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.
© 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.
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.
© 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.