“The “focus” is very eclectic as are my tastes. They are always changing and have been enlarging these past years. The collection has been very contemporary-based from the start and that is still true”. -GCB
Brad: I want to extend a thank you for taking the time to talk a bit about yourself and photography books. You know, its quite strange…I only know about four pretty serious collectors of photography books. I know others that buy books and artists who also enjoy collecting, but in terms of obsessive collectors, I only know about three more. I am not a publisher, so my interaction is fairly small in exchange. I think we first met in 2013 at Parisphoto. Since then I have enjoyed watching your obsession through social media. I watch your posts and consider through your collecting what books I should consider looking at for review (not being a collector myself). I want to ask you the most obvious question first, but how did you get involved with this obsession? When did it start?
Gabriela: Thank you Brad for the invitation! My obsession for collecting started long ago, but it has been growing alot in the photobook field these last 15 years or so. I began buying art (painting) on a small scale at the end of the 80s, basically when I had a little bit of money. To make it short, my parents died when I was young and I inherited some money. There was no cultural or family tradition of buying art at home, so it is difficult to explain why I found pleasure in it, except perhaps for the urge and the thrill I felt in acquiring things. There was a love of old things around me- beautiful objects and furniture and I was surrounded by that, so perhaps this has something to do with it. Going to flea markets or antique fairs was fairly usual, but contemporary art was not a part of it. So maybe it was a silent rebellion I was unconscious of. I felt alive with Modern and Contemporary art, even if I am still fond of these old objects. I am a rather sentimental person, and I find it hard to throw away or get rid of these things.
So buying books was also a natural thing: of art, but also comic books. This was what I did before I started buying only photo books.
In retrospect, I really think my interest in art is to try to understand the world I live in, and to search for beauty in it. That doesn’t quite answer your question about obsession. Maybe it is about filling a gap that can never be fulfilled, a loss that was never clearly expressed and is now overcoming after all these years. I consider it a sickness as well as a fantastic therapy. Now there is only space and time for photography. Photobooks move me more than I can express. They speak of time and memory and death and the way to deal with it, and that is never enough. And I must add to this that the fact that I share it with others in such a way has made it so much more rewarding with the fantastic feedback I receive. It feels natural. I am a shy person and rather lonely and it has made me connect with others and the world at large. The more I collect and share what I love the more I feel the need to do it. Some call it a drug!
Brad: That much is for sure! I think loss or filling a void is certainly why I got into it all. From my side, it was probably growing up without a male figure in the picture or brothers and sisters.
I know that you have a relationship with the Museo San Telmo, which houses your collection or part of your collection. How many pieces have you donated? How did this relationship come about and what is the purpose of the donation in general terms? Does your collection get exhibited and do you have a hand in the events that are part of their library?
Gabriela: Nearly the whole collection is in San Telmo’s library now- over 2500 photography books! I must say it is a loan and not a donation, at least for the moment. I was looking for a space to make it more easily visible to the public, and the circle of friends and students who used to come to visit the books at my home was growing and the space was missing. San Telmo Museo is a renovated ethnographic museum of the Basque Society, with a mixed evolution these last years- with more contemporary exhibitions and a new vision. It is a very nice old building, with a cloister and an old church and a beautiful contemporary new wing where the library is situated. I contacted the director, Susana Soto through a good friend who knew her well and persuaded her the collection was important and interesting. The Museum had a good collection of 20th Century Basque photography, and though they didn’t know much about contemporary photobooks, they had a strong will and said yes.
The purpose is to make it accessible and free to anyone. You don’t have to pay to see and read the books and you don’t need to be a card-carrying member. The access is very easy even if the opening hours are not as frequent as we would like for now. Also, the collection is slowly being catalogued and everybody can look it up on-line.
My collection was shown last spring in the fabulous exhibition “Fenómeno Fotolibro” curated by Moritz Neumuller with Fundación Colectania and CCCB, Barcelona. That was a joy for me!
The terms of the contracts, and this is very important, includes a compromise for creating events, talks or workshops with the photobooks or photography in a larger sense. I do have a hand on these, but with the help of some friends and the librarian I am able to give opinion. Of course there is never enough money for that and things need to be done a bit slowly. But it is only the beginning I hope. Also, I keep buying books and they go to the library so it will keep living and growing.
Brad: Do you have a focus in terms of your collection? I see quite a wide geographic spectrum and see that for example you are not overly concentrated on Europe, or America, or Japan. The latter seems to be a bit of a fetish. Are your tastes to wide to present a geographic focus? Also, do you collect backwards historically?
Gabriela: The “focus” is very eclectic as are my tastes. They are always changing and have been enlarging these past years. The collection has been very contemporary-based from the start and that is still true. I understand it would be more complete (if that makes sense) with a historical background, and of course, there is always the desire to have an infinite number of old gems and classical books, but if I have to choose, the focus is contemporary titles. Maybe it is a weakness in terms of “building a collection”, but it works for me! I buy a very small number of old or sold out books, but I simply don’t have enough money and time and knowledge to go really far backwards in history.
Of course I have a greater number of Spanish books. The last ten years the publications here have been nearly as numerous which produces this crazy anxiety to not miss one interesting publication. Europe is a great focus and I am very fond of Italian, British, Belgian and Dutch photobook. There are also French ones as I had lived there for many years, but clearly there are no geographical boundaries. Russian or Ukrainian books have increased lately, as have Chines ones. I wish I had more African books in the collection and also Central and South American. Japan is a bit different, I am not sure if it is fetish or not, but there are a great number of handmade books, mainly out of Reminders Photography Stronghold with Yumi Goto, that seem very interesting to me. They are personal narrative books that touch me a lot. The fact that they are handmade makes them more emotional and I like very much the beautiful “object” part of them. I guess they are a large part of the collection. Kazuma Obara, Hajime Kimura, Yoshikatsu Fujii or Mayumi Suzuki have made beautiful books, not only in form but also in content. And Daisuke Yokota is still very much a favorite of mine. But I know a few collectors of Japanese photobooks that are maybe much more fetishistic than I am, this I can assure you!
Of course North America is a great part of the collection, but my main interest goes much more to individuals or topics, and also photobooks made by women. I don’t always act like a 1000% feminist, but I like to insist on the fact that photobooks by women still deserve a better visibility, and more space in the collection.
