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.
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 :
Island by Reza Kalfane, self published. A French photographer in his land of adoption : Iceland, very strong black and white poetic photography
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.
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.
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 !
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”.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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
Energy is really the word that comes to mind to talk about the work of Sergej Vutuc. Both in the production of zines and in the photographic work itself, there is the generosity, passion and even profusion. The world is moving, the world is changing, public spaces are constantly in evolution and it is here the question of appropriation of these territories. From the deep roots of subcultures from the margins of society such as punk and skateboarding, Sergej explores territories and makes them his. It makes us rediscover the city and invites us to look with new eyes that requires abandoning preconceptions. The city comes alive, and it is difficult to recognize.
Sergej chose not to work on conventional representations. The photographs are handled, crushed, interpreted. He interposes plastics filters, often simple bags for creating the texture in his images. He deconstructs reality, like memories out of a dream. The images are blurred as if to get away from reality. This aesthetic is becoming his trademark, his way of looking at the world, with which he combines some other signs, texts strummed we hardly read, like a background noise that would tell us something important but remains difficult to hear. Sergej’s own interpretation emphasizes and valorizes our imagination. The pictures are interactive, we must fill up the story with our own one.
The various works of Sergej are pretexts to explore the great themes of photography. In « Western Ave », he works on the longest urban avenue in Chicago, in the footsteps of iconic American photography. A tribute to many great photographers. He revisits Robert Frank in a journey that condenses on a road, which also remind « Route One » by Robert Kramer. We also have in mind the legendary « Route 66 » which, precisely starts from Chicago, through the United States, up to Santa Monica. Steinbeck’s images in the head, with migrants, and we think to Ed Ruscha passing the “Drive Today” that could have been one of his « 26 gasoline stations ». The American road is a symbol, it unites and separates. Bridge stretched between two places, it is also, in some cases, a rupture or a frontier!
« Good to be to walk away » is an experimental work, the themes (skateboard, public spaces, appropriation…) and processes (blur, images burned, unframed negative, scratches…) in this zine are Sergej’s favorites. The need to put his energy in pictures, a way to let the rage come out loud. It is less constructed than the following zines, but it lays the foundation for future work. Everything is said, but it remains messy. The following books will be built patiently but preserving intact all the energy of beginnings, by channeling it to give it full force.
In « Painful reminder », the title evokes the subject. One looks for a trace, the book is dark, photos more deconstructed, as a person who must rebuild. It is a kind of chaos interspersed with quieter scenes, wandering aimlessly with memories that fade. This is somehow the book of memories with one of my favorite image in which we see two human beings wandering in an industrial environment with fences, which seem burned by flames which swallow the image itself.
The last book I want to talk about here is « Abfolge », which means sequence, published in 2016. Continuing his experiments, Sergej, with this book, combines, for the best, photographic processes and printing technique risography. The fleshy images take here all their depth. You get lost with relish in the deep blacks. The book consists of A3 pictures folded in half to form an unbound 28 pages booklet. We must unfold the book to read the entire image, but above all, each half picture recombines, according to the facing page with another half. The pictures recompose themselves and it is impressive to see how these new images take so much strength.
We now understand that the chaos we had already glimpsed in previous works here finds its fulfillment. This energy organizes the world and makes it intelligible. Certainly for me « Abfolge » is one of the best books published this year!
All publications by Sergej Vutuc can be found here: http://www.sergejvutuc.bigcartel.com/category/publication
And his site: http://www.sergejvutuc.com/
In 2013, the superb book « Promising waters » took us around the Caspian Sea to discover new post-Soviet states located around this inland sea. The new work of Mila Teshaieva reverse, this time, the proposal to make us discover an island and its inhabitants. Result of a two-year residency at the Museum Kunst der Westküste on the German island of Föhr in the North Sea, with this new series, Mila tries to understand what gathers and unites the people in their insularity (the title of the book is literally « being insular »).
