The photographic genre of crime scene documentation has been alive, well, and popular since the likes legendary of photographer Weegee. The photobook world has followed suit to feed the fascination or fetish of the often macabre world of criminal investigation and news reportage with books like Eugenia Parry's Crime Album Stories, which builds narratives based on crimes committed in turn of the 19th century Paris, which was also the time of the legendary Parisian police officer and biometrics researcher Alphonse Bertillion; Luc Sante's classic and long out-of-print book Evidence, showing 55 images from the brutal crimes of New York City; Least Wanted, a book of over 10,000 American mug shots from the collection of Mark Michaelson dating from the 1870s to 1960s and The Shock of Modernity, exposing the work of Victor and Miguel Casasola's and their exclusive look at the criminal elements in Mexico up until and after the revolution in 1911. These are books not for the faint of heart or those who truly believe in the goodness of man. They all expose the seedy underbelly of the human disposition and the arbitrary nature of fate.
Series is printed on a uncoated matte paper which allows the ink to saturate into the fibers of the substrate. The printed plates look like a newspaper. The landscape layout with a portrait-format perfect binding makes the viewing a little awkward, but after adjusting I realize that the book opens to the side to allow each of the many horizontal images not to be obstructed by the gutter. My hangups about viewing habits aside, the book, as the essayist Véronique Ricardoni states, pays homage and respect to the photographer. Ricardoni notes that Metinides emphasizes in every interview that he has given that he wanted to be sure "his images never become isolated or divorced from their stories." The designers and those involved in the decisions about this book have created a cinematic piece out of some of his images from 1950-1993 with many (if not all) of the reproductions and captions just as Metinides wants it.
A Criminal Investigation, is Watanabe Yukichi's documents of the investigation of the murder and dismemberment of Sato Tadashi. A few of Sato's remains were found in an oil vat in Irabaki Prefecture, Japan and the young photojournalist Watanabe was allowed access to the investigation. Like a Hollywood movie, his images wind through factories, streets and the offices of the investigators to come to the final noir ending, a not so happy resolution with the apprehension of capturing the murderer and the revelation of other heinous crimes.
Two new books, Series by Enrique Metinides and A Criminal Investigation by Watabe Yukichi, continue in this tradition of making an art book out of the everyday, but often horrific, nature of criminal and news-related photography. The publication Series with the work of legendary Mexican photographer Enrique Metinides showcases work from his over 50 year career as a newspaper photojournalist in the capital of his home country. Metinides was faced with suicides, fires, explosions many other tragic events, but in the book format they are displayed quite unlike the one shot "signature" image that may have accompanied the respective news story. Each image is surrounded by the context of the photograph and here we get the before and after: one man's perspective of the whole story. The images are presented as a contact sheet type narrative that tells the story as much as the written word. The book features 14 stories with brief captions in Spanish with English translations accompanying the plate listing. The catalogue will accompany an exhibition of prints at Kominek Galllery in Berlin in October 2011 and Garash Gallery in Mexico City in 2012 and is designed by the outstanding Dutch design firm SYB who have also designed Flamboya by Vivianne Sassen and 101 Billionaires by Rob Hornstra, among many other exceptional photobooks.
|Cover and interior spread from Series|
|Print for limited edition of Series|
|Cover from A Criminal Investigation|
|Interior spread from A Criminal Investigation|
Other great photobooks on crime and news related photography:
The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corrine May Botz
On Duty Photographs by Arnold Odermatt
Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence Edited with text by Sandra Phillips, Carol Squires, and Mark Haworth-Booth
New York Noir. Photographs from the Daily News Archives Edited with text by Wiliam Hannigan. Text by Luc Sante
Weegee and the Naked City Photographs by Weegee. Text by Anthony W. Lee and Richard Meyer