Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Empathy and Photography










 images from Sofa Portraits, All Quiet on the Home Front and My German Family Album

I'm looking forward to talking and taking part in a discussion at the Barbican tomorrow on Empathy in Photography.

The event is sold out, but I'll be talking about these things I think.

What is empathy? (nobody knows)

What do we empathise with? (it's not just people)

What blocks empathy? (everything)

How can we create empathy? (with difficulty)

Does empathy serve any purpose? (hope my fellow speakers, Olivia Arthur and Jess Crombie help me out with this one).

And more.

The talk is in connection with an exhibition in the Magnum Print Room of David Chim Seymour's Children's World photographs for Unesco shot after the Second World War.

Here's a link to the book that was published in 1949, be sure to read the children's letter. How relevant is that now.






Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Best Handmade Small Editions that can be very expensive

 by Hiroshi Okamoto


What a category! I'll have to scratch my head for that one.

OK, here goes. I'll plump for Reminders Photography Stronghold who this year published Hiroshi Okamoto's fabulous Recruit (edition of 147 - at about £50 each), the beautiful Snowflake/Dog Man by Hajime Kimura (edition of .69 priced at just over a hundred of our glorious pounds - if you're on the continent and reading this in 2020 that's either 90 of your euros or possibly 200 depending on how things pan out) and many more..


by Hajime Kimura

It's run by Yumi Goto who is fabulously knowledgeable, dynamic and to the pointand she uses this to further the historical and the personal narrative through books, installations and general global influence.


At RPS, the overlap between the artist's book and the photobook is huge, but at the same time there is an elevation of personal stories (also see books like Red String) and a respect for the documentary tradition (as evidenced by Kazuma Obara's brilliant Silent Histories).

You're paying for something more than a photobook in other words (though I must say my eyes stung when I saw the price of the latest book. £375? That might be pushing it a little even if the edition is only 20.) and you're getting something more than a photobook. You're getting a beautiful book-work that is lovely to handle, to touch, to feel, to smell, oh baby, yeah, best stop there before I go all Austin Powers on you.

See if you can find the books here.

And read my interview with Yumi Goto for Photobook Bristol here. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Best Augmented Reality Book of 2016



Turbine Hall installation shot

This is a double category this one. It's both Best Augmented Reality Book of 2016 and Best Photobook that the reader is guaranteed to do more than just flip through.

And the winner is, without any shadow of doubt, Making Memeries by Lucas Blalock, published by Self-Published be Happy. 

Right, so this is the sequence of events of what happens when you get the book. The book arrives in the post. I open it, rip open the bubble wrap and get a super glossy card book which is like a children's book and has strange, fractured images of sausages, medical diagrams, and fragments of chairs. It's an odd one. It's puzzling.

But then I see that there's an app to go with it and you use this with the book. So I delete a couple of other apps on my phone which doesn't work too well and download the Making Memeries App (which also doesn't work too well - or maybe that was my phone. I'm not sure).

Then I succeed in opening up the app and look at the book with it; it's like looking at the book through the camera phone. At first, not much happens, but then the phone image clicks into something altogether crisper and the epidermis of the skin diagrams gets a little bit alive. Not too alive, but the hairs stand on end and the blood starts pumping. I get to the page of fragmented chairs and everything goes 3d through the phone; the layers reveal themself and start shifting. It's weird and hynoptic and I start jiggling the phone about to get a better look.

I go to the next page and there's a phone (an old style phone) - it jumps off the page, it starts ringing, I can put my hand between the page and the phone. I'm looking at phones through my phone!



There are sausages (not cut the right way incidentally), hands, chairs, it's all odd. I call people to have a look. They look. I look some more. And then I put it away and I look some more the next day. And I'm still looking at it now. I'll stop looking at it at some point and delete the Making Memeries app so I can get Navigator back and work out where I'm going, but it's not happened yet.

It's augmented reality and it feels like it comes from gaming and virtual reality and it's a way of seeing and looking that we'll see much more of. That connects to the way we see and look already.

Either that or it will be like those Magic Eye 3D pictures you got quite a few years back that gave you a headache but were still hard to resist because you'd strain your eyes for hours and see a plane or a dinosaur something in 3d and you could move your head around and it would move too. Except of course it wasn't 3D, it was a Magic Eye book.

I don't know if Making Memeries is significant or not, or if it's a gimmick or not, but it's really, really interesting. And it's different. What it all means I have no idea. But I get the feeling that it does mean something and that many different uses of the technology will become (or already are - I have no idea) apparent somewhere. It's the future in other words!

Christmas Present ideas! Definitely! To go with Ivars Gravlejs' Useful Advice for Photographers. Someone should give Lucas Blalock a copy. Then he'd know how to photograph sausages properly (at an angle to bring the best out in the cut!).

Buy Making Memeries here!

(And if you want to make your own, simpler, augmented reality book, here are some instructions on how to do it. Thank you Daniel Donelly for the link)

Friday, 2 December 2016

2016: The Year of the Shoe!




all images Catherine Balet

Ok, so we all know that 2016 was the Year of the Shoe?

In some ways, the Shoe took over from the twig, the rock, and the reaching hand as photography's favourite trope.  And we all know that literally hundreds of photobooks were made on the subject.