Brad: 2018 in my opinion has been a pretty decent year for books. I see some shift in who is producing better material and who has had a slower year. My contention is that the ebb and flow of this is pretty normal, especially with the smaller publishers. My overall choices for 2018 in terms of who has really delivered would be, in no particular order…MACK, Skinnerboox, Chose Commune, StanleyBarker, APE, Self Publish Be Happy and VOID. I have different reasons for those picks, but I really feel that these were the standout publishers working on a number of really great titles. Of note is Chose Commune and StanleyBarker whose few, but exceptional titles make their work in the field exemplary. There are a few self-published and small run independent publishers like Kominek for example who also had a good year even if the output was quite small. Can you give us your thoughts on who you see leading the way in 2018 and for which reasons? To give an example, I think StanleyBarker has had a great year-they have made several well-received titles such as the Christopher Anderson and Mark Steinmetz books and have kept quality quite high. A young publisher like Void has upped their game and has published several great titles and looks set to become a player in the next years if they can continually up their production. Who are your main inspirations for this year alone?
Gabriela: The second part of the year has seen a great number of very nice books. Maybe the publishers are waiting for that moment of the year now with the fairs etc, or is it just me with this feeling? I am very fond of small or independent publishers. I agree with you about Void, who has done a good number of very interesting books, or perhaps Origini Edizioni, who are still a bit confidential because of their small run of handmade books, but always they are beautiful.
Mack is always someone to watch, even if it doesn’t bring as many good surprises as a few years ago for me. Chose Commune have been a clear favorite for me so they are always on my mind. Skinnerboox also! Only Photography with Roland Angst always sets a standard of high quality- this year is no different. I am still waiting for Matthew Genitempo’s “Jasper” published by Twin Palms, but I saw it in Paris and liked very much.
I always end up with some self-published books on my favorite list, and this year it will be the same.
I find it harder and harder to do a list. This year was even more difficult because alot of the books are now in San Telmo and not at home to check and re-read. So the list changes a lot, though I have no doubt for some of them.
Brad: There are quite a few books this year that ended on my “list”. I just submitted a list to photobookstoreuk and was alarmed to see there was no conceivable way in which I could narrow it to 10 titles this year and thankfully with ASX, we don’t have to, so I want to open up to you not a best of, but up to 20 titles (you may do less or more if you wish) that you found inspirational this year. If possible, please pick one to place at the top of your list so that if nothing else we are giving Viory the data she needs for the meta-list…
1) Raymond Meeks is the first on my list. This comes as no surprise! This year has seen the publication of Halfstory Halflife with Chose Commune, and I have written how much I love this book on my blog. Plus Raymond’s handmade books are objects of desire and recently his Ciprian Honey Cathedral has arrived. It is another beautiful one- expensive and exclusive yes, but so much worth it once you have seen it. I hope the Chose Commune book will bring Meeks all the attention he deserves.
2) My birth, by Carmen Winnant, published by SPBH and ITI press. An amazing and fantastic book on something as natural and universal as giving birth-something that is oddly kept secret. It is about delivery, representation and transmission both with archival and personal photography. It is an explosion of life, crude and wonderful, an absolute must!!!
3) Meat, by Olivier Pin-Fat, Void. Another crude and fantastic book, of which I have two versions. Handmade and chaotic, sensual and dreamy, hard or violent, dark and blurred, tender and so human. Meat tastes a bit like breathing blood, it aches but feels alive.
4) Except the Clouds, Bérangère Fromont, Void. Another book from Void, recently published. Bérangère took these pictures during a few days stay in Athens. Black and white, deep, rough, urgent and poetic, it is a vision of troubled times and the riots in Athens. It is a simply beautiful book.
5) Domestic Landscapes, Valentino Barachini, Origini Edizioni. A very beautiful book, by one of the heads of Origini. Valentino is an artist, a very sensible one. Mixing text, painting and photography, this delicate handmade book is a very personal one where Barachini reveals what makes his everyday life and his poetic and secret universe.
6) To Tell My Real Intentions, Katherine Longly, Self-Published. One of the books made with Reminders Photography Stronghold that I mentioned before. Katherine, a Belgian artist talks of eating disorders in Japan through several voices. It is funny and humourous, colorful and seems happy but it shows the disarray caused by consumption and the pressure of Japanese traditions. On the other side of Reminders, I could add here the very touching and strong We do not need you here/If only I could fly, by Hiroshi Okamoto, telling us the story of a young Japanese hostage in Iraq rejected by Japanese society because the government paid a ransom for his release.
7) Blue Zone, Monica Orpik, Self-Published. A little Leporello book made of cyanotypes. Monica is a young Polish photographer based in London. All her work is about the trauma of war, reconciliation and memory over time. Blue Zone is a series of photographs taken on the ancient concentration camp of Gusen near Mauthausen. Simple houses rebuilt on the remains of the camp, and printed in Prussian blue, a pigment by-product of cyanide used in the camps. No words are needed, in a very small run of 30 copies.
8) Dear Fairys, by Grégoire Eloy, Self-Published. Another very small run for this project by French photographer Grégoire Eloy taken during a residency in Guernsey. The book is a long and cut sequence, beautifully edited. It is a long walk where we get lost in a meditation into the landscape. Like a puzzle, we get closer and far away from the shore, into the water, amongst the rocks and vegetation. It is beautiful and hypnotic.
9) American Winter, by Gerry Johansson, Mack. I like Johansson and his small books very much. It is very subtle photography, silent and minimal, where time is stopped. This one is in my opinion one of his best. The deserted landscapes of American small towns are beautiful in their white light and hopeless emptiness.
10) How we see; Photobooks by Women. 10×10 Photobooks, Russet Lederman, Olga Yatskevich and Michael Lang. A book on photobooks made by women and curated by women. The new 10×10 project is an important one. 100 photo books by women from the beginning of the medium starting with Anna Atkins to the more recent books and wuthors, like the one by Pixi Liaio who won a price at ParisPhoto. 10 visions from all over the world- a book to read and discover. It cannot be comprehensive, but it is a very good start.
11) La Jaula, Julián Barón and 21 more participants, photographers, artists, graffiti makers. Self-Published, Perú. This is not a book. This is a collaborative project after a three-week residency with Julián Barón. It is an attempt to think about alternative ways to create, use and consume photography. Julián is always at the edge of representation and the consumption of images. This publication of only 25 copies (one by each participants) is the starting point of a large project that will take place in different countries. Like Barón himself, it is an alien.
