We have read so many lists of best books for 2017 that all the best books have probably been already mentioned. But I’ would like to add a few ones that were kind of forgotten and that, in my humble opinion, are worth a look. In no specific order, here they are :
Island by Reza Kalfane, self published. A French photographer in his land of adoption : Iceland, very strong black and white poetic photography
La vie sur terre, archéologie de la mine by Didier Vivien, published by Editions Loco. Another French photographer in this impressive thick volume of 640 pages. The story of the mining area of Nord Pas de Calais through its complete story from 1720 till today with more than 800 photographs and documents in this book.
36 views of mount Brusilia by Christopher de Bethune, zine self published. I am a real fan of Christopher de Bethune, and particularly of this series made around the famous tower, built in Bruxelles by Jacques Cuisinier. A dark, grainy and poetic photography.
Exist to resist by Matthew Smith, published by Youth Club. Subculture and resistance in England from 1989 to 1997. A piece of English history from the inside. The title of this book just says it all !
Zapis socjologiczny 1978 – 1990 by Zofia Rydet, published by Muzeum w Gliwicach. Another strong piece of work by a Polish photographer who began this series at the age of 67. She took more that 20 000 images in more that 100 towns and villages in Poland. The book comprises three series which are “Sociological index”, “Women standing on their front door” and “Professions”.
Pédiatrie by Philippe Spigolon, self published. For 24 years, Philippe Spigolon has been working as a nurse in a French hospital, at the children department. And for all those years, Philippe always had a compact camera with him, taking photographs everyday. This huge box set comprises four volumes, each containing 772 photographs, following his long time carreer, and each volume retraces exactly the same period, but with different photos.
A proposition for departure by Sohrab Hura, self published. Following his widely acclaimed “Life is elsewhere”, this proposition is, according to Sohrab “a blueprint of my experiments with the relationship between images and sound.” Not really the awaited second volume of his story, but more like an intermede.
Finché tornerai terra by Valentino Barachini, published by Origini Edizioni. origini Edizion is specialized in artist books in very limited print run, and this book is probably one of the most beautiful book I have seen recently, with everything perfectly achieved, photos, poetry and form. A one not to miss !
Seconda porta dell’anima by Michèle Mettler, published by Origini Edizioni. Second book by the same publisher. Different form, and different story but another beautiful artist book, about acupuncture and soul… Another fantastic work with photos and words interwined.
Arktikugol by Leo Delafontaine, published by Editions 77. The strange story of a territory administered by Norway, where are living people from more than 20 countries (climate observers) and with a main background connected with the Soviet mining history : the Svalbard is the Northern inhabited land on earth, and this is this story, past and present, that is told in this book, living at the margins of the world.
Youth Unemployment by Tish Murtha, published by Bluecoat Press. There are three reasons for me to mention this book. The first one is that Tish Murtha passed away far too young and never got the recognition she would have deserved as a major English photographer. This book is the first one showing her work with teenagers in North of England and that’s fantastic to be able to see this series. The second reason is for the recognition of Bluecoat Press who’s doing a great work for English photography, and Colin Wilkinson already published this year the long awaited “Small Town Inertia” by Jim Mortram (already mentioned on a few lists). The third reason, is that I LOVE English photography particularly in its social and political dimension !
And a last one which I like a lot : Township and Bement grain by Adrianna Ault, Tim Carpenter, Raymond Meeks and Brad Zellar, published by TIS Books in a box set as Dumbsaint 01. A photography full of sensibility which I like a lot. A sort of minimal photography which tells a lot ! Beautiful design and beautiful print quality.
Leaving aside the books to talk about some photography magazines that are really worth a look, and what a better time than the new year to subscribe or offer a subscription.
So let’s start by mentioning the new French/Belgian photography magazine « Halogénure » which has just published its third issue. This is a biannual journal, published by a small group of enthusiasts whose desire is to show a silver and alternative photography of quality that struggles to find its place in other mediums. The magazine is presented in the form of three thematic notebooks gathered by a strip for a generosity of pages that goes, for the moment, from 136 for the first issue to 168 for the third. The quality is in every way excellent, whether in the editorial assumed choices, in the layout and in the print quality. All of this reminds me the excellent magazine of the 80s « Camera International » in which portfolios were very important and beautifuly presented, although it was obviously not that much dedicated to alternative photography. In this magazine, we can find, amongst others, substantial interviews in which we learn a lot, essays on the photobook world, portfolios of Belgian photographers (which is not to displease me), but above all, everything in a generous form, the interviews are long and developed, portfolios are consistent, far from a few images shown out of context. This magazine is for the better of photography, and you should consider to support it.
