Let’s take advantage of the beginning of the year to come back to a very beautiful book published last year, which, if it had not already been mentioned by others, would surely have appeared on my end-of-year list.
Making a photobook has become a pretty easy thing nowadays. As anyone in this little world, I can only admit that I am submerged every day under new announcements, new requests for crowdfunding campaigns, pre-purchase, and I do not complain, however, it becomes more and more difficult to detect works that stand out and surprise us. Making a book nowadays is no longer simply adding page after page of good quality images, but it’s much more about sharing an experience, told through a series of photographs, sketching a narrative in which the reader will be snapped up and whose he will only come out changed.
Well, Subterranean river is this kind of book, a one in which I enter with caution, a one which I sees to understand without going straight to the explanations of the author. Whether it’s a photobook, a novel or an essay, I never read the preface before entering the book, I do not want to know what I have to wait for and I prefer to stray on side roads to to fully live my own journey. So obviously, the book of Łukasz surprised me completely as much as it confused me. As a symbol, the first image shows us a nature in disorder, as a way of telling us that what is going to follow is no longer commonplace, so it only remains for us to let be taken in charge. The color images are very strong, we look for a meaning, we detect traces. Other images printed on a very fine paper come punctuate the narration, like telling us another song.
And suddenly, these two songs come into resonance as we discover a new series of photographs printed on red pages, characters, as ghosts appear in baroque compositions. Within this complicated nature, we finally crossed paths and established a communication. The book seems to be a spiritual research in the meaning of what Kandinsky said in his book « On the spiritual in art » about the different relationships between movement, form and color, in the artistic practice.
In a text, at the end of the book, Olga Drenda reveals part of the mystery and explains the quest Łukasz has made across Japan. We are here dealing with a spiritual journey, no anecdotes about the Japanese society, no sort of Orientalism as we have known for centuries. This trip could have taken place in other places, but if Łukasz chose Japan, it is, as he explains, because « When travelling to Japan, I knew one thing only — I wanted to take pictures based on Japanese mythology; I wanted to photograph the Yokai — the monsters of legend. Photography came as the result of working in new surroundings; it was the end process of meeting people and building relationships — this is surely why so many of the pictures (and the intimate ones in particular) are of my friends or the people who trusted me — of humane people. The non-human world is more than a background or visual filler; it is of equal importance. I understood that what interested me most here was nature. Man is a part of it… ».
It only remained for him to let be guided … and for us to do the same …
Harcover book published by Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych / Palm* Studio in 2018. 23.5 x 31 cm, 120 pages. Print run : 500 copies
First of all, let me be clear, this is not a best of list of 2018 ! If you want to know the best books published this year, you can refer to the very well done compilation by Viory Schellekens caled the meta list. Here is the link : https://www.facebook.com/Viory.Schellekens/photos/a.1894706323931695/1907864862615841/?type=3&theater
I have to confess that all those lists are no surprise, Raymond Meeks, Mark Steinmetz, Matthew Genitempo, Carmen Winant, Laia Abril and you can go on… of course they are the best books of 2018. Just consider the meta list and you’ll get the best books published this year (236 list makers…), nothing else to say. So I was wondering, what is the point to post another list. For the last few years, I did what I called a “los olvidados” list (yep that’s a reference to Bunuel), but this year, it is not a forgotten list, but rather a question : why those books have not been mentionned so far. I only choose books which not appear in the meta list (two mention to appear), so if Viory includes my list, maybe some will appear and gain a rank…
Let’s start with no order neither priority and I wish you all a happy new year full of great discoveries in 2019 :
Race with the devil by Yan Morvan, published by Serious publishing
Yan Morvan spent years with motobike gangs, even putting his life in danger, this work is unbelievable for me in consideration of immersion to get good photos. Ans he remains not that known worldwide. I also though about another great book from Yan published this year : Bobby Sands with André Frère.
Le fleuve Somme by Thibaut Cuisset published by Diaphane Editions
Still don’t understand why this wonderful photographer remains unknown. The slow melancholy of his landscapes deserves a wider eccho, maybe if Steidl finally publishes his “French Landscapes” next year !
