Photography is not something very serious !Posted: March 8, 2014
In fact, photography can be serious, but photographers are not. Recently some photographers have decided to use photography to enjoy themselves, and they have produced some hilarious books, bringing some fresh air in the photobook world.
The first in this series of funny books is « Belgian beer » by Russian photographer Sergey Novikov.
The book is 17 x 24 cm, softcover, 130 pages, and self published in an edition of 25 copies at the end of 2013. This book is half way between the travelog and the tourism country guide ! For this book, Sergey went with his fellow friend Vasya Bykov, to Belgium for what they call, a beer circuit. Vasya is the protagonist of the book and we follow him during his trip in Belgium to taste a maximum sorts of beers. The photographs in the book mainly show Vasya drinking, and the captions are the names of beers seen on the photos, with technical specifications, plus the name of the location. And of course, as a perfect ventripotent beer drinker, we discover some photographs of Vasya, asleep drunk or fighting against a hangover the day after. The great excitement with this book is that, despite the lightness of the subject, it is also a very serious study on Belgian beers which could become a perfect guide for those of you who might want to visit Belgium. The book also contains some inserts like a beer menu, a beer label and a poster. Well, in this saga, everything becomes a pretext for another beer ! I hope the next book will be about Vasya’s adventures in France and will be called French wine.
The second hilarious book that I want to mention is built upon a worldwide phenomena : the Korean pop singer Psy and his famous Gangnam style.
The book is called « The life of Psy » by Maciej Pestka. It is a small softcover book, 14 x 21 cm, 48 pages, here again self published. The full story started on a huge mistake. During the fashion week, in 2013, in Barcelona, Denis Carré, who is French-Korean, was mistaken for Psy when he attended a VIP evening in a club. All around in the club, hysteria started and everybody wanted to be photographed, skin dedicated, or take a picture of the idol ! As a communication opportunity, Denis has been offered money to do his Gangnam style and even a Porshe car to be photographed driving it. Maciej, as a photographer witnessed this mass hysteria. What is really funny is that Psy is incredibly worldwide known (a few millions of people have seen his video) but everyone was trapped by the double. The book becomes a reportage of that night. Photos shot with a wide angle and a flash throw us in the middle of the mess, in the frenzied atmosphere. And last but not least, at the end of the book comes a facsimile of a letter from the Corporate Councel, representing Psy, asking Denis Carré to stop impersonating their client. Although it is very funny, we can’t avoid to consider the way people act in our society when they meet celebrities, what it means to be famous, and finally send us back to Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle.
The third book in my collection has been self published by Pascal Anders (see my previous post about Lothringen). The book is called “Raymond La France”, and you will immediately understand that it is a parody of Raymond Depardon.
It has been a lot of talk recently about the megalomaniac project that Raymond Depardon did in France. A few years travelling around, for a national commission, to create what he called “La France de Raymond Depardon”. This sentence has a double meaning in French and it completely reflects the ambiguity of the project. It can means the France as seen by Depardon, and it also refers to the way we describe some very important period during French history, connected to a king, an emperor or a president. We say La France de Napoléon or La France de De Gaulle. So when Pascal Anders named his project Raymond La France, he shows a real mockery of Depardon’s work. With the help of Google street view, Pascal has gone in every place that was photographed and did a screen capture (there is even a crossover !).
The book uses the same typographic code as the original publication. A blue cover with the title outlined. He also plays with slang, Raymond La France is the way popular nicknames are created: the first name, then a qualification to describe the person. It is also inspired by famous persons in popular history like Raymond La Science (Raymond Goethals, Belgian football manager) who were more known by their nickname, but also an old movie called “Dupont Lajoie” (Lajoie, as la joie, meaning the joy), which was about the everyday racism in the « post Algerian war » France of the 70’s. Raymond La France includes all the irony of the dark side of the French life, the tradition vs the modernity, the French population vs the immigrants, the progressism vs reactionnary. The book is 13 x 20 cm, and is printed in an edition of 25 and. As usual with Pascal’s production, it can be ordered for free from his web site. The book counts 222 pages where we find all the screenshots in the same order that Raymond Depardon did the photos for his project.
And in the background lies the question: was it worth that money to accompany such a project? Whatever you may think, the result is simply hilarious and it is the perfect companion book for “La France de Depardon”. And, well, all that is not very serious !
Just for the fun, I want to add a very funny little booklet by a Spanish artist. This is not a photobook but it all started with photography. More precisely with porn photography. It is called “Porno tapados” and it has been published by Belleza Infinita.
In this booklet, Paloma Blanco worked from a porn magazine and repainted all the scenes to change them for some casual daylife situations. Well, how a modern housewife work all day long at home in a complete extatic mood. Hilarious once again! 17 x 24 cm, 56 pages, published in 2007, second edition revised in 2009.
As usual, you can find more information here below:
“Belgian Beer” and “The life of Psy” can be found at L’Ascenseur Végétal :
All images copyright Sergey Novikov, Maciej Petska, Pascal Anders, Paloma Blanco and the publishers. Can be removed on request.