It is never easy to arrive as a foreigner on an island, to enter a community without having acquired the codes. Thus you should take your time, give pledges to be accepted, and clearly, Mila has earned the trust of the islanders. She met locals and began his photographic work. A text, written by Marcus Lenz, in the book sums up this way to depict a territory : « The darkness sharpens your senses, suddenly you can hear the tiny sounds and you know where they’re coming from. You can see at night ». This is how we enter this world, Mila chose to literally paint with light his subjects. The photographs are made at night, they are very dark and we have to pay attention to explore the scene with characters and objects that are, in the darkness, revealed by a light brush. The photographic time is long, the image stretches and we are transported back in time. The characters are frozen, beyond all eternity, each focused on its task as if generations mingled to tell us the island. At no time we will cross a look and if sometimes it seems that one of them stare at us, his gaze pierces us and is already far behind us.
The choice of costumes and the use of light transform those images into paintings, particularly due to the effects of light and shade as found in Caravaggio or in some Flemish painters, but the reference to the painting also appears in a sense of déjà vu, like in Cezanne Card Players or Women at their toilette by Picasso, a sort of revisiting the history of painting ! Representation is clever, there is no need to show everything to say things. On the contrary, to represent is already taking sides, choosing what will be seen and deleting what is of no interest, putting in light, to finally understand what unites these men and women, to reach this timeless dimension, which, from universal becomes singular on this island and wwhich were the fundamentals of the community. A dimension that appears only to the one who will take the time, who will remain silent in the middle of the night to watch every gesture, every movement, to listen to every sound. The characters are revealed and nature comes to life, we discover the ancestral activities that were hunting and fishing, seasons, events, everything that was specific to the island despite the development of a seaside tourism resort in the early XIXth century. Any modernity is erased, as if the light only reveals that what lasts.
We leave this book as an imaginary world. We do not know if the story told was real or if we were asleep, just for a moment, while our imagination wandered. It remains however a few pictures, slightly unclear, of these bodies and objects that can be seen in the dark, and the feeling of coming back from a long journey in time.
The only frustration that remains at the end of this book is the desire to see the photographs in a larger size and high print quality. As for paintings, after seeing the book, we would like to see the work for real, to appreciate all the details and finesse. Of course, the offset process has difficulty to render the subtleties of lighting used.
Hardcover book published in 2016 by Kehrer Verlag, 23 x 21 cm, 96 pages, 38 color photos, texts in German and English by Marcus Lenz.
More info : http://www.milateshaieva.com/books
A previous review of Mila Teshaieva’s Promising Waters : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/promising-waters-by-mila-teshaieva/
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.
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/
Torsten Schumann is a German photographer, born in 1975 in Dresden. Thus, until the age of 14, he grew up in German Democratic Republic. It has been said a lot about the communist bloc countries, but I have absolutely no idea what it could have represented to live in one of these countries. However I think that having experienced the transition of the unification of Germany leads to a very personal way of looking at the world. He started photography in the 90s, following various courses and began exploring public space, mainly in Germany.
Torsten could be considered a humorist, which is the sense of the foreword written by Hannes Wanderer, who published the book through his excellent publishing house Peperoni Books. Torsten likes to play with reality. He walks through the city, like everyone else, but it seems not to see the same things. He’s the kind of guy who, when you point your finger to show him something, turns his head to look at the other side. Nothing is more boring for him than the obvious!
This way of looking at the world transports us into a fantasy world. I can not help but think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, in which Torsten would be the mysterious rabbit that we want to follow and let it guide us in this mysterious world that is behind the scenes. It is a story passer, a revealer of the world. He allows us to understand what hitherto remained mysterious to us, what we do not see because of lack of understanding. We look at the world with distance, as spectators behind the mirror, and thus we discover the « behind the scenes » of these public spaces we travel regularly without paying attention.
There is a kind of minimalism of the ordinary in the photographs in the book. And yet the compositions are very sophisticated. One wonders how the photographer have gotten there, and what patience it took him to capture these moments. The colors are right, framing affirmed. Everything or everyone finds his place. Obviously, this work questions once again the relationship between beauty in representation and beauty in life. The subjects of the photographs are not beautiful, far from it. This is an apology of nooks, waste, poorly finished bricolages, all the little abandoned places that bother us, that « spoil us the view », to turn them into paintings with precise compositions that we think just coming out of the workshop of a painter who would patiently reconstructed the scene from still moments. The captured characters are timeless, frozen for eternity in this pose somewhat ungainly and clumsy, but that makes them so endearing.