Looking at the overlooked by John Myers, published by RRB Photobooks
Probabaly one of my actual favorite photographer. For those who know my work you may understand why. And finally a great book (with his previous one “Portraits”) which gives justice to his work. Well technically, this one is supposed to be published in 1019, but I already received it, so…
America revised by Gerry Johansson, published by Only Photography
Gerry is one of my absolute favorite photographer and his book American winter has already been mentionned profusely, but… If American winter is another great book, it is just another one in his series of cities books. This one brings in light his very marginal color work which is gorgeous, but also a larger size printed view of his photographs in the size of his original prints, and everything perfectly done as Roland Angst knows to do.
Fifty High Seasons by Shane Lynam, selfpublished
A wonderful testimony of what has become one of the most incredible touristic and land planning experience of the XXth century. Planification to create from nothing one of the biggest French touristic area. A gret discovery for me, including what was called the Mission Racine planned by the DATAR.
Fables of Faubus by Paul Reas, published by Ghost books
We all know Martin Parr’s work, but Paul Reas has been long ago working on the same topics, and finally a book which gave him justice : a dive through the English society with reality, humor, sadness and colorful…
Stone Kingdom by Christopher de Bethune, published by Le Mulet
I am a total fan of Christopher’s work. There is so much poetry in the way he looks at things. You just need to hold one of his book in your hands to be converted… Unfortunately only 60 copies.
Touch, Rites of Mirrow Hidden Gravity by Sergej Vutuc, selfpublished
Time after time Sergej still surprises me with new experiments and renewal. He turns reality into abstractions and kind of mental images of the world that surrounds us. Handmade books after books they are more and more fantastic ! 100 copies only.
Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train – The People’s View by Rein Jelle Terpstra, published bu Fw:Books
I have always loved Paul Fusco’s idea of taking pictures from the funeral train of Bobby Kennedy showing America in 1968. Rein jelle Terpstra investigates the way that was followed by the train to find pictures made by people standing by the passing of the train. Some brilliant reverse shots which complete the original story and tell a lot about the moment.
Orbit by Renato D’Agostin, published by IKKI
IKKI edtions initiated a few years ago a collaboration between photographers and musicians. Every book is a journey of the photographer to accompany a specifical music, this one comes with a composition by Scott Worthington. You can turn the page listening to the music, or vice versa. So far two sets of three books and records have been published.
Yuka and the forest by Lena C. Emery, published by APE
A slow meditation about a girl and a forest, beautifully printed and a touching story if you make yourself available to it.
La Zone, published by gallery Lumière des Roses
A catalog of an exhibition held in Montreuil at gallery “Lumières des roses” with numerous photos of the former suburbs of Paris. A piece of history about contemporary urbanisation of cities.
Rikard was born in Sweden and settled in England years ago. In 2005, he met Zara and they’ve been living together until now. This is the story that Rikard Österlund tells us in this very touching book.
But wait, another point of importance in this story, is that Zara suffers from fibromyalgia, hypermobility syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. This disease is difficult to diagnose, but most importantly, the only treatment is to manage the effects of the disease. When affected, you really have to live with it and Rikard and Zara share this together since the beginning of their relationship. The fact that this disease was known from the beginning of their relationship makes the story more touching and, as Rikard says, they have learnt to live this like a third person in our relationship.
One of the great qualities of this book is that it opens the doors to the intimacy of the couple. But here, the term intimacy has to be read in term of love, not in terme of voyeurism, a bit like if Rikard was afraid to see disappear all these shared moments. The context is set in the preamble of the book, the title is also explained, since it is a sentence that Zara sometimes pronounces when entering the office of Rikard : Look I’m wearing all the colours. The use of colour in the book is not neutral, the story of the couple is an explosion of colours, whether shared moments or as Zara is dressed. But the book is also punctuated with black and white photographs, and it tells a kind of parallel history, like the presence of the unconscious, as for magnified moments, imprecise memories that in the remnant of moments of pain testify a need for the spirit to escape, to wander, to regain strength.
As a result, we quickly feel a great empathy for Zara and Rikard. This form of intimacy does not hide the reality of everyday life, despite the explosion of colors, difficult moments emerge between pages of joy. The suffering of one becomes that of the other and, over this reading, it is also our own.
The book is a long poem dedicated to Zara and its layout uses lots of metaphors, it opens on a blue sky on which clouds are appearing, themselves tainted with warm colors, then, we discover a swan, alone, as in the looking for his partner (we know that swans can stay in couples all their lives), and then, Zara’s face appears behind a window fogged, imprecise and immaterial before seeming to wake up on the next page.