More info : https://halogenure.com/
The second project I want to talk about is the Spanish collection « Pewen Cuadernos de Fotografía ». It is not strictly speaking a magazine, but rather a small series of monographs devoted to Ibero-American photographers. On the initiative of Ros Boisier and Leo Simoes, Muga is a small publishing house that produces books in very small print run, each volume of this series is limited to 60 copies. We find for each volume a simple but effective layout that favors photography. The brown cover reveals nothing of the interior and it is always a surprise to discover an author hitherto unknown to me. This collection is not far from the beautiful collection of Café Royal Books dedicated to English photography and for an equally affordable price, it is an opportunity to build a beautiful collection of books on South American photography. Many numbers are out of print now, but it’s not too late to subscribe to forthcoming issues.
The third issue of the « Migrant Journal » has just been published and three more are announced in this collection of six issues. As its title indicates, this magazine focuses on the very actual and important theme of migration through the world, and proposes to analyze the notion of migration across several major themes. The editorial of the first issue began as follows:
« What will it talk about ?
You mean the migrant crisis ?
That and other things. Migration is everywhere, it’s time we realise it again. It’s time writers, spatial thinkers and designers, artists, researchers of all kind get together to re-think the concept of migration. »
Each theme is announced from one volume to another and operates on the process of an open call for participation. Publishing two issues per year, the quality of this journal is constituted by the variety of answers, photographers (not that much), designers, researchers who offer reflections on the subject. The topics covered so far are « Across country » for number 1, « Wired capital » for number 2 and « Flowing grounds » for number 3. Each number, except for the first one, out of print, is available on their website.
More info : https://migrantjournal.com/
The Russian photographic scene has been very active recently and a new magazine has just been released : « Violet INNER VISION » is published under the coordination of Anna Block. The publication still remains confidential since the print is only 40 copies. The first issue was published in July 2017 and contains photographs of Nikita Khalkin, Katherina Sadovsky and Andrey Krapivin. Each copy is signed by the three authors and Anna Block and contains a small print, also signed and numbered. This magazine is sober with an elegant layout that, again, values the photographs. Beyond the discovery of these authors, still unknown to us, there is an interesting attempt to manipulate the narrative form that combines the different photographs. The images follow one another and we do not know, first,who is the author, even if a style emerges from each series. We then witness a narrative with three voices, images responding to each other to create an additional meaning. The explanations are given to us only in the colophon. The subject of this first issue focuses on the images considered as tabooed, blasphemous, pornographic or morbid. A new magazine which will be interesting to keep an eye on.
More info : http://annablock.ru/blog/violet-inner-visions/
From memory after death, Sarah Pollman gives us, in this book, a series, like a documentary work, about the remaining memory of the missing ones and the role of the graves.
Throughout the world, cemeteries are places of collective memory and each grave allows individual recollection. One comes to remember the moments spent with the deceased and, perhaps, to try to establish a relationship, a form of communication. Perhaps each one secretly hopes an answer to the questions he could not have asked…
In front of these tombstones, the work of Sarah Pollman, divided into two parts, refers to the notion of anonymity and universality. Except in case of cremation, graves are everyone’s ultimate residency. The first part was shot in New England cemeteries, graves whose only inscriptions refer to the notion of parents : « father » and « mother » for the sole mention of the memory of those whose status was to have been parents. No epitaph, but their only condition of couple, whose last will was probably to be buried together. Photographed in the dawning light that reveals the delicacy of the memory engraved in the stone, as a last attention by the children. These graves remain anonymous for anyone other than their descendants, but they become universal, as the parents of everyone of us. This work reminds me the old series of Sophie Calle, shot in California in 1978.
The two series are enclosed with a double blank page, a space of recollection like the silence that seizes us when we approach a grave, a mix of embarrassment and pain.
The second series is a succession of black and white photographs, showing numbers on different supports, metal, wood, concrete… slight remaining traces of forgotten graves. Again, all sign of identity disappears, and it just remains a file number. Sarah Pollman focus here on the cemeteries of hospitals, prisons and hospices, where are buried persons whose body has not been reclaimed. These photographs are touching because, those persons have been forgotten in death as they were during their life, these images evoke the sadness of a life of solitude (or at least at the end). No one will come to mourn on these graves, and yet this one idea would make me want to do it, as if to testify to these anonymous people a kind of last tribute.
In the middle of the book, a text separates the two series of photographs. It is writen at the first person and seems to be a personal experience of Sarah Pollman, revealing thus, the title of the work, when it is evoked what remains, finally, weeks later, when the snow falls… the distances between us.
