Winter is finally receding, and the first hints of spring are in the air (we say, hopefully!), so we thought it was high time we shared some of the lovely books we've been reading recently.
From the ethereal and abstract, to the hard-hitting and thought provoking, we've been enjoying some really good reads over the last few months. Read on to find out about some of our favourites, with some descriptions from the publishers and some thoughts from us too…
Image above: Edge (Verse I) #29 (2003) © Nicholas Hughes
Nowhere Far, the first monograph by Nicholas Hughes, has been 15 years in the making and spans six separate series of abstract and ethereal landscapes. Hughes’s work is concerned with landscape, the environment and contemporary man’s relationship to these, examining the space between the world people habit and that which nature claims as its own.
Hughes work is formed through observing the changing patterns of nature over a two to three-year period in a series of locations, created in some ways, by being still. Over time, his working practice has evolved so he only makes his work within walking distance of his homes – ‘In Darkness Visible’ was produced in London public parks and ‘Field’ in Cornwall. Each work, despite the self-imposed geographical restriction, is meant to represent nature worldwide and not the specific location of creation.
His work is an introspective antidote to our current era of high-speed image production and circulation, both in its method of production and the resulting photograph, and could be termed as slow photography. Each image is captured using a large-format camera and film and printed by hand in a colour darkroom, and the final photographs are meditative and encourage the viewer to slow down and reflect. Many of Hughes’ titles allude to musical analogies, whilst visually embracing the modernist formal language of minimalism and abstraction. His work is a continuation of the romantic landscape tradition from the Pictorialist movement of the 20th century – yet with the complete absence of human presence in the frame.
Nowhere Far presents a series of abstract landscape images in the form of highly silvered prints on dark blue paper which lead into a body of hued prints on white, and back to blue; a moonlit night to starkness of day. The structure of the book interrupts the usual flow of narrative, mirroring the interruption of the aesthetic gaze traditionally associated with landscape photography.
The Foreword (in the middle of the book), by Brett Rogers outlines the focused and slow process of the imagery produced by Hughes. The abstract approach to working in landscape opens up the possible interpretations for the images and allows the viewer to bring their own experience to that.
In addition, there are two written pieces by Jay Griffiths, and Martin Barnes, both of which give further context to the work in process and inspiration. There is a self-imposed constraint on the work in only photographing what is accessible by walking distance from his home, hence the title Nowhere far. Form and content work in synchronicity to echo Hughes environmental concerns and visual interpretations of what the landscape has to say.
There is a haunting darkness to this body of work, a comparison with music in the range of tones and mood. Each frame is a doorway to a world of reflection and contemplation of both the beauty of the natural world and Hughes concern for the impact we are wreaking on it.
Nowhere Far by Nicholas Hughes
Published by GOST
Hardback clothbound screen printed cover
240 x 320 mm, 112 pages
Image above: As Light Falls #9 (2015) © Nicholas Hughes
Nowhere Far was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Lynne Connolly.
Mythologies is the result of a dialog between the artist Erwan Morère and the music artists Masaya Ozaki & Kaito Nakahori initiated by IIKKI between August 2016 and August 2017.
The complete project works in two physical imprints :
the book and the vinyl.
it should be experienced in different manners :
the book watched alone
the vinyl listened to alone
the book and the vinyl watched and listened to together.
Smudges of grey against black gradually form into bodies, shadowy, ghostly. A girl floats on her back in an open air swimming pool, eerily devoid of other people. A face looms out of a muddled fog of grey, eyes slowly coming into focus – that skin-creeping feeling you get when you think you’re alone, then suddenly realise you’re being watched.
Such is the world you enter when opening the book Mythologies by Erwan Morère. Encased in dreamily soft, velvety black covers, the book is wonderfully tactile, a feeling enhanced by the deliciously grainy texture of the photographs inside. More like charcoal drawings than photographs, many of these these minimal, subtle images verge on the abstract, with just enough recognisability as to be eerily uncanny.
Mythologies is the latest edition from IIKKI, who bring together photographic and music artists in collaboration, creating a book and accompanying vinyl, which, they advise, should be experienced separately, and together. I didn’t have a copy of the vinyl, by Masaya Ozaki and Kaito Nakahori, but did listen to the sample on the IIKKI website.
The music is as other-worldly as the photographs. A discordant scratchiness which alone feels uncomfortable and unnerving, when experienced alongside the images provides an auditory mirror to their grain and blur. When experienced together, the music and book are harmonious in their disharmony. The music, like the images, is at times uneasy, jarring, nerve jangling; at times achingly beautiful, tranquil, serene. As such, the music provides a striking accompaniment, adding depth and richness to the experience of looking.
