Les Coupes, by Philippe Bazin and Muriel Martin

It is becoming urgent for our society to resolve conflicts with our fooding community and the agricultural world. Conscious of its excessive practices, driven by capitalist excesses, this community has gone through many economic and identity crises. What touches me the most in this book is the infinite sweetness with which Philippe Bazin approaches a world close to his neighborhood, in the geographical meaning, to reveal its qualities.

For a dozen years, Philippe has been through being a neighbor then a friend; however, and this is important, he remains a « foreigner » to the family and to the farm domain of Les Coupes. We are in 2015 and, at the request of Muriel Martin, Philippe Bazin will document life at Les Coupes during a summer that, under the gaze of the photographer, seems a never ending one.

What we notice at first glance is the empathy and closeness with which the photographer is involved in this story, fruit of a constantly renewed astonishment and a complicity that is tied up throughout the pages. And by the way, this book is not so much a book of photographs than a narration of a relationship within the farm community. We meet Muriel Martin with the various members of the family that Philippe meets, approaches, and then sometimes, he removes distant, as embarrassed to be in this place, clumsy facing situations that seem to us from another era. All along this long summer, Philippe Bazin looks witness this agricultural world of polyculture and breeding. He pays the same attention to everything, be it a piece of landscape, humans, animals, agricultural tools… Each element is part of the harmony of the exploitation, each of them is interdependent of the others, they are rub shoulders and rub as if to perform a dance or a farandole. With the photographer, one is always closer to the actions, until smelling furs, fresh milk, blood, manure. It comes back to us the memory of the trips we had made, as children, at the farm of an uncle, an aunt or a cousin, each gesture then seemed simple and natural.

This book also tells us about the tie of the family to the farm, the transmission within the family. Traditionally, it is the boy who takes over the farm, but at Les Coupes, the cards are redistributed, it is a family inheritance that is transmitted intuitively and, from an early age, children testify to this ancestral relationship to animals and everyday tasks. This is this tie, that Philippe Bazin discovers during this long summer which is also explained by Muriel Martin who speaks to us, with her words, in the last part of the book. It was not originally planned, when Muriel asked Philippe to come and have his « foreigner » look on Les Coupes, it was rather a form of hindsight, a distance of the everyday to better look at ourself, from distance, more like watching a video to correct our flaws. But when autumn came and Philippe organized a projection of the photos of the previous summer, emotion overwhelmed her, she had to put her emotions on paper and tell the story, weaving a dialogue with the photographer. The text is generous, as are the photos. We discover a narrative talent that takes us through the persistence of the images encountered in the book, Muriel reveals the images, the hidden meaning we had noticed, but above all, it extends the history of Les Coupes, it enriches. Faced with the eyes of the « foreigner », it brings us the point of view from within, the everyday experience, with its strengths, its weaknesses, its joys and its pains.

Finally, I should precise that to fully appreciate this book, it is important to make yourself available to it and to spend time with it. At first reading, I found it a little bit to obvious with some basic framing, even not close enough (you know, in the meaning of Capa), but it is a book to which we must return, again and again, as a long summer spent in the countryside : at the beginning you get bored and then when you get to know Hermès, Hollywood, Jaurès or Agathe (the animals who are the subjects of these photographs), you take a liking to them and you look forward to the next summer and the moment when you will be there again. It is the same for this book which, once closed, gives us the furious desire to spend a summer at Les Coupes !

Harcover book published in 2017 by Créaphis Editions, 136 pages, 62 color photographs, 21,5 x 23 cm, with a foreword by Marie-Hélène Lafon.

More info about Philippe Bazin : http://www.philippebazin.fr/

And about Créaphis Editions : http://www.editions-creaphis.com/

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She looks into me, by Nuno Moreira

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In Zona, his previous book, Nuno Moreira explored the limit of the dream and the unconscious. Using the same techniques of staging and scenography, he has published, early this year, this new opus, much more accomplished and which now clearly claims its surrealist filiation, including the title borrowed from a poem by Paul Eluard: She looks into me, which opens the book.

In his previous work, it seems that Nuno sought to « capture » his moments of unconsciousness, whereas in the realization of She looks into me, he appropriated the unconscious to strive to represent it, and his work is now much closer to that of the Surrealists. Life, death, dreams, thoughts, are the raw material. The threads are woven into a play. The pictures are always aesthetic, but it is to make us forget their presence and allow us to focus on the narration which remains interpreted by everyone’s mind. It draws, one after the other, the « being », the « becoming » and the process of deconstruction that follows (« unbecoming »). Consistency remains throughout the book, with recurring patterns that allow us to read a continuum, such as the cycle of life and death, which are, of course, ubiquitous motifs throughout the book. The rhythms change, accelerate and then slow down, before accelerating again. In this book, all the formal elements that constitute it (photos, layout, texts …) disappear at the service of the storytelling.