12) Cry of an Echo, Malgorzata Stanckiewyzc, Lecturis. Malgorzata won the Unseen Dummy award last year. Cry of an echo shows her interventions on pictures of an endangered forest in Poland. Environmental issues are very much a trend in photobooks at the moment. This one for me is one of the more meaningful and beautifully rendered attempts. The forest cries with the chemical intervention of Malgorzata.
13) The Universal Photographer, Anne Geene & Arjan de Nooy, Self-Published. I have discovered only recently the work of Anne Geene, though she has already made a great number of books, and I instantly fell in love with her work. It is a mix of botany, photography, poetry, science and humour. This book is a monograph of the universal photographer, a “copieur”, a copyist. So we revisit the story of photography, through conceptual ideas, collages, archives and scanning practices. It is witty and clever, poetic and a wonderful tribute to photography. Life can be too serious. I need books like this one, beautifully done and light.
14) INDEX G, Piergiorgio Casotti, Emanuele Bruti, Skinnerboox. The Italian publisher could have 3 books in this list, I choose Casotti and his complex and unsettling book. Index G is a mix of screenplay, cinematic pictures and beautiful black and white portraits, a mysterious and uncertain balance- An appealing and courageous book.
15) Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train-The people’s View, Rein Jelle Terspstra. Fw:Books. Paul Fusco’s book is an old favorite, and I was very curious of this one. This “reverse” book showing the view from the other side of the rails is a great achievement after a four years work by Terpstra and is very touching. It is a tribute to Fusco’s book, but very different in form and it succeeds in creating a completely new work from an enormous archive. It is also a tribute to all the people involved, and to viewers, readers, spectators and witnesses to History.
16) Higher, John Edmonds, Capricious. USA. This is a beautiful book by a young photographer. There are portraits and representations of ethnicity, masculinity, religious iconography, and gender. Edmonds questions our way of looking and representing our prejudices. Upsetting, beautiful and sacred.
17) Let Me Fall Again, Julia Borissova. Self-Published. Another beautiful and handmade book by Julia. The lightness of failure is a lesson to learn, when it is so delicate.
18) On Abortion, Laia Abril. Dewi Lewis. A great year for Laia and for this enormous work, winner of the Aperture prize in Paris.
If I could, I would like to add some other books here:
Abend der Worte, Rafael Tanaka Monzó and Matilde Vittoria Laricchia. Origini edizioni.
Jasper, Matthew Genitempo, Twin Palms.
Looking Up Ben James: A Fable, John Gossage, Steidl.
Touch, Rites of Mirrow Hidden in Gravity, Sergej Vutuc. Self-Published
Moksha, Rohan Thapa.
You Can Call Him Another Man, Maria Kapajeva. Self-Published.
Exiles, Eden Bernal. La Hydra.
Roots, Eca Saukane. Self-Published.
Angst, Soham Gupta. Akina.
Eggs and Rarities, Paul Kooiker. APE, FOMU, and Dashwood
In Belief is Power, Hristina Tasheva.
43-35 10th Street, Daniel Shea. Kodoji Press
Vorágine, Orlando de la Rosa. La Hydra.
Aum, Martí Gasull. Socarrel editions
THANK YOU, Gabriela!!!!!!!
Before I give over my list I gotta speak on a few bits of senseless repetition we could potentially do without next year in the library that photography built…this is a bit tongue in cheek and a bit of a Patrick Stewart meme by imaginary means…just imagine that meme with me instead of Stewart, hand raised, but same “why tha fuck would you…” grimace.
A)No more books about AI and the Singularity through “documentary” practice. You have no idea what is coming so stop taking pictures of something that looks like two Ninentendos had a threesome with an elaborate creamy white vacuum cleaner and are in total anguish about whose child it is and expect me to worry. This is a perfect concept that photography fails at.
B)Encyclopedic books about form in images. Repetition. A world of images. What images define my psyche. Blossfeldt, Renger-Patzsch etc….. Its been done loads and I am hoping Suter’s books end it all. Its really hard to cite Warburg and the volumes of studies around him without looking a little silly on these projects, so do be wary of your invocations.
C)No more books about poop unless somehow inventive. Maybe freeze some turds and tell me more about photography and sculpture in a catalogue of restless feces.
D)No more books about Nazis, the historic ones, not the incel right-wing chronic masturbators that you get triggered over and call Nazis. Not the same thing. Stop being lazy and work your labels a bit harder.
E)No more books about Nazi poop…covered this already elsewhere.
F)No more books of images that look like Todd Hido took them. We have Todd, we don’t need you to be Todd.
G)No more books that use the body in motion to explain some sort of horseshit existentialism Re: d’Agata. We have Francis Bacon, we don’t need you or…
H)No more books on “Fake News” All news is fake, we exist in relative language and form (sadly). Get over it. You have been lied to for centuries now and all of the sudden you figured this out because some bouffant-haired demon seed engraved it into your neocortex.
I)No more anything that mentions the word “Trump” in your foreward. Do not let your enemies define you, no matter how woke you iz.
J)No more books about migrant struggles. You are profiting off their misery. Stop. We are aware. You are bringing “attention” to a small group of already informed people for the sake of your “practice”. There are so many bad versions of this idea out there right now.
K)No more books about photography and fiction. Dead.fucking.horse.mate. Illustrating a work of fiction mostly defies what makes it fiction. Bit of a disservice if you think about it…
L)No more books on “crazy archive” of the Internetz. Wow. You have google. You so crazy, girl. Looking up “turquoise velvet penis werewolf hammer” and finding 17 hits while looking for a large enough jpeg of the result is as of yet a totally unknown act of genius…I guess?
M)No more sunburst Ryan McGinley-esque youth freedom movement books. You will be old before the ink dries on the first printed proof sheet. Trust me.
N)No more pop and flash pseudo fashion books of your mates doing nose beers. There is fentanyl in that shit now, Blud and 2003 is a long time ago-too long ago to be fresh, too soon to be retro.
O)No more books on the gay wannabe fashion goth culture of Berlin. Get your Addidas tracksuit and nose ring at the club door, the bouncer will shave half your head in 5 minutes. Monochrome or not, were kinda used to seeing gay dudes and lesbians have a three-way tongue kiss now. It just looks like pink wet larvae having a meeting between pimpled cheeks.