From Spain we had From Sock to Shoe ('Del calcetín para el Zapato' is the original title, a great allegory on the current economic crisis and,  the globalisation of the shoe industry), from Italy we had Le Scarpe Odore (The Shoes Smell), an allegory of self-loathing linked to the decline of the Roman Empire as manifested in the impending financial crash, from the USA we had Left Shoe Right Shoe (an allegory on the ways in which arbitrary labels are imposed on our personal, political and economic worlds realised through a journey across the MidWest that is explored through the semiotics of the American road.


all images Catherine Balet except the one by me

Last but not least, from France we had Catherine Balet's Looking for the Master in Ricardo's Golden Shoes, Which is a re-staging of famous photographers using Ricardo Martinez Paz. The book, says the blurb, '..questions the dematerialisation of the photograph as well as the nature of authorship in the process of re-creation.'

Mmm, maybe, but that tone of voice leaves me reaching for the razors. Can we rephrase it please because I get the feeling the book is a lot more dynamic than that. It's a celebration of photography, of life, and of Golden Shoes.



Viva Ricardo! Viva Catherine. Viva los zapatos de oro!

Buy the book here



Er, why not Truman Capote!



Thursday, 1 December 2016

Best Book you Can't Buy Anywhere and Never Could



Whats the arbitrary category of the day again? Ah, yes, it's not the best book you can't buy, because that would be too easy and too big a category in the heady world of photobooks. Instead it's the best book you can't buy anywhere and never could. That's how special this book is.

And the winner? Oh, that's easy, and it's a book that also fits into the Best Photobook inspired by Modern Art and Building Sites.

 It's 3725 and it's by Alberto Castro. It only came in an edition of 60 and I don't think he's even promoting those, but the book is really nice and ties in with planning and modern art.

I saw the Abstract Expressionists in London the other week and all the Rothkos and the Pollocks and the Newmans and the Clyfford Stills (hadn't seen those before or even heard of him) and they  made me think of this book.

The nice thing is abstract expressionism looks awful in book or postcard form. Size matters. All these tributes look great in book for.

But I'm not sure if it's for sale or anything.



2015 - Courtyard B Block- Ground Floor
'Cuts on Concrete', 30cmx30cm. Author: Laborer
Tribute to Lucio FONTANA (see below)







2013 - D Block - Second Floor
'Black Hole', flexible air duct, 20cmx20cm. Author: Unknown
Tribute to Eva Hesse (see below)














Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Best Russian Self-Published Photobook Stable of the Year (and Best Photobook Video)



image of Lookbook


I never quite know what to make of the books that come out of the Russian Independent Self-Published Photobooks Stable but they always have a  bit of a different feel, I always enjoy them, I always end up smiling, and I always look at them again to see what the hell is going on and wondering how I can elevate myself to the higher plane of existence that the inhabitants of RISP inhabit.



image of Alla Mirokskaya's book

That's true of three of the titles that I saw this year. Anastasia Bogomolova's Lookbook Alla Mirovskaya's Old Family Photographs and Deep Space Objects and Julia Borissova's Dimitry, and Olga Bushkova's Google Wife.

And sorry if I've missed a few out because there are more I know.

Fabulous Stuff.



image from Dimitry

Buy their books by following the links above or here. And Olga Bushkova's Google Wife also came with my favourite photobook video of the year in How I tried to Convince my Husband to have Children. The title's misleading because she didn't (not in the video) or did she?

And did she really pin pictures of babies up around the wall to convince him? Is she really as obsessive as that. And is her husband as much of a jerk as he's made out to be?

Is it true or is it all just a fictional lie? And if it is who cares.

You'll have to watch the video to find out.

Here it is:





Olga Bushkova "How I tried to convince my husband to have children..." ver. 1 from Misha Bushkov on Vimeo.



Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Best Book that's an Exhibition that's a book that's an exhibition....





Next up in the best book, pre-list categories is the best book that's an exhibition, or is it a book.

The first one is Eamonn Doyle's mad book, End. It's the last in his trilogy of Dublin street books and it's a kind of sketchbook for the show that wowed Arles this year and was made in collaboration with graphic designer Niall Sweeney and composer/sound artist David Donohoe.



It's something else, and like all of his work (except the backs - I love the backs) I can't decide how much substance it really has, but it's certainly an eye-catcher with it's mass of pull-outs, use of different materials and integration of graphics and cellophane into the mix.

But at Arles, Doyle went beyond eye-catching and proved he knows how to show the work, he knows how to use sound and music and walls and scale to bring the work up to a different level, how to affect people with his mixing of sound and space and image. And by doing that he gives it a whole bunch of substance. And because END was made in conjunction with the show, indeed was a kind of sketchbook of the show, that adds substance to the book. The one feeds forward and the other feedback and you're in a kind of feedback loop. Which is exactly what happens at the show (not that I was there mind).



A lot of Doyle's creativity comes directly from his career in music, a world where Doyle used to organise club nights where creative mixing were "what you do on a club night so we thought we'd give it a go in Arles" (I'm quoting from memory there). So in a very direct way, the show that made such an impression on Arles came from an intermingling of the bodily fluids of the worlds of music and photography. Above all else, it showed what a great curator Eamonn Doyle is.I'd love to see what he'd do with Robert Frank or Gary Winogrand - or both actually. So long may that intermingling continue, and long may there be more such interminglings. It makes us all culturally richer and stronger!


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