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  Books - die Foam-Liste Nr. 3, Januar 09
von Sebastian Hau

Susan Meiselas: "Nicaragua"
Aperture 2008, ISBN 9781597110716

This is the long-awaited reprint of the famous Nicaragua book with the images Susan Meiselas took of the Sandinista revolution against the Somoza dictatorship between June 1978 and July 1979. The book starts with impressions from a country in turmoil, of a subdued and poor people, of the infamous National Guard and quickly moves to graffiti, demonstrations and then steps into the revolution, the war in the streets. There is a heroic side to this story as much as there are gruesome and shocking images of the dead and tortured. As a document to the victory of the oppressed, together with a chronology, quotes and captions that complete the book it is moving and unsettling. This was a revolution that Europe didn’t care about so much, and a historic event that was on the rim of everybody's attention the way in which Meiselas documented the hardships and the ultimate victory of the Sandinistas make this a very special book. Aperture will never be famous for its book design, but this one is well-produced and they have added a booklet with an interview with the author and a DVD with a film Meiselas produced later about Nicaragua.

Magnum Photos has most of the images from the series available on its archive page: www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/c.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.BookDetail_VPage&pid=2K7O3R15NM54


Paul Fusco: "RFK"
Aperture 2008, ISBN 978597110792

“RFK” is not a reprint but an extended version of "RFK Funeral train", a hard-to-find collector's item. I will not write about the totally unnecessary photos that have been added from the actual funeral and rather delve into the actual series, the journey from New York to Washington on a train that carried the body of Robert Kennedy, and the images Fusco took of the people along the tracks to commemorate or just watch the event. There are nearly 100 images of people along railroad tracks and each and every image is worth looking at. Maybe today, 40 years later, our interest is also guided by looking at the past, we are the onlookers now, but maybe this doesn't entirely hold true. These images haven't aged and one feels their necessity straightaway. They can only have been taken by a gifted photographer, one who cared about what he was doing, but they are not masterpieces. They are restricted by the movement of the train, the rolls of film the photographer carried along, and the speed in which he would spot an image, and turn his camera to take the picture. And in this Fusco succeeded, relentlessly during the eight-hour journey. He cared, as he writes, about the people and their lost hopes and and he had cared about the assassinated presidential candidate. But independent of an interest in American history it is the "conceptual" limits of the project and the vivid quality of the images that came out of it that make this a historical series.

The New York Times has a nifty multimedia feature with Fusko talking about his work and his images running as a video: www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/magazine/01RFKtext-t.html


Stefania Gurdowa: "Negatives are to be stored"
Imago Mundi 2008, ISBN 9788392591443

These are images from the archive of a polish small-town portrait photographer. Gurdowa had her own studio between 1923 and 1937 and the selection presented here is astonishing by the serene and precise workmanship of the portraits. We know nothing about the people, nor is there an overall concept á la Sander, it is only the straight photographic quality at work that captures the eye. The sitters don't emanate this feeling of long-gone, long-dead, but confront the camera in a remarkable presence that is the mystery of Gurdowa's work. The book is very well-produced, designed and printed and three historic texts provide a frame that serves as an obstacle to a simple exploitation of the archive. The makers of the book come from cultural institutions and a collective of documentary photographers and the confident manner in which they produce their discovery is noteworthy.

The foundation has the best site to see some images and find out more: www.gurdowa.pl/


Jens Olof Lasthein: "White Sea Black Sea"
Dewi Lewis 2008, ISBN 9781904587606

His first book from Journal publishing went by largely unnoticed before being listed in the Parr / Badger Volume 2, but his second book will gain its fame more quickly. Lasthein is a very talented photographer and his panoramic views of the eastern bordertowns and its inhabitants are never about showing off his technique. The border between Europe and the east and the societies and countries on the other side have been attracting him for more than twenty years, and his power of observation and the virtuosity in which he moves his camera provide rich images and stories. Listed among the people he extends his thanks to at the end of the book are Bertien van Manen, Anders Petersen and Lars Tunbjörk, and although one doesn't want to compare Lasthein it is worth mentioning that he does not fall short of his peers.

A lot of the images are available on the photographer's own page a: www.lasthein.se/

21.01.2009