A last thought comes to my mind as I go through this book. This is the quality of printing which is rather weak, as for, once again, to emphasize the previous idea and to gives us, here, photos « without qualities » in the sense of Robert Musil book or in the form of a « book poor » as proposed by Daniel Leuwers.
Hardcover book published in 2016 by Trema Förlag. 20 x 28 cm, 56 pages, 28 photos color and black and white. Print run 400 copies.
The Angry Bat is a publication house run by Matej Sitar, photographer himself, with a very slow rhythm of publication, more or less one book per year. « Nokturno » is the fifth book published, after « America my way », « Morning sun », « Requiem » and « American cowboy ». What I appreciate a lot with Matej is the fact that he is not working in a hurry but always takes the time needed to produce a book with high standarts of quality !
The cover of the book shows us what could be a bright cloud, enlighten by moon at night, and when the book opens, we find the same image in negative which could become some smoke at daylight. This very clearly claims that maybe what we see are not what things are!
Andrej Lamut is a Slovenian photographer born in 1991, and now living in Ljubljana – Slovenia. As says Andrej « My work is based on my research of performative acts and photography ». At the same time, this is what attracts and remains mysterious. Like others before him, Andrej wonders about photography itself, and its ability to show, to say, to represent. The images succeed each other without any narrative; forms appear then disappear, as to better reinvent themselves. Some images on facing pages create a meaning that probably does not exist; but that does not matter, the threads of a mysterious story are woven. The aesthetic dimension of the images takes the upper hand and, finally, we unhook and let ourselves be carried. No need to understand to accompany Andrej in this journey.
The blacks are deep and thick; we try to find our way in the night, as the title suggests, and we spend time with each image, we go back to them, thinking that we may have forgotten something. And by dint of scrutinizing these images, one wonders what inhabits the photographer, what are these strange scenes drawn by light. There is a cinematographic dimension in this book, plans follow one another, from fields to counterfields, in a sort of playing with the « montage and attraction » defined by S. M. Eisenstein.
Another very important element with this book is the sensuality that emerges from it. A book is not only a succession of images, it is above all an object. And the care given to this book completes the sensations that the photographer tries to transmit to us. The photos are superbly reproduced with deep blacks, and, most importantly for a photographer who used to work with argentic films like me, some wonderful grainy shades of gray. By moments, you could even dive in those grainy photos, forgetting their subjects.
The book has a sewn hardcover with an open spine which makes it easy to open, particularly for pictures printed on two pages and, last but not least, the paper choosen is Munken Pure Rough 150g, and it is probably the first time I mention those considerations in a review, but the color and the texture of this paper add a wonderful soft feeling when you turn the pages.
Published in 2017, in an edition of 300 copies, signed and numbered. 17 x 24 cm, 80 pages.
More info : http://www.theangrybat.com/#nokturno
I do not know Saint Petersburg, but this place has always fascinated me. Two works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky come to my mind when speaking of this city. The short story “White Nights”, which describes a woman’s expectation for her beloved man and, of course, “Crime and Punishment”. After reading these books, how much have I dreamed of the banks of the Neva, passing beside this young couple or following the wanderings of Raskolnikov in prey to torment.
Finally, I do not know Saint Petersburg, one day maybe, but in the meantime Carma Casula takes us there, with her book Peter. The city of Peter is one of the most emblematic cities of Russia, so much so that it changed its name several times to Petrograd, then to become the City of Lenin, Leningrad, before returning to its name Saint Petersburg in 1991 after a tumultuous century in the history of Russia. In her project, Carma Casula watch the contemporanean society of Saint Petersburg, and how it has been wrought by history.
So Carma Casula takes us through the streets of Saint Petersburg. The city is modern and in many ways, hopes and desires seem the same as elsewhere in the world. But we can still read the history of the town, young people bathe in a basin under the eye of a statue of Lenin, young sailors remind us the crew of the battleship Potemnkin. Throughout the book, the past reappears and interacts with present. A picture of portraits of the children of Dostoievsky in his house museum, or the crowd that seeks to photograph, with their mobile phone, Leonard da Vinci’s Madonna Litta in the Museum of the Hermitage. Seasons come one after the other and the summer bathing gives way to snow ; couples get married, young people enjoy parties… Carma Casula offers here a portrait of the city in the thickness of time.
