It is that time of year again. Here are ten photobooks that I have in some way found to be interesting, unusual and inspirational. There are many other great photobooks that are not included here. There are even some photobooks from 2014 that I have not even seen yet. But these are ten photobooks I like and I share them with you.
Tranquility – Heikki Kaski
[Lecturis. Amsterdam, 2014]
Heikki Kaski (Finland) discovers the locals (800 inhabitants) and also the extreme heat in the small American town of Tranquility. What is Tranquility? Where is Tranquility? Why? How? Tranquility is located in the San Joaquin Valley, California and is essentially in the middle of nowhere. Heikki explores the empty-lots, the run-down buildings, the gnarled trees, the wide landscapes with birds flying overhead and to a lesser extent the shy and retiring natives. This is a great book designed by Heikki Kaski and Hans Gremmen. It is a profound exploration of a small quiet American town by a ‘stranger’ with a large-format camera.
Prolifération – Geert Goiris
[Roma Publications n° 225. Amsterdam, 2014]
Geert Goiris at the Mauvoisin Dam (Valais, Switzerland) puts together this sublime series of 30 powerful and primal images exploring the multiple narratives between the human being and landscape. With an essay by Jean-Paul Felley and Olivier Kaeser this is another wonderfully designed book by Roger Willems. [btw – I have always loved the numbering system and the brilliant website of Roma publications]. This is book no.225. The photography in this book really shines out [the book also includes an exquisite signed print], the design is simple and effective and there is an oddness and serenity about the imagery here. Contemplative figures in semi-uncomfortable landscapes and strange rock formations. This book is a very appealing item.
Topographies –Monica Ursina Jager
[Kodoji Press. Switzerland 2014]
This is a lovely book. A book that combines such beautiful collaged images with formidable design is a real force. Kodoji have been making such amazing books for years – one might not ever know that as the website hasn’t been updated years (come on Winfried folks need to know about your books!). This book is really very special. From the moment I first saw this 1144 cm* long laporello book I knew I was experiencing a true and unusual beauty. This is architectural photocollage and near perfect graphic design at its very best. Sculptural work in a book sculpture medium.
*37.5 ft long for those who prefer Imperial measurements.
Syria Al-Assad – Oliver Hartung
[Spector Books. Leipzig, 2014]
Oliver Hartung traveled to Syria [2007-2009] taking photographs of signs and monuments constructed in honor of the Assad family regime over the last 40 years. Syria al-Assad is a document of these objects of regime propaganda that dominate Syria’s every day visual culture. Each page has a perforated top so that it may be ripped out and although the owner of this book has the authority to rearrange the sequence of these images in any manner they say fit, nobody is actually going to do this are they? The paper used in this book has the comfortable and cheap feel of newsprint paper [conservation issues aside I have always enjoyed newsprint and its inherent democratic qualities]. The binding of this book is simply glued. The printing quality is nothing special. The end result is something extremely successful.
Linger (Teikai) – Daisuke Yokota
Teikai (Wandering at Midnight) – Daisuke Yokota
[Akina Books. London, 2014]
Linger (Teikai) and Teikai (Wandering at Midnight) are the first two parts of an intriguing trilogy. They are two marvelous books from a very exciting collaboration between a Japanese performance photographer – Daisuke Yokota – and one of the best young independent publishers in the world – Akina books. This is a mysterious and ambiguous work that investigates the processes of photography and photobook making. The word Teikai has many meanings in Kanji one is to ‘linger’ another is to ‘wander a midnight’. Daisuke Yokota creates a strange world for us. High contrast black and white dream scape visions where there is a magical merging of individuals and their environments.
Photographs for Documents –Vytautas V. Stanionis
[Kaunas Photography Gallery. Lithuania, 2014]
This is an archive of photographs passed down from Vytautas Stanionis the father to Vytautas Stanionis the son. These are the people of Seirijai (Lithuania) photographed in 1946 for the purpose of creating their new Soviet documents. Gathered here are ‘neutral’ passport images of an unknown people from post-war Lithuania which have been reanimated in this book and now resonate with so much revelation and meaning for us the modern viewer. This book is designed to be a ‘folder’ complete with the metal clips and so it carries the authenticity of the raw materials. The book contains only gatefold pages with each page folding out to reveal another second portrait. In 1946 to save money Vytautas Stanionis photographed two people at once side-by-side which would then be sliced apart producing two passport images for use by two separate people. This book is a great investigation into these strange and hidden identities and their relationship to us and to each other.
Esto ha sido (This Has Been) –Luis Weinstein
[Self-published, Chile 2014.]
In May of this year the ICP library was fortunate enough to be visited by the Chilean photographer Luis Weinstein where he presented the work from his book: This Has Been – Esto ha sido. This is how a master old school analogue photographer – who entered the ICP library that day with multiple Leica’s dangling from his neck – self publishes a photobook. A thoughtful small edition (500 copies) printed on newsprint paper Esto ha Sido is a narrative of the days of hope following the overthrow of President Salvador Allende. Of course it is a story that is also aware of the looming evil of General Pinochet’s dictatorship. This is sensitive storytelling at it’s best with a very tight edit and a concise simplicity that allows the form of the book itself to become part of the story.
The Night Climbers of Cambridge – Thomas Mailaender
[Archive of Modern Conflict. London 2014.]
The climbing of gothic buildings at night in 1930s Cambridge [England] brought to you by the Archive of Modern Conflict. A tall book in a black velvet cover examining the Cambridge climbers’ collection of images that was acquired by contemporary artist Thomas Mailaender. I have a great fear of heights and cannot help but to be amazed by these climbers working without ropes or a safety net. The book has truly great design that brings to life this terrifying archival and vernacular collection. Working with archives has been an increasingly popular and hip pastime for many photobook publishers over the last few years but to be honest with you not everybody can actually do this well. This book is how to do it well. The Archive of Modern Conflict are the real masters of publishing and reinvigorating archival materials and collections. This is such a romantic and dramatic tale, a story that goes back over 100 years or more, of a secret climbing society who are photographed dancing at night on dreaming spires. This is the original parkour for your total disbelief and sheer amazement.
Ponte City –Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
I was fortunate enough to see and be totally impressed by this work at the ICP Triennial – A Different Kind Of Order (2013). This book from Steidl is a wonderful execution of that work in a book sculpture form. The book comes in a well-designed box along with 17 booklets. Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse spent six exhausting years researching, investigating, photographing and documenting to create this encyclopedic project. It is a project which is both staggeringly extensive and minutely detailed. They photographed every resident, every door, the view from every window and the image on every television screen at Ponte City, the iconic 54 storey Johannesburg apartment building which is the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. This project is extraordinary and this book is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
Periscope – Jose Diniz.
[Editora Madalena. Sao Paulo, 2014].
Jose Diniz toured the coastline of Brazil to the south of Maranhao – extending to Uruguay – for more than eight years photographing people, buildings, the horizon, the sky and the sea, with a very particular perspective – a deep fear of water. This is a powerfully strong first book from a long-time photographer from Brazil – Jose Diniz. It is always good for the international photobook community to ‘discover’ a virtually never seen before master of the photographic craft. Such hauntingly beautiful images in a grainy black and white style . . .