Paris Photo Book Buys Pt1 Dec 2015

I haven’t written anything about photo books for quite a while, around about a year in fact, but I was prompted by my friend Amelia to overview recent purchases from Paris Photo. Tis the season to write ‘top 10 photo-books of 2015’ lists but I think there are enough of those to sate any book lover without me adding to the surplus. Instead, and, as usual, I will mention only books that I have bought myself with my own hard earned. Sometimes the books are bought on impulse and are therefore a little dependant on my mood at any given time but a few were books that I had been looking out for beforehand. As it happens I did go a bit crazy and purchased rather a lot of books so instead of the more detailed and in depth reviews that I have attempted in the past, I thought I would just write a few paragraphs about what attracted me to the book in the first place and any additional, relevant thoughts.

Okay, lets get into it with a high energy blast to get things moving…………..

adrenamix by Ryuichi Ishikawa

My friend Niklas pointed this tiny little book out to me and he was spot on, I love this hi-octane, unrelenting, rush of a book. It just doesn’t let up from start to end. Its a subversive road trip that just assails you, lasso’s your ankles and drags you along in its slipstream. 

One of the things that I really like about the book is how it engages, part graphic novel, part diary, fiction or truth? it doesn’t seem to matter, I think there are few of us who can’t recognise this anarchic free flowing energy.

Could it be called a night if with no end?

Is a door that never opens still a door?

The darkness lightened, and yet the darkness it is

A heart fell and torn,

a cry of life gushes out,

and still the silence it is

Indeed……………wonderful, but not for the faint hearted or Hyundai driver :)

transmontanus by Salvi Danes

This is a book that I had actually bought at Polycopies last year but wanted to take the opportunity to get myself a signed copy safe in the knowledge that I had a buyer lined up for the other one, thanks Sanja.

This was another friend recommendation, this time from Brindusa, amazing, if a little scary how well my friends seem to know my mind. transmontanus as it turns out has many, many of the attributes that I look for in a photo-book; its small and unpretentious, simple but classy in its presentation, is not a ‘project’ or ‘fascinating look’ at some triksy concept. More its an immersion in Salvi’s world, a look at his ideas and perceptions in a very nicely edited, sequenced and printed package.

When I think about it I am always struck by how easily I relate to books like this, hence the attraction. The interplay between people and landscape, the lack of certainty or ability to locate these photographs in an exact time place or even dimension has a never ending appeal and fascination for me.

There is always a bit of a struggle going on in this book and it would be easy to criticise the choice of centring what are already quite powerful shots. Somehow I find that this adds a very powerful tension for me and I find myself forced to try to delve deeper into the physical book itself to unravel what is going on. Not a mechanism to be overused but I think it works here.

In conclusion then, a lovely little book that is fresh but somehow familiar. Also check out Salvi’s more recent Blackcelona which is one of my favourite buys for a while.

ATLAS by Israel Arino

There has been a lot of attention on Spanish photography and photo-books over the last year or two and I have to say that the ones being promoted and that seem to be getting most attention have little or no appeal to me personally. I find them contrived and drowning in the concept whirlpool that seems to drag too many photographers in. I am at a loss as to why this kind of quiet, deeper photography does not seem to get the same amount of airtime. Its the same with Salvi’s work, these photographers deserve to be seen on a wider stage.

As a shy and introverted person its always a big challenge for me when I actually meet an artist whose work I like and admire and I ran into this when I met Israel and Salvi at a book signing event at Galerie Vu. There are so many things that I want to talk to them about but I always struggle to formulate my thoughts coherently enough. Luckily Israel was very kind and took some time to explain some of the ideas behind the book and it stuck in my head that he had said that the book was bound so that the covers could be viewed simultaneously when laid flat as in the intro shot here. This is indicative of the attention to detail in general in this dreamy, slow flowing book.

As with Salvi’s book, there is a timeless feel to it that I find beguiling. Of course this is a book of photographs but I don’t get the feeling of a camera here, the book is lyrical and I think I can sum this up best through the very nice dedication that Israel wrote for me after our short chat:

Have a good trip to this strange but beautiful world.

Cosmos by Berangere Fromont

Man, this is one gorgeous little book. I was so lucky to come across this at the ill fated Paris Photo exhibition and immediately fell in love with its cover. Nor was I disappointed when I opened it up to see the lovely little print that came with this 51st edition of 300 and a quick glance through its pages confirmed that my initial attraction was justified. Everything about this book sings to me, the size, the sequencing and pacing and the number of pages - perfect.

I am sure I read somewhere that this was shot in one spring night on a walk in Arles. Normally I wouldn’t believe that you could create enough content for a coherent photo-book in one evening but ironically I think this is one of the strengths of the book. The continuity, spontaneity and rhythm is perfect and the photographers and editor have very wisely kept the content thin but relevant giving me a poignant feeling of something that was fleeting but is now gone. Marvellous stuff, I find myself looking at this daily.

Stay by Nicolas Wormull

Another impulse buy, I picked Stay up at a very nice little bookshop near Gare du Nord station but unfortunately I can’t remember its name. Anyway, I was running out of energy a bit after a day spent galavanting around Paris so it took something a little bit special to capture my attention, but I was smitten when I picked the book up and started browsing it. Sometimes I despair at the attempts of photographers to hide vacant photographic ideas in design concepts and this book is for me the perfect antidote to that. Its a good, honest nicely thought through book of photographs that engage and force you to think a bit. A novelty nowadays :)

Not having any familiarity with Nicolas’ work I had a quick look on Google and it seems he is a Chilean by birth but whose photography was shaped in Sweden. I cannot for the life of me understand why Sweden produces so many fantastic photographers, this has to be more than coincidence. Anyway, it seems that Stay was an attempt by Nicolas to capture just the present moment and avoid the twin traps of mind created past and future. I think thats a bit too simple an explanation for me as I find this a surprisingly complex read and thats one of the reasons that it appeals to me, its seems as if it creates a different feeling each time I look at it and I invariably notice something I hadn’t seen in a previous viewing.

The book has a nice energy that comes from a good blend of colour, B&W and formats, as I said, an engaging and honest book from a very talented photographer.

Well Amelia and anyone else who is interested, I hope this has whetted your own appetite to go and have a look at some of these books and hopefully turn up some others in your search. I will try to follow up at the weekend with Part 2 as I did buy rather a large number of books as you can probably guess by now.

Colin Steel, Singapore, 7th December 2015

© Copyright

Using Format