Photobook form, photobook sense. Part two.Posted: October 6, 2013
It is now time to publish the second part of my thoughts on photobook form, photobook sense. I will develop here three different concepts which present, each, a different form in relation with a piece of work of a photographer. These are publications, but they may not be considered as traditionnal photobooks.
The first one is Paolo Woods. He grew up in Italy before settling in Paris where he published most of his books. He is what we can call a « concerned photographer » investigating some very powerful subjects like the oil industry (Un monde de brut – A crude world), the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq (American chaos), the Chinese companies which are economically conquering Africa (La Chinafrique, which refers to the old word Françafrique, and a second volume called China safari)), the Iranian society (Marche sur mes yeux – Walk on my eyes) and the aftermath of the cyclone in Haiti (Etat – State).
Paolo does not care about creating aesthetic artist books, he wants his work to be widely known so that everybody can feel concerned by the subjects and the publications are often published as an essay rather than a photobook. Mainly published in France, with Serge Michel as a writer, they work together as investigators, sometimes with some other writers on some stories (Serge Enderlin, Michel Beuret). The print run for each book is a few thousand copies and those kind of books are never, or rarely, out of print, you can even find them very cheap on the second hand market. This is the exact opposite of some hand crafted ultra limited artist books and, with this particular form, it really gives a strong sense and an added value to the work.
The second one is a French man living In Japan. Bruno Quinquet was working in France as a sound engineer. One day, he decided to quit his job and left for Japan where he studied photography. This was the beginning of his fascinating series : The salaryman project. The subject of his work is this particular part of the society formed by the salarymen in Japan. To support his work, he created a fictionnal company called Bureau d’Etudes Japonaises which emphasizes his thematic.
Bruno, under the guise of the right of image, never shows the faces of the salarymen, they are part of the pictures and, with lyricism, we discover them as a part of an abstract photo. There are many references to the Japanese society in Bruno’s work and I cannot stop thinking of Hiroshige’s hundred views of Edo with his appropriation of the use of foregrounds and backgrounds. What is also fascinating is the freshness and even the sort of joy that reflected those photographs while the world of salarymen is supposed to be very rough and stressful. We can find similarities in those scenes, with children in playgrounds, but in fact, are not the streets of Tokyo the salarymen’s playground. Last but not least, Bruno published for the second year a wonderful publication in the form of a « salaryman project business schedule ». This is a real agenda that you can use, illustrated with one picture per week. The softcover book size is 18,2 x 25,7 cm with 64 pages and 53 photos, they both come with an insert (in 2013 with an essay about salarymen, and in 2014 with a sealed enveloppe including a confidential file). Print run of 500 copies each.
The third example that I want to introduce was shot in Marseille – France. In 2013, Marseille was one of the European capital of culture, supporting many cultural projects. One of those projects was the creation of a hiking path (called GR 2013) in Marseille suburban area. Traditionnaly, those paths are supposed to guide you through wonderful natural landscapes and the great ingeniosity of the GR 2013 is that it guides you through « man altered landscapes » (yes, I am refering to the New Topographics exhibition). This creation was accompanied by a photo project on this territory. The building of a landscape photographic observatory. It consists in the realisation of one hundred referenced pictures which are going to be reconducted year after year to witness the changing of landscape. Two photographers who called themselves « the panoramists » were in charge of the project : Geoffroy Mathieu Bertrand Stofleth and the photo project was named « Paysages usagés » (in the meaning of altered landscpaes, so now, you understand my previous assertion). I like a lot this work, also because, to be honnest, I feel more comfortable in suburban landscapes than in magnificient outdoors. The result was published in the form of a collector postcards box (limited to 250 copies), including the one hundred shots, each printed on a postcard.
The design of the box is very similar to the small series of postcards that we could buy, as a souvenir, in touristic areas. The idea of magnifying an altered territory, so that we can consider it as a valuable site of promenade, questions the viewer on the role of photography and the never ending question of beauty. Each photo includes a drawn white line showing the location of the hiking path on the photographed landscape. And, by the way, the path is 365 km long and is worth a look.
As usual, some links if you want more information :
All images copyright Paolo Woods, Bruno Quinquet, Geoffroy Mathieu, Bertrand Stofleth and the publishers. (can be removed on request)