PHOTOBOOK FAVOURITES #09

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© Alain Laboile

It has been a long winter, and we were lucky to have had the company of some luminous new photography books to help us through the darker days. Let us go over some of our favourites with you, share some words from their publishers, and tell you why we liked them…

© Chloe Rosser

Form & Function by Chloe Rosser, Stay Free Publishing

THEY SAY:

Form & Function by Chloe Rosser deals with the human condition and our increasing alienation from our own bodies. In these photographs, what should be intimately familiar is transformed into an unfamiliar sculpture.

Rosser challenges mainstream conceptions of body image through capturing a fluidity of gender and identity, embracing inclusivity every step of the way. The book is a culmination of Rosser’s work over the last five years.

WE SAY:

Published towards the end of 2018, Chloe Rosser’s Form and Functionbrings together two projects, both of which take a sculptural look at the human body and challenge the viewer to rethink the way we see ourselves.

Presenting images created over a 5-year period, Rosser’s subjects are contorted into shapes devoid of heads, limbs and other differentiating features. The viewer is left to consider an almost unearthly form, positioned in an unassuming space and the questions that this construction evokes. Who is this person? How are they able to hold this position? What gender are they?

Once you’ve passed beyond those superficial immediate concerns, the images begin to address much more profound ideas. The beauty that is intrinsic to all people regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, how much you weigh or what your face looks like. The strength and vulnerability that we all carry, both of which are often obscured by the façade that we present to the world every day. These ideas are woven through each fibre of every page in this book.

Rosser further develops these ideas by introducing additional forms into the space. It’s impossible to escape the suggestion of relationships, and sometimes tension, between them. Again, these forms allude to universal notions of equality of people, of our interdependence, and of our need for connection and interaction as they intertwine, bodies lean on each other for support and these solemn shapes exist in a transiently perfect equilibrium.

Rosser’s images are beautifully crafted, both in the execution of the pose but also in the formality and technical proficiency of their composition, as diffused natural light gently bathes these eerily familiar forms in spaces that rarely draw your attention from the subject. Occasionally, a wallpaper pattern or chest of draws will materialise, jolting the viewer into remembering and recontextualising these sculptural forms in a domestic human setting. Mostly though, you are struck by how relatable these forms are – they could be anyone, they could be me, you could be them.

In their somewhat otherworldliness and close attention to small details, these images bring to mind the work of Torbjorn Rodland or Sam Jinks. Rosser brings a thoughtfulness and precision of communication to bear, honed over a number of years of diligent enquiry into her subject. The work is unsettling in a way that doesn’t alienate the viewer, masterfully simple and yet satisfyingly complex, because of the various layers of meaning embedded in each image and the work as a whole. As such the viewer is invited to linger a while with each photograph, to ponder the curves and lines, to wonder how comfortable you yourself might feel under the perceptive yet respectful gaze of Rosser’s lens.

This is work to be enjoyed at length, to be revisited and contemplated. The hardback is a pleasure to handle and spend time with and the photographs are beautifully reproduced. A transcript of an interview with Rosser brings the book to a close, by which time you will have hopefully arrived at your own conclusions about what you have seen. My conclusion is that this work, like all great art, succeeds in reminding you of your selfas well as of the traits that connect us all.

 

Form & Function by Chloe Rosser
Published by Stay Free Publishing
Limited to: 500 copies
Hardcover
24 x 28 cm, Portrait
120 pages

You can buy Form & Function here (affiliate link).

Form & Function by Chloe Rosser was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Justin Carey

 

© Oliver Krebs

Signal & Noise by Oliver Krebs , Kehrer

THEY SAY:

Oliver Krebs is one of the few protagonists of street photography who one could describe as being both subjective and conceptual. In Signal & Noise, his struggle for the photographic image beyond the centered view becomes manifest. With his roots in painting, he conceives the image as such from a new perspective. If the motif is the »signal,« then the Berlin-based photographer is interested in the »noise« that overlays this signal. Time and again, his images appear to dissolve themselves, pictorial layers become interwoven, and the viewer is ultimately introduced to a new form of photography.
Oliver Krebs searches for, indeed researches, images: It is thus only logical that he juxtaposes his photographs with text fragments from the great explorers of the 19th century. A dialog from which we can learn a great deal about our own searching and seeing.

