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Best Books 2014: Cristina de Middel

Best Books 2014 Best Books 2014 Cristina de Middel Best Books picks from photographer Cristina de Middel.

By Miguel Ángel Tornero

What looks like a standard catalogue in format and design, with a creamy shiny surface on the cover, is actually my favorite book of this year and one that has pushed me into breaking my own prejudices on what I consider a photograph and a photobook. It’s called The Random Series and everything in it is beautifully random (and when I say beautiful, I mean it). Printed pages full of crazy combinations of raw photographic imagery challenge your assumptions on landscape, portrait and any other photographic genre all in one. The printed pages are bound randomly also, making each book unique and playful. Mine has the title page on what should be page 57.
By Alejandro Cartagena

It’s useless to comment now on the impact that this series by Alejandro had last year and how effective his neutral approach to the subject was. In the book (brilliantly designed by him, by the way) he leaves some room to certain aspects that might have gotten lost in the transition from the camera to the wall, and that is why this book is great! The hypnotic repetitive beginning, respectful to the series as we’ve known it so far, slowly gets more and more interrupted by frames and pieces of frames that drive you into a new kind of hypnotic state but this time almost as if you were inside the car yourself looking at and experiencing the road not from above anymore.

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By Timothy Prus
Archive of Modern Conflict

Behind this enigmatic title you will find a play that talks about human’s history and passions and that might not sound very exciting if it wasn’t for the genius fact that it is told with 19th century microscopic samples. For sure it is not a photobook as you’ve ever seen it before, but if you are interested in exploring the amazing world of visual story telling with photography this is with no doubt a masterpiece that could only come from the Archive of Modern Conflict factory. Be ready to spend hours solving the puzzle and realize how the mirocosmos is as hidden and unknown as the “normal” cosmos. Then go and get it while it’s still available.
By Thomas Mailaender
RVB Books

Brilliant, funny and irreverent as usual with all the series and books coming from Thomas Mailaender, but this one is just delicious (not literally speaking). It is a joke, for me a good one, as it presents a serious approach to a stupid idea, which normally brings to the surface how stupid things can be. Wanna break the boundaries of the medium and really explore post-photography? Then burning human skin with a red lamp and developing negatives on fatty flesh could be your thing, and this book definitely, too.
By Ricardo Cases

It is very easy for me to like this book because I have been patiently waiting for it for years. It is also easy because it describes my own geographical and emotional landscape and I understand each of the weird, shiny and excessive pictures it contains, but despite my personal link to the subject it is indeed a great book and an excellent editing performance that leaves little room to design eccentricities and that makes it stand alone as a strong and beautiful personal documentary piece with the genuine Cases’ style.
By Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

The project is quite cryptic (starting with the title) and it forces you to study and understand the specific historical anecdote that unchained the brains of the artist duo of the moment. I didn't have the chance to visit the exhibition at the Jumex Museum in Mexico but the book for sure conveys the multi-layered and brainy approach to this pseudo-archaeological expedition in a very intelligent way and with the perfect dose of design. I just wish all exhibition catalogues were as brilliant as this one.
By Nicolo Degiorgis

Of course, this one had to be on the list because at this point not many could question the efficiency and genius of this book. Simple, discreet, but so straight to the point. I couldn’t but agree and applaud all the recognition the book has been getting but I would give Nicolo one more prize, the “less is more” award for photobook making.
By Susana Vargas

For me one of the more pleasant surprises in the market. After a couple of years with archival imagery invading our tables and shelves, this book is indeed a breath of fresh air. Simple reproductions of the sensationalist Mexican newspaper “Alarma” reporting on the transgender “aberrations” in the 70s with pictures that still look disturbing and headlines that are too funny to be real. All in Spanish but I would love it even if it was written in Armenian.
By Laia Abril
Dewi Lewis

There is no way out from sadness in this book. The subject is uncomfortable and, to be honest, I am not sure I need to know all these details about someone’s death but this is precisely the intention of Laia Abril and the uneasy genius of the whole project. The book is incredibly well designed, as usual with Ramon Pez, and it conducts your fall into a spin from the beginning to the end.
By Stephen Gill
Nobody in association with Archive of Modern Conflict

Best Before End is perhaps my favorite Stephen Gill book so far. It appears to me that Stephen has reached a new level in his photography, both, conceptually and visually. For this series, Stephen used negatives made in East London soaked (literally) in energy drinks to make abstract images that are unique. As always the book is perfectly printed and as an object it is sort of both contemporary and at the same time classical. A balance that Stephen’s books always so cleverly achieve.
Carlos Alba
Cristina de Middel is a photographer whose work investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, her work asks the audience to question the language and veracity of photography as a document and plays with reconstructions and archetypes that blur the border between reality and fiction. After a successful career as a photojournalist, working with newspapers in Spain and non-government organizations including Doctors Without Borders and the Spanish Red Cross, de Middel discovered that she had become disappointed in photojournalism and its reliance on the consumption of “authentic” images and the untruths that accompany them. Stepping outside of the photojournalistic gaze, de Middel produced the critically acclaimed series The Afronauts in 2012, which explored the history of a failed space program in Zambia in the 1960s through staged reenactments of obscure narratives. De Middel’s work shows that fiction can serve as the subject of photography just as well as facts can, highlighting that our expectation that photography must always make reference to reality is flawed. De Middel has exhibited extensively internationally and has received numerous awards and nominations, including PhotoFolio Arles 2012, the Deutsche Börse Prize, POPCAP’ 13, and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. De Middel lives and works in Mexico.