P)No more books about you staying stranger’s homes showing your vulnerability and the kindness of strangers in one go. Bieke did it, we don’t need to see your second cousin in Utah’s Mormon home as well. Try it out in Gary, Indiana, Chechnya or Afghanistan and maybe I will have a look.
Q) No more books about race by white authors, including but not limited to books on whiteness. Who are you preaching too? The comrades in the university who bring in their Starbucks and bang on about equality while being 20 years old and paying 9k in tuition fees per annum talking about a lack of safe spaces (those are apparently 10k a year) or the middle to upper class academics who attend seminars on this while talking about the luxury of de-colonizing the museums? Asking for a friend. Also, drop that lecture on some whiteboys in Detroit or Queens. Just get a soapbox and tell them about their privilege for a bit. I mean did you even see 8 Mile, bro?
R)No more books with no fucking purpose that invoke Wolfgang Tilman’s in the intro. You and your solipsism and lack of ideas are not on par with Tilmans. Sorry.
S)No more books referencing any of the following…Bataille, Schopenhauer, Deleuze and Guattari. Please.
T) This is Brought to you by Olivier Pin-Fat. Please stop the fuckery with the drone project books. Yes Surveillance society. Yes Military Industrial context. Yes, yawn
U) No more books with images of the skies over Trauma sites. I hate to agree with Jerry Saltz on this, but the idea is fucking meaningless on grounds of representation and all that “under the big blue sky post- Stieglitz metaphorical cloud elegy” is just not enough to wax lyrical about genocide, its just a way to short change motherfuckers who were gassed or run over by incel racists with your “art”
V) If you are not transitioning into a new gender, you probably should leave that project to those who are or whom are part of the community full-stop (see Nelson Morales) otherwise you are, no matter your intent, an explicit voyeur to a very confusing process and time in a person’s life. Your project however well-intended may bring further confusion. The rates of suicide are very high in this community and image-therapy is as of yet to be a recognized service to thise undergoing the complexities of gender re-assignment. Do not go wandering into this sort of project without realizing that your “documentation” may cause some problems later. You can return “agency” by not stealing it in the first place. Be curious and read, put the fucking camera down.
W)No more books with “illuminated” figures in the landscape. From Inka & Niklaus to Piero Roi to several other really good studies on the matter, we got it covered. Be star dust elsewhere, chucky
X) I have a book out next year…you are welcome to tear it in two. That’s part of the covenant here. If you are overly offended by this part of the list, there will be no apology forthcoming as it’s only a superfluous privileged white man’s ramblings about privileged matters in a very small community of losers in the west. If you understand any of this list, the words within or the themes expressed, you are not suffering enough to make me hear your wee tiny violin whine about your discontent of my position.
Y)….fill in the blank
Z)….fill in the blank
“No more books on the gay wannabe fashion goth culture of Berlin. Get your Addidas tracksuit and nose ring at the club door, the bouncer will shave half your head in 5 minutes. Monochrome or not, were kinda used to seeing gay dudes and lesbians have a three-way tongue kiss now. It just looks like pink wet larvae having a meeting between pimpled cheeks”. -BF
Back to the list…
I am not including Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe on the list because it’s a (much needed) re-printing. The book is very important for me personally, but unnecessary from any perspective to include in my list.
There is one title not on my list that I believe will be nominated for the next Deutsche Bourse award in 2019 and that is Max Pincker’s Margins of Excess. I have known Max since his first book and am friends with both him and his wife Victoria. They are sweet dudes. The work in my estimation lacks the sincere gravity of Pincker’s back catalogue though this is the work that has likely reached the largest audience. I present this conundrum by simultaneously predicting his inclusion in DB 2020 (announced end of 2019) and by conversely not including the title on this list for several reasons, none of which have to do with Pincker’s overall merit, nor the book’s timely (and for me part of the problem) creation. I celebrate Max, his kind heart and his big wet brain, but MOE is not on my list and I feel like pointing this out as it deserves a mention for its absence. So, Max if you are reading this, please accept my apologies and also my praise for next year and for our audience: I felt it was necessary to raise this point as the book has achieved nearly immeasurable success.
I also want to mention a special shout out to La Hydra’s project INFRAMUNDO run by Ana Casas Broda, Jose Luis Lugo and Ramon Pez. These animals crafted something like 21 basically hand-made and exemplary South American photobooks in one year, which we will be covering over the next month and further in 2019. Whenever I see Ramon, he is always smiling and I can’t figure out where his energy pack is. Really great stuff. A few books in particular had a special gravity to them.
There are a number of titles this year that I did not see in person like the 10×10 Photobooks How We See Photobooks by Women, One Wall, a Web by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, Bright Black World by Todd Hido, The Essential Solitude by Tereza Zelenkova, Anthony Cairns CTY, Manfred Heiting’s Czech and Slovak Photo Publications 1918-1989. and a few others that I probably should have seen. I did not attend the majority of fairs and I live in a very remote clime.
- Raymond Meeks. Halfstory Halflife on Chose Commune. I have mentioned before that I think Chose Commune have done really wonderful things by keeping their output small. It seems to allow them to concentrate on well-crafted publications like Meeks and Alexandra Cartiere that make quite an impact. The Meeks book for me was a game changer. The way he sees is just completely different to most photographers. John Gossage is probably the closest and maybe Tim Carpenter, but all three have a distinct style and rely heavily on the dynamic of formalism and “seeing photographically”. It really changed my level of standards in examining what I think is exceptional. This book is still tied with….
1B. Carmen Winant. My Birth on Self Publish Be Happy and Image Text Ithaca. Incredible work. The way that she sees her work and its editorial value in collage and archive form is truly inspiring. On top of that, she is working with images that are at once visceral and brave. Birth is a very surreal experience for either parent, but Winant has tackled this with sensitivity and serenity. I can’t imagine a more timely book.
The rest of these are in no order and are not constrained by anything other than I think they are important or great in some way and deserve acknowledgement…
Gerry Johansson. American Winter on MACK. Incredible work. I had always put off picking up his books for some reason. I never held one until American Winter, though I was aware of Deutschland. I wasted a lot of unnecessary time in my ignorance. I did the same thing with Michael Schmidt’s Lebensmittel. Johansson delivers in every frame of this book. The intimacy and consistency of his work is truly powerful
Olivier Pin-Fat MEAT. VOID. I have a text in the book, so this is sort of unfair for me to include as I am biased as I have mentioned elsewhere, though for me this is Olivier’s most important book. Its design, content and the bulk of what is construed within, both in philosophical and conceptual terms makes it impossible to ignore. Also happens to be possibly my favorite piece of text that I have written.
