Photography Reviews

A different kind of photobooks – texts & images

In 2019, there are several interesting photobooks that incorporate the clever use of text, turning them into the best photobooks of 2019 named by various renowned critics and artists.

One which I own myself – Slant by Aaron Schuman published by MACK and I wrote a review about, brilliantly combines the use of local newspaper reportage of succinct and “extraordinarily anticlimactic” accounts of crimes, suspicious activities, events and non-events with black and white photographs. They are hilariously ridiculous.

Two more which came to my attention lately while reading the rest of the best photobooks of 2019 list by Photo-Eye.

Were it not for by Michael Ashkin published by Fw:Books

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© Michael Ashkin, from the book ‘Were it not for’; Source @ Fw:Books

Were it not for combines a line phrase which begins with “were it not for…” with 218 photographs of the Mojave Desert. This combination creates a powerful sense of unease throughout the document, with the black and white images that show areas of bleak and grim, it seems as though don’t we always have an excuse for making this mess in the world? As Jorg Colberg mentioned in CPhMag, “Wherever you look, whatever you hear, it’s all the same hopeless mess: a lived environment that more often than not looks like a garbage dump, with soulless anonymous architecture everywhere, and a cultural/societal environment filled with endless violence, dread, and despair.”

Here the photographs don’t play the starring role like in most photobooks. They are not necessarily memorable yet it is its combination with the text and the whole book itself which creates this looming feeling of helplessness for the world. And that is what sticks to our mind.

I walk toward the sun which is always going down by Alan Huck published by MACK

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© Alan Huck, from the book ‘Were it not for’; Source @ MACK

By way of an interior monologue, I walk toward the sun which is always going down is a reminder amongst the daily stream of distractions to slow down, give full attention to our daily endeavours and, according to Annie Dillard, “to discover, at least, where it is that we’ve been so startlingly set down if we can’t learn why” as Raymond Meeks describes in Photo-Eye. It is a book that takes a visual form of what a long meditation of the inner self while exploring a place with a very long walk. Highly recommended by many.

Refences: https://cphmag.com/images-and-text/

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Photography Reviews

Photobooks 2019 – Part 1

2019 has now ended, and as usual, there are always lists of best of at the end of the year. So reading through some if not most of the important best of photobook lists coming from Sean O’Hagan, Photobookstore, Photoeye, The Times, Aperture, ASX and BJP, here are the ones that caught my eye so far.

1. Paul’s Book by Collier Schorr published by MACK

© Collier Schorr, from the book ‘Paul’s Book’; Source @ MACK

‘There is a common assumption about youth which is: Youth is about youth. But that isn’t really true. Youth is really about the past. Youth is not the pool that young men gaze adoringly into; it is the pool that old men gaze in, in order to measure the distance their bodies have travelled’. – Collier Schorr

Collier Schorr met Paul Hameline, a young French artist and model, in New York in 2015. A friend of a friend, he came to her home for a ‘go-see’, which is when a photographer gets to see how a model looks in front of the camera. Paul’s family lives in the Marais section of Paris around the corner from the hotel Collier stays at while in Paris, so they began to meet and to make a project that lasted two years in which Collier would visit Paul at his parents’ house and take pictures and talk. The idea was for Paul and Collier to experience photography as a social space, a conversation in which his body and her eyes could try and understand each other’s fascinations and fantasies. Many of the pictures were published in Re Edition magazine. Paul’s Book expands that magazine story to form a larger piece about the way in which a photographer and model can search for some greater revelations with the simplest movements and various states of undress.

2. Because by Sophie Calle published by Editions Xavier Barral

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3. L’Inventaire Infini by Sebastien Lifshitz

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Both a filmmaker and major collector of vernacular photography since his teenage years, Sébastien Lifshitz gathers in this personal anthology over 300 images. A surprising collection from all periods and origins. Beyond the playful or aesthetic aspect of this corpus structured under different themes, each set of images presents details that characterise an individual, a social class, or a lifestyle. The attention to clothing, the zoom on parts of the body, staging, and errors – all of the things that amateur photography explores allows the unique characteristics of the individual to be expressed. One encounters the same investigations as in visuals arts in this amateur approach. Each series is accompanied by a text written by photography historian Isabelle Bonnet. It thus resituates the themes broached within a particular context, exploring their aesthetic and conceptual qualities.

4. The Park by Kohei Yoshiyuki published by Hatje Cantz/Yossi Milo 

© Kohei Yoshiyuki, from the book ‘The Park’; Source @ Radius Books

For his notorious Park photos, taken by night in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Yoyogi, and Aoyama parks during the 1970s, Kohei Yoshiyuki used a 35mm camera, infrared film and flash to capture a secret community of lovers and voyeurs. His pictures document the people who gathered in these parks at night for clandestine trysts, as well as the many spectators lurking in the bushes who watched—and sometimes participated in—these couplings.

With their raw, snapshot-like quality, these images not only uncover the hidden sexual exploits of their subjects, both same-sex and heterosexual, but they also serve as a chronicle of a Japan we rarely see. As Martin Parr writes in The Photobook: A History Volume II, The Park is “a brilliant piece of social documentation, capturing perfectly the loneliness, sadness and desperation that so often accompany sexual or human relationships in a big, hard metropolis like Tokyo.”
5. Positive Disintegration by Tania Franco Klein published by Editions Bessard

© Tania Franco Klein, from the book ‘Positive Disintegration’; Source @ Tania Franco Klein

The work is influenced by the pursuit of the American Dream lifestyle in the Western World and contemporary practices such as leisure, consumption, media overstimulation, eternal youth, and the psychological sequels they generate in our everyday private life. The project seeks to evoke a mood of isolation, desperation, vanishing, and anxiety, through fragmented images, that exist both in a fictional way and a real one.

Philosopher Byung-Chul Han says we live in an era of exhaustion and fatigue, caused by an incessant compulsion to perform. We have left behind the immunological era, and now experience the neuronal era characterized by neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, burnout syndrome, and bipolar disorder. Drawing inspiration from his theories, Mexican photographer Tania Franco Klein places this contradiction at the centre of her autobiographical project.

The constant need to escape, to always look outside. Her characters find themselves almost anonymous, melting in places, vanishing into them, constantly looking for any possibility of escape. They find themselves alone, desperate and exhausted. Constantly in an odd line between trying and feeling defeated.

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