Los Olvidados, season 2

Many great books have already been listed this year. This list is not a “best of” but just a few recommendations for books I consider very interesting and that deserve some attention.

Only the sky remains untouched, by Claire Felicie. With this book, Claire keep on investigating the psychical damages of war on soldiers, as the subtitle of the book says « The invisible wounds of war. With, as usual, a superb design by Sybren Kuiper which, metaphorically, shows the broken bodies of former soldiers when they’re back from the theater of war. I could say more, but you’d better take a look by your own.

Habiter Berlin 1900 – 1920. At the beginning of XXth Century, the General health insurance fund in Berlin and in the neighborhood, commissionned Heinrich Lichte studio to realise photographs to show the conditions of insalubrity of some appartments in Berlin. The booklets were published once a year or every two years as “Unsere Wohnungs-Enquête”, a survey of housing in Berlin. 175 photographs are compiled here, under the direction of Philippe Bonin, architect and anthropologist, and Margaret Manale, historian, published by Creaphis éditions. Maybe my favorite book this year !

Cista zona, by Sergej Vutuc. Eastern Europe seen through the eyes of Sergej, with an invisible drama outcropping from his beautiful aesthetic photographs. A fantastic discovery this year !

Land, by Laura Van Severen. When quarries and larger stone exploitations become some incredible sophisticated abstract oraganisations. I really love those beautiful photos and I had a great pleasure of a little chat with Laura at Polycopies. Another great discovery this year.

Los amorosas las bravas, by Bénédicte Desrus and Celia Gómez Ramos. A fantastic series on Las mujeres de la Casa Xochiquetzal, a place in Mexico for retired prositutes. The profits from the book selling will help to fund the place. Unfortunately, this book is hard to find, because it did not really reached Europe before it was sold out.

Tada, by Algis Griskevidicius. This book compiles photographs taken between 1985 and 1995 (last decade of comunism era in Lithuania) as material for paintings. It becomes a great testimonial of a decaying country with, out of time Soviet architecture and landscapes.

Forthright, stronger than a weapon, by Sascha Klaus. This could also be the heaviest book of the year. A strong compilation of rap singers from what we call the Third World. This is a fantastic discovery of all those people who fight day after day against totalitarian regime. This remind us that the world is going wrong and that there are lots of things to do and to fight for ! A new form of protest book.

I wish to see where the winds meet, by Christian Bragg. The book as an object. You can turn the pages of this book with a specific sequencing, and by turning the pages, you understand that there are fold outs which could be unfold. You open the eyelets and then discover posters and leporellos which tell a new story. Create your own poetry by unfolding your book !

Glasgow, by Raymond Depardon. Let’s give a break with Depardon bashing. I was a fan of his early work, like San Clemente and Correspondance New Yorkaise. So it was with great pleasure that I discover this early unknown work he did in Glasgow in 1980 for the Sunday Times Magazine. Thanks to Editions du Seuil for this book.

The last son, by Jim Goldberg. With this new book, Jim Goldberg turns his narative process to examine his own growth through his relation to his father, and how his origins have influenced his work. Published by Super Labo as the second part of a personal story in three books.

And I just want to end with two promising photographers and books they did for they’re graduation. They both self published their graduation work in a limited edition of more or less 30 copies. You should keep an eye on both of them.

David’s House, by Alex Ingram. You know this part of Wales, at the end of the world which is called St David, that’s the place where Alex is from and he went back to the place to document it. This is just the sensitive way I like in a photo work.

Belfast, by Aäron Maes. A Belgian photographer focused on the troubles in Northern Ireland as subject of his Master degree. I have a particularly tenderness for Ireland and I like how Aäron immersed himself to try to understand what « Troubles » mean.