Going beyond just looking and listening, Mythologies enters a realm of abstract feeling and emotion. It’s not always a comfortable experience, but it is a hauntingly, eerliy, unsettlingly beautiful one.
It’s a rare occasion that I’ve found a book that gives me goosebumps.
Mythologies by Erwan Morère
Published by IIKKI
24cm x 16.5 cm on Munken Print, 96 pages, 66 photos, printed on Amber Graphic 150g/m2, duotone/bichromy processing, logo, slot and circle embossed. matt Laminate soft touch finish.
Limited edition to 500 copies hand numbered & hand stamped.
Mythologies was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Rachel Wright.
Under ‘natural’ circumstances, the average woman would get pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood. For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women die from botched abortions.
Across many countries and religions, millions of women are still denied access to abortion by the law or by social coercion. They are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, even minors and rape victims, and for many the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalized for trying to abort.
On Abortion is the first part of Laia Abril’s new long-term project, A History of Misogyny. The work was first exhibited at Les Rencontres in Arles and awarded the Prix de la Photo Madame Figaro and the Fotopress Grant. Abril documents and conceptualizes the dangers and damage caused by women’s lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. She draws on the past to highlight the long, continuing erosion of women’s reproductive rights through to the present-day, weaving together questions of ethics and morality, to reveal a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been largely invisible until now.
I wasn’t really sure how I would respond to a book about abortion – it’s such a deeply emotive and often controversial subject. I had wondered if the book would perhaps be shocking, or at the very least, upsetting – and in all honesty it is… just not in the way I expected.
Arriving in it’s simple, plain cover, reminiscent of a medical notes folder in design, I didn’t really have any further clues about what to expect. On further study, the understated cover sets the tone for the whole narrative of the book. Rather than shouting in outrage about the issues, it instead whispers quietly, gently urging the reader to carefully consider the facts, images and stories presented to them.
Simple photographic studies of historic and more current artefacts relating to to women’s ongoing disempowerment about their fertility, and to legal and illegal abortion practices are thoughtfully mixed with gentle, penetrating portraits of people working on the front line of improving access for women, and transcriptions of interviews with them.
Later in the book, anonymised records of women who died because they were unable to access legal abortion, act as a stark reminder of their lack of agency in their own lives, and the ramifications of their being denied the ability to legally and safely terminate their pregnancies.
When all these threads are presented together, the effect is powerful and compelling. I found I carried the effect of the book with me for several days – it would pop in to my consciousness again and again – the softly-softly approach worked so well at communicating its message – the realities of disempowered women with a lack of access to reliable contraception, or lack of education about it, the insight in to the desperation of women facing abortion, and the risks they face in order to access it.
On Abortion by Laia Abril
Published by Dewi Dewis
245 x 188 mm, 196 pages
On Abortion was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Miriam Winsor.
The images reproduced in Flamingo, the second monograph by artist Chloe Sells, are adapted from photographs taken in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana, one of the largest breeding grounds for flamingos in the Southern Hemisphere.
‘There is a place on earth that looks like white paint has spilled from the heavens and splashed across its surface. There is no arboreal green. There is no azure water. There is no earthy, brown soil. This albino birthmark is the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in the heart of the Kalahari Desert of Botswana.
The word Makgadikgadi means, ‘the place of the dry, dry’. In spite of this, the area was not always desert. It was once an ancient lake, thought to be one of the largest on earth. Thousands of years ago the waters that fed this lake shifted and it became a series of smaller lakes, eventually evaporating altogether leaving salt flats stretching to the horizon.’ Chloe Sells
The photographs are created using an analogue large format camera and later printed in a traditional darkroom. The darkroom process is spontaneous and consuming, layering light, texture and form to interact with photographic alchemy. Some of the images are drawn on after they have been printed with paint and marker. Because of Sells' method of working, each outcome is unique.
Flamingo is an experience as much as a book; it is a delight to the senses of touch and vision. Chloe Sells has explored the Salt Pans of the Kalahari Desert with her large format film camera and creative exploration is very much the essence of this book.
The notion of time spent, ideas layered and depth of process considered is rich in this book’s presentation. Colours, prisms, paints and photographic mischievousness are all at play in these complex and beautiful images.
The cover is soft and cool to touch yet vibrant and psychedelic in the use of colour and abstract shapes. Flamingo leads you through a series of images that make you question what you see and tap more into what you feel or imagine. There is an added visual puzzle in the structure of the book form itself which enables a connection between images, an additional layer of seeing and interacting across images and themes.
