We start with Taryn Simon’s “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” (2007, Steidl), which is a sort of inventory of what lies hidden and out-of-view on the territory of the USA. Taryn explores the subjects from the domains of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion, thus examining the American culture at large. Anything from radioactive containers in nuclear waste storage, to CIA and Ku Klux Klan headquarters, a research institute studying animal epidemics (not again!), and an operating room with a Palestinian woman going through the restoration of her hymen (and so virginity). Each of 70 pictures has a concise annotation, which is just enough to get the context and also so much excitement from the revelation of something not supposed to be seen. If you leave out from the title the word “American”, that could sound like sort of dienacht motto: the hidden and unfamiliar. This is exactly what we crave for! Perfect match.
This time it’s George Shiras 'In the heart of the Dark Night'. This wonderful book shows one of the the earliest examples of wildlife photography all - for the first time in history - captured at night. And when you realise it was taken with such technical precision, aesthetics and taste by a hunter who exchanged his rifle for a camera and as early as in the 1880s, you just can’t resist to say WOW. What’s more, night is as import here as its dwellers. Indeed, “the agents of the night’s relentless labor are primarily animals”. Especially albino deer, looking almost like ghosts at night… Absolutely captivating and inspiring. Happy to have this treasure of nocturnal photography, beautifully printed and designed by Editions Xavier Barral, on our bookshelf.
Hajime Kimura “Snowflakes dog man”, self published. Japanese photobooks are always a special story. Amazing attention to details, sense for paper and choice of materials at large, precision, long history of craftsmanship in the background. Inside this massive long slipcase, which looks so grandiose and stable, is a fragile story about loss, family and attempt to restore the faded memories. The case lets you explore it from two different sides. A smaller Japanese bound book with a dog on the cover features fragments of thoughts and feelings mixed with dog images scattered all through the narration, printed on structured paper. Another bigger book with pamphlet binding and detachable cover is more of a spacial character, featuring places and environment. In the heart of it is hidden another thin booklet where for the first time one discovers the story behind and pictures from the personal archive: portraits of mother and father, all fragmented, cut, juxtaposed, distorted, fading into oblivion. Very subtle. Beautiful. By the way, the second edition is now available!
Paul Cupido ‘Continuum’, Edition Bildhalle. If I could put ‘flow state’ into a photobook, that would be it. You forget yourself after diving into a couple of spreads of ephemeral imagery, get excited about discovering the hidden pictures (perforation can be ripped and you get your own sequence), building up the layers of narration, get fascinated by the textures of papers and their colours, printing techniques (which are here 6). You get constantly surprised: what will come next? And the surprise never fails you - it is unexpected, and yet, somehow, so natural that it just feels right. It flows. The images alternate, the universe spins. You wake up on the last page as if you’ve just had a dream. It’s definitely an experience. It’s a beautiful example of how a variety of very different images, papers and printing techniques could all co-exist and co-create a coherent, harmonious space. Love.
’Black Passport’ by Stanley Greene (Schilt Publishing). Seems like this book needs no introduction. Indeed, and yet, while I was studying our bookshelf I felt compelled to talk about it. It’s a powerful example of an enormous body of work, both photojournalistic and personal (war images alternate with private ones), both photographic and textual (there are 26 diaristic notes or rather “scenes” from life), put together in one entity and staying coherent. Every time I go though it I feel overwhelmed: by the amount of events, conflict zones, twists of fate, intensity and contrasts of emotions, as well as in terms of the book itself: by the overall density of narration, variety of layouts, combination of design elements. It feels too much for one person to live through as well as for one viewer to look at in one go. But isn’t that very much true to the life of a war photographer? Extreme, overwhelming, chaotic and still somehow making total sense in the end.