Beranger Fromont. Except the Clouds. also VOID. Double Whammy! Void have been upping their game in the very short time they have been active. I love the energy from the team of somewhat youthful, somewhat dark and incredibly nice people at VOID. Fromont’s book is a rationale observation about how we view political strife in the current day and age and how we view photography’s role in abusing or not abusing its position of authorship. Implication and observation vastly exceed that of “documentary” and “evidenciary” practice. Forthright, honest and well-delivered.
Jurgen Maelfyt. Lips. APE. Small, contemplative, fun, categorical and precious. I love these small books of gems by Jurgen. His work as a publisher and designer is well-received, but I think there is room for his audience to grow. I love that these sort of projects get dropped into his catalogue with little fanfare or “ME ME ME” broadcasts.
Christopher Anderson. Approximate Joy. StanleyBarker Compression. Beauty. New Economies. Technology. Cinematic and brooding. Anderson at the height of his skill set. The design of this is also incredible. I continue to point out a few publishers that are really upping the game and StanleyBarker are certainly at the top of that list. Design quality, fat and proper hardcover books. Attention paid to size and detail, it is no wonder they are selling out and going into second editions on more than one title such as this masterpiece.
Senta Simond. Rayon Vert. Kominek. Intimate, gestural, a return to form, but a return that is predicated upon masterful posing at the crossroads of expression, conceptual practice and even a little bit of fashion. This was and remains one of my top choices from the first half of the year. Kominek smashed a great publication with Rayon Vert and Senta will be on to quite a career. This is only the beginning.
Bruno V Roels. The Pyramid and Palm Trees Test. Silence Editions. Roels is like no other. His conceptual practice and hand-crafted materiality shares no other parallels at present. Able to work in multiples and sometimes around one minimal theme like palm trees etc, Roels is a very serious player and his first book is a smart beautiful first look at a long future.
Sybren Vanoverberghe. 2099. APE. I fucking loved this book. It was minimal, elegant and shows huge promise from a very young Belgian artist. Playing with history, metaphor, photographic looking and the length of an image’s lifespan, Vanoverberghe will be another one of the young Belgian talents to pay attention to.
“appreciation for the humility of emptiness both in thought and vision becomes something that one can long for. Almost like transcendental manifestions of meditation in a visual sense-I now love the ability to cogitate in one frame with little distraction from the buzz of people. I look for details like an archaeologist, but mostly, I empty myself and my mind’s eye thoroughly absorbing the quiet”. -BF
Nick Geboers. AÆUÅÆØ. Roma. Another Belgian delight playing with the idea of trace, locality, event and unnamed situations on a mythical (?) island, with an impossible read of a title that also plays into linguistics. Geboers images present odd conundrums not unfamiliar to an episode of “Lost”, but in still frame. A really great slender publication from the young Belgian up and comers and ROMA.
John Gossage. Looking Up Ben James :A Fable. Steidl. At this point, Gossage’s books (The Goss-Man(TM:Feuerhelm), The Goss-Father (TM:Nelson Chan)) are so incredibly distinct in the design that you can almost spot them from a mile away. This is no different, but it is fucking huge. Gossage is the master of photographic seeing. I mentioned this earlier with my Meeks pick, but I would guess a large number of Gossage’s disciples are at the age in which we are informing a similar study of photography, its principles and its distortions again after years of having to suffer non-sensical technological/conceptual(what does that even mean these days) projects. This isn’t my favorite of Gossage’s books, but I cannot help disassociate how masterful he still is at taking pictures, often even the most banal of subjects. You will never see a bird shit covered Welsh front door stoop handled in such an intriguing way-a picture that should not exist, let alone in exist in such beauty.
Nicolas Polli. Ferox The Forgotten Archives 1976–2010. Skinnerboox and Ciao Press. I had a hand in disputing this book in a manner which will be published very soon and I cannot express the amount of work involved in the book from the first time I saw it in September 2016 to its release two years later. Just incredible.
Luigi Ghirri. The Map and the Teritory. MACK. I was not very familiar with Ghirri apart from reading his excellent essays also published by MACK. To say Ghirri was ahead of his time is a grave understatement. He was more like a mystic with a camera. His material looks exceedingly fresh by contemporary standards and this book was the best way for me to get into the breadth of the material available, of which I am told is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Paul Kooiker. Eggs and Rarities. APE and DASHWOOD and FOMU. Incredible book by the whole team of publishers and of course Paul himself whose career always amazes me. I look at this work and see Kooiker himself, his thinking and also his close internal world. It is at once moving in its caring nature and secondly obfuscated by its ability to make me uncomfortable. We can all learn a thing or two from Kooiker.
Piergiorgio Castti and Emanuel Brutti. Index G. Skinnerboox. Skinnerboox is another model publisher. They make better books every year and take chances on titles like Index G that become masterpieces. Incredibly interesting in its social makeup, the book is also masterful in how it deals with the editing of images between color and monochrome, but also in pacing. This was one of my early picks for the year and it has remained with me since.
Errichiello and Menichetti. In Quatra Persona. Skinnerboox. Another great piece of photographic literature/research in the Skinnerboox catalogue. I am still in the midst of reviewing this interesting book about Italian politics, infrastructure, communal utility, abuse of power and the images themselves. These guys are making serious work that extends outside the small photographic community and the dense levels presented in the book are something that takes some time to contend with.
Ursula Schulz-Dornburg. The Land In-Between. MACK. This is an unbelievable catalogue of ancient sites, romantic vistas and important texts about Schulz-Dornburg whom I had never heard of until seeing the MACK catalogue. The musings on Mesopotamia and the Middle East-Archaeological and cultural sites likely disappeared by now are an incredible gift to behold. The book and the work itself seems to evade the typological German-ness of many of her contemporaries sustaining the audience with a poetic sensibility that is inherent and nearly impossible to force. Truly engaging.
Hiyahisa Tomayisu. TTP. MACK. First Book award recipient Tomayisu challenged me to a game of ping-pong, which I thought was going to be boring and repetitive. Though long-winded, I never once got bored and realized some of the most simple ideas even in their repetition can be incredible. Duration and a blend of cultures make TTP an opus like none other.