This is a book which demands handling, touching, interacting with, and rewards with sheer visual pleasure. Despite the name, no flamingos appear in the photographs but their habitat, essence and sense of space and flight are all present. Flamingo pushes the notion of the photographic book form in both the content and structure and how they create a more imaginary narrative.
Flamingo by Chloe Sells
Published by GOST
Hardback, silk screen cover, 6 different coloured covers
215 x 330 mm, 72 pages
Image above: The Whisperers © Chloe Sells
Flamingo was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Lynne Connolly.
For the past seven years Niall has travelled the country stopping at more than 200 towns along the way. Town to Town will feature more than 50 portraits from this journey in his singular, colourful style.
Most of our town centres have the same high street shops and the same café chains all selling the same things. But every town has its distinctive character given by the individuals who walk its streets. Town to Town brings together a unique portrait of Britain in a time of huge social change for the country.
For 7 years, Niall McDiarmid bought cheap train tickets and travelled across Britain taking thoughtfully composed portraits of people across towns and cities.
If you read photography articles in the press or visited the Museum of London between May and October last year, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen his work for yourself. Having also published portraits of Britain in two other books and online, this new collection is a truly pre-Brexit protest of sorts.
In his familiar and signature style, it’s a book that beautifully partners the colours of skin, hair and clothes with the landscape and surroundings of a changing country that is proudly diverse. The focus is far less on the location and all about the human being and what Britain looks like today. A moment which may be serendipitously conceived, strikes as being carefully considered and composed. If not for interviews and footage of him in action, you might be fooled into thinking this series was painfully and slowly choreographed for maximum impact.
It’s a testament to his confidence and eye for composition that he continues to produce work which draws in an increasing base of admirers. Published to coincide with the Town to Town exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation, this is a highly recommended book if you can get your hands on it.
Town to Town by Niall McDiarmid
Published by RRB Photobooks
Yellow cloth sewn hardcover
240 x 270 mm, 120 pages
Edition of 1000
Town to Town by Niall McDiarmid was published by RRB PhotoBooks in January 2018 and will be exhibited at the Martin Parr Foundation from 31 January – 15 May 2018.
Image above: Southchurch Road, Southend-On-Sea – February 2017 © Niall McDiarmid
Town to Town was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Laura Ward.
For over a decade, Simon Roberts has photographed events and places across Britain that have drawn people together in public, communal experiences. This has often been an implicit theme of his work, the apparent desire for common presence and participation and the need to share a sense of belonging, suggesting something distinctive about our national character and identity.
Whilst Roberts’s interests have often gravitated towards evolving patterns of leisure, and the consumption and commodification of history, he has also chosen to photograph events and places that have a more immediate, topical significance in the turning of Britain’s recent history, and which – summoning the sense of a national survey – collectively form a visual chronicle of the times in which we live.
Merrie Albion ranges across several of his projects from the last decade, projects that have explored not only our leisure landscape but also our social and political landscape. The book registers a distinct shift in approach, and tone, from his work in We English. Roberts has exchanged the element of discovery and revelation evident in his earlier travels through England, for a form of ‘reporting’, in which he responds to subjects and places that are already firmly positioned within the public consciousness – defining locations in our recent national story.
‘Merrie Albion’ is a beautifully produced collection of photographs from Simon Roberts’ projects from the last decade, documenting events and places across Britain that have drawn people together in public communal experiences.
Designed by Ben Weaver, the book as an object draws you in immediately. Substantial in size and tactile in design, the unusual cover creates a sense of something special and significant.
The scale of images is perfect – Roberts’ large format photographs demand to be viewed at a size that allows you to pore over every crisp detail, and the choice of paper offers beautiful reproductions with a tactile quality that sits perfectly within the design of the book as a whole.
Seeing the projects assembled in this way, complimented by insightful and considered text by respected writers from a range of backgrounds, makes ‘Merrie Albion’ a fascinating study of a Britain that is at once familiar and strange. Although we recognise many of the scenes pictured, be it from press coverage of events such as the 2010 Elections, or memories of childhood visits to National Trust properties, seeing them captured from Roberts’ characteristic elevated, slightly distanced viewpoint and in large format, allows us to experience them from a fresh perspective.
‘Merrie Albion’ is a book I can imagine returning to many times in years to come – a stunning record of a uniquely British landscape.
Merrie Albion by Simon Roberts
Published by Dewi Lewis
340mm x 283mm, 152 pages
Image above © Simon Roberts
Merrie Albion was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Jayne Lloyd.
The definitive history of photography book, Seizing the Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography delivers the fascinating story of how photography as an art form came into being, and its continued development, maturity, and transformation.
