When I was studying photography, there was only one photo bookshop in Paris in addition to the Centre National de la Photographie. The books were quite expensive and hard to find. Digital technology has changed all that. Photographers from all around the world are in constant contact, they share their practice and publish their work in forms as diverse than varied. For prices ranging from 5 to 20 euros, you find little gems, self-published in small print run. Some publishers have built their success with this type of publication: Café Royal Books, The Velvet Cell, Antler Press, Brown Owl Press, Another Place Press amongst my favorite (sorry for the forgotten).
Some goodies amongst recent publications:
Filling the gaps, by Tamas Bernath
The title speaks for itself, this book recounts an experience that lasted a year. When at the end of their studies in Budapest Tamas and his girlfriend have felt the need to take a break before settling. To do this, they chose Ireland and arose in a Camphill Community. We discover daily life in the book, Ireland with its landscapes, but more specifically its inhabitants. Images are emotionally charged; if one has already visited Ireland, he’ll recognize this specifical atmosphere, this attention and care to each other. The community as a metonymy of Ireland. Tamas shared his emotions with us, we feel the pleasure he took over this year. We feel resourced in his company through the pages. The layout is simple and enhances storytelling by creating rhythms. It almost gets to feel the salt splash on our skin. Finally we are sad at the end, in the plane, while on the ground the last friends are watching from. But at least we still have memories… and this beautiful book.
Self-published, 20 x 14 cm, 56 pages, color laser print, first edition (2015) of 50 copies sold out. Second edition (2016) of 50 copies available here : http://tamasbernath.com/
O vazio é um espelho, by Carine Wallauer
The title in Brazilian means: emptiness is a mirror. The book as an exercise, while all portrait is a self-portrait. The eyes are the mirror of the soul, it is said! Through the pages, this book becomes obsessive, it shows and hides at a time. From the cover, it disturbs us. We guess a face, but we must open the flap to see it. Same for the title of the book, sewn reversed on the cover, that becomes readable inside the flap, hidden behind the face that we just discovered with haunting eyes that will punctuate the narrative. Later on we find the young woman away in sand dunes, drowning in his own tracks. The landscape is empty, and she even tends to disappear. Then comes a new experience: a cinematic sequence of close-ups of the face, a mouth that smiles, eyes looking straigh forward, they seem frozen, the face then, with closed eyes at last. The character is permanently frozen in a time out, you could say “like death.” the following pages are sewn with the same string that was used for the title. We try to see a sequel, but the human figure has gone, there is nothing to see between the pages but emptiness! Later on, we find back the young woman naked on a beach. It looks different, the previous pages have created an intimacy, but it does not concern us anymore, her eyes run off fields. This image disturbs, she is refused to us and offers instead a body with no soul. Colophon appears attached to the next page, the thread has changed, it is white and stands at its end a small color photo, the girl fade away a little bit more. On the back are indicated the credits. The disappearance of the woman in the sand dunes, like a memory that fades. It is then questioned if the meeting was real or just a figment of our imagination … Finally remains an empty part of the first photo, to remind us this meeting… or not.
Self-published, 15 x 21 cm, 28 pages, black and white photos, first edition (2015) of 50 copies sold out, second edition (2015) of 200 copies available here : http://carinewallauer.com/o-vazio-e-um-espelho-1
The Mirror, by Khashayar Zand
This book is a compilation of several years of work spent observing public space in Tehran. Subject to very strict rules, the organization of this public space is often a reflection of the authoritarian regime. In a street photography tradition, Khashayar is tracking what he called small acts of rebellion, which, faced with this authoritarian regime, becomes an act of resistance. A kind of resilience of the people which is reflected by little touches. These images are quite ordinary, and we discover places that seem known to us, almost already seen. It is likely that these images contain codes that we are not directly accessible to us Westerners: everything seems peaceful and quiet. It emerges even some poetry from this collection. We discover a town from the inside, far from the tourist clichés. We feel like visiting a friend, go shopping with him. We are impregnated by the city, through its ambience, its atmosphere. Tehran is discovered from behind… the Mirror.
