Recent additions to my photo library
Cuba, by Marc Riboud - a beautifully published, slim little tome containing the full text and pictures of Jean Daniel and Marc Riboud's reportage in Cuba, in November of 1963. I normally take a dim view of photobooks featuring text, as this tends to be self-indulgent balderdash, whether pseudo-scientific or abstract verging on the esoteric - but this here is just great, short and sweet journalism. And Riboud hardly requires introduction. One of the pictures is entitled "Employé de bureau dans une usine métallurgique construite après la Révolution avec l'aide de l'URSS"; the bloke in it, glancing up from his typewriter, hair slicked back save for a few unruly strands, a cigar firmly between his lips, designer stubble and wide open collar - I swear Johnny Depp's just his pale reincarnation !
Inherit the Dust, Nick Brandt - a darkly beautiful and ominous epilogue to Brandt's trilogy On this Earth, A Shadow falls, Across the Ravaged Land.
Sabine Weiss, catalogue from a retrospective exhibition at Jeu de Paume - there were two reasons why I wasn't going to get this book: a) I'm a bit fed up with the "retrospective" format, aiming to give you all there is, down to the very first photo this or that photographer snapped with their first camera as a five year old kid, and the last one before they kicked the bucket - and b) at one point I also got rather fed up with the "French humanist" school of photography. However, as retrospectives go, this one isn't of the overly indigest kind and, without a surfeit of text no one would actually read, it actually provides an interesting view of the different aspects to Weiss's work, including her fashion and portrait work. And as the French humanists go (though she's of Swiss extraction), Weiss is, IMHO, really quite exceptional, her images infused with beautiful, tender warmth.
Love Letters, Jiang Zhi - flowers on fire; what can I say ? Not as brash by far as this might sound - actually quite zen, and mysterious - from Thircuir, who put out a lovely collection of 10 small books on Chinese photographers. This edition also includes a small signed print !
The Suffering of Light, Alex Webb - Amazing, fantastic, mind-blowing - and I could on, and on ... Webb is just a master-colorist and master-composer of his images. This is a deserved, absolute classic, and must-have in any photo library. I'm just peeved that, without realizing it, I got a copy of the rather cheaper and not-so-well-printed French edition. Get this and hold on to it !
Tiksi, Evgenia Arbugaeva - the photographic record of a dream, a young girl going about her life in a snowy, Siberian landscape, with a sparse cast of tender, odd-ball characters.
Domon Ken, retrospective published by SKIRA - Domon Ken, or Ken Domon, is introduced in this book (with some text that I haven't yet read) as the master of Japanese realism. Some great pics, though this tome would, I think, have gained from a slightly more ruthless selection.
Children, Sebastiao Salgado - Pictures of kids from around the world taken by Salgado during his Migrations projects. Whilst some of the pictures in this collection strike me as a bit self-indulgent, this doesn't distract from the singular power of Salgado's photos to set not only your eyes, but your heart back in tune with what it means to be a human being, and with the necessity of caring and sharing with each other.
Maroc Terre et Ciel, photos by Bernard Rouget and texts by Jacques Mercanton - a book published in 1954 (beautifully printed in Switzerland) I snapped up for a song recently at a one of the weekly antiquarian bookstalls here in Geneva. a wonderful, if a tad naive to our modern eyes marriage of photos and selected quotes from various texts, all about Morocco; beautiful photos, quite apart from their historical allure.
Café Lehmitz, Anders Petersen - this is meant to be one of those classics. I say "meant to", 'cause I've yet to see it in exactly that light. Not that I don't appreciate Petersen's work, mind you, the first book of his I bought a while ago, more of a retrospective, including some of the pics from Café Lehmitz, really blew me away with its raw life and energy. If I'm allowed to be picky, this particular edition of Café Lehmitz (I haven't handled any others) seems a bit let down by its print quality, or lack thereof. It occurred to me, coming from Shirmer Mosel, printed in Germany and all, this may somehow be deliberate, in keeping with the the atmosphere depicted in the photos (a dog-eared café in the Reeperbahn quarter of Hamburg in the late 60's) and their general vibe - but still...
In Flagrante Two, Chris Killip - the second edition of a classic I'd heard nothing about - and was delighted to discover. Beautifully strong yet thoughtful, mostly wide-angle pictures of working-class Britain in the 70's and early 80's. The perfect counterpoint to Parr's The Last Resort.
Face, Bruce Gilden - a real punch-in-the-face of a book. a succession of full color, bigger than life-size, closely cropped portraits of people many of whom have had more than their fair share of battering by life.
Walking, Yusuf Sevincli - a bloke on a walk - in, of all places, Vichy, France. Stream-of-consciousness kind of thing, clearly evocative of Jacob Aue Sobol or Anders Petersen with full grain and contrast - but really well done.
Songbook, Alec Soth - apart from the fact that it's beautifully published and printed, I'm not yet really sure what to make of these pictures, snapshots of an intimate meditation on people going about their daily lives, mostly in small-town America, each character sort of radiating his or per personal story or drama.