dinsdag 11 december 2018

The Best PhotoBooks of 2018 Sean O’Hagan The Guardian Photography

Chloe Dewe Mathews, Every winter, on the day of Epiphany. Photograph: Chloe Dewe Mathews

By Sean O’Hagan

It was a year marked by impressive debuts, many of which, intriguingly, featured black and white photography. Taking her cue from the films of Eric Rohmer, the young Swiss-born photographer Senta Simond impressed with Rayon Vert (Kominek), a series of cool, monochrome portraits of posed female subjects who also happen to be her friends. The results are both intimate and formally striking.

American photographer Raymond Meeks explored male intimacy and adolescent bonding in Halfstory Halflife (Chose Commune), which distils the work of several summers spent photographing American teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. The setting is a forbidding creek in the Catskill mountains into which the boys leap, testing themselves in a long-established rite of passage that Meeks renders both sensuous and mysterious.

There is a dreamlike quality, too, to Matthew Genitempo’s Jasper (Twin Palms), a meditation on self-enforced solitude made in America’s mid-south. Genitempo spent time in the Ozark mountains, gaining the trust of men who had retreated into the forests to live off-grid in often harsh conditions.

Over several months, he shot the messy interiors of their cars and the detritus therein – porn, guns, fast food

The disturbing images in Matthew Casteel’s acclaimed first book, American Interiors (Dewi Lewis), were made clandestinely while he worked as a valet park at a veterans’ hospital. Over several months, he shot the messy interiors of their cars and the detritus therein – porn, guns, fast food, overflowing ashtrays – can be read as a metaphor for their dislocated lives.

In Caspian: The Elements (Aperture/Peabody), British documentary photographer Chloe Dewe Matthews delves deep into the landscapes and people of the Caspian Sea. Using the region’s rich natural resources – oil, rock, uranium – she explores the religious traditions and communal practices, including bathing in crude oil, that endure in an area more often defined by its contested geopolitics.

Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle made a bold move away from street photography towards a kind of sculptural conceptualism with K, an elaborately designed, limited-edition photobook that comes with its own soundtrack in the form of a 10-inch vinyl record. It’s one for serious photography book collectors, as is TTP (Mack) by Hayahisa Tomiyasu, who obsessively photographed the daily goings-on around an outdoor ping-pong table from the window of his student apartment in Leipzig. The result is a small gem of human observation that deservedly won the 2017 Mack First Book Award.

For me, the best catalogue of 2018 was the eponymous Masahisa Fukase (Editions Xavier Barral), which accompanied the retrospective of his work at Foam, Amsterdam. A constantly surprising homage to the self-destructive genius of postwar Japanese photography, that ranges from his early proto-selfies to his elegiac series, Ravens. Fukase also features in Lena Fritsch’s Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography Since 1945 (Thames & Hudson), an informative recent history of the country’s movements, mavericks and pioneering photobook makers. The best reissue of the year has to be

The Sweet Flypaper of Life (David Zwimmer), by Roy DeCarava with text by Langston Hughes, is a kind of poetic photo-novel about everyday life in Harlem, originally published in 1955. Groundbreaking on initial publication, it remains a beautifully realised fusion of words and images.

Closer to home, Photographs 1997-2017 (Mack) gathers two decades of work by the influential Northern Irish photographer, Hannah Starkey. Her signature is a kind of heightened everydayness that often approaches the cinematic – deftly choreographed portraits of women caught up in moments of reverie or intimately observed interaction. A subtext throughout is the way women are represented – and reduced – in the mainstream. Cumulatively, it adds up to a quietly forceful riposte to the male gaze that still dominates photographic representation.

Finally, two esteemed veterans of British documentary. Chris Killip collaborated with graphic design company Pony to produce four striking, zine-type publications of his early work. They include Skinningrove, a portrait of a fishing community on the north-east coast, and The Station, a 1980s anarcho-punk venue in Gateshead where mayhem and noise prevailed. All four are available in a signed and numbered limited edition. Be quick.

Altogether more sedate, though slightly strange in a quintessetially English way, is The Portraits (RRB Publishing), a long overdue acknowledgment of the work of John Myers, a master of quiet photography. In the 1970s, Myers shot ordinary people from the West Midlands, often in their homes. It makes for a compelling, almost anthropological study of another England that seems both familiar and oddly alien in its parochialism. Timely, then.

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