text from the book:

“Years ago, when I lived in New Mexico for a period of time, there was a small blue-collar town named Westway only a few miles away, across the state border in Texas. Westway is a predominantly Mexican-American residential settlement of 4,200 that grew up organically over the last twenty years around a large commercial truck-stop along I-10. It lies only about three quarters of a mile from the Rio Grande and about nine miles from the Mexican border.

Westway fascinated me. The houses there were almost always owner-built and added onto slowly as the residents had money and time. The structures often grew naturally around a trailer or expanded and grew from a simple “starter” cinder-block structure. Eventually some added elaborate second stories, often built of recycled, returned or reclaimed materials. Like everything built in Westway, the homes had a wonderful, quirky, D.I.Y. quality.

One thing that was common to all of the houses were the significant surrounding walls and fences. Even the most modest and humble homes had at the minimum chain-link fences, while larger homes had major steel, wood or stone fortifications around the house. Sometimes the walls and fences were the first things constructed on the perimeter of a lot, even before the house was built. Many homes had pit-bulls and other dogs behind those walls and fences, growling or barking at passersby. The owners would not be concerned with blocking scenic views with the walls, there really isn’t much of a view in Westway to block: it’s dusty and dry scrub desert along an interstate highway.

Though these were not wealthy folks (there are almost no paved roads in Westway) they took great pride in their homes. But why were such extensive and often elaborate fence and wall systems built? Is it because they stood for strength, law and order, security…were they reassuring? Was there a clear danger from neighbors or outsiders to themselves and their property? I looked up police blotter reports for the area and there did not seem to be much crime at all, certainly not any more significant violence or theft than in any other nearby community.

It could be that the lack of a local police force makes them feel insecure, or that they feel that because their neighbors are as poor as they are that there is a higher chance of burglaries or car theft. However, like most walls and fences around property, it would not at all be hard to breach these barriers. So the walls and fences that are erected are really not so much about protection of their possessions, but a mental protection from the harsh world out there. Westway inhabitants are not wealthy, and security may be one thing they feel that they can make for themselves (and own) by building the walls and fences that separate them from the cruel, cold, harsh world out there. As a Dr. Costica Bradatan wrote in 2011 in a New York Times opinion article, anxieties and fears are the real reasons for walls and fences. He argues that “they are built not for those who live outside them, threatening as they may be, but for those who dwell within. In a certain sense, then, what is built is not a wall, but a state of mind….With walls come mental comfort, tranquility and even a vague promise of happiness. Their sheer presence is a guarantee that, after all, there is order and discipline in the world.”

So, does Robert Frost’s homey New England proverb, “good fences make good neighbors”, hold true? Is it only to give the builders a certain sense of security? There are those that think a wall, in addition to giving a potentially false sense of real security, is also a provocation…

Just an hour’s drive south of where I live now in Tucson, Arizona, many billions of dollars have been appropriated and spent by politicians in the last ten years to build a 21 foot high steel and concrete fence. It will eventually run all the way from the Pacific Ocean at San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville. This came about through House Resolution 6061 (H.R.6061) “The Secure Fence Act of 2006”, which was introduced on September 13, 2006. It passed through the U.S House of Representatives on September 14, 2006 with a vote of 283–138. The money that was appropriated to accomplish this fence has been depleted and the State of Arizona has a voluntary donation program for citizens to contribute to a pool that would go towards helping with the costs of completing this enormous fence. If completed it would be about half the length (almost 2,000 miles) of the Great Wall of China (just under 4,000 miles). It is certainly far more costly and a more impressive engineering feat than another famous wall, the Berlin Wall, which was only 103 miles long and only 12 feet high.

The irony is that although we as a country have spent such vast amounts of money on the fence sections that have been built, it really is not that effective. Thousands climb over weekly using ladders, tunnels, ropes, car ramps, and pure acrobatic climbing skills. It is clear that the wall is mostly an extremely expensive political and psychological construct rather than a truly effective deterrent to keeping drug smugglers and immigrants out of the United States. Are the walls and fences at Westway partially a status-symbol? Many inhabitants of Westway, with no building codes, certainly vie with their neighbors for glitzy details and height. Our Mexican border wall also has something of that: seeing the intimidating steel height of our border fence says something about how we feel about our supposed superiority as a country and our status as a desirable place where all of humanity wants to be, in effect making us a huge gated community.

