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2017 Best Books: Forrest Soper


Books Forrest Soper: 2017 Best Books Forrest Soper Selects I Love You, I’m Leaving, INVERSION: (New York Edition), and Ren Hang as the Best Books of 2017
Forrest Soper
Forrest Soper is an artist and photographer based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog, a former photochemical lab technician at Bostick & Sullivan, and a graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.





 


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I Love You, I’m Leaving By Matt Eich.
Ceiba Editions, 2017.
 
I Love You, I’m Leaving
Photographs by Matt Eich

I Love You, I’m Leaving gave me a newfound respect for Matt Eich. Like many, I knew Eich best from his Invisible Yolk series and his editorial work. The photographs that I knew him for, documented the bizarre and often chaotic world in a striking and unique fashion. I was so captivated by these images, that when I first saw the work from I Love You, I’m Leaving online, I dismissed them. I initially thought many of these domestic black-and-white images that focused on family life were rather tame and uninspiring. As soon as I saw the book in person, however, the series became one of my favorites to date.

I Love You, I’m Leaving was made during a period of time when Eich’s parents divorced, and Eich, his wife, and his children moved to a new city. In the midst of this tumultuous time, Eich turned to his camera. He documented his family, and in the process created a personal document that covered three generations. Loss, love, time, and intimacy all combine in a personal collection of fragmented memories. Despite the fact that this book deals with domestic life and Eich documented his own family, this book is more akin to work of fiction than a truthful document.

Rather than capture family events as they unfolded chronologically, Matt Eich created a series of photographs that acted more like fractured memories than a factual record. These memories recount heartache, tenderness, sorrow, affection, and many more conflicting emotions that are often associated with family.

This book, from beginning to end, is beautiful. The design is impeccable, as is the sequencing. You are shown glimpses rather than the whole story and as a result, it somehow becomes both melancholic and endearing at the same time. I Love You, I’m Leaving cemented Matt Eich as one of my favorite photographers, and showed me the true potential of his poetic voice.

Purchase Book Here

I Love You, I’m Leaving By Matt Eich. Ceiba Editions, 2017.

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INVERSION: (New York Edition) 
By Daisuke Yokota.
Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2017.
 
INVERSION:
(New York Edition)

Photographs by Daisuke Yokota

Daisuke Yokota is an artist who heavily incorporates experimentation and evolution into his work. Inspired by like-minded artists such as Aphex Twin, Yokota uses chemical, physical, and digital manipulations alike to transform his images. As a result, his work is often referred to as abstract, experimental, and performative. Throughout his career, Yokota has created thousands of individual works, often pulling from previous images and series while manipulating them into new works of art. Among these works are a multitude of photobooks and zines — some of which were made on location during his exhibitions. Yokota has such an extensive catalog that many great works are often overlooked. This phenomenon is only exacerbated by the experimental nature of his work — some experiments are a success, others fall short.

Inversion (New York Edition) is one experimental photobook that stopped me dead in my tracks when I first saw it.

Printed in an edition of 80, each copy of this book is unique. Every single page (including the front and back covers) is screen-printed. The images are solarized photographs from Yokota’s iconic Matter series — an installation of 100,000 wax-coated images that were subsequently lit on fire in Burn Out (a process that was documented in the aptly named Matter / Burn Out.) These solarized images were then screen-printed on top of each other for the production of the Inversion photobooks.

The New York Edition was the most beautiful photobook I saw in 2017. With a color palate primarily consisting of purple, silver, black, and white, this book left me speechless when I first saw it. While I’m sure many will enjoy the more colorful palates of the Arles or the recently published Paris Edition more, the moody and muted tonality of this book spoke to me in a newfound way. In my eyes, this book exemplifies successful experimental art — something somewhat unpredictable miraculously creating something truly breathtaking. Yokota’s Inversion series is a remarkable new chapter of his ever-evolving mythos, and should not be ignored.

Purchase Book Here

INVERSION: (New York Edition) By Daisuke Yokota. Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2017.

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Ren Hang By Ren Hang. Taschen, 2017.
 
Ren Hang
Photographs by Ren Hang
 
My third selection had to be the photobook that I returned to the most this year. Ren Hang’s self-titled monograph was published in early 2017, just one month before the twenty-nine-year-old artist took his own life. This act inadvertently transformed Ren’s recent monograph from the first career-spanning collection of his work into his definitive retrospective.

Ren Hang was a photographer and a poet and excelled at both. Primarily focusing his lens on his friends, he shot nude Chinese youth in a truly new and revolutionary fashion. Often shooting in hotel rooms with blank walls as backgrounds, Ren made his images on a small point-and-shoot camera. His works often sparked controversy, but to his admirers, they invoked beauty, fascination, playfulness, liberation, and often humor. Despite the near-incessant amount of genitalia in his images, his works were never pornographic — there was always a poetic and hypnotic beauty that encapsulated his work. Although he was arrested on several occasions and often had to smuggle his photobooks out of the country, for fear that they would be confiscated and destroyed by the Chinese government, his works never were intended to be political. Ren simply wanted to make his work, work that celebrated nudity rather than being ashamed of it.

Ren Hang quickly became one of the most influential and recognizable contemporary Chinese artists. He published sixteen photobooks over a period of six years (my personal favorite being The Brightest Light Runs Too Fast.) But until the publication of Ren Hang, no book had collected such a large and comprehensive collection of his work. Ren Hang has a beautiful flow, with the only text being an introductory essay by Dian Hanson — the remainder of the book is filled with hundreds of Ren’s images. Regardless of if you have followed Ren Hang since the beginning, or you have never seen his photographs before, this monograph is essential to any photobook lover’s library.

The world lost something rare last February, an innovative artist with a unique and pure vision. Ren Hang, you are missed by many and your work will continue to inspire generations to come.

Purchase Book Here

Ren Hang By Ren Hang. Taschen, 2017.

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