WE SAY:

The three opening images in Krebs book are clear signposts to an abstract way of viewing and interpreting the world. The viewer is invited to open their mind to the visual clues and signals that float through these images.  They are representations of Kreb’s worldview with space to linger and bring your own perspective.

The notion of a worldview underpins this work as Kreb draws on quotations and perspectives from a scientific realm, including Humboldt, Darwin, and Faraday. This underpinning weaves through social observations that draw on the need to reflect as well as observe. In this sense the work combines street photography with a quiet perspective. The narrative here is about connections and the viewer is allowed to make their own, the work doesn’t shout its message but gives room to have a visual dialogue. The cool observation of science is set against the internal dialogue we might have with ourselves and a way of navigating in the world.

It is a timely and yet timeless book, conflict, identity, citizenship and changing of boundaries is in constant change across the globe. The impact of political decisions and sense of lack of control is everywhere. Signal & Noise gives us permission to step back from it all and rethink what we see and how we see it.

 

Signal & Noise
Published by Kehrer 2018
Half-cloth hardcover
24 x 22 cm
96 pages 57 color ills.
English, German
ISBN 978-3-86828-883-4

You can buy Signal & Noise here (affiliate link). 

Signal & Rauschen | Signal & Noise was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Lynne Connolly.

 

© IIKKI Penuenas Melodias

Penuenas Melodias by Albarrán Cabrera/Durand, IIKKI

THEY SAY:

“There is a gap between reality and what we understand as real. And photography lies in the frontier between the real and unreal, the true and the false. So it helps us to “see” what is hidden from us. (…) We use a wide range of processes and materials. Some of these processes are the result of the combination of several old photographic processes or they can be a mixture of new and old ones. Thus we use, platinum, palladium, cyanotype or gelatine silver processes. But we have also invented and developed new processes, as it is the case of the one we use for our colour prints: pigments, Japanese paper and gold leaf. All this serves just one single purpose: we want to have far more parameters to play with the viewer than just the image. The texture, colour, finishing, tones; even the border of a print can give extra information to the viewer. And you can have a better control over this information just using the correct process and materials for a specific image.. (Albarrán Cabrera)”.

WE SAY:

Pequeñas Melodías by photographers Albarrán Cabrera is an exquisite piece of work produced by IIKKI, a French project which is the result of a dialog between a visual artist and a music artist. Accompanied by nine pieces of music from Federico Durand, the project recommends that you experience the work in one of 3 ways. The book by itself alone, the music by itself alone or the book and the music together.

Albarrán Cabrera are the photographers Anna Cabrera and Angel Albarrán who work together as a collaborative duo based in Barcelona. Federico Durand is an Argentinian musician and composer who has recorded twelve solo albums since 2010.

The book, like a vinyl record, has an A side and a B side. Each piece of music compliments the nine sections of the book. These ambient field-like recordings bring each section to life. It’s difficult to know if the music was inspired by the photographers, or vice versa. There are hints throughout of space, time, gardens, beauty, peace and stillness in the outdoors. The images are produced using a wide range of old photographing processes in conjunction with more modern twists.

This production is a very well-planned piece and a magical example of brilliantly curated collaboration. When enjoyed with the music, the pace is prescribed at 39 minutes from start to finish. At no point do you want to rush ahead, though the ending is magnificent and well worth the journey.

Whether it was intended or not, the multi-sensory experience is much like an exhibition in your living room/bedroom. If you ever come across this book, or the vinyl recordings (you can listen on bandcamp), we highly recommend that you take the opportunity to own it.

 

Penuenas Melodias by Albarrán Cabrera
Published by IIKKI
Limited edition of 500 copies, hand numbered & hand stamped.
Hardcover book
24 cm x 22 cm on Munken Print
96 pages, 54 photos

Penuenas Melodias by Albarrán Cabrera was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Laura Ward.