To make things even more complicated, we are now entering the drone era, where for a few hundred dollars, a drone with a camera can be sent up and the resulting video image shown on a smart phone. A sense of privacy that walls and fences give is really just an illusion. Arizona is one of the national centers for drone technology and they are getting cheaper, larger, and more sophisticated all the time. As is already done in the reverse, will cheap drones allow drug smugglers and the coyotes that take immigrants over the border to spot border patrol and other surveillance personnel or equipment? It cannot be far away that drone technology will be converted back to very inexpensive manned flight. Already drones are carrying much more than cameras or even the predator missiles used in Pakistan, they are carrying crop dusting chemicals and all sorts of other heavy loads. This development indicates then that we are heading into a time that border walls will be even less of an effective deterrent to passage and far more symbolic than anything else.

So our costly border fence, still years and many more billions of dollars away from completion, is really more about politics and the sense and appearance of security rather than actual security. Dr. Bradatan, who teaches at Texas Tech University, (in another border state) also writes that “Once a wall has been erected, it acquires a life of its own and structures people’s lives according to its own rules. It gives them meaning and a new sense of direction. All those walled off now have a purpose: to find themselves, by whatever means it takes, on the other side of the wall.” He argues: “After all, history itself may be nothing more than an endless grand-scale game where some build walls only for others to tear them down; the better the former become at wall-building the braver the latter get at wall-tearing. The sharpening of these skills must be what we call progress.”

Date and place of birth of photographer/s: January 24, 1951. Bangkok, Thailand

Book link:

Donated by: Philip Zimmermann

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iPL moves to Yale

iPL Yale

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University recently received, through acquisition and donation, the Indie Photobook Library (iPL), a major collection of photobooks from Larissa Leclair ’03 M.A. The collection includes more than 2,000 photobooks from around the world along with related ephemera, archives of the iPL’s history, and Leclair’s personal collection related to self-publishing.

“We were delighted to work with Larissa to acquire this major archive,” says George Miles, Curator of the Yale Collection of Western Americana at the Beinecke. “These volumes build on an already great strength of the library and will surely be used extensively by scholars and students at Yale and beyond for a long time.”

The iPL focuses on self-published photobooks, imprints independently published and distributed, photography exhibition catalogs, print-on-demand photobooks, artists’ books, zines, photobooks printed on newsprint, limited edition photobooks, non-English language photography books, and more.

“This collection reflects a contemporary movement in publishing,” explains Leclair, who began collecting independently produced photobooks in May 2010, “and it allows for the development of future discourse on trends in self-publishing, the ability to reflect on and compare books in the collection, and for scholarly research to be conducted years, decades, and centuries to come. To have this work now at Yale ensures this legacy.”
Inspired by Wexler’s master class

The catalyst for her collection, Leclair notes, was Yale professor Laura Wexler’s “Photo Memory Workshop” master class at the Beinecke, which focused on Peter Palmquist’s Women in Photography Archive. “He had and his collection will continue to have a big impact on the history of photography specifically relating to women in photography,” said the alumna. “He was one individual collecting independently of an institution, making an impact and shaping history. What he had encapsulated for his collection was what I wanted to do for self-published photobooks.”

“As early as 2005, with photographers Stephen Gill, Rob Hornstra, Jason Fulford, and Alec Soth independently publishing amazing photobooks, there wasn’t a platform for the presentation of self-published titles. So the idea of wishing for a central place to look at self-published photobooks was in my head on the day I saw Peter Palmquist’s collection,” notes Leclair.

The moment spurred her own specific collecting, she says: “I was blown away that a single individual could follow his passion, create a collection, and in the process have an impact on the history of photography. I was not only interested in promoting these kinds of books but most importantly I was very interested in creating an archive for the long-term. So two weeks after that master class, with an idea, one book, and a Facebook page, I founded the indie Photobook Library, a browse-able archive for self-published photobooks.”