Are we diving into a dream or are we coming out of it? Much more than a book on Zara, this book is a book about Rikard’s love for Zara, whom he compares to a Madonna on a double page with a sweet and tender portrait on the left and a statue on the right. He shows us all his feelings, from doubts to joy or pain, like on this double page with on one side a hospital corridor (no way out) and on the opposite page the shadow profile of Rikard interpreted as we can assume as doubts and fears for the future.
The book ends softly with the beautiful picture of Zara, finally appeased and full of hope, who hands him a flower picked in the garden nearby, and seems to say : do not worry, everything will be fine! And so, we are also a little convinced that, yes, everything will be fine!
Hardcover book selfpublished in 2018. 120 pages with 90 colour and black and white photographs. Edition of 500 copies.
More info : https://www.rikard.co.uk/allthecolours
It all started in 1963, with the creation of the Interministerial mission of tourist development of the Languedoc-Roussillon littoral. The 200 km of coasts around the Gulf of Lion, in the south of France, were mainly occupied by unofficial tourism sites and mosquitos. This mission, known as the « Mission Racine », named after its director, Pierre Racine, was intended to offer an alternative to both bourgeois tourism on the French Riviera and popular tourism on the Spanish coast, combined with a new economic development for the region.
If this part of France is well known and stormed every summer by thousands of tourists, the origin of the operation remains little known. And yet, it is probably the largest development site operation that France has experienced after the war, a true symbol of « trente glorieuses ». It is also the first mission in charge of the DATAR (Délagation for the Spatial Planning and Regional Action) created in 1963, which is famously known by photographers for its public photography commissioning initiated in the mid-80s.
This mission is at the origin of the creation of the seaside resorts of St Cyprien, Port Barcares, Port Leucate, Gruissan, Cap d’Agde, La Grande Motte and Port Camargue. The two most emblematic elements of this mission are, from my point of view, the construction of pyramids at La Grande Motte (Jean Balladur project), and the arrival of the Lydia called the « Paquebot des sables » a retired cruise liner at Port Barcarès ; both in 1967. The first seaside resorts welcomed the first tourists in 1968, some 50 years ago.
The context thus presented now brings us to the work of Shane Lynam which, contrary to what might suggest the title, does not present 50 years of tourism on this coast, but rather offers us a state of play of these resorts nowadays. Shane Lynam, an Irish photographer, discovered these places in 2003, long before he became interested in photography, and in 2010 he began his series of photographs over a period of 7 years.
We really feel in Shane’s work his very close proximity to these places, but also a great empathy, even a fascination that remain nevertheless mixed with ambiguity. These projects, which are often compared to the construction of large Parisian complexes, are now suffering from a lack of maintenance and would require renovation works (it is one of the actual questions at La Grande Motte), but Shane is more interested in showing us the plastic qualities of the place, the acid colors of the South, the sun and outdoor life.
Despite this, the plasticity of the images does not fool us, a strange atmosphere creeps in us, like the backstage of a show that breaks the magic of the scene. Public spaces are deserted, characters appear as lost in these urban organizations, sometimes out of scale, like this man in a swimsuit in the street, at the foot of a building, probably in search of a sea that we do not even see. Everything is artificial, even in nature that is mastered.
This statement is summarized in the closing text of the book, where Shane Lynam explains that Fifty High Seasons reflects on the cumulative effect of half a century of tourism on the innovative built environment established by Mission Racine, while showing why I fell for its unique charm.
I never really visited this south coast of France, despite a night in a tent on the beach of L’Espiguette, near La Grande Motte, and one of the great quality of this book is that it really made me want to know more about this touristic area and its history !
Hardback book, first Edition of 750 copies, 21 cm x 32,5 cm, 116 pages, 48 color photographs, section-sewn, swiss-bound
More info : http://www.shanelynamphoto.com/
And a video about the arrival of the Lydia in Port Barcarès, in June 1967
L’Arrivée du Lydia – 11 Juin 1967 from Mairie Port Barcarès on Vimeo.
The old-fashioned charm of post communist Romania is the first impression we feel with this book of photographs taken between 2007 and 2017, by Ovidiu Gordan. A bit like the feeling of going to see a friend who takes us through the streets and alleys of his village, then to the countryside.
