Michael Ashkin

Were It Not For

Were it not for is a grim poem in text and images. It brings together 218 desolate black-and-white photos of human construction and development activities in the Mojave desert – or the forlorn remnants of these – with a text work consisting of 813 sentences starting with ‘Were it not for …’ The combinations of text and image are random, but their effect is anything but. The book can be read as a recording of the result of the ‘Californian Ideology’ – the belief, supported since the 1990s by a combination of network technologies and neoliberalism, that anything is possible. In Ashkin’s own words: ‘Both the text and photos show what the “Californian Ideology” has produced in our world. A situation where “anything is possible” has produced its opposite.’ The minimalism of the repeating lines of text and the photographs, always in the same full-page format, is continued in the forceful simplicity of the kraft board cover and the simple execution as a paperback without flaps. The lithography and printing, in tritone, lend depth, detail and nuance to the merciless photos. The image on the rear board is built up using opaque white to lift it from the brown of the kraft board. An example of the kind of exact, well-chosen choices which, together with the tense image sequences and the exciting if disturbing narrative, set this book apart from the rest.

Edition: 2019
Release date: July 2019
Language: English
Final editor: Hans Gremmen, Michael Ashkin
Picture editor: Hans Gremmen, Michael Ashkin
Artist: Michael Ashkin
Publisher / commissioner: Fw:Books, Amsterdam
Available through: Bookschop, webshop
Designer: Hans Gremmen (Amsterdam)
Lithographer: Hans Gremmen, Amsterdam
Printer: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Binder: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Dimensions: 215 x 280 x 19
Amount of pages: 256
Number of copies: 1,000
Price: € 35
ISBN: 978 94 90119 80 5
Font and foundry: Highway Gothic Expanded, series F 2000 (FHWA)
Binding style: Sewn softcover
Paper interior: 130gsm Lessebo Design Smooth 1.2 Natural, Igepa
Cover material: 280gsm kraftliner, Igepa
Other technical features: Printing in tritone (black, Pantone Warm Gray 8 and Pantone Black). On the back cover, a white shape is printed in reverse, followed by the same shape printed in black.