 

© Becky Probert

Under Different Skies by Becky Probert 

THEY SAY:

The stars that fill our skies have always fascinated mankind. The desire to know and understand more about the five ‘wandering stars’ visible to the naked eye led to the development of lenses and the study of Physics. As these areas have advanced it has vastly changed the perceptions of our existence and understanding of our place within the cosmos. We can’t yet walk amongst the stars and see all of these wonders first hand, so we rely on technology to give us a closer glimpse of these wonders, and imagination to explore what the other worlds scattered throughout the universe may look like. ‘Under Different Skies’ is about finding these new worlds within the ordinary, by exploring closely the details of commonplace objects and using the camera to unlock elements and transform them into something that cannot be seen without the lens as intermediary, hinting at what lies beyond our normal perceptions and re-imagining the universe.

Becky Probert completed an MA in Photography at The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in East London in 2017. She is currently based in Nottingham. Her photography centres around exploring patterns and details within her environment, and abstracting objects by taking them out of their original context, using the lens to transform them and playing with perceptions. She works with both digital and analogue techniques, and creates the colours and effects in her work through manipulation of lighting while shooting. Becky has a keen interest in physics and science fiction which has influenced the direction of her work.

WE SAY:

Imagination is a powerful thing. As someone whose personal beliefs are rooted in evidence and fact, in science and nature, I am deeply intrigued by the magic of possibility. The things we have yet to discover; the unknown.This may be why I am drawn to the more abstract photographic image, and Becky Probert’s book, Under Different Skies, does not disappoint.

It opens a door for you to waltz right into a kaleidoscope of swirling marbles, of rolling sand dunes, of shattered glass, of crumbled soil, of broiling oceans and burning planets – yet things are not what they seem.

With this series, Probert is pushing us to think beyond the “limitations of our own vision”.

We have all heard the expressions ‘the camera never lies’ and ‘seeing is believing’, but Under Different Skies shows us something else. It is based on our need to rely on other technology such as telescopes to explore that which is beyond our own sight. And yet, even this, at times, can only hint at what is there.

The images resound with Probert’s interest in physics and science fiction and reflect a playfulness between what is and what might be. They are imbued with an other-worldliness.

As astronomers and cosmologists suggest alternate universes to the one we know may exist, Probert uses her camera to find “new worlds within the ordinary”.

She turns a 50mm lens with a macro attached on everyday objects found around her home, capturing something beyond our standard vision.

Playing with fabrics and lighting, Probert conjures up colours and effects in camera; mostly shooting digital she sometimes opts for film as it records differently.

Shooting the same object with the same lighting on two different cameras creates different “scenes” that brings a sense of fun to her work, while colour filters in the darkroom give her freedom to change the tone and feel of the final images.

She describes the ability to “throw all of the colour printing rules out of the window and just play” as one of the best things about abstract work.

This may be another reason why I am drawn to her images in this book – work made on the edges of control where anything could happen.

By being open to experimentation, she creates images that are perplexing as well as aesthetically pleasing. The results enable the viewer’s imagination to soar.

The book evolved from Probert’s MA. Although a resolved project, she has said with her “long-seated and ongoing interest in science and space there’s almost certainly going to be a ‘part two’ in future”.

It will be intriguing to see the new frontiers she creates.

But the subject matter Probert turns into infinite galaxies or vast oceans and deserts by focusing on the detail our own eyes cannot comprehend is irrelevant.

There isn’t any need to even have to try and name what our eyes think we may see.

Simply revelling in the joy of viewing these images, and marvelling in how our imagination and the science of photography can make our lives less ordinary is enough.

 

Under Different Skies by Becky Probert
Published by Becky Probert
10″x 8″ landscape book, 24 pages on premium lustre paper with printed hardcover
Featuring a written introduction and 20 full colour photographs
Published November 2017

Under Different Skies was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Josie Purcell.