As familiar as these places are, they are none the less singular. Ovidiu, with his camera, meticulously notes everything he meets and « finds ». He guides us through his country with a certain pride. He tells us his memories, the table of a restaurant he frequents, the cat he often meets on his daily journey and tries in vain to approach. Without knowing Romania, we can let ourselves be carried away by the narrative, this book tells us stories, it leaves priority to in our imagination, like this old Dacia, a copy of the French Renault 12 owned by a person who was dear to us… what has become of her?
We see nothing of the country, or perhaps, on the contrary, we really see it, in the sense of understanding it. No postcards or clichés, the photographs follow the rhythm of our wanderings. When a couple passes by, Ovidiu whispered to us the singular story of these two people. Old photos on the wall, hanged on a decayed wallpaper tell the story of a time when Romania was under the yoke of Ceausescu couple. The photos alternate scenes of incredible precision, as frozen timeless, and other moments vaporous, bathed in blur and fog. Things do not come out spontaneously, you have to make yourself available, give them attention, to find their preciousness. We meet people too, of course, some people who we dare to approach and others we do not want to disturb.
Time passes and we have to leave this friend. The book goes on and familiarity sets in, and becomes our own. We recognize signs, the local culture permeates us, a woman, met on the road, smiles, we are no longer strangers.
The book is endearing in many ways. The principal is certainly the generosity that he transmits which remains in us, after having traveled through those « Familiar places ». There is a need in Ovidiu to seize these moments, to tell their reality, as if we need to be convinced of our own existence. Capturing these little non-events, this collection of little things that we collect every day to keep them preciously in a notebook of memories, until we meet them again, a bit like the book « I remember » by Georges Perec that he presented as: « small pieces of daily life, things that, a year or another, all people of the same age have seen, lived, shared, and which then disappeared, have been forgotten; they were not worthy of being part of history, nor of being included in Memoirs of statesmen, mountaineers, and sacred monsters. Sometimes, however, they come back, a few years later, intact and tiny, by chance or because they have been looked for, one night, with friends. »
Hardcover book selfpublished in 2018. 23 x 23 cm.,108 pages with 52 black and white and color photographs.
More info : https://www.ovidiugordan.com/
The subtitle of the book could have been, « A tale of a forgotten future » as Shyue Woon takes us to a long journey exploring some emblematic areas in three huge cities : Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul.
Each of these cities is the object of an autonomous work, the three being collected in a superb box that gives its name to the trilogy. Shyue Woon is a trained architect and an architectural approach is evident in the way he looks at the places he passes through. He takes us with him in his wanderings, as if to make us visit the recesses of his unconscious. Of the three megacities chosen, he shows us almost nothing, or very little. In each city, he chose to isolate himself, at night in places that were, at other times, symbols of a prosperous future, utopias of the twentieth century.
The first book is entitled « Carpark » and Shyue Woon takes us for a night walk in a multi-storey carpark. I have always had a particular affection for the nooks and « non-places », well… all those places in front of which one passes without ever stopping or even taking a look at it. A succession of details slowly builds an abstract vision of this world of the night. Our imagination creates a parallel universe in which memories reappears. A silhouette draws itself in distance, or is it a ghost? We meet people whom we can’t reach, separated from a window or a blur that prevents us to get in touch.
Shyue Woon evokes the idea of a purgatory in which one evolves, trying to solve a crime story, reference to the black films or an insoluble enigma coming straigh from mythology, which proves impossible to solve. We meet our demons but we also get rid of our fears in a cathartic ordeal.
The second book entitled « Capsule » takes us, as its title indicates in the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza – Tokyo, futuristic project of the early 1970s which today, is on the brink of abandonment since the maintenance there is no more assured. Shyue Woon guides us through this labyrinth of doors and corridors. The light is more present, as if, out of purgatory we found our way to the surface, to the inhabited world. We get lost in this maze of colors to always end up in front of a wall, but with the hope of a light that will deliver the outcome.
Here again the author stops on small things, trivial details that say long about the state of the premises. We find ourselves locked in the past, as in the brain of a brilliant architect who would find himself trapped in his project too futuristic, and here the term capsule takes all its meaning, recalling the films of anticipation in which the deplacements were supposed to be done in some so-called capsules.