Tim Carpenter and Nathan Pearce. Still Feel Gone. Dead BEat Book Club. A thoughtful contemplative view of America in a still and somehow elegiac form. A return to looking at industry and again the simple idea carried out with excellence.
Thomas Demand. The Complete Papers. MACK. This came out a bit late in the year, so I don’t know how many have seen this opus. I wish we had more publications like this of historic material in particular. There is a vast array of essays by the most important writers on photography of our time inside and it is in effect a catalogue raisonne of the most important artist using photography today. Demand presents all the questions about reality, news, simulacra etc that we are facing in this completely irreversible and frightening techno-dystopia, but presents it in a banality that creates an uncanny trigger for contemplation. This is from what I can tell MACK’s finest output yet and I can reason that the level of detail needed to produce this title are way above and beyond the capacity of most publishers in our field.
Mark Steinmetz. Past K-Ville. SanleyBarker. This is a title that I have a strange relationship with. When it was released with SB, I thought (from afar) that it looked a little too sweet for me. I am inclined towards desolation and perhaps “stillness” when I am looking at certain work-especially in its monochrome form. I also gravitate towards work like this that feature (forcefully) the absence of people. I was back and forth over whether or not to ask for a copy to review when it was sent to me. I regret having closed off to its potential. It is sweet and sometimes that is ok as well. There are engrossing images of America’s Faulkner-esque South, engaging dalliances between young couples of the 90s and a few very strange images-mostly portraits of young men within. I lived those years (90s) in America and I can almost hear Sonic Youth and Wu-Tang playing over these images in equal measure. Sentimental perhaps, but the romance within the book is unequivocally shameless.
Ruth Van Beek. How To Arrange the Flowers. APE and Dashwood. I love Ruth’s work. Her collages are exceptional and quite like none I have seen before and her use of material and her own archive is somewhat super satisfying to see in the context of her production with this book. It does remind me still of Richter’s Atlas in a strange way with the smell or morning toast and the hum of an 80’s children’s television show on in the background.
Daniel Shea. 43-45 10th Street. Kodoji Press. Capitalism, Architecture, Urbanity, Atavism. Shea is certainly one of the leading lights of his generation. The work he makes is slick and well-produced with concrete interventions into polemic discourse about the latter issues raised. A really strong effort given that he is also a masterful commercial photographer on the side.
Jan Mammey. Mise En Abyme. Kodoji Press. I really enjoyed this catalogue of elemental architecture propositions. The work is a reference palette for Mammey, its incongruent and stitched pieces forming something like a Frankenstein of mismatched architectural elements. It feels on one had like a workbook and on the other hand like a catalogue. One of the few books this year that I got with no knowledge of the title ahead and for which I found something refreshing.
Tom Griggs and Paul Kwiatowski. Ghost Guessed. Self-Published. Recommended to me by the great Christian Patterson, this small but incredibly detailed and interesting investigation into images of disappearance, tragedy and uncertainty is a book that one needs to take some time with. Much like Patterson’s own Redheaded Peckerwood, the book functions on an event within popular consciousness to varying degrees and is shrouded in archival and vernacular imagery as well as text. It’s a fascinating story and it is handled expertly by the authors. I find this kind of title exceeds the photographic community and becomes more of historical book with great images, something that neither field seems to know how to incorporate. Photography books with text of this magnitude are often unruly and historical books with too many photographs the same. This bridges that gap nicely.
Michal Siarek. Alexander. Self-Published. A really compelling book by a young Polish artist/photojournalist/blurred lines thereof. Siarek looks at Macedonia through the prism of nation state and culture, its definitions and its borders along with its historical precedents sometimes in dispute such as the claiming of Alexander the Great. The narrative is impeccably framed and no small amount of research has been conducted by Siarek in his investigation. Its very timely given the recent debate regarding Macedonia’s name and its subsequent change from Macedonia to the (ahem) slightly less cumbersome moniker of “Republic of Macedonia” ending a 27-year old dispute with Greece. Corruption, Greed, nationalism and history all manifested in one excellently edited and co-ordinated book.
Taco Hidde Bakker. The Photograph That took the Place of a Mountain. Fw: Books. A very important catalogue of essays by Taco who is one of the better writers on the medium currently. Insightful and covering unknown ground for me (Witho Worms), I found the book to be valuable even if I disagree with him about Francesca Woodman’s importance. Taco is one of the good guys in the business on top of being gifted.
Sally Mann. A Thousand Crossings. Abrams. I have been a fan of Mann’s for a long time. I think her “What Remains” body of work is still incredibly important though it differs vastly from her newer work in concept and her older Intimate Family work in aesthetics. She remains a key figure in the examination of family, but also place in photography. Her process, also harkening back to a Pictorialist tradition and even further back into wet-plate techniques is gloomy, sullen, but somehow optimistic in its relation to time and bond. This book is a huge compliment to her process, but also covers her work on race of the recent years, which I am somewhat at odds with, but so appreciate the candor and desire for sublimity with her subjects. I cannot say as to whether this work is successful in political merit, but I can say that on grounds of beauty it conforms to all of my thoughts on the matter.
David Jimenez. Aura. Self- Published. Infinito Books. I noticed this to be on David Solo’s list of the year as well and I think that broadly it deserves some recognition. Brooding in places and very challenging to the idea of visual order, Jimenez creates a Rubik’s cube in the form of practice. You have to twist and steer the images to a place where they can be conditioned to an interior form of understanding. Somehow mystic and reminiscent of his forefather Ortiz-Echague and the Spanish school of mystic photography, Jimenez breaks with tradition and delivers a tome of immense beauty and un-characteristically successful abstracted imagery.
Terje Abusdal. Slash & Burn. Kehrer. Abusdal gives a cryptic glance towards the “Forrest Finns”; a group of Finnish Slash and Burn farmers who emigrated to Norway and Sweden centuries previously. They have their own rituals, language and are in their minority a dwindling, but recognized tribe in Norway and Sweden. The images Abusdal takes are equally ritualistic and integral to the story in the sense of the mystery that pervades their form. Fire, odd conflagrations of elemental forces and an indebted sense of the grandiose ability of nature to define human presence are at once gratifying and uncanny. Abusdal won the Leica award for this work and rightly so. Great text by Aaron Schuman.