 

Children’s playground and the Lakeside Health Centre, Tavy Bridge. 1973 © Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre

The Town of Tomorrow, 50 Years of Thamesmead (Peter Chadwick, Ben Weaver, Tara Darby, John Grindrod)

THEY SAY:

Rising from London’s Erith marshes in the 1960s, Thamesmead was London County Council’s bold attempt to build a new town to address the city’s housing shortage after the Second World War. Noted for its daring, experimental design – concrete modern terraces, blocks of flats and elevated walkways built around a system of lakes and canals – the town received attention from architects, sociologists and politicians throughout the world but also gained notoriety as the backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s film, ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Today Thamesmead is home to more than 40,000 people, but over the years, economic, political and social pressures have left their mark. In the 1980s, as opinion turned against the modernist concrete architecture, the focus shifted to more conventional red-brick homes. Since the 1990s, as some of the original buildings began to fall into disrepair, Thamesmead has relied increasingly on private investment for new developments in what had previously been a mainly council-run town. After the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, numerous bodies have managed the town and now Peabody are embarking on an ambitious regeneration plan.

In ‘The Town of Tomorrow’, 50 years of Thamesmead’s history have been assembled and preserved. The architecture of the town and its inhabitants are captured by archive material combined with newly commissioned photography by Tara Darby. Original plans, models, postcards, leaflets and newspaper cuttings are presented alongside interviews with local residents. Together with an introductory essay by John Grindrod, the images convey the story of this influential but often misunderstood town, from the dreams and excitement of its ambitious original vision to the complex realities of living there today.

WE SAY:

The Town of Tomorrow is a fascinating book, detailing the inception and development of the town of Thamesmead, situated a few miles east of Greenwich just south of the river Thames. The book, which commemorates Thamesmead’s 50th anniversary, provides an authoritative overview of the historical backdrop against which the plans to commence building in this area were made, as well as the subsequent development and evolution of the area in both architectural and sociological terms. The story is told using a combination of archive images, architectural drawings and plans, alongside photographs throughout the years and reflections from Thamesmead residents, with an introduction by John Grindrod.

Photographs from the 1950s onwards are adroitly contrasted with contemporary images taken by Tara Darby, which together describe the steady evolution of a place from disused marshland in the 1950s, to 1970s home of the future, to the haven of disparate immigrant communities and multicultural melting pot it seems to be today. Early black and white images suggesting an urban ideal are juxtaposed with images from the present day, showing the same scenes, now somewhat drab and lacking the pristine optimism of yesteryear. Residents, both then and now, are depicted in formal poses or at leisure, proud of themselves and their surroundings.

The fortunes of Thamesmead seem to mirror wider national developments throughout the years, with post-war doldrums giving way to a new sense of ambition and possibilities, reflected in ultramodern visions of sophisticated urban marina living and architecture that pointed towards a beautifully utilitarian future. As economic fortunes waned in the late 1970s, however, and the composition of its community naturally changed, so did the aspirations attached to Thamesmead. Various changes in governance following the dissolution of the Greater London Council in the mid-1980s also contributed to a dilution of the original vision for this area, although the book argues that under the current stewards, Peabody, the future is again bright.

The personal accounts of Thamesmead residents past and present suggests that, despite the inevitable change that has affected this urban village, there remains a proud sense of community, an affiliation with the area and a sense of kinship amongst its occupants that is genuinely valued. As the changes in the physical environment documented in this book continue apace, it is apposite to remember that ultimately a community consists of the people who comprise it and we can all make positive contributions in our own communities, a more meaningful monument than any building can provide.

The Town of Tomorrow will be of great interest to many, including anyone with a personal connection with Thamesmead, urban historians, nostalgic children of the 1970s (such as myself) and anyone interested in how new communities are planned and developed.

 

The Town of Tomorrow, 50 Years of Thamesmead

Here Press
210 x 260 mm, 188pp quarterbound hardback, 193 colour and black & white illustrations
Edited by Peter Chadwick and Ben Weaver, new photography and interviews by Tara Darby, introductory essay by John Grindrod
Archive material from London Metropolitan Archives, Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre, RIBA Collections, and more, plus contributions from current and former residents.
Edition of 1,250
ISBN 9780993585395
Published January 2019

You can buy The Town of Tomorrow, 50 Years of Thamesmead here (affiliate link).  