« Euljiro », third opus of this trilogy leads us finally in a district of Seoul. It is always dark and our wanderings continue in this dehumanized world. Lights seem to illuminate a vanished world, or at least of which the inhabitants would have leaved places in a sort of hurry. Cables guide us through the streets, like a ball from which we pull the wire to guide us to the exit, ponctuating our way of many traces of life, proof that we are on the right path. The light returns slowly, passing from the structuring spheres of the city to its surface state. If the first book was purgatory, we wonder now in what universe we will emerge.
The three books highlight Shyue Woon’s vision of the city, which is reminiscent of Marc Augé’s definition of « non-place » (one of the texts accompanying « Carpark » refers to it) and the architect he is can only wonder about the spatial organization of the city and the spaces that compose it. How do we go from one place to another, spatially first, but also temporally and here is appearing in the background of the three books, the influence of time on the « project ». Would the futurism of an era become now only old fashionned and, finally, what is this articulation of the present that tilts one towards the other? It is thus as an architect that Shyu Woon uses the night to deconstruct what was built, in order to understand the inner structure of buildings and cities, and to reorganize the spaces around a fiction stemming from our imagination, a little bit as Alice’s world by Lewis Caroll.
Three hardcover books 14,5 x 21 cm, open spine with silkscreen cover, in a box set.
More info : http://shyuewoon.com/
After defeating Polyphemus on the Cyclops island, Ulysses, in an excess of arrogance, reveals his identity to the giant who in rage asks his father Poseidon to inflict the worst torments to Ulysses during his journey back over seas.
One eyed Ulysses, by JM Ramirez-Suassi is a fable, a contemporary odyssey, and the transposition is successful. For four long years, the photographer evolves around Madrid and its suburbs. No explanation accompanies the photographs, it is up to us to find a meaning … or not. The rythm is slow and we focus on small things, small people, small here having the sense of ordinary and not value. There is no broad view, the horizon never appears, as if to hide the final goal, or to tell us that the road will be long. Sequences are constructed and deconstructed to better lose us.
One of the great qualities of this book lies in its lack of explanations, but also and especially in the sequencing. The author could have easily fallen into a compilation of beautiful pictures, a collection of views. But on the contrary the story makes sense, recurring patterns return to the rhythm of pages, bottles, dead animals, people. All these elements stand at the margins of our society, they form signs that show us the hidden face of what surrounds us. All these little details that we no longer see, either because they are without value, without interest, or because we are in a hurry, because the goal matters more than the way.
Then JM Ramirez-Suassi challenges us and shows us that the journey becomes an experience in itslef. We get lost to better wonder what the next moment will reveal to us. We struggle in our progression, barriers, gates, strings strew our way, we must make detours. Associations are made, as in a dream, a broken windshield gives place, on the next page to a delicate spiderweb revealed by the morning dew. We must then abandon our preconceived ideas, leave the presuppositions aside and let us be guided by our imagination. Memories arise, a moment that we had already glimpsed, elsewhere, on another path, that we had not captured, but which our unconscious remembers.
The book reminds us of the montage of attractions theorized by SM Eisenstein. The sequences cannot be the result of chance, they must have a meaning, it could not be otherwise. We must cling to something that makes sense, reassures us and so, everyone will find their story by filling the gaps. This succession of small encounters becomes touching. We find ourselves in the middle of the story and it seems to us to belong to these places, we recognize ourself and we move in there with facility. Our ability to appropriate our surroundings reassures us and makes this environment safe in a resolutely resilient nature.
After being through this wandering, the book ends with a contemporary metaphor of our societies. The odyssey ends facing a wall surmounted by barbed wire which evokes the fences on the borders of Europe, and what we finally discover behind this wall, which, perhaps, was the goal of this quest, remains cold and scary. And now remains the bitter taste of what is inside and what is outside, wether it is in our societies or in a globalization context.
I finally want to add that everything written above is just a personnal interpretation due to the sequencing and the choice of the photographs. Everyone will have his own perception and his own reading when opening this book. And I really encourage you to do it by your own…
Harcover book published in 2018 by NOW photobooks. 24 x 30 cm, 144 pages, 91 color photographs. Very limited print run of 175 copies which may sell fast !