Self-published in Weimar, 18,5 x 12,5cm, 78 pages, color photos printed on 80g recycled paper. Available here : http://xziii.tumblr.com/post/140523093578/i-am-happy-to-announce-that-my-second-photobook
Plain Vanilla in the town of love, by John Menneer
Plain vanilla is the second volume in what John called « The monograph series » which comprises so far 4 volumes. In this book, John takes us to Te Aroha, a Maori name which means « place of love » located at the foot of the mount of the same name. From everyday observations, John depicts the place with as less interpretations as he can, trying to let the natural beauty of the place emerge. The rural town is quiet under bright sunny days. Nobody in the streets, which gives the impression of a complete silence. Even the cars are parked. Life has gone and we wonder if what we see is a real town or a movie set, where everything is in place, waiting for the crew to arrive. I really like this way of photographing, because it lets the form of the town to emerge from the natural environment, defining an anthropized landscape. This booklet remind me a lot my own practice in photography. And last but not least, the booklet is beautifully printed for a very reasonable price. Each volume is dedicated to a different approach or interpretation of a landscape situation and I consider John Menneer as one of the very talented contemporary landscape photographers.
Softcover, Saddle stitched, 32 pages + cover, 21 x 14,8 cm, 31 black and white photos. High-quality digital printing, 120 gsm off-white gloss, 1st Edition print run of 100. Available here : http://photo.johnmenneer.co.nz/
Fear of disappearance, by Mariya Ustymenko
The book starts with : how can the anxiety of change be visually expressed ? And this is the challenge of this beautiful book, how the changing of a town (London) interfere with our own feelings and stability, toward a place we are supposed to know. The book has a nice design which is understandable when you know that is has been done under the mentorship of the regretted Akina Factory which has been for a short time one of the best book Publisher I have known. In this book, we walk the streets of what appears to be an English town, London is never mentioned, and the purpose is to draw a larger context. Two main elements punctuate our walk. The first one is a young girl who appears from place to place, never really sure if she’s the same or just the memory of her pasted on a new encounter. The second is the light which draws a line between the sequences. An object touched by the grace of light suddenly appears and becomes the focus of our attention. The narration alternates the scales of representation to emphasize the trouble we feel. The book succeed incredibly well in stressing us, creating the concern of cause and effect. The people we meet are never real, they’re like ghosts or partially erased. There is nobody to lean on, just a zone to cross accompanied by a stalker. Do we already know this place, have we been here before ? We stand all along the book on the edge of the disappearance. The kind of book which needs time to be completely digested.
Concept and photography: Mariya Ustymenko, sequencing and printing: Akina Factory, Size: A5, 52 pages, digital printing, 31 black and white photos. Available here : http://www.mariyaustymenko.com/
South, by Fabio M. Roque
Imagine… that you go to the South… reading Henry Miller and taking photos… There is no straight subject in this book, and that is why I like it a lot. In fact, the subject is elsewhere, maybe in the South, or more surely in the head of the photographer. The need to change, and the camera which could be part of the therapy. Using the camera as a sketchbook without the possibility to look back. Some catharsis elements, the light, the sea, the skin… The book as an analysis, everything put on paper, to record them, to save them… for later, in case. Things on paper to remember, dont forget, I was there, I know that. It does not have a beginning, neither an end, that’s just an extract. We dont have the keys, but it may mean a lot for the author. Then we must confront images to our memories, we are looking for details to assume. It is not that important to understand, but rather to share. Well, imagine…
Size A5, 44 pages, black ans white photos, edition of 50, signed & numbered. Available here : http://www.theunknownbooks.net/South
Soleil du Nord, by Industrie 950
The neglected areas of suburban environments, that is the subject of this book. And knowing me, you may understand why I love this book so much. Photos are from different countries (France, Belgique, Portugal) and that is what becomes interesting, because it creates one single typology. It is a collection of details, of places of non interest, places that nobody visit. The ugliness as an aesthetics, colors and forms become an abstraction, the exact opposite of the « decisive moment ». The subject would stay still till the end of the world. But all those photographs are our daily. Everyday, we pass by one of those scenes without giving it a look. Thus the photographer stops here and tell us : look ! And for the anecdote, all photos are shot with analog films.
