I first saw this book at Obscura Photo Festival in Malaysia this year; it’s rare for me to be so taken with a book from the get-go. The purity and simplicity of the photographer’s vision is astounding. The quality of the paper and black-and-white printing is equally fantastic. Tsugaru is the place where Tomiya was born and grew up — and the journey of the book through spring-summer-autumn-winter and spring once more provides a peaceful and melancholic meditation on place, memory and growing up.
The confidence and audacity of this publication is what makes it unique; it is simply a small box of prints, is it really a photobook? Yes; and it works perfectly. Kimura presents us with a humorous juxtaposition of simple, isolated little sketches of darkroom paraphernalia — a film box, focus finder, gloves, chemical bottle, red filter, enlarger — on one side of the paper, while on the other side are gritty black-and-white images that appear to be the results of an itinerant wanderer collating a picture of Tokyo. His work looks like that of a stunned outsider, not sure what to make of what he witnesses, while at the same time learning about photography (and himself) as he goes.
Photo collector Brad Feuerhelm is becoming a key instigator of original and experimental approaches to the photobook — this project develops an extraordinary series of methodologies to create something new with Feuerhelm’s ‘cabinet of curiosities,’ as he describes his photographic collection. This book leaves you feeling unsure of and dislocated from everything you think you know about photography, old and new. Chapter 5, called ‘Command Shift 3; New Photography,’ is perhaps the freshest and most innovative statement on photography in 2014.
The title of this book (which I believe is now sold out – with a 2nd edition on the way) means to withdraw, or to be in seclusion. This book is endlessly rewarding, not only for its superlative technical qualities, but that it comes very close to replicating the experience of walking alone through a vast, dark, foreboding landscape. The book feels like one huge picture of a landscape that we experience bit by bit as we creep forward into and through the darkness.
By Sean Lee
This small and simple publication proves that it doesn’t take much to make a great photobook. The cinematic images and excellent sequencing tell us, at first glance, about photographer Sean Lee’s experiences as a ‘ladyboy;’ but on closer reading this work is also about the beautiful complexity we all hold within us, and one man’s journey of discovery into himself. There are moments of staggering honesty and beauty in this book.
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This is the first book by this young Spanish photographer. It’s a wonderfully moving and mature goodbye letter to her deceased Mother. I’ve seen hundreds of books dealing with this sort of topic before but nothing that approaches this photographer’s ability to tell an intricate story of what was lost and what remains. This book is a long lingering cuddle with someone whispering a sad story into your ear. The opening sequence of this book is the best of any book this year.
This book follows a self-published zine (of the same name) that Hagai produced a few months back. And in this larger publication none of the innocence, danger, and political undertones of the original zine are lost. This work plays a humorous and erotic game with our understandings or misconceptions about contemporary Tel Aviv, and the Middle East. Hagai’s use of vibrant colors, simple compositions, and young beautiful models owes much to many American predecessors, but none of those who have come before have produced work of such stunning banality and exoticism.
One of the old newspaper articles reproduced in the zine insert at the back of this book reads: “cracks appear in waterfront lifestyle;” without giving too much away that’s exactly what happens when you’ve spent some time with this book. It’s the only book I know where you have to go through it again immediately to make sense of what you’ve just seen; like playing out in your head a crime you’ve just witnessed. Your first inclination is to go back and attempt to piece together the parts. Ang’s filmic style and Lynchian influence is clear, but the genius of this book is the way we are lulled and manipulated, before our understanding is brutally and irrevocably changed.
This is an astounding book! Emerging from Zielony’s 9-minute film (2010) that used over 7000 still images, Vele has been translated into book form by the always-brilliant Spector. Shot entirely at night this publication includes over 250 images of the mafia-controlled Le Vele di Scampia housing estate in northern Naples, its imposing inhabitants, its monolithic architecture, its dark underpasses, and semi-lit corridors. This sumptuous book is an overpowering, ominous, instant classic that paints contemporary Naples as a vivid, shadowy, futuristic megalopolis.
From the exposed spine through to the minimal use of gatefolds the design and execution of this book, as an object, is superb. When twinned with a set of images of such rawness, Ren Hang’s book was always going to be a winner. Hang’s approach to sex, genitalia and the body in general never feels exploitative or misogynistic — indeed it feels open and bare but also sometimes extremely funny and playful. There is a political undertone, too, to this young Chinese artist’s work; his images feel like the start of something, a new mode of expression for Chinese photography, a new honesty, or simply just pushing and poking at the boundaries to see what gets stirred up. His work is a true joy to behold.
Daniel Boetker-Smith is a writer, curator, educator and artist. He is the Director of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, a not-for-profit organization established in 2013 to promote and share the books of photographers from the Asia-Pacific region internationally, and to encourage the production of more photobooks in that region. He has organized photobook events at festivals, galleries, and institutions all over the world. He was a judge at the Kassel Photobook Awards in 2013. He is also co-ordinator of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Prize and a Founder of Photobook Melbourne (2015), the only international photobook festival in the Asia-Pacific region. Daniel is also the Course Director at the Photography Studies College, Melbourne, Australia.