Mikhailov is definitely one of the most important artists of our time. His long and close association with the publisher Walther Koenig made his new monograph possible, following their previous successful collaborations, which include Suzi et cetera (2006), Tea Coffee Cappuccino (2011) and Krymskaja Fotomanija (2013). His dark humor must come from his experiences as a citizen of Ukraine, where the fall of communism and the Soviet Union affected every aspect of daily life. Viewing his politically challenging work, I can’t help thinking that powerful work like Boris' can be created only through a lot of difficulties in life such as pain, sorrow, doubt or injustice in society. His affluent creativity attests that negativity in life can be turned into positive and beautiful forces. His work is hard to gaze at and enjoy, but we know that the darkness is essential for our mind. It is nothing to be ashamed of; instead it must be acknowledged and celebrated as a necessary part of life.
Quiet sensibility is spread all over this beautiful monograph by the Southern-born artist Huger Foote. It is rather easy to recognize a close kinship with an important Southern master, William Eggleston (they are very close friends), although Foote’s work appears more introspective and imaginative than Eggleston’s. Compared to a clear message delivered from straight photography by Eggleston, Foote’s work is less talkative, yet more nostalgic from the scratched surfaces and muted colors. The impression of Foote’s work seems to rely on the past rather than present, providing the viewer with an emotional distance and making him think deeply about what is hidden behind the surface. Both Foote and Eggleston, however, seem to share a musical quality such as classic piano or pipe organ in an intimate setting. Foote’s work has gradually grown on me and remained with me just like a melody from an orgel long forgotten in my childhood. The designer, Hans Seeger, understands Foote’s appreciation for beauty in a fleeting moment, and it is truly remarkable that Seeger realizes his art by applying three different unique muted colors for the book covers. His design application is subtle but precious and elegant.
I first encountered Barash’s work through his monograph, Talk Story in 2014 and really enjoyed his images of Hawaiian surfing culture, since it is not the typical surfing work often illustrated in many sport magazines. Barash has a respect for and intimacy with people in the surfing community, and he has brought the same candid approach to his new project in Iceland. Grímsey is about the people who live in a fisherman’s village, and successfully reveals their simple and honest lifestyle by use of rhythmical color combinations (blue, red and white) and clear composition of the still and portrait pictures. The road trip is an important tradition of American photography, such as Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi and Robert Frank’s The Americans. Barash’s Grímsey is not taken in the US, but he definitely achieves the same type of sensibility with his subject, and I admire this young talent’s work very much.
This beautiful portrait book, Imperial Courts, is a result of Lixenberg’s sincere commitment to the residents at the Imperial Courts housing project in Los Angeles for over 22 years. Nowadays, who can maintain such emotionally and physically laborious efforts and get things right and complete? As you know, all images and news flash by online instantly, without a careful, detailed examination of any given event. Only a true artist like Lixenberg can get through all the difficulties and challenges and make it happen. Her strong portraits tell us everything about her pure talent as a real artist while illuminating the lives of the community that she has become a part of through her work. Definitely Imperial Courts is my most favorite book of the year.
Published for Kooiker’s exhibition at The Hague Museum of Photography, Nude Animal Cigar showcases Kooiker’s work from his over 22-year career. It takes typological style by simply repeating his three banal themes, nudes, animals, and cigars, one after another just like index cards. As a result, it successfully shows Kooiker’s conceptual work to the viewers, and it turns out to be a delightfully unique museum catalogue. As a Japanese book person, I’ve gotten used to seeing narrative based books, a linear progression that tells a story, but Kooiker’s Nude Animal Cigar opens up my perception and makes me investigate his work further.
A brilliant Spanish artist, Cristina de Middel, has founded her own publishing company in London and invited many emerging artists to make their unique artist books. Pony Congo is a monograph by a Spanish photographer, Vicente Paredes. It looks small, just like a regular zine, but it presents itself powerfully since the images are laid in full bleed and a strikingly bright color printing is applied to a glossy paper stock. Those effects outspokenly deliver the artist’s message, a commentary on the extremes of wealth and poverty that not many of us have courage to raise a voice for. This book may not be easy, especially for those who used to enjoy pony riding in their youth. I admire Paredes’ integrity to complete this project, despite the possibility of controversy.
Putting together a nude photography book is not an easy task. That is because it can easily become a one-dimensional or conventional book of self indulgent, shameful work because of lack of objective judgment. Just showing bodies being sexy and pretty is boring. Saveri’s Landscape is nothing like that. It employs a female body’s sculptural or structural composition in various color effects that look tasteful, experimental, playful and absolutely contemporary. This is because Saveri doesn’t compromise on anything less, and extensively discusses the editing and design ideas with Brian Lamotte and David Strettell. Saveri’s Landscape is one of my favorite female nude photography books out of all the books that I have enjoyed at Dashwood over the last 10 years.
What’s fascinating about Ivanow’s work is that it is open to interpretation, and it doesn't define any clear answer to the viewer. All emotions and ideas are mixed together: banal/universal, local/distant, real/surreal, artificial/original, ugly/beautiful, right/wrong, clear/ambiguous and light/dark. They are all acceptable and relevant to life. I totally agree with her aesthetic and admire her rare ability to transform it into photography.
Gaining a large popularity through photography is a hard thing to achieve, since a given artist’s work is often favorably received only among a specific type of group, nationality or age. Todd Hido is absolutely an exception; his popularity cuts across all categories. Following his previously successful publications, Khrystyna's World is another publication that lets us appreciate his strong portraits and landscape work. It beautifully presents his imaginative world populated by the different personalities of a single model. Highly recommended, although the first printing is sold out already.
Walk this Way*
By Sophie Bramly
This elegant book on the 1980s NY hip-hop scene is the project of a multifaceted French artist, Sophie Bramly, who moved to NY and immersed herself in hip-hop before it became globally popular. She became close friends with the artists and dancers that she photographed. It is the most beautiful hip-hop book I have ever seen, which is due in large part to the design decisions of Antoine de Beaupré, the publisher. He carefully divides each section with the text in different paper colors and applies a plastic dust jacket. I especially find his choice of gold paper stock excellent, since it really represents the spirit of hip hop culture very well. These design elements provide the viewer with the sense that you just grabbed the forbidden vinyl record in your hands. Walk this Way is a remarkable book, produced by a close collaboration between the publisher and the photographer. *This title is not currently carried by photo-eye. Email us to be notified if copies become available.
Miwa Susuda is Photobook Consultant at Dashwood Books, New York. She is Director of Session Press, introducing new work by contemporary Japanese and Chinese artists. As a contributing writer to Fraction Magazine Japan and diaSTANDARD, she interviewed Alec Soth, Mitch Epstein, Jim Goldberg, Jason Nocito and Nick Waplington. Her writing includes "Photography and Language" for 10 x 10 American Photobook catalogue, "On Daido" for the exhibition catalogue for the 6th International Fotobookfestival in Kassel, Germany and "Photojournalism and Photobook" in IMA Magazine vol 12, among others. She is also a JP_EN 02 Special Judge for Einstein Studio in Tokyo.