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Best Books 2014: Mark Power


Best Books 2014 Best Books 2014 Mark Power Best Books picks from photographer Mark Power.

By Peter van Agtmael

This is a remarkable piece of contemporary photojournalism connecting the melting pot of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States, but it’s also a fascinating insight into what it means to be a conflict photographer. Brilliant, complex pictures, a beautifully written text and extended captions, all by van Agtmael, and a daring but appropriate design. This joins the pantheon of great books about war.
By Lisa Barnard
Gost


Epic in scope, learned in execution and clever in design, Barnard investigates modern warfare through technology and the entertainment industry. Separated into chapters (each a fully-formed project in itself) and bookended by two excellent essays by Julian Stallabrass and Eugenie Shinkle, the picture we are left with  the goal of clinical warfare where no more American soldiers die on the battlefield  is nothing short of chilling.
By Nicolo Degiorgis
Rorhof

Already much admired, with many awards to its name, but I just can’t ignore this book. It’s a simple idea brilliantly executed, revealing some of the places (abandoned discos, warehouses, shopping centers) where Italy’s 1.3 million Muslims gather to pray when the eight ‘official’ mosques in the country are full. A gorgeous production that might also win the prize for the most gatefolds ever put in a single book.
By Heikki Kaski
Lecturis

A beautiful, understated book about a small town in California, as seen by a talented young Finnish photographer. It’s a wonderful hotchpotch of visual styles  part Walker Evans, part Susan Lipper, part Gregory Halpern  which, when gathered together so articulately, suggests a fascinating insight into small-town life while actually revealing very little. Even his text is sparse and intentionally open to interpretation; we could be anywhere, and perhaps that’s the point.
By Jim Goldberg
Steidl

A much-anticipated and greatly expanded update of the influential 1985 classic, and well worth the wait. Goldberg trawled through his archive with fresh eyes and the precious distance of time, aware of what America was to become in its wake. The pictures, and the messages carried by the heartbreaking handwritten texts, remain as poignant as ever (perhaps even more so). And I love the minimal dust jacket, with just the word ‘AND’ on the spine, hiding a screen-printed facsimile of the original cover beneath.
By Ying Ang
Self-Published

All is not as it seems… A Lynchian-style masterpiece about a childhood spent on the affluent and aspirational Gold Coast of Queensland, Ang’s pictures suggesting a darker underbelly beyond the glitzy surf and high-rise facade of the brochures. A brave book, which pulls no punches and does no favors for the Queensland tourist board, who will probably hope it disappears without trace. But it won’t, and any book that ends with a quote from the Log Lady gets my vote.
By Oliver Hartung
Spector Books

A series of vernacular pictures made in Syria in 2008 and 2009, predating the Arab Spring and the tragedy that Syria has since become. An obsessive collection of signs, sometimes official but more often homemade, all expressing allegiance to the ruling Assad family. Helpfully, we also get a translation from Arabic, and the result is fascinatingly strange yet exquisitely banal. Echoes of WassinkLungen’s Empty Bottles in design, but appropriate nevertheless.
By Rafal Milach
Gost

It was an ambitious idea to photograph the ‘best’ of Belarus, the ‘winners’ of a nonsensical list of accolades, in a country traditionally tricky to negotiate. I love Milach’s style of picture-making, appearing at first to be nothing more than haphazard snapshots but, on closer inspection, revealing meticulous framing, teasing us with what lies beyond the edges. I hear it cost more to tip-in each picture (the captions are hidden underneath) than it did to print the entire book. There’s commitment for you.
By Mikhail Subotzsky & Patrick Waterhouse
Steidl

I still haven’t reached the end of an epic tome that pushes at the boundaries of what a photobook can be  a hardback volume, 17 pamphlets and an illustrated box  and I’m gobsmacked by the amount of research that underpins it. To be able to take just one building, albeit a huge and dominant one on the Johanesburg skyline, and extract this much information from it is nothing short of genius. And great pictures too.
Collages*
By Jan Dziaczkowski
Foundation for Visual Arts

Jan Dziaczkowski was tragically killed in 2011 while hiking in the Tatra Mountains in Southern Poland when only 28 years old. I happened across a show of some of his extraordinary collages soon afterwards and fell in love with their charm, poignancy and boundless creativity. This book, two years in the making, is a fitting eulogy to a remarkable and little-known talent.

*This booklet comes with the purchase of one of three posters of Dziaczkowski's work from the Foundation for Visual Arts. Purchase here.

The British photographer Mark Power has work in many important collections, both public and private. His seventh book, Die Mauer ist Weg!, was published in November. Power joined Magnum in 2002. (www.markpower.co.uk)

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