You can find the compilation of the 2016 lists here : http://photolia.tumblr.com/post/153778783632/photobooks-2016

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David’s House, by Alex Ingram

St Davids is a small village, at the end of the world (1841 inhabitants) where Alex spent a part of his childhood. Well, in fact, St Davids is a city ! I remember years ago, talking to an English friend about what is the difference between a city and a town, and he told me a city is a place with a cathedral. So St Davids is the smallest city of the United Kingdom, located at the westernmost point of the Pembrokeshire in Wales. The place takes its name from the settlement around the monastery that David, Saint Patron of Wales founded in the VIth century. The Welsh name « Tyddewi » means literraly David’s house, which is the title of the book.

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As often, the places in recluse areas are like islands, and the people who live there form an united community surrounded by a strong landscape, mainly of rocky coasts facing the sea. The landscape is both a constituent element and a unifying element. The landscape and the people become one. The community consists of a delicate mix between a landscape that shapes men and men who shape the landscape. There are however no struggle here, but rather a sort of ballet, a dance of seduction, a common love between Man and Nature.

As a native from this city, Alex returned to his hometown to meet the locals. A neighbour, Dai Turner, was the starting point of this work : a desire to go to meet the people and to better understand them. During a slow work, we go side by side with Alex. We stop for a chat with someone we met, a proud man standing in his workshop, his tools on a wall, talking about his former life as a coxswain on a lifeboat, and who can, now, spend hours looking out at the sea ; or a retired farmer explaining his first date with the girl who’s gonna become his wife, on a boat to collect seagull’s eggs ! Both the portraits and the texts are touching and full of empathy. The portraits are very successful, and the texts provide some « extra time ». They are a complement which creates a synergistic effect. The quality of Alex as portraitist makes them beautiful, but mostly manages to make us understand that community. Photographed in situation, we perceive a link, something intangible that makes them part of a whole. All generations mingled, from older, settled on the land for generations, to younger, who have recently moved and have chosen this place by love. All of them stand proudly and look straight at us and say: yes, we are here and nothing will make us leave this city.

And between these portraits, we traverse the moor, we walk through the countryside, we follow a stream … and always come back to the sea. It must be said that three quarters of the area are made of rocky coasts. Life here is punctuated by the tides. We leave the Cathedral and we go to the fields, pass by a housing estate, we see an old abandoned caravan, toilets close to mobile-homes, farms… There is no doubt that this work is a representation « from the inside », which is offered by someone initiated to roads and detours. Again, the texts come back to mind, they form a kind of soundtrack that accompanies our walk and then, some words become evident : how could it be otherwise ?

The main economy of the town is tourism, but we do not perceive tourists, neither the area around the cathedral or some souvenirs shops. St Davids, as presented to us here, is the one those tourists who spend breezed along the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire, will probably never see. They will not take the time necessary to understand this place. They will never see the bulb on a ceiling, or green beans freshly picked from the garden beside a cup of tea. Neither they will see all the villagers gathered in the village city ballroom around a mulled wine and the Welsh flag proudly hanged on the wall. Then the night finally falls on St Davids when silence settles. We perceive a light behind the blinds of a house, we look at the starry sky above the village and the sea remains in mind, as it all began and where it ends, as a final tribute to the missing at sea, common tragedies for such territories.

I might as well continue, talking about each image, listening to these stories, but the best is to preserve a little mystery. You will need to take the time to discover Tyddewi ; and with Alex Ingram as a guide, we can feel we have all grown up here!

Limited Edition Hardback (edition of 20) + 10″x8″ archival print, handmade , 21,5 X 28,5 cm , 114 pages, 55 colour images and paperback edition of 50, perfect bound.

« David’s House » has been shortlisted for the South West Graduate Photography Prize! The project will be exhibited alongside 6 other photographers at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane between 13th-16th October, with the opening night on Thursday 13th October, followed by further exhibitions in Bristol and Falmouth.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/

Another book by Alex Ingram previously reviewed : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/the-sociology-of-football-an-unconditional-love-by-alex-ingram-and-fc-volga-united-by-sergey-novikov/

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The sociology of football : An unconditional love, by Alex Ingram and FC Volga United by Sergey Novikov

In the mid seventies, as a teenager, one of my biggest concern was football, particularly because, in France, it was the glorious time of « Les verts » the football team of Saint Etienne which gained access, in 1976, to the final of what was then the equivalent of the European champions league. I with my friends had a crazy spring time watching all matches until the last one versus the Bayern who defeated St Etienne 1-0. In those days, every spare moment was dedicated to play with a ball or… to collect Panini stickers and save them in a, seasons after seasons, never finished album. I discovered recently that, nowadays you can buy the missing vignettes from their internet site, clever business !