The Town of Tomorrow, 50 Years of Thamesmead was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Justin Carey.

 

Multi-Story CarPark © John Myers/RRB Publishing. Looking at the Overlooked. Published 2019.

Looking at the Overlooked by John Myers, RRB Photobooks

THEY SAY:

RRB Photobooks are pleased to present Looking at the Overlooked by John Myers. Looking at the Overlooked is the second volume of a series of three, which will represent Myers collected works.

“It is gratifying that The Portraits was such a success. Looking at the Overlooked presents the place where those people lived“ – John Myers

Looking at the Overlooked describes a way of encountering the world. The images, all taken within walking distance of Myers’s home in Stourbridge are scenes encountered without narrative or emotion, as if Myers were the first person to come across the places he turned his lens upon. The work is sequenced as a journey through a town, generic and not site-specific, a backdrop to the mundane and everyday that is too often seen and yet not considered as part of our visual landscape.

WE SAY:

A perfect companion to ‘The Portraits’, ‘Looking at the Overlooked’ is another elegant cloth-bound book filled with beautiful reproductions of the photographs John Myers took on his Gandolfi plate camera within walking distance of his home in Stourbridge in the West Midlands between 1972 and 1981.

Consistent viewpoints, flat light and the absence of people give the feel of looking through a catalogue of what Myers calls “generic and not site-specific” scenes. This is particularly the case in a section dominated by substations, methodically and carefully captured.

They may be “merely the backdrop to the mundane and the everyday”, with “no hidden story” behind them, and they can be appreciated exactly that way, but I can’t help but imagine around them. Perhaps it is the matter-of-fact, black and white documentation that makes me associate it with scenes reported in a newspaper, or associations made with my own life – views so familiar to anyone who has spent time in British suburbs. Front doors, road signs, supermarket carparks – things we see every day but not everyone sees, taken out of the landscape of life and presented in crisp print on heavy paper. Another wonderful record of a section of Middle-English life in the 1970s and 80s.

Looking at the Overlooked by John Myers
RRB Photobooks
250 x 285 mm Hardcover, 160 pages
Limited to 450 copies, each including a signed 5×4″ silver-gelatin print of ‘The Bed, 1976’, numbers 1-50 also include a signed and limited 10×8″ silver-gelatin print of ‘Benjamin the Rabbit, 1975’
PortfolioEdition of 8 copies with a portfolio of ten 9.5×12″ silver-gelatin prints, also include the signed and limited 10×8″ and signed 5×4″ print
ISBN 9781999727536
Published January 2019

You can buy Looking at the Overlooked here (affiliate link).  

Looking at the Overlooked by John Myers was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Jayne Lloyd.

 

© Alain Laboile

Summer of the Fawn by Alain Laboile, Kehrer Verlag

THEY SAY:

At the latest since the big success of his book At the Edge of the World (Kehrer 2015), the French photographer Alain Laboile is well known around the world among connoisseurs of black-and-white photography.

In his new photobook, Summer of the Fawn, he once again provides insight into the free and nearly fairytale-like life of his family in a small village in the southwest of France. Far away from social constraints, school stress, Facebook & Co., it always seems to be summer here, and his six children frolic barefoot in an enchanted garden, in which one encounters cats, grass snakes, and even a fawn. Nevertheless, rules do indeed exist, even in fairytales – we thus also see how the children are homeschooled: sensibly and lovingly, and often outdoors. Summer of the Fawn is a beautiful, vivacious, and at the same time melancholic ode to childhood and life.

»The first time I saw Alain Laboile’s images, I had the feeling that I was watching a film. They possessed me, I was obsessed by them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, I couldn’t shake them off. First of all, I was struck by their beauty. Then by their quietly impressive technique. After that, I thought only of love, humour, something enchanted, sometimes unreal, and most of all I thought of freedom, the freedom that his protagonists have. These are his children, his family, his living space, his own freedom.«

– from the introduction by Laurence Kiberlain

Born on May 1, 1968 in Bordeaux, France, Alain Laboile is a photographer and father of six. In 2004, as he needed to put together a portfolio of his work as a sculptor, he acquired a camera, and thus developed a taste for macrophotography, spurred by his passion for entomology. Later on, he pointed his lens towards his growing family which became his major subject, be it in a realistic depiction of their atypical lifestyle.