Nelson Morales. Musas Muxes. La Hydra. An incredible body of work in which Morales has made with the Muxe (inter-gender) community of Tehuantepec. The images are sensitive, alluring and radiate a warmth of authorship that includes involvement and understanding of the community. It does not feel forced, but rather inclusive. The images remind one a 1960s travel photography book in which the vistas they pertain to are given a perhaps overly beautified look. It is a kind of paradise. Rousseau and Nineteenth Century painting through to Gaugain are decent reference points. The work is brave, beautiful and inclusive. It does not feel like a project, but rather a relationship.
Charles Johnstone. Sayonara Setsuko. Sun Editions. Setsuko Hara was an actress who made a small handful of incredible films that Johnstone remembers from his youth. She disappeared from public life decades ago before passing away in 2015. Johnstone builds a shrine, an elegy and a sincere thank you to the myth and work of Hara in his book. Inside, the polaroid images of Hara acting are pulled from TV screens and speaks about nostalgia and idolization. There is a haunting element within the images as the drips in the polaroid condition the overall image to be reminiscent of the body and its decline. There is a biological function to the “error”. Haunting, elegant and a bit obsessive. This is one of three volumes from Johnstone working in this process.
Sandder Lanen. Vide Du L’ Appel. Self-Published. Vide Du L’ Appel is roughly translated as “the call of the void”. It presupposes a tendency in which we are called to make mistakes, find fault in the normal or at its extreme, examine things that are bad for us or unnatural. The philosophical engagement of which stretches back millennia and is probably best showcased in Pasqual’s battle between existential dilemma and his need to believe in god. Lanen’s approach is to be called towards the nocturnal in various geographic locations. There is a small cast of characters, women who distaste the faux-narrative of the book to a degree, but pull back and offer little in the theory of narrative. All of the images are made with incredible detail and beauty. I have never paid so much attention to a band-aid/plaster in a photograph. Its Lanen’s first book and shows incredible promise.
Fabrizio Albertini. Radici. Witty Kiwi. Radici or Roots in English is one of the noble meta-narrratives often employed in photography- it is that of history and the paroxysm of its archival format. In a anachronistic format, Albertini employs the archive at the end of the book-images of a particular (Imagined to be Italian) community. It follows his work, which subsequently is understood to be an update on the archival images in the back of the book. The images Albertini creates are uncommon and unusual images and his way of looking can be described as “askew”. Something is uncanny and unnerving throughout. Each image holds its own weight and that is what makes the body of work discombobulating and presciently uneven.
Federico Clavarino. La Vertigine. Witty Kiwi. Clavarino’s work as I came upon it in “The Castle” is often bound to literature. Projects start around an idea or possibly a book that fit his way of seeing, which is very clear throughout his projects even those in color. Clavarino is a student of photography, that his art incorporates this is a huge bonus-his well-crafted images are created in an obtuse, nearly surreal way which fits the basic tropes and needs of great literature as an apparatus or enabler. You get the sense that Clavarino’s vision and his methodology can be applied just about anywhere, thus containing any geography in front of his lens as his own. It’s very powerful and shows an artist in maturity producing important works often and with regularity.
Hector Meinhof. Three Nails, Four Wounds. Infinity Land Press. A Sebald-esque venture into the world of collecting by Mr. Meinhof. I have been watching Meinhof drop some of his collection onto various social media platforms over the past year or so. He is Swedish with a penchant for nuns, hidden mother images, and post-mortem photography, but he also collects Swedish studios in a less morbid fashion. The Three Nails, Four wounds title is a foray between the fantasy world of historic images and the literature, which can be fashioned from their appearance and I say appearance and fantasy on purpose. This is the wonderful world of collecting re-purposed by a true obsessive and not an artist playing with the collecting as practice medium that has become a bit outdated and silly. I praise Meinhof for flexing his talents and for Infinity Land for making it happen.
John Divola. Vandalism. MACK. Divola is able to sculpt (even in retrospect) an entire career from only one set of vandalized army barracks. He has of course, many other bodies of work, but what he gets up to in those barracks is simply beyond. I often feel like he is the photographic brainchild of a post-war H.P. Lovecraft and perhaps a 60s conceptual painter like Bernar Venet. If you want to learn about how to photograph a chair 1000 different ways with success, Divola can teach you.
Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger & Iris Sikking. Why Exhibit? Fw: Books. Hans, if you are reading this, PLEASE CONTINUE TO PUT OUT THEORY-DRIVEN BOOKS LIKE THIS AND the BAKKER title. Incredible book about how and why we exhibit work and where and what the political situations we should consider are when exhibiting. Great ruminations from Sikking on her PhotoKrakow curation along with a number of other essays by artists, curators and book-makers cum exhibition makers. We are going to have a longer interview in the coming weeks with the editors, but this was one of the important theory books for the year.
Victor Burgin. The Camera: Essence and Apparatus. MACK. Like Luigi Ghirri’s book of essays in both size and perfunctory necessity, Burgin’s book lands with us in a timely manner discussing both the political aspects of the medium along with the historical and the potential for its use and manipulation. Burgin is an incredibly important figure and if you haven’t been forced to read his Thinking Photography book already, this is perhaps a better place to wade in. Kudos to MACK for making these kind of titles available. We need more of this from publishers who know what they are doing and frankly have no economic need to produce these. This is for the love and the schools, of course.
Matthew Genitempo. Jasper. Twin Palms. I am very happy to see Twin Palms and Jack Woody to the return of the front lines this year. In the 90s and early 2000s, I was awed by his publishing house. Twin Palms and the very shortly lived Arena Edition produced some incredibly beautiful titles. Jasper is no less an exception to the Twin Palms Catalogue. A look into the life and goings on of a cast in the Ozark’s-the fabled land of myth currently popularized by a Netflix series. Genitempo falls into a strange category of documentary practice along with Bryan Schutmaat in which the work is somehow masculine, but somehow in negation to that very idea. It’s almost impossible to separate the state of America, the opioid epidemic, the idea of an expanded Appallachian nihilism and economy from the work. Some low-lying clouds hang over the sweet and saccharine nature of the work. It becomes haunting. There is an image of a man with a gun in a pick up truck…the hand rests on the butt of the gun in such a manner combined with the strange focal plane to appear as somehow a cadaverous suicidal image. Its not, but the image musters so much weight and potential that it haunted me for some time. Incredible offering.
