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Books - Foam List No. 12 – May 2012
von Sebastian Hau
«Regardez il va peut-être se passer quelque chose»
Schauen Sie, es wird vielleicht etwas passieren
During two years of his psychonalalysis french-jewish artist Alain Baczinsky took selfportraits in a photobooth after each session. In intense reenactments he returns to a pivotal scène, memory or intuition from that days session, and often marks a sentence on the back of the image. These disturbing thoughts and the intensity of his expressions make for an exceptional quality of honesty in those portraits, and allow for interesting reflections on the interplay of camera and subject. The book has an introduction on the history of photobooth and selfportrayal by Clement Cheroux, who is also responsable for the discovery and sélection of the images together with the artist.
Annett Gröschner & Arwed Messmer
«Aus anderer Sicht:die frühe Berliner Mauer»
A photographer and a writer have edited an archive of anonymous photographs on the wall that once divided Germany. Often these images were taken by the guardians and soldiers, so the material is repetetive and spécial moments are hard to find. The book reproduces this material in different formats, alongside maps and texts, in full-bleed, in clusters, or in sequences that look like « Anonyme Skulpturen » or « Every Building on Sunset Strip ». It’s an oversize and ambitious production with a lot of visual intelligence and daring and one of my favorites from last year.
«Sans titre M. Bertillon»
This numbered artist book combines three ways of representing Alphonse Bertillon, who in 1880 devised the first system for mug shot and crime scène évidence photography. Basically it’s his system that is at the beginning of our ID-card photographs, and his fame can be measured by an appaerance in of the Sherlock Holmes stories and by the fact that in the process against Dreyfuss he gave false and incriminating évidence. Stephanie Solinas, who has been working on identy in quite exciting ways before, here lifts the évidence from a biography of Bertillon by his nièce, she revisits and photographs places from his live, and the most prominent part of the book is mask of Bertillon after his own system. The whole first part of the book is a sequence of pages with cut out pièces of this mask, that can be reassembled in to a 3D sculpture. There is nothing of a gimmick in this, it just testifies to the lenghts that the artist and photographers Solinas is willing to go to grapple with that bon between identity and photography. RVB have again produced an exciting and very-well produced book !
Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg
«Campo de cielo»
Photobook collectors, be warned. This book only has a small sélection of photographs, and the fact that it’s two photographer’s wear custommade Walter de Maria – Adidas sneakers on a field trip, might be a bad sign, too. Then the book figures as one part in an ongoing project, with a final phase at this year’s art festival Documenta, the bringing together of the two parts of a meteroid, that was found and cut into slices in the seventies. It’s a complicated mix of stories, histories, documentation and interviews, probing into the scientific realms, geography and engineering, and I’ve enjoyed probing along very much. The work and book was recommended to me by Raphaël Dallaporta.
«two thousand light years from home»
Kodoji publishing from Switzerland has once again published an élégant object, bordering on presumptousness, where Pietro Mattioli’s nighttime flash photographs are set off another by pinkcolored séparation pages. First of all I fell in love with those photographs off course, that emit a clear sensé of abstraction, a joyful sensé of play with enough persévérance mixed in to make them interesting. But the bookobject and title attest to a book designer and photographer pushing the envelope to find the means of leaving behind the conventional and stagnating forms of the photobook.
«Look at this People»
For some years now japanese Publisher Akaaka has been featuring younger and lesser known photographers, in high quality photobooks of very different formats. They aim at a very distinct style, which is based on the documentary code but accepts and pushing their artists to go beyond that. At Paris Photo the work of Lieko Shiga, poetic and dreamlike, and stemming from questionnaires into what people dream, was discovered by a larger public, and thus the editor. The book presented here is a series of street portraits, mostly of groups during festivals and rallys, photographed in bright colors often with a flash, taken in chinese provinces. It is a modest, unassuming book, with a photographer seeking to capture people’s pleasures, of being together, of losing themselves, of dancing and rejoycing. The colors are remarkable in being just slightly amplified for a very interesting palette.