For Leclair, placing the iPL at the Beinecke fulfills an aspiration she had from the very beginning. “I always intended that the iPL would one day transfer to an established archive. I wanted it to be preserved and accessible to future photo-bibliophiles long after my lifetime. For the legacy of the photographers and photobooks that collectively make the iPL what it is, I am absolutely thrilled that these artists will be part of the Beinecke’s collecting history.”

[Yale Professor Laura Wexler presented the Larissa Leclair with the 9th Annual Focus Awards’ Spotlight Award for far reaching impact in the field of photography, October 2014. (Copyright Griffin Museum of Photography)]

Yale Professor Laura Wexler presented the Larissa Leclair with the 9th Annual Focus Awards’ Spotlight Award for far reaching impact in the field of photography, October 2014. (Copyright Griffin Museum of Photography)
The Beinecke has an renowned collection of 19th century American photographically illustrated books, including such classics as Alexander Gardner’s “Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War,” A.J. Russell’s “Great West Illustrated,” Josiah Whitney & Carleton Watkins’ “The Yosemite Book,” and Ferdinand Hayden’s “Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery,” as well as dozens of other, less well-known examples of the genre.

In the 1920s and 1930s photobooks continued to be a form of artistic expression but also emerged as a major vehicle of social commentary and criticism. The Beinecke holds first editions of such artistic works as Ansel Adams’ “Parmelian Prints of the High Sierra” and Taos Pueblo,” Walker Evans’s “American Photographs,” and Paul Strand’s “Paul Strand.” The Beinecke also boasts a wide range of such politically charged books as Julia Peterkin and Doris Ulman’s collaboration, “Roll Jordan Roll”; James Agee and Walker Evans’ “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” and “Many are Called”; and Evans’s collaboration with Carleton Beals “The Crime of Cuba.” Yale’s library also holds first editions of all the important Farm Security Administration related books featuring work by Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White among other photographers.

“Robert Franks’ ‘The Americans’ is often seen as ushering in a new kind of photobook,” Miles observes. “We at the Beinecke have both the French (1958) and American (1959) first editions, as well as a complete collection of every book in which Lee Friedlander has ever published a photograph, while the acquisition of Peter Palmquist’s collection of women photographers brought more than 2,200 photobooks by and about women photographers.”

The iPL is particularly interesting in its own right, according to Miles. “While photobooks became more economical with the emergence of photo mechanical reproduction in the 19th century, they still required considerable investment and with the exception of a few very high-end artistic productions, they were commercial ventures that relied on publishers to underwrite production in the hope/expectation of profitable sales.”

However, the early 21st century emergence of digital photography and ink-jet printing dramatically changed the landscape for photographers looking to present their work in book-form. “Photographers can now self-publish their work in ways unimaginable 15 to 20 years ago,” he emphasizes. “They can distribute them through their websites and book fairs. This has allowed photographers to experiment in content and in form: to share images that commercial publishers might have been reluctant to take on, or to play with sequencing and/or narrative strategies.”

Leclair recognized the potential of this transformation when it was in its infancy and cultivated relationships with photographers. She has been a leader in creating this independent archive and identifying artists important to the contemporary movement in self-publishing, all while curating exhibitions and lecturing throughout the United States and in Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Australia, the Philippines, and China. The alumna has built an “extraordinarily complete” collection of these books, according to Miles. “The staff at Haas Arts Library and I have been following and collecting photobooks, and when Larissa first approached us, I thought we would have at least half, if not more, of the books in her collection. I was way off. Our searching revealed that we had only around 10% of the collection.”

“Larissa started collecting this material at a critical time, when photographers started to reconsider and experiment with the printed book format through self-publishing,” notes Heather Gendron, director of the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library at Yale. “A lot of these publications fall outside of typical library acquisition streams, making it a real challenge for librarians to keep up. That’s what makes this Indie Photobook Library so special. On the heels of the reopening of the Beinecke, this broadens the university’s holdings in a very contemporary way.”
“Essential records of human expression”

Miles says that the Beinecke’s growing collection of photobooks, including this new acquisition, complement important creative work across campus collections, such as the Arts Library and galleries, and the curriculum. “These materials in the Indie Photobook Library/Larissa Leclair Collection are essential records of human expression,” he notes, “and the Beinecke works to make sure they are accessible and used by students and scholars through our reading room, classroom visits, and our fellowship programs for graduate students and for visiting postdoctoral scholars.”

Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art has described the Indie Photobook Library as “an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the contemporary photobook.”

The iPL also complements other collections at Yale, Miles adds. “One of the great strengths of the Yale Collection of American Literature are the many examples of poetry and short stories published by small, non-commercial presses throughout the country — ‘Little magazines’ as Pat Willis and Nancy Kuhl call them. They reflect the ways in which American writers have found to share their work. The photobooks in the iPL reflect a similar pattern in the visual arts and scholars will be able to explore and discover how these materials speak to each other and speak to the broader culture.”

Leclair says that the iPL inspired the creation of other independent photobook archives, including the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive; influenced museum photobook exhibitions; and spawned the promotion and celebration of self-published photobooks. “I’m thrilled that the photographers in the iPL who challenged and subsequently shaped the current publishing industry will add to the continuum of printed expression at Yale along with cuneiform tablets, the Gutenberg Bible, Fox Talbot’s ‘Pencil of Nature,’ and works by Robert Frank and Ed Ruscha — adding to that Soth, Fulford, Fujii, de Middel, Galjaard, Cartegena, and Sancari, among many others,” she says.

With the iPL now part of the Beinecke collections, Leclair will promote its use with the library’s curators and collaborate on curriculum. The entity of the iPL is closed to submissions now, existing as a unique look at self-publishing from around 2008 to 2016. Leclair will continue to look at new titles and work directly with museums and libraries to collect self-published titles from around the world, directly connecting collectors and makers and shaping photobook history.

“Ahead of her time, Larissa’s farsighted vision will benefit future generations of photographers and scholars to come,” states Elizabeth Avedon, independent curator and photobook designer.

For more information on the Beinecke Library, visit:

Exhibition Catalog for “A Survey of Documentary Styles in Early 21st Century Photobooks”

More about the exhibition here, here and here.
Order the book here.
Thank you to Patrick Aguilar of Owl & Tiger Books who did such an outstanding job designing the iPL’s first exhibition catalog!

“…the Indie Photobook Library is fast becoming one of Washington’s more interesting small collections.” – Mark Jenkins, Washington Post Express, November 9, 2011

America in Color

America in Color

Title: America in Color

Photographer/s: Brian Dailey

Contributor/s: Wendy Grossman, Klaus Ottmann

Date of publication: 2013



Title: Grìmsey

Photographer/s: Cole Barash

Contributor/s: Ian Frisch

Date of publication: 2015

Grays the Mountain Sends (Second Edition)

Grays the Mountain Sends 2

Title: Grays the Mountain Sends (Second Edition)

Photographer/s: Bryan Schutmaat

Date of publication: 2014

Islands of the Blest

Islands of the Blest

Title: Islands of the Blest

Photographer/s: various

Date of publication: 2014

L.A., 1971

LA 1971

Title: L.A., 1971

Photographer/s: Anthony Hernandez

Date of publication: 2014


Title: Transmission

Photographer/s: Lucy Helton

Date of publication: 2015




Photographer/s: Jonathan Shaw

Contributor/s: Andy Adams, David Campbell, Charlotte Cotton, Donall Curtin & Nathaniel Pitt, Mishka Henner, Francis Hodgson, Dewi Lewis, Stephen Mayes, Katrina Sluis

Date of publication: 2014



Title: Crash

Photographer/s: Jonathan Shaw

Contributor/s: Foreword: Stephen Snoddy and Stephen Dutton Essay: Jean Baird

Date of publication: July 2009



Title: (re)collect

Photographer/s: Jonathan Shaw

Contributor/s: Foreword: Debra Klomp, Essay: Peter Ride, Essay: Jean Baird

Date of publication: 2006