Mark Power's Top Ten Photobooks of 2013
2013 was a good year for Photobooks. So, twelve days into 2014, here, in alphabetical order, are my ten favourites:
(Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych, Krakow)
For me, the highlight of last years Krakow Photomonth (well worth visiting in May this year) was an outdoor exhibition by the Ukrainian photographer Yurko Dyachyshyn featuring portraits of Slavik, a 55-year-old homeless man from Lviv. Everyday, Slavik dons different clothes, almost never wearing the same outfit twice. As Dyachyshyn himself describes in the foreword: "...(Slavik) regularly changes his hair style and the shape of his beard and even shaves armpits. This is very strange for a homeless man". This modest little book (of only 350 copies, so hurry...!) documents the extent of Slavick's vast wardrobe. and while the pictures themselves are nothing special the subject most certainly is.
Thank goodness... a Gronsky book at last. This is a collection of wonderful pictures the Latvian photographer made on the fringes of Moscow between 2009 and 2012. Looking through it now I'm struggling to find a single weak image, and can now confidently report that there isn't one. The design of the book is thankfully simple with good, crisp printing, allowing the pictures to breathe and those crucial tiny details to emerge. A book that will reward many sittings.
Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen
(The Sochi Project)
Four years in the making, Hornstra and Van Brueggen's tales of Sochi, the site of this year's Winter Olympics, is nothing if not epic. Throughout the project the pair have released a number of publications, each fascinating, and each different from the next. This years offering, The Secret History, is no exception. The book tells the story of one woman whose husband disappeared without trace in mysterious circumstances; it's an inspired and very moving piece of contemporary journalism. And let's not forget the recent Aperture publication, also highly recommended, which brings together their best work from the past four years, An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus.
I've been a big fan of Kollar's work for many years now - in fact we both use the same lab in Krakow - and it's good to see him finally getting the attention he deserves. If you're not familiar with it, I'd strongly recommend you taking a look.
Kollar grew up behind the Iron Curtain. While in Israel the constant surveillance he believed he was under reminded him of the Communist 'Normalisation' of Czechoslovakia, and the results of his understandable paranoia give us a picture of Israel as we've never seen it before: bizarre, chaotic, threatening... and often very funny. One gem of a picture follows another in an uncomfortable sequence; at the end of it all I'm more confused than I was at the beginning, making the book a wonderful example of photography's inability to be able to explain very much at all.
A lovely little book exploring Lopez's relationship with Jean Poppers, a blind man who experiences the world through birdsong. Mixing landscapes, tipped in portraits of Jean with hands to his ears, soundwave graphics, long sequences of filmstills... and an interaction with the 'Layar' iphone app which gives access to sound recordings and turns the stills magically into moving images. All very smart, but at the same time nicely understated.
And if all that isn't enough the book also comes with six different dust-jackets; you get them all, one on top of the other. Great stuff.
At last, a readily available Peter Mitchell book (Momento Mori, published in 1990, is now rare and expensive). In the introduction, Martin Parr, who should know, emphasises the significance of Mitchell's pioneering colour work for UK-based independent photographers in the 1970s.
Another beautiful Nazraeli publication (the seventh title of the Parr/Nazraeli series of ten) Mitchell made these pictures while driving a truck around Leeds, his adopted home town. It's a poignant reminder that we should photograph what surrounds us, no matter how familiar it might seem; that's exactly what Mitchell did (and continues to do) with tenderness and care.
Dewi Lewis Publishing / Here Press
A modest little book of only 500 copies, tightly edited, but with high production values. Originally Moore's pictures, made on a Council estate in his hometown of Derby between 1987 and 1988, were only published in Creative Camera magazine, but they've have always been influential. I remember seeing them way back then and wishing I'd worked in colour while making my Childrens Society photographs. We were both railing against Thatcher... but Moore did it better. The book also contains a typically poignant essay by David Chandler.
You wait forever and then two come along at once... It's taken a very long time for Steidl to finally print Minutes to Midnight and The Christmas Tree Bucket. Of the two, I probably prefer the latter as an book object (... and I thought my Christmas's were disfunctional...!) although both are staggeringly good. If there's a photographer out there who makes wonderful pictures so (apparently) effortlessly I'd like to know.
Parke is an extraordinary talent... and he was kind enough not to rub in England's Test Match humiliation too much.
Alec Soth and Brad Zellar
(Little Brown Mushroom)
While Sleeping by the Mississippi - almost ten years old, believe it or not - continues to cast its influentual net, Soth kicks his ball further and further upfield while we lesser mortals run along in his wake.
This years series of Dispatches (following on from Ohio, Upstate, and Mitchigan of 2012) are in the grand ol' tradition of photographer (Soth) and writer (Brad Zellar) taking to the road together in search of stories. The pair have already surpassed Sufjan Stevens (the musician once intent on making an album about all 50 States) in output. I can't wait for the single publication that must surely emerge from all of this work.
My earliest memory is being tightly held by my Mother as she tearfully repeated, again and again "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry". Some years later I asked her if I'd imagined the moment, but I hadn't. It was 1962, I was just three years old, and we were in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis. A dark shroud of potential nuclear annialiation hung over us, and Mum was apologising for the world she'd brought me into.
Willet's book took me straight back: These are intimate pictures of the first two years of his sons life, alongside bleak urban landscapes, dark still-lives and 'borrowed' enlargements of press pictures of the 'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrations. The whole thing paints a picture of instability and uncertainty in an unnerving sequence which would surely touch anyone with young children.
And, since making that list was so difficult, here are another ten that nearly made it:
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Holy Bible (Mack)
Mark Cohen Dark Knees (Le Bal)
Mitch Epstein New York Arbor (Steidl)
Geert Goiris Lying Awake (Roma)
Brian Griffin The Black Kingdom (Dewi Lewis)
Rinko Kawauchi Ametsuchi (Aperture)
Simon Menner Top Secret (Hatje Cantz)
Oscar Monzon Karma (RVB Books)
Richard Mosse The Enclave (Aperture)
Vanessa Winship She Dances on Jackson (Mack)