Size A5, 44 pages, color photos, edition of 50 numbered. Available here : http://industrie950.bigcartel.com/product/soleil-du-nord
Ichi no hi, by Haruna sato
Ichi no hi is a conceptual project started in 2011, when Haruna decided to take photos every first day of each month. So far, 5 volumes have been published and the interesting point is that it tells a continuous story with a rhythm of one day per month. The idea came out on January 31st 2011, when Haruna thought « how will it be if I exhibit photos taken on every 1st day of the month… ». So it all started on February 1st 2011. By choosing one single day every month, Haruna focus on her daily life. We discover her working place, food, people walking in the street, leisures… This is a complete catalogue of Japanese life, from streets to interiors, we follow Haruna in her life, we meet people and friends, we cross streets, go to work, visit places, share moments. As some other famous Japanese photographers, the camera and the photography are part of her life – it seems than more than any elsewhere, in Japan, photography and life are closely linked for photographers. The photos come with text, sometimes a caption, sometimes some thoughts which enlighten the photographs. Color photographs have appeared in volume 5 and the photographs are more and more structured and organised. We follow Haruna gaining maturity in photography, year after year, from her debut, at the age of 25, till, well, let’s see how long it will last ! But I have hope for many more years !
Size A5 , 32 pages black and white photos, edition of 250, volume 1 is sold out, but you can find copies of all other volulmes here : http://satoharuna.theshop.jp/
For four years, Akito walked the streets of Pilsen, a Latino neighborhood of Chicago: an immigrant among immigrants, which is that story that Akito tells us in his book. Slow work, in which we discover the life of a neighborhood. A piece of work that requires a lot of patience and availability, and, of course, a high level of empathy.
It has, however, taken twenty years to discover this work. Akito first came in Illinois in 1989 to work as a housekeeper, then started studying photography in Chicago. It was during his second year that he discovered the neighborhood of Pilsen, in 1990. Fascinated by the life of this neighborhood, people in the street and the atmosphere, he returns frequently and bind with locals. He quickly gaining their trust, despite the language barrier, since he did not speak Spanish and his English was limited. It is the photographs that linked. The people were open mind to him, both on the street and in their homes. Once finished his series, he only showed some pictures to some fellow students, a few magazines… and that’s it. Only recently, with the emergence of social networks, his work has surfaced. The possibility, via Facebook, to find those people who appear on the old photographs, to know what happened to them 20 years later, will enlighten this work and the idea of making a book will see the light.
It is a book of humility, self-published in a small print run (only 150 copies). The layout is simple but generous, generally one photo per page, and sometimes series that share a double page. Print quality is a bit poor, but ultimately, we could say that it gives justice to these people. There would be a paradox to see these images printed on a luxurious paper, almost disrespectful, and thus it remains an affordable book. The book is quite dense, and when browsing through the pages, one enters the district of Pilsen, reflecting its charm, which lies mainly in the friendliness of its inhabitants; the aesthetics of the area remains that of a poor suburban neighborhood as found in all American cities. The photographs are invading us, a gaze captures us, it is like walking in the street alongside Akito, one would even try to answer to this child who challenges us. Akito has a soft look, full of empathy on these people. Despite the social context, we never fall in a dark aesthetic ease of misery, whatever the circumstances, people are happy to live, proud of what they are and what they have.
We also find in the book some stray dogs, recurring subject in Akito Tsuda’s work since he published two other books on stray dogs and cats. Impossible not to see the metaphor of the foreigner into an unknown territory struggling for a daily survival. We even find them on the cover, as the symbol of this shelter that Akito found in this neighborhood, a blended family. And of course, there are also references for the young photography student he was. Impossible not to think of New York by William Klein, Bruce Davidson’s Harlem, or more generally to America seen by Jim Goldberg, basically all these photographers, before Akito Tsuda, who were interested in… others.
Softcover book, 21 x 21 cm, 124 pages, black and white photos, laser printing. 150 copies signed and numbered.
And an interview here : http://chicagovoz.org/2015/12/30/a-book-published-in-japan-captures-mexican-pilsen-in-the-90s/
Photos copyright Akito Tsuda