Torsten is a precise colorist who manipulates color values subtly, from a shimmer of bright colors to images of such neutral gray that you would think they’re black and white (one of my favorite is the one of a lower part of a building and garage with a bent woman who melts into the gray values of the building). And of course, he also cleverly uses the light that comes to saturate a detail or reveal the transparency of a shadow. Each photograph is so « rich » that it takes time to read and reread this book. With each reading, we discover a detail that we had not noticed before. We have to take the time to fully understand this representation of the world.
Really, this little facetious rabbit still holds some surprises!
Published by Peperoni Books in 2016. Beautiful pearl effect hardcover book, 24 x 28 cm, 96 pages, 55 color photographs.
More info : http://torstenschumann.de/
And the publisher’s site : http://peperoni-books.de/cars_clothes_cabbages_en.html
Iran (former Persia) is a fascinating country, known to be the cradle of civilization; the country went through the twentieth century by first, having one of the most dynamic intellectual society, and then, since 1979, a closed and authoritarian religious society. Very slowly, the country opens again, offering us the opportunity to rediscover it.
Davide Palmisano and Manuela Marchetti offer us a song for two voices. Two photographers who travel Iran in 2015 and who deliver their vision of the country. Each of their books is written in the thickness of time. Together, they revisit the history of Persia.
Davide’s book is entitled « Timeless Persia » and, following his traces, we discover Iran as a palimpsest. He looks at the successive layers that have shaped the country. He stops on materials, on networks that accumulate and become entangled. We discover a country on the move, a country that never stops. It is built and rebuilt continuously, keeping the scars of the past. It rubs constantly to the past and it becomes difficult to date the photographs, archival images come mix with contemporary views. We keep this feeling that everything has always been where it should be: a kind of cultural resilience, a resilience of shapes.
One begins to dream of Scheherazade, each page is a snippet of a tale that holds us in suspense until the next page. Large black-and-white photos on double pages take us across the country, they chant the rhythm. This is a slow time between the faster sequences, the time of the passing with the feeling of these landscapes already known. The book is completed with texts that remain ununderstandable to me, as written in Italian and Farsi, but that is part of the « journey », these unknown sounds, like the multitude of signs that are piling up on some images which we pictorially read. We are captives and when the book ends, we have to start it again… and again.
Manuela’s book is entitled « Sokut » meaning « silence », in Farsi. As « Timeless Persia » was noisy, or to better say sonorous with a design that varied rhythms as a traditional song, as « Sokut » is silent like these harmonics that we do not hear but create depth in melodies. Time seems to have stopped and we discover a long poem. We stop on details, private moments and places that each image slowly inscribed in us. Frames are tightened, we are looking our way in a quiet place. The persons are faceless, the only faces we see are only representations (photos, paintings, statues…). We wander anonymously in the town, a quiet town, soothed. No matter that we no longer find our way, we loose ourselves with relish, looking for freshness or a moment in the shade, to settle in calm.
Texts come punctuate the book, alternating with images. These are poems of two of the greatest Iranian poetess: Simin Behbahani and Forugh Farrokhzad. Two women who have their whole lives claimed women’s voices. And the book ends with an excerpt from « It is only sound that remains », the voice of women finally out of the silence, full of sorrows but also of hope. In that way, this book is decidedly feminist, it is a tribute to all those women who have built the country in silence.
I’ve never really asked myself about the difference between male or female representation through the use of photography, but it is so clearly evident here with these two books. Maybe it is partially due to the fact that we are focusing on a society that is cleaved between men and women. But anyway, the combination of the two works is very interesting, Manuela and Davide evolve within a country, they can work side by side but look at things differently, tell words (or silence) differently. Although claimed as two separate and independent works, it remains true that there is a real added value to associate them to better succumb to the charm of Sheherazade and be guided in this tale of the « Thousand and One Nights ».
Timeless Persia, by Davide Palmisano. Softcover self published in 2016, 16,5 x 24 cm, 76 photos , 96 pages. Limited print run : 150 copies signed and numbered.