«For every you are angry you loose sixty seconds of happiness»
When the first édition of this book was published a few years ago
it proved to be the most fastselling single book we knew. Not only we were enthousiastic, but the public picked up on it, too ! Then it completely dissapeared from the market and this modest, beautiful and moving book remained on our minds for the following years. Julian Germain portrayed an elderly man in a british seaside-town over the course of eight years, with discretion and something that goes beyond empathy, as if he imagined himself taking the place of his subject. Germain uses different methods to portray this man, photoalbums and straight portrays, but also unobtrusive photographs of his daily life routines, breakfast, tending the flowers, shopping and a walk to the beach. The overall feeling is of two men gently leading eachother on to explore something beyond what they’re used to, as the title suggests, in a spiritual sensé. Now Michael Mack has republished it as a part of his very interesting 2012 program, and let’s hope it stays available a little while longer than the first time around.
In 1979 Kitajima, then part of a group of japanese photographers around Masahisa Fukase, Daido Moriyama, Myako Ishiuchi, started an exhibition and publication in the non-commercial gallery CAMP which has gained a place in the history of japanese photography. In twelve months twelve shows and publications, in the form of leaflets with each sixteen pages, they show the young photographer on the crest of the post-provoke experiment and assertiveness. Although thèse twelve publications radiate punk energy the principles guiding their creation lead to a photography that is conceptual in that it seeks to utterly transform the unity that binds photographer and subject, image and gallery, production and distribution. Kitajima was more than Moriyama’s darling student, both attest to influences in formal questions and the understanding of black-and-white photography that went from to student to master. Steidl has republished thèse booklets in a boxset, and although the paper is different to the originals the printing in comparison is impressive.
After « Parallel Encyclopedia », her first book at Roma Publications, which was impressive, unbridled-yet-meticously executed, « Surface Series » is a follow-up book in it’s own right. The artist’s practice of lining up images from the most diverse sources, probing their qualities, what they have to say, what they want to say and what they don’t want to say is reduced, if that is the word to one subject, which is landscapes. Although the mix of images describing different surfaces, uses and perspectives on landscapes might seem without order it’s exactly via the sequence and the function of the book that one enters into the subject. I am reminded of Inger Christensen’s great poetry books from the 60s, in the sensé of the poet or artist never being satisfied by just touching a part, but aiming for the whole, even if it’s through the slightest means.
« : Illustrations hors texte»
The anthropologist and ethnologist Lévi-Strauss has been receiving some attention for his photographs, whose qualities go beyond a limitation to descriptive value. French artist Aegerter, who has been approbiating existing publications for some years now, gently subversing their intended academic or ecyclopedic nature, has worked with a community in the small dutch town Beetsterzwaag to retake the photographs by Lévi-Strauss with pretty normal, everyday people reenacting nakedness and the routines of the tribes of the Brazilian forest. This closes a gap between what might be perceived as gaps between ethnicities, while reviewing concepts of nature and the natural. I take some pleasure in viewing these images and « observing » the models exploring thèir rôles in different stages of nakedness.
The story goes that Guy Tillim has bought himself a boat and went on a long trip from Miami to French Polynesia, where the images in the first part of the book were taken. The explorations of urban landscape photography from his older series « Avenue Patrice Lumumba » and « Roma – Citta di Mezzo » are continued in the second part, with images from Sao Paolo. Prestel has published a nicely produced book, printed in dark tones and strong contrasts,with luscious reproductions. The photographs aim at being descriptive without falling for the already known, and often surprise us presenting some unknown Gestalt . Whilst they depend on the composition principles of Neue Sachlichkeit, often reminding of photographs by Renger-Patzsch and Sander the islands provide Tillim with enough rich material to find his own principles of dealing with the complexities of those landscapes.
