Blog zur zeitgenössischen Fotografie
und digitalen Bildkunst

  Books - die Foam-Liste Nr. 4, Mai 09
von Sebastian Hau

Bertrand Fleuret: "Landmasses and Railways", J&L books and Bertrand Fleuret 2009, ISBN 978 0 9799188 3 4

Bertrand Fleuret has published his second book at the small, Atlanta-based publisher J&L (that has emerged from Iceland Press), and it’s another daring exploration of travel and mystery. It’s a medium-format book, comparable to his debut, in black-and-white, in which a cascade of images washes away most of what you’ve seen before. Surely Fleuret has his inspirations in photography (as diverse as Lee Friedlander and Moriyama Daido), but as listed most interestingly on his webpage, they also spring from literature and and graphic novels. The quote by Paul Bowles at the beginning hints at Fleuret’s intention to create from his travels (across Europe this time) a book that leads the viewer into an imaginery country, with five chapters from departure to the arrival at a garden (which turns out to be fields, meadows and scrub). One is guided on this journey by trusting Fleuret’s chain of associations, trusting his curiosity, and his Winogrand-like inquisitiveness as to what a camera can do and cannot. He seems to be straining to turn the camera into an idiosyncratic thing that doesn’t simply spit out rational, readable, nor poetical pictures, but rather images of mental and bodily experiences of travel, of displacing oneself, of falling and flying.

Sophie Ristlhueber: "Fait, books on books 3", errata editions 2009,
ISBN 978 1 935004 04 2

Last year Jeffrey Ladd (of 5b4) with two compagnons founded errata editions in New York, with the intention to make rare books accessible again, by reproducing the book page per page, with historical essays, bibliography of the artist featured, translations and making-of’s of the original at a reasonable (as he says „democratic“) price. Whereas Chris Killip’s „In Flagrante“, number 4 in the series, must be called one of the most study-worthy books next to „The Americans“ (and most difficult to get), I’m especially in love with „Fait“. After having gone through the reproduction of her incredible book, after the essay, nearly at the end of this errata book, there is a portrait of her, standing next to a jeep in the desert, two burning oil wells in her back („Fait“ was photographed shortly after the first Gulf war in Kuwait in 1991), grinning. Victoriously? Maliciously? Happy? I think she enjoys the knowledge that only the artist can turn the signs of defeat into a victory. Her pictures are mostly aerial views of the Kuwaiti desert, others were taken close to the ground, incessably the camera is pointed downwards, and the book makes you gain and lose dimensions page per page. For a lot of book lovers the errata series is the most expected and promising undertaking in 2009.

We could come to doubt everything, and almost everyone could come to doubt, Wytske van Keulen, Self-produced 2008, 318 pages,

Saying that the book by a young (26) Dutch photographer is self- produced (maybe with the help of state grands) is nowadays already like handing it a gold-medal. A lot of the bigger publishers couldn’t come up with something that’s so well-produced, thought-out,carefully edited and brilliantly printed as this book. It’s about a Spanish village and one elderly Dutch emigré living there, but also a story about faith and revelations, about WWII, as much as about destiny. The book takes good time to unravel the strands, the images and portrays are distanced as not to be intrusive, and only some dates and quotes by Juan, the main character, in the appendix, help getting the larger biographical and historical picture. Medal well-earned!

Jörg Koopmann: "cat seen, book with a beard" 2009,
ISBN 978 3 00 0267321

A newly founded publishing house from Munich (with a name no less funny than „These Birds Walk“) has put into print and covers one of the series I liked best last year, „the naked forest“ and set it against a second series called „pet houses“. The latter was taken in the aftermath of the Kathrina hurricane in New Orleans, and it makes a lot more sense than say the posh and utterly meaningless series one Robert Polidori brought back. Koopmann achieves this by photographing empty houses that carry graffiti tags by animal rights groups that documented the animals living in the abandonded houses, their condition and the food they had and should be given. „The naked forest“ is a longtime project of portraying animals (ants, an eagle, a horse rolling on his back, cats, dolphins just to name a few) all around the world, in each case right in the centre of the frame, with a sometimes calm, sometimes humourous, sometimes cruel formal quality that brings Eggleston to mind. Both series together in this nicely produced book work together by cleverly questioning the space inhabi-
ted by or alloted to animals, their life and death, the way we see and feel them in a distanced yet caring way.

Gerhard Richter: "Wald", Walther König 2008, 395 pages,
ISBN 978 3 86560 503 0

We were talking about woods in photography recently, Jitka Hanzlova, Robert Adams, Yoshiko Ueda and Lee Friedlander (with a quick praise for „New Mexico“ published by Radius late last year), when someone mentioned this new book by Gerhard Richter. It has the size of a larger novel and some German text (scrambled so as to be unreadable) and a lot of images from one small wood. One doesn’t directly see the abstract painter at work, primarily these are unartistical images of trees and branches in different seasons, and a lot of those. Upon closer inspection the formal qualities (which are not so much based on photographical techniques) become visible, and it is overwhelming to see how Richter achieves this just by his cropping and the precise use of the light at hand. The images are so much more unromantic than most of this subject and yet they have a clarity that is rare and stupefying.

Guy Tillim: "Avenue Patrice Lumumba", Prestel / Harvard 2008,
ISBN 978 3 7913 4066 1

Aided by a grant Guy Tillim has travelled to the DR Congo, Mozambique, Benin, Madasgascar, Ghana and Angola over the past two years and completed a series on habitation, administration buildings, the social landscape and the architecture of the 60’s in that brief era where a new social vision emerged in those African leaders that governed those states. A large-size book presents the work adequately, opened by a very concise text by Tillim outlining what he does not do (that is: condemn, be nostalgic, judge or criticize) but what he does (that is: embrace). He is the one photographer known to me, next to Goldblatt, whose works focusing on his mother continent put everything at stake he has, who invests more than most, who works on a larger scope, risks more and thus sees more than others. This is a comparably quieter book than it’s predecessors, where buildings, offices, public spaces are sought out in order to find the voices and indices inherent, where administration workers and residents are portrayed in a reserved but commited manner.