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« Un unconditional love » could have been, at least in the first part, my own story and that’s probably why I like it so much. What Alex Ingram shows us here is the true and honest passion an amateur could have for football in its more noble consideration.

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The book is organised around what could be the story of someone. It opens with black and white photos of kids playing in fields, backyard houses. We instantly recognize the English greyness which remind the film Kes by Ken Loach : here the bird is replaced by a ball, but the young boy has real similarities with Billy Casper. So when the « film » begins with the first pictures we’re caught by the story.

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Then we move a little further, times are changing and photos are now in color. We follow the teenager, having his first official team shirt, playing his debut matches in front of a couple of spectators, in some almost deserted stadia with not nets for the goals and a burger van for restaurant. All those sequences interlaced so we never really know if we follow one single person or if we have different characters who interact.

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The middle part of the book is dedicated to the memories. Of course here are the Panini vignettes which alternate with contemporary photographs shot in studio by Alex Ingram. The confrontation turns to a funny mixture. The old photos are incredibly dated 70’s while the studio photos are modern young women standing in sport suits, showcasing the evolution of this sport which was mainly, or even only, a male game in the 70’s. There is a great attention to the use of color and black and white which emphasizes the passing of time. Amongst the collections of photographs we found some old black and white pictures « from the archives », photos from the 70’s are grainy and faded while the recent ones are bright and colorful. It is in the middle of this section that comes an essay by Senior Lecturer in Sociology David Green who explains his equivocal love for Liverpool team but more generally for football.

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To stay on the tracks of the amateurism, the third part is about supporters. We follow them down the streets, wearing scarves, drinking beers, shouting loud or staring sad, depending on the occasion. We meet people alone but also crowds, people chating or watching religiously, respectful or kidding… This is a portrait of the humankind in its glory and decadence. This is what makes all human being lovable with his strengths and weaknesses. We meet babies, young fellows and elderly people, all generations share the same passion for football. Well… This is England !

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What is not the less remarkable with this body of work is that nowadays many photographers work on autobiography which is not the case here. Alex has never been a football fan and his work has much to be considered in a documentary style. He was intrigued by the sociological aspects of football in England and focused around his hometown Bristol. In this work, there is a direct filiation with some famous English documentary photographers Daniel Meadows, Chris Killip, Paul Graham (early years) or more recently Ken Grant or Jim Mortram, amongst many others.

Softcover book, 21 x 28 cm, design by Yee Poon, 118 pages, self published in a first edition of 10. A second edition is already planned. Published in 2015.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/football

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This book remind me another very good one published a few years ago. It is called « FC Volga United », by Sergey Novikov. Despite the fact that they are very different, they share a lot. The topic of Sergey’s book is the football clubs all along the Volga river which all got an FC Volga name.

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The book comprises three kind of photographs : portraits of players standing on the field and staring proudly to the camera, photos of the Volga river in the nearby area and pictures of the stadia with their surrounding environment and where a competition takes place. Between photos we found texts about the ambiance before, during and after the matches which explain the context with sentences heard around the stadium.

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In this book again, what is magnified is the amateurism and the passion for a game. And maybe for us in the Western world, there are some more resonnances due to the magical evocation of the Volga River amongst which is the Red Army Chorus singing the Volga Boatmen or some cinematographic reminiscences from Alexander Nevsky in Nizhny Novgorod.

FC Volga United is a small softcover book, 13,5 x 21 cm, 60 pages. The first edition was limited to 25 and came with a small 10 x 15 cm print. A second edition is available. Published in 2011.

More info : http://sergeynovikov.com/index.php?/projects/fc-volga-united/

All images copryright Alex Ingram and Sergey Novikov.