However, the work of Carma Casula is not limited to showing us public life in the streets of Saint Petersburg. She also meets the inhabitants, and her work of portraiture of these Petersburgers brings a new dimension to the story. The portraits are touching and come as a rythm in the book. A text presents the person(s), followed by a portrait and photographs of what is dear or valuable to them. We enter into the intimacy of these inhabitants, who give us a part of their inner feelings with frankness, which makes these testimonies highly valuable. They are fascinating, and also offer us a new entry key to the city. The younger ones express their hopes, while the older tell us about memories. Once again, these testimonies relate the everyday life, the sorrows and the hopes. Some are more touching than others, but these are individual considerations that appeal to our own perception or empathy. A way of deciphering a story in the light of our own memories and above all, of what we expect to find there. We meet these characters as we would meet them in the streets while a conversation takes place, we share ideas, we learn things we did not know before, and we read the history with more humility. The highlights of the twentieth century are unfolding : the horror of the siege of Leningrad by Germans Nazis is told with strength ; we are moved by the story of a couple formed during the Spanish Civil War, when Soviet Union sent troops to train revolutionary troops (this is my favorite story). We meet an Orthodox priest, a young model, a couple of entrepreneurs, a former soldier and many other characters who, at the end, make us feel that we know a little better this majestic city ans its inhabitants.
There are also some small details in this book that provide us some additional information, such as this comparison of kitchens with a bourgeois design “made by Ikea”, in opposition to a middle class kitchen or the extreme poverty of the Kommounalki shared kitchens. These three pictures remarkably show the diversity of the habitats and populations of Saint Petersburg; the stange feeling of what the capitalist dream has been able to represent since 1991, when the population has reappropriated its city.
What I love with this book its ability to let us coming back, for a moment or for longer, to go for a walk in the streets of Saint Petersburg, when we have an hour to lose!
Hardcover book published by Editorial RM in 2016. 17,5 x 23 cm. 234 pages, 130 color photographs
The relationship between men and horses goes back to the origins, when the strength of the second was placed in the service of the former for the needs of agriculture or for the necessities of transporting distances which the march would not have permitted. The welfare of the one depended on the well-being of the other, and the roads were punctuated with relays where animals and men could find rest and food. All our imagination is fulfilled with stories of horses : love stories, wild stories, sad stories…
Brenda Moreno chose to use the metaphor of this relationship to dig back in search of her identity. B to B is a book about memory, and therefore about what shapes us throughout life, but also about memories that we have.
The book begins on the cover with a « mise en abime » of a identity picture, decadred that would have « slipped » out of its housing. We open the book to discover a series of identity photos of Brenda at different ages. The identity photo is the document that attests our existence. This is the document we have to show to prove who we are and, most importantly, that we are indeed the one we claim to be. It has even been amplified recently when the regulation of these small photographs has become hardened, standardized to the extreme, without allowing any expression on the face, thus pointing the fact that we have to be as neutral as we can !
Well this book is quite the opposite, it synthesizes the existence of emotions and memories more than any official notion of identity. Through the book, Brenda searches for herself, in a Proustian approach where every memory is a brick of the building she is trying to reconstitute. The horse is recurrent, like a subliminal image, perhaps of another life, reincarnated in her present body, with the pain that comes out of this forgotten past. The memories are sometimes imprecise, or childish; Brenda experiences collage to express her ideas, it is a work in progress, or, to better say, in the making, in reconstruction.
The book is a vast psychoanalytic collage in which Brenda poses mental images, collages, juxtapositions, as well as family photos including their ghosts. The ghost in a family history can often be the source of disorder that must be fought. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of it in this book, or at least we think of it, in the suture of an image, or the blur of another. Dreams are present, nightmares too! We have to unravel all this, pull a thread, follow it and see where it leads us. We leave the book exhausted, filled with an impression that we are missing some keys, but that, nevertheless, Brenda has opened us doors to rooms that still have to be explored. The impression that Brenda gave us a lot and that we know her a little bit better, like having spent the afternoon with a friend, talking about the time passing, about ourselves, memories, hopes, well… life.
When the book is finished, we close it, but there are still pages : a fiery black horse arises in the frame, rebel to any appropriation, and two pages where, then, identity photos have disappeared. We no longer need them, no answers in these small documents, it is elsewhere, probably in the pages that preceded.
At the end of this book, I remind a film of Bela Tarr : The horse of Turin. The film begins with the Turin episode of Nietsche’s life, and then evokes the life and destinies of a farmer, his daughter and their horse. Of course, it is another story, but maybe this is one of the doors half-opened by Brenda Moreno?
Published by Witty Kiwi, softcover, 88 pages 17 x 21.5 cm, text by Carmen Dalmau. Edition of 900 copies.
More info : https://www.brendamoreno.com/book