Often catalogues that accompany group shows are interesting but not exciting books, form follows function and that is documenting a wide array of positions. The Fotomuseum Winterthur had organized a show on Cloud photography and the Helmut Völter and Jan Wenzel of Spector books have edited a book that is exciting in itself : six photographers from 1880 to the 1960’s have a portfolio each, printed so as to highlight the formal questions and acknowleding the archival source of the material, with essays by writers, scientists and poets. And through the editing the formal question here, how to document something that is in transformation all the time, a cloud, becomes interesting, palpable, without ever losing it’s inhérent beauty.
The series that has just received one of the World Press Awards, of prisoners in interrogation by the police in the Ukraine, has stark, touching and shocking images, portraits of people that are subject to violence and pressure. Although the context seems to be quite obvious, police interrogations, of petty criminals, guilty or unguilty, by mostly separting the subjects and showing them cornered against the wall, and focusing on the expression on their faces the photographer has brought out the most human aspects of the story. The book, whose cover reproduces the wall paper visible in the images, softcover in a slipcase, is by it’s production and design, although modest in appearance Avery convincing object that situâtes itself beyond a journalistic context.
«The Knife That Cuts The Apple»
The artist has selfpublished one of the most interesting books using found photography in the past year. To only state that the found images are put into a new context would not be enough, most of the images are grabbed of the internet – which is not easily to be detected – they stem mostly from a specific period around the first world war, and serve as a paraphrase to Thomas Pynchon’s novel « Against the day ». As in this novel, the images focus on political uprisings, weapons, scientific experiments, and quacksalverous pseudoscientific discoveries, on parallel worlds and fake histories, but they don’t simply serve a narrative but are in themselves so full of surprise and often shock that turning the pages of this book is as demanding and fulfilling as reading a Pynchon novel. The books are handmade, come with a fluorescent cover and japanese binding – they may be printed in a copyshop, but with so much précision and care that there is nothing left to wish for.
« Ama » tells the story of the female divers of Japan diving for sea snails by undramatic and emphatic photographs. The book combines several interests, and succesfully so, the journalistic and storytelling, the atmospheric and emphatic, and a passion for images that stand for themselves, much in the vein of récent japanese photographers. Thus by the portraits of the divers and their families – Nina Poppe is an exceptional portraitist of children – by images from the beaches, ships, houses and gardens the book creates a world far away from ours and confronts us with living conditions unknown to us. There is a feeling of longing throughout the book, a personal participation that the photographer is willing to share with us, much to our pleasure and nurturing our interest in a foreign culture.
Bertien van Manen
«Let’s sit down before we go»
Of the books published by Mack éditions last year I will pick out this one although the other publications such as Christian Pattersons book « Redheaded Peckerwood » has claimed equal famé in no time, and rightfully so, because Bertien van Manen’s photographs,have such a wondrous effect on me. By seemingly being effortless, nearly artless, the photographs, taken on countless journeys in eastern countries in the last fifteen years, tell the most beautiful stories and anecdots, not so far away from the russian novellists of the 19th century, such as Nikolai Lesskow or Iwan Turgenjev. The book has been edited by Stephen Gill, who has achieved a very sensitive and fluid édit for this diverse and rich material.
«The Unseen Eye»
W.M. Hunt has worked for many years in the art world, as a teacher, gallerist and curator, and only in récent years his private collection has gained some publicity : all of the photographs are portraits and feature somebody with an averted gaze or closed eyes thus denying the form of contact that most people looking at photographs would instantly first search out. Although this guiding principle can be explained in a nutshell, the collection and book that has been publishedin 2010 offer countless images that work like épiphanies. The collectors curiousity, willing to be surprised and accept the unexplainable, have already appealed to a larger public at the Rencontres in Arles in 2005 and I’m told that the book is a bestseller too. The book is not easy to classify as it appears to be part historical document, with texts and annotations, part visual essay, assembling over 300 images – neither trying to be a coffee table or fine art book nor an acadedmic publication. It does contain surprises for both readerships and I found myself enjoying the expérience of looking through it, discovering the subversive proximities between vernacular photographs and those taken by world famous photographers, and dwelving in the underlying psychological aswell as formal stories brought together.