More info : http://dpalmisano.jimdo.com/books/
Sokut, by Manuela Marchetti. Softcover self published in 2016, 21,5 x 15 cm, 35 photos, 96 pages. Limited print run : 150 copies signed and numbered.
More info : http://manuelamarchetti.jimdo.com/books/
How to start talking about this book? Perhaps noting that this book is one of the weirdest that I have seen recently. In 2014, when Bruce went round the publishers, the answer was quite unanimous: this book cannot be published… too strong. What a strange answer! It is true that many publishers have become very cautious and unwilling to take any risks, despite the fact that it is their role. Some even ask photographers to participate in the production of their book through crowdfunding campaigns. We are far from a Robert Delpire who, against all American reluctance and with a resolutely avant garde editorial approach, published “Les Américains” by Robert Frank and “New York” by William Klein.
Let’s be back to our subject. No clues about the suject when we discover the book. A black linen cover with just the photographer’s name : Bruce Connew, followed by the title of the book : Body of work. We open the book on a new black page before arriving to the title page, inserted on a special light blue paper : this blue used by parents to repaint the room of the boy to come. The last page of the book, which includes a text from the author and the colophon is … pink, the same pink with which parents repaint the bedroom of the girl to come. Two ribbons to mark pages are of these same colors. I always like, when I discover a new book, to look at the title page, and then go through the colophon before interesting myself in the content itself.
We then return to the beginning of the book and, between two white pages, we find inserted a small photograph of wildflowers, like a torn page of a notebook or a diary like those used to note the daily tasks. And the first image appears on the following page. A large dark image on which we recognize the hoof and lower part of the leg of a horse and his erect penis. A slow rythm will settle through the pages, double pages alternating with blank ones, all in a certain dim light. Muscles tense, we are witnessing a beautiful ballet between the stallion and the mare. The book is violent and intense. He tells us about the reproductive process within the equine world. But beyond this, it is also the story of a fascination Bruce Connew had since a former photograph he saw a long time ago already. His first approach was still uncertain and one can imagine the surprise of the owner of the barn when Bruce told him about his plan! This is the way a new work emerges, there is a kind of intuition of the subject that is often difficult to formulate; this is classic, the subject will be built slowly. In the case of Bruce Connew, the idea of documenting the world of horse-breeding was full of presupposition, but after spending months scrutinizing the horse breeding process, he became attentive to every detail! And from that patience was born this superb book. You could almost miss an important aspect of the work, focused on the formalist photographs, shapes and light that glides on the fur. But taking the time to look at pictures, back and forward, you may discover all the sensitivity of this work that appears in the amazing gazes. Everything happens in the dark, you have to be constantly attentive to detect these tiny details. If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, Bruce asserts: Through mournful eyes, they would make known an understanding of their peculiar predicament.
The book is beautifully printed, which is necessary to render this special atmosphere of the barn in a dim light, we come to smell the musky smell of horses, the sweat, the semen. What was formerly related to economic issues simply becomes sensitive. For those who followed horse races and bets at bookmakers, you know the importance of filiation in the racehorses world, the temptation of a genetic optimization for the “perfect” animal with “absolute” qualities. But all that is set aside here and Bruce well says : I wonder now whether this was my construction, and sprang from somewhere other than what I witnessed in the breeding barn. His work is convincing because, at the end of his book, we ask ourselves the same question! I will probably never look at a mare the way I did before this book. And to be honest, it has taken me some time to really enter this book, but it is definitely worth a review.
And by the way, the 38 images of the series (size 800 x 532mm, frame size 830 x 562 mm) are available for international exhibitions, and I would love to see them, because, even if the book is beautiful, I would so much appreciate to see the large prints.
Hardcover book self published in 2015 in New Zealand ; 24 x 35 cm, black linen cover, 68 pages with 38 black and white photos. Signed and numbered in an edition of 600 copies.
For the last few years we discover more and more photographers that came from Eastern Europe, especially Russia. This is certainly one of the positive effects of globalization that we can access this production. After my previous post, I wanted to come back on two great books recently discovered, which have in common to question the functioning and building of memory(ies).