Matthew Casteel. American Interiors. Dewi Lewis. This was one of my early choices in the first part of the year. It was clear quickly that the book was one thing, but incredibly well-crafted and thought through with sensitivity. It becomes an anthropological study of American veterans through the study of the interior of their automobiles-very American, but also very dystopian in some ways. There is lots of cigarette ash and evidence of gun carrying. Stray combs, stray cheeseburgers and torn interior pleather create an environment which shares the psychological state of the driver. Really heavy, but sensitive as mentioned. Colberg’s essay in the book is also very strong.
Sebastien Girard. The Diary of Tom Wilkins. Self Published. Incredible and supremely limited to 150 copies hand-bound and created by Girard from a huge selection of polaroids by a Mr. Tom Wilkins in the American 80’s. Wilkin’s feverish annotations and the obsessive quality of amassing a large amount of TV screen shots implemented with his often-time perverse thoughts on the subjects in frame become a psychological study of the photographic vernacular by another obsessive in Girard, whose earlier books, notable Strip-o-gram cover similar territory. What becomes even more interesting here is the idea of authorship. The books are beautiful and if you are lucky enough to get one, you will appreciate it.
Victor and Sergey Kochetov. Kochetov. Mockskop. An unbelievable book that perhaps has not hit everyone’s radar. Ukrainian and following in the tradition of the panoramic hand-colored photographic image. The work has precedent, namely Mikhailov who factors into a number of images within, but the design and the images themselves are sometimes cryptic, playful and fun. The design is also killer.
Philipp Anz, Jules Spinatsch, and Viola Zimmermann. Schmieren/Kleben Aus dem Archiv KKIII der Stadtpolizei Zurich 1976-1989. Edition Patrick Frey. Amazing book with Slogans written in public spaces in Zurich expressing nuance, discontent and awkward thoughts. Really interesting archival project from an insular country with great publishing. I love this book though I can’t fucking read it without google. Entertaining.
Leif Sandberg. Beyond the Mirror. VOID. Now, what I say next isn’t going to make everyone happy. Ending is Sandberg’s best book and this is his follow up, BUT it is really hard to compete with how amazing Ending was. Beyond the mirror however is excellent. It is an interesting proposition about what happens when you did not die when you were supposed to, but now have to wander around waiting to die again as if in purgatory. Beautifully designed by VOID with only one criticism in that I noticed that the text booklet design looks a bit too much like a Fitzcaraldo title. Were in the art business, those Fitzcaraldo people we read them too and I noticed it on page one so to speak. That should not take away from the sincerity or opulence of the book and project. Leif-what’s next is the question.
Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni. R(h)ome. Co-Published with MASA Publishing. This just dropped and it’s fucking with me. An incredible and strange compendium of images created in Rome, playing with the fictions, harsh realities and strange environment of Rome all in one profusely illustrated and intriguing book. I am reminded of the youngest child in a family where Miron Zownir and Christer Stromholm are the elder brothers. Dark and weird like Rome itself.
Marie Queau. Handbook. September books. A very strange small title that I picked up on whim. It has the feeling of a technology gone wrong or perhaps a book about alternative possibilities close to our own human understanding of the world, something like a plasmatic effect of an uncanny disposition.Really strong monochrome images. There is a play with fantasy here that is strange and beautiful.
Raul Hernandez. La Construccion. Self-Published. A strange an uncomfortable little book filled with repetitive images of waterfalls, house constructions and portraits of one woman at slightly different angles. The whole of which, probably due to my projection feels like a forensic-case study. There is something predatory and mysterious in the work by Hernandez. The muddy roads become dumping sites and the unfinished home construction and rotting fruit could be simply a measure of a dissolved relationship, but the pathological necessity of the repetition gets under the skin more than a bit.
Kensuke Koike & Thomas Sauvin. No More No Less 3 volumes. Skinnerboox, Jijihazi Press and (M) Editions. Amyazing. I remember Thomas showing me the work a few years ago in his flat before Koike had been formally introduced. The works were small and Sauvin was super excited about them. I could see and feel the nearly religious quality to the working details. A year later we ran an article on the collaboration No More No less-first to do so, thank you! Thank Thomas really and I have watched Koike rise from Thomas budding enthusiasm to a full-blown bona fide artist in the employ of photography. I also remember getting added by Koike on Instagram when he went on their right before he started with his daily videos. He had 13 followers, myself included. Today he has something like 106K. The work, the effort, the brilliance of both artists to recognize potential in the archival to this degree is rare. It is due to both the intricate work, but also Sauvin’s canny ability to spot something well-ahead of the curve. I think the books do both justice. They give more room to Sauvin’s archive efforts and in some cases, make Kensuke’s work rythymic and contained in a flow as opposed to individual efforts. You should pick up these early catalogues. They will be important.
Mark Ruwedel. Ouarzazate. MACK. I remember having a conversation with Dr. Eugenie Shinkle about three years ago about why her fascination with desolate “nothing” pictures and work by people like Ruwedel was not my thing. I found it tortuously slow. I will now eat my words. A lot of shit changes when you have a kid. The appreciation for the humility of emptiness both in thought and vision becomes something that one can long for. Almost like transcendental manifestions of meditation in a visual sense-I now love the ability to cogitate in one frame with little distraction from the buzz of people. I look for details like an archaeologist, but mostly, I empty myself and my mind’s eye thoroughly absorbing the quiet. Ouarzazate is a phenomenal book of photographs from a Morrocan film site where multiple lets are left in disuse. There is a lot of Luxor and Philae from Egyptian sites all in miniature and in wood. The photographs are flat, but permeate a sense of belief. It is a very timely book for me.
Talia Chetrit. Showcaller. Mack. The last three titles literally arrived today, but I have been in anticipation of all for some time. Showcaller is fantastic. It is a fully controlled Exhbition by a strong female author from an early age to her still relatively young age. It is very bodily, but also vacillates between fashion, contemporary practice ala Sarah Lucas, but then heads in odd directions that remind me in places of Collier Schorr and Torbjorn Rodland. It’s a bit early to see how engaged the photobook community will be with this, but just upon a couple of flip throughs, one thing I can say is that the perspective is bold and refreshing and unapologetically so.
(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm and Gabriela Cendoya Bergareche. Images @ Respective artists and publishers.)