Alain Laboile’s work has been the object of numerous international exhibitions and publications.

WE SAY:

If there was a handbook of how childhood should be, it would be this. Alain Laboile’s beautiful depiction of family life, all in rich black and white, making it somehow more timeless, more seamless, more magical.

I’ve not forgotten the sense of freedom that only childhood offers, but I am still grateful to be reminded of it – of summers that lasted forever, of days spent with freedom and joy, and nothing to do, nowhere particular to be, time to think, wonder and wander.

Kittens and insects, sculpture and swings over streams, bonfires, flowers, sticks and dappled sunlight, un-brushed hair, fairy wings. The play-things of this place of enlightenment.

Summer of the Fawn is a beautiful book, full of delight and wonder, but also a subtle yearning, almost mourning, for the freedom of childhood and long hot summers that go on and on.

 

Summer of the Fawn by Alain Laboile
Kehrer Verlag
Texts by Laurence Kiberlain, Alain Laboile
Designed by Kehrer Design
Hardcover, 18x24cm, 112 pages
75 duotone ills.
English/French
ISBN 978-3-86828-895-7

You can buy Summer of the Fawn here (affiliate link). 

Summer of the Fawn by Alain Laboile was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Karen Harvey.

 

Magnesium-Blitz mit Schüttungseinrichtung 1928, glass plate negative, 9 x 12 cm, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Photo Archive/Photographer: Photographisches Institut der ETH Zürich

Photography and Ontology: Unsettling Images, edited by Donna West Brett, Natalya Lusty

THEY SAY:

This edited collection explores the complex ways in which photography is used and interpreted: as a record of evidence, as a form of communication, as a means of social and political provocation, as a mode of surveillance, as a narrative of the self, and as an art form. What makes photographic images unsettling and how do the re-uses and interpretations of photographic images unsettle the self-evident reality of the visual field? Taking up these themes, this book examines the role of photography as a revelatory medium underscored by its complex association with history, memory, experience and identity.

WE SAY:

Put the words ‘unsettling images’ on the front of a book and you’ve got me hooked already. As a child I spent my school book prize vouchers on books on the supernatural, more specifically those on spontaneous combustion. I also had a small collection of books on the effects of radiation (and a Geiger counter).

Photography and Ontology is a fascinating selection of essays, formed after the delivery of an international symposium in Sydney, where experts came together to share knowledge on some of the most incredible collections of unsettling images, their uses and their relevance to society, history, memory, identity and truth.

I was drawn to the chapter on the ‘Dark Archive’ where Katherine Biber addresses the afterlife of forensic images through one of the world’s most important collections of police photographs. 130,000 glass plates and flexible negatives, made by New South Wales Police between 1910 and 1964, now housed in Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum. Over the years the documents detailing the events behind these forensic images have been separated from them, leaving the images as unexplained, and opening them up to suggestion, new investigation, and even exhibition.

Where once the image was believed to be an accurate, honest and unbiased, attached to a witness statement, or a policeman’s discovery, now it sits alone, assessed as something of its time, perhaps for its artistic merit, and with a narrative attached by each and every viewer who use their own personal experiences to attribute their own story.

Ralph Lauren even took images from the Forensic Photography Archive, used portraits of criminal suspects as muses for men’s workwear collections, enlarged prints to display in their stores.

If you’re as intrigued by this as I am, then you should know that I found all of this in just one chapter, and there is so much more for you to discover in this book. Truly fascinating, and well worth getting your hands on a copy.

 

Photography and Ontology: Unsettling Images
Edited by Donna West Brett, Natalya LustyRoutledge
204 pages
47 B/W Illus.
Published September 2018

You can buy Photography and Ontology: Unsettling Images here (affiliate link). 

Photography and Ontology: Unsettling Images was reviewed for Shutter Hub by Karen Harvey.

 


 

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