The first is “Old family photographs and deep sky objects”, by Alla Mirovskaya. Superb self-published book that combines old photos from family albums with pictures of space made by the Hubble telescope and from Chandra Observatory.
At first sight, one might wonder why associate these two series, especially as Alla Mirovskaya mixes the captions. But it’s ultimately how we begin to find meaning. We realize that to be figurative as these two series are, they nonetheless unknown to us. Whether the constellations or the characters are only known through their representations. They contain the same vagueness while the images overlap and intermingle. Something appears in our imagination, which is not without recalling the montage of attractions theorized by S. M. Eisenstein. One does not only remain a spectator of the story, one seems to remember, alongside Alla when turning the pages of the album. Alla also explains that it is a bit to perpetuate the family tradition that she has done this work. One way to include this memory on paper, now abandoned to the computer.
What is also touching is this association of the closest and the further. This intimacy experienced through the families stories from which Alla Mirovskaya takes her matter, and the absolute distance that no human being will ever experience of the faraway space. It’s a big gap in the history of mankind.
This book is also a piece of the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. We see young pioneers at the Komsomol, leisures, community activities, groups. And also, the shadow of the Cold War with the choice to combine the intimate pictures of Russian families with the US space observation. Like was the twentieth century, two opposing cultures which both needed each other to exist. This past century is also reminded to us by the use of a few red tinted photographs which emphasizes the memory of the communist era !
One of the greatest quality of this book is, in my opinion, the opportunity for everyone to find his own story. This is somewhat a puzzle that everyone will have to rebuild, with different pieces of stories.
Hardcover selfpublished book published in 2016, 15 x 20 cm, 128 pages, 100 copies signed and numbered.
Buy the book at Tipi.
The second book I want to talk about here is “Lookbook” by Anastasia Bogomolova. Old boxes stored in a barn where memories will emerge from. Old clothes from her mother and elder sister, from the eighties and nineties, bought in Soviet stores or sewn at home with the help of patterns found in fashion magazines.
As a child, Anastasia liked to wear these clothes, skirts, blouses and shoes are the symbol of femininity to become for the pre-teenager girl. So Anastasia takes out, from these boxes, these old clothes to begin a journey in time. It becomes a role play to revisit these outfits. The poses are sophisticated, like in those old fashion magazines. Her hair combed, made-up, dressed, she poses in front of old colorful wallpapers from the Soviet era. The colors are acid, both for the clothes and the background. The two will meet in a shimmer of colors.
Just like in those old magazines, poses are supposed to be natural but they are not. Sometimes smiling, sometimes seductive, sometimes dreamy, Anastasia alternately charms us, seduces us, or stare at us with distance. She became actress of that first idea that she had of beauty, discovered in the fashion magazines of the seventies and eighties, questioning the social vision of femininity and sexuality. We find these magazines in the book as small reproductions interspersed, which bear witness to this past history. But where the old fashion photos, are only … fashion photographs, the photographs of Anastasia Bogomolova become canvas in a way like Cindy Sherman did before her. Anastasia is on stage to better look at herself in the process of comprehension of her memory, a way to recreate and to stage his memories. The intriguing effect is that the same woman appears on these photos, as was sometimes the same models found in the pages of these old fashion magazines.
From a personal point of view, this work also resonates with my own history. Indeed, I knew these magazines in the seventies, when, to raise me, my mother quit her job to be a seamstress at home. All around, at home, were these magazines, these pieces of fabric, these patterns, and I got used to the rhythm of the sewing machine …
Finally, and not least, this book is very funny. One goes through the pages with delight, it is a cure for melancholy (literally since this book is anything but black). We end it with joy, especially since it includes a poster: silk summer dress with blue and white strips, 1989. This is just what we need to prepare for summer.
Self-published softcover book, published in 2016, First edition of 90 signed and numbered copies, Design by Julia Borissova, Photographs, archive & texts by Anastasia Bogomolova, 21×28,5 cm, 40 pages+32 pages of inserts, Including poster 42×59,4 cm.
Read more : http://anabogomolova.viewbook.com/books
And a good ressource for Russian books : http://store.fotodepartament.ru/