And finally, the title refers us to the perception that Nuno Moreira proposes to us. It is no longer a question of looking at things, but rather of looking into things, in the sense of the original French title of the poem, Elle se penche sur moi, which speaks of being available to understand the other, to find a confidence in him/her. Where it is about seeing in the other to put his life/love in his/her hands, proof of ultimate confidence, beyond life and death. Then one reads there love, the only one capable of transcending the physical limit of the body, of time, of the wear and tear that reappears in the third part of the book. Death approaches, and one then questions oneself about existence, his own and that of the other, whom we build a relation with.

The book is beautifully printed with black and white tones incredibly rich. The open spine allows a clear reading of the photos. A booklet with a text in Portugese and in English by Adolfo Luxuria Canibal, Portugese musician and poet accompanies the softcover book. Limited edition of 200 copies, 22 x 28 cm, 84 pages with 42 B&W photos. Foreword by M. F. Sullivan and afterword by Jesse Freeman.

More info : http://nmdesign.org/

 


A few books that have not been mentioned so far and that I loved in 2017

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 :

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Island by Reza Kalfane, self published. A French photographer in his land of adoption : Iceland, very strong black and white poetic photography

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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Some interesting magazines

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.

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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/

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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.

More info : http://mugaproject.com/pewen-cuadernos-de-fotografia/

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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 ?

Migration.

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/

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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/

 


We apologize for the temporary inconvenience, by Ilkin Huseynov

Perhaps the best way to start talking about this book would be to say that it’s probably one of the strangest one I have seen recently, in both form and subject.

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Ilkin Huseynov lives in Baku, in Azerbaijan, a former soviet republic which became a very rich country after the fall of the communism, due to its large reserve of oil (I remember when I was a child in primary school, doing a presentation of the Baku oil fields). After the fall of communism, city officials decided to transform the city to erase all traces of the communist past and offer the people a prosperous future. The center then became a huge building site that is constantly being rebuilt on its own, and like everywhere in the world, the current construction site is adorned with promising banners to praise the future project in a dream city (in an idealized sense and not utopian).

The photographs in this book draw our attention to these images that sprinkle the public space, markers of a prosperous future, ambitious and full of beauty, but… who knows if it will ever happen. These are not only project views, they are also images of a dreamed city, which is a way to draw attention of populations who can easily imagine themselves, freed from the communist yoke, living in a brighter capitalist future, and no matter the quality of the image printed on the banner, the future can only be more beautiful and enjoyable ! The city is a palimpsest, the layers are superimposed, printed and reprinted, just as the fortunes are made and unmade, the apartments are sold… or not, in which case, the project will remain in suspense and the banner will degrade on location , becoming the memory of an unfinished project or of a past dream.

But, the work of Ilkin Huseynov is not limited to the observation of these hangings. It documents them in the thickness of time and the object which, according to an Azerbaijani proverb, claims to be “fancy on the surface, bullshit Inside” is reversed with the passage of time. The projects stretch, the time seems printed on the surface of the building sites, as if to remind us the past history and the vanity of wanting to erase everything: a promising future that remains vain! Ilkin is interested in small details which reveal the lies, and the banners remind us of the Chinese dazibaos, dirt and traces denouncing the imposture of the project. In his photographs, Ilkin reverses the proposal of the beauty that is set out to us as a real estate project. There is a real aesthetic of scarification and traces; ugliness is in the background, the image is false, pixelated, desaturated. The impure trace that imposes itself becomes beauty, it is the only reality which, for the moment, is accessible to us and it is played with mischievousness of the megalomania of the decision-makers: whether it is discreet or omnipresent, it finally appears to reveal the fatuity of the project!

The book itself is built on the same principle, a soft cover made of canvas reminds us of these banners stretched, with the casual stamp apologizing for the inconvenience : « we apologize for the temporary inconvenience » which is supposed to help us to wait for a brighter future. The inner pages are printed on a glossy thick paper that is the reminiscent of the vulgarity of the images/projects. The views intertwine and mix, Ilkin Huseynov chose to offer us different image sizes and pages. Smaller pages reveal, in the back, new views, like a « mise en abyme » of these projects that never stop, whose we will never see the end… except perhaps if the oil runs out or if our society is moving towards new energy resources. But then what will happen to this past? Will a new social organization want to draw a line on this recent history, and what new method will be used to redesign the city?

Finally, I do not think that the essential issue here would be to question the city in motion, it is a primordial characteristic of urbanization and of our own adaptation to change and to move forward, the real question would be more about the imposed rhythm, and also, mainly, what to do with memory and thus history !

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Published by « Rally in the streets », in 2017 in an edition of 500 signed and numbered copies. Softcover book with a canvas cover, 21 x 29,7 cm, 64 pages with full color photographs.

More info : www.ritsbooks.com

And an interview : https://ajammc.com/2017/07/18/temporary-inconvenience-baku/

 


The distances between us, by Sarah Pollman

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.

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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.

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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.

More info : http://www.sarahpollman.com/the-distances-between-us

 


Nokturno by Andrej Lamut

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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 !

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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

And : http://www.andrejlamut.si/Nokturno