Covering the major events, practitioners, works, and social effects of photographic practice, Robert Hirsch provides a concise and discerning chronological account of Western photography. This fundamental starting place shows the diversity of makers, inventors, issues, and applications, exploring the artistic, critical, and social aspects of the creative process. The third edition includes up-to-date information about contemporary photographers like Cindy Sherman and Yang Yongliang, and comprehensive coverage of the digital revolution, including the rise of mobile photography, the citizen as journalist, and the role of social media.
Highly illustrated with full-color images and contributions from hundreds of artists around the world, Seizing the Light serves as a gateway to the history of photography. Written in an accessible style, it is perfect for students newly engaging with the practice of photography and for experienced photographers wanting to contextualize their own work.
From the title, it might be easy to mistake this book as yet another instructional text for the budding photographer, keen to ‘seize the light’ and create better images. This book though has set its sights on a much loftier target, that of outlining the entire history of photography while signposting the key moments along the way. From the innate human urge to create likenesses seen in prehistoric cave paintings, right up to automated drone imaging digitally-rendered in three dimensions.
Of course, that’s a lot for any book to tackle. The pleasure then is in being able to marvel at how expertly and coherently Hirsch relates this centuries’ long tale, with the reader never being overwhelmed with abstruse jargon, or dumped at a station along the journey and expected to fend for oneself amongst the towering giants of photographic history with no idea how you got there. Hirsch walks you confidently through this fascinating story, educating and informing at all times, while also making links to happenings in the wider world outside photography. With a beautiful way of highlighting pivotal moments in the history of the medium, the text remains accessible for the complete novice, while offering enough substance (and well-judged citing of important practitioners) to provide a starting point for further research in specific topics that may interest the student.
The cover synopsis suggests that this book will be mainly of interest to photography students or ‘experienced photographers’, but I would argue that this text has a greater potential audience based on its scope, the way it is presented, and the fact that the practice of photography is now indivisible from modern life in the developed world. The relevance of photography must be considered in any serious examination of the visual arts, sociology, advertising, cultural trends, corporate and personal communication as well as domestic and community life (amongst other things). As such, anyone interested in why the world around us is the way it is, could certainly learn something in this book and thus it’s easy to recommend.
Seizing The Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography, 3rd edition by Robert Hirsch
Published by Focal Press
Textbook – 594 Pages – 370 colour illustrations
Seizing The Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography, 3rd edition was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Justin Carey.
The contemporary Japanese scene is remarkably complex, extremely varied, and even enticing.
The fact that it is impossible to define one or more trends is extremely positive: there are so many different fields of research, all explored with equal intensity and with an originality that Western photography so often lacks. And this is another characteristic that makes Japanese images unique. The photographers are able to distance themselves from the weighty legacy of the masters and take up issues related to the changes underway in contemporary society, addressing them in limpid works that can be formally classic yet incisive, raw and essential.
Maiko Haruki, Naoki Ishikawa, Tomoko Kikuchi, Toshiya Murakoshi, Yurie Nagashima, Sohei Nishino, Koji Onaka, Yuki Onodera, Chino Otsuka, Tomoko Sawada, Lieko Shiga, Risaku Suzuki, Ryoko Suzuki, and Chikako Yamashiro belong to a generation of artists who are proceeding in open order and still lack the appropriate support, but are aware of their skills. They are also able to appeal to people’s sensitivity across the board, especially that of the critics and Western public, who seem to have been dulled by redundant aestheticism for years.
I’d not really encountered a great deal of Japanese photography prior to looking at this book – and it’s now become clear I’ve been missing out on some incredible artists’ work.
Taking the form of a diverse showcase, 14 artists are featured, each with a brief contextual statement about their work or the project that’s been selected. The majority of page estate, however, is dedicated to the images.This makes it a book you feel you want to dip in and out of and it’s very visually appealing. The eclectic mix of styles and genres means that it serves as a launchpad for further investigation, rather than a complete narrative. It’s the kind of book I can imagine picking up again and again, just to leaf through and enjoy where it takes me next.
My favourites reflect the diversity of the book’s curation: Particularly interesting for me were Tomoko Sawada’s witty staged self-portraits that comment on the construction of identity by enacting familiar photography tropes and conventions. I found I was also drawn to Sohei Nishino’s ‘Diorama maps’ – incredibly detailed photographic of cities that are at once instantly familiar and yet urge you to study them closely, seeing them not only as the whole, but as the many individual photographs Nishino creates her work with. Ryoko Suzuki’s work is different again – visceral and challenging and impossible to ignore.
New Trends in Japanese Photography by Fillipo Maggia.
Published by Skira
240 x 280 mm, 176 pages
New Trends in Japanese Photography was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Miriam Winsor.