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Best Books 2015: Alejandro Cartagena

Best Books 2015 Best Books 2015 Alejandro Cartagena 2015 Best Books picks from Alejandro Cartagena.

By Alexander Gronsky
The Velvet Cell

In Alexander Gronsky's new book he shows us once again what he does best: landscapes. It was a breath of fresh air to open this simple set of mesmerizing vistas of a place. Don't get me wrong, these are not just romantic (suffered) views; there is a story of despair and over exploitation of the land but we are left to figure that out by ourselves. Maybe we are given hints that these landscapes are not all well by the decision of placing all images through the gutter of the book. Everything is broken from start to finish. A book of great images, beautifully printed in a perfect size.
By Vicente Paredes
This Book is True

I was part of a generation that grew up with constant commercials of skinny children from Africa on TV. They always made feel scared. I don't know exactly why, but I still remember them. Maybe because my comfortable living situation as a white ignorant suburban kid was threatened? It could be. Eventually they also made me ask questions about inequality and even got me a pen-pal from Africa. Silly, I know, but I was only 10. Images push us. This is why this book is so important. It takes us to the edges of the tough reality of those with nothing and shoves them in our face to make us feel uncomfortable. It is not only through the images that this message is portrayed, it is also through the use of contrasting papers and smart editing that we are told that things are not well.
By Mariela Sancari
La Fabrica

The first time I saw this book it was actually still a dummy in process but immediately it transported me into the sensation of wanting desperately to find someone you love but who is gone. Not having gotten to see that person for the last time dragged out a feeling in Mariela of not wanting to let go and these portraits position us in her shoes; in that place where you get a psychologically driven glimpse of that missing someone and how you want to obsessively check to be sure if it's them or not. The book's sequencing is like looking for someone with Mariela, hand in hand searching and hoping one of these old men might bring her closure to an unresolved struggle that hurts like hell.
By Helena Rovira & Noe Lavado

A simple story about the Bosque de la Marquesa in Tarragona Spain with tales of how Carida Barraqué fought back real estate speculators and their desires to convert the place into a tourist attraction. It is said Barraqué was handed an empty check to buy whatever she wanted and she answered that she would use it to buy the finca she already owned; she was in no need to sell as she already had what she wanted. "Walking is a way to connect ourselves to our ancestors," says one of the small texts underlying all the images in the book. It surely does make me feel connected to people that fight for the place they inhabit and where they have built their life stories. 

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By Ivars Gravlejs

If I could go back in time I would have loved to be friends with the teenage Ivars. When I left DR to come to Mexico, I skateboarded for hours and felt it a great escape from not feeling completely OK with the people around me. His photographic experiments resonate so much with me that I feel I could have taken these images. Either you get it or you don’t. It is a book about being an outsider and about doing something to feel alive when everything around you seems dead.
By Ezio D'Agostino

We need to destroy in order to keep our capitalist world moving. It seems there is no way out of it. Just before a major redevelopment project took its course at the Forum des Halles in Paris in 2011, D'agostino photographed 26 parts of a site soon to disappear. He created a way to transmit and remember a place that soon would be written over. Just like the Forum erased the stories of Les Halles market in the 1970s, this new change will erase and write a new story of commerce on top of its predecessor. An architectural palimpsest in the making. Or as the official webpage says "the new Forum des Halles will be reorganized and modernized to make the district more welcoming to visitors and will become more cohesive, more open to the city and better integrated into the urban environment." Yes, but no.
By Tommaso Tanini
Discipula Editions

What does a photobook really "tell" you? Is it about telling or describing? What is H Said He Loved Us? Exactly what happened while I was looking and reading through it, I can't explain. Books hit you when they are made like this one. For me H Said He Loved Us took me back to a place of constant fear, a time when I felt scared of being outside and of other people. When I read the words I felt them in my stomach. But they were pictures of nothing. Words that just suggested something. It seems this photobook is about opening doors but not guiding you through the space; it's an introduction but not a conclusion. It was a difficult book but I came back to it many times this year hoping to find out more about what I was feeling.
By Daniel Mayrit
Riot Books

We are mad at the injustices of our society, especially the ones perpetrated by those in a position of power. We "use" Facebook to rant about stuff and feel it could make a difference. But to put it on paper makes a difference and makes a louder bang. I think there should be a version of Daniel Mayrit’s book for every city so we can all know who these people are and call them up if we want. Will it make a difference to how things are? Maybe.
By Thomas Sauvin
Jiazazhi Press

Archives are things that tell us a lot about the past in a way that seduces us. I couldn't keep my eyes off Sauvin’s book. It is hilarious and intriguing at the same time. A great design that gets straight to the point. I was left wanting to see what else has been salvaged from the archive where these images came from. Amazing stuff in a small package.
By Laura El-Tantawy

I was hooked on this book just by looking at the opening sequence. It is a slow build up to an accelerating experience of the changes to a country and the author’s life. Somehow I felt the pain of a country desperately seeking a true change but having to suffer in order to get it. I don't know exactly what happened in Egypt so for me the book felt a perfect place to experience it. I couldn't agree more with Laura’s own words about what the book is to her: "It’s not informational or educational. It is a factual book that explores a place of personal significance through imagery that is predominantly impressionistic.”
Alejandro Cartagena (b. 1977) Dominican Republic. Alejandro lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of several museums including the SFMOMA, the MoCP, the MFAH, the Harry Ransom Center, the West Collection among others. He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass book award, the Lente Latino award in Chile, the Premio Salon de la Fotografia from the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon, the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome and a POYi reportage award of excellence among other awards. He has been named a FOAM Magazine Talent and one of PDN’s 30 emerging photographers. Alejandro’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as Newsweek, Nowness, Domus, The Financial Times, View, The Guardian, Le Monde, Stern, PDN, The New Yorker, The Independent, Monocle and Wallpaper, among others.

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