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what's so cool about nice ?!

I'm not generally interested in photographing smiling people - not revealing enough, smiles often worn as masks, even by merry people.

could also be part of my vibe photographing empty, forlorn places.

send me off to purgatory with a camera and i'll be happy as a lark ! screw heaven, too boring - hell perhaps a bit warm.

now to my recent photo book acquisitions - mostly street photography:

Alex Webb, La Calle: I think this is Webb's latest book, grouping pictures taken in Mexico from the late 70's to the mid aughts. A few early, token B&W pictures, with the rest in glorious color with Webb's unmistakable eye for composition and layering. An added attraction are the texts, by Mexican writers, interspersed between the photos, combining with them to give a deeper feeling of and for the place. I find myself enjoying more and more those photo books that include well-dosed, sensitive text (though not the crappy, irritating, analytical or pseudo-scientific kind) that combine with the photos to give and in-depth look and feel for the subject. A number of Depardon books are prime examples, whether with Depardon's own texts, or those of his traveling companions (the latter in Abyssinia and Indochina). Kamber's Photojournalists on War, Nickelsberg's Afghanistan, Niedringhaus' At War, Abbas' Les Dieux que j'ai croisés or Larrain's Valparaiso (both of which more below) also come to mind.

Abbas, Les Dieux que j'ai croisés: his latest book, an exploration of Hinduism - following his work on Islam (Allah O Akbar, In Who's Name) and Buddhism (Les enfants du Lotus). Whilst the former are all fairly critical to various degrees, Les Dieux que j'ai croisés isn't - or at least assumes the non-committal stance of an outside observer. Perhaps a function of how foreign and outlandish Hinduism appears to most of us, making us wide-eyed with bewilderment, too busy taking it all in to really think about it critically. Wonderful B&W photos of course (with a small color collection at the end of the book, making you wonder why Abbas doesn't do more color).

Sergio Larrain, Valparaiso: truly one of the most beautiful books in my collection: stunningly printed, magnificent photos, with an introduction by none other than Pablo Neruda, and number of texts and thoughts by Larrain himself, who became something of a mystic in later life. If you buy a singly photo book this year, make it this one ! This is actually a (augmented) reprint of Larrain's classic book, first issued in 1991. Larrain lived to quite old age, but apparently didn't photograph much in later life - or even really in middle life it seems, so that he might count as a "rare" photographer. The same publisher (Editions Xavier Barral) put out a beautiful monographs of Larrain's work a few years ago, which I snapped up in Arles at the time to discover this exceptional artist. Check out this article from Le Monde, aptly describing Larrain as un illuminé, who traversed the world of photograph like a shooting star, fulgurant, lumineux, insaisissable. An absolute must, really. If you like Valparaiso, if only for its name, you might also check Anders Petersen's slim book by the same title.

Matt Stuart, All that Life can afford: first discovered Stuart's photos in Leica's LFI magazine, was blown away by the use of color and above all by his gift for capturing wonderful, funny, tender or absurd moments, bringing a smile to your face whilst holding more depth than just a collection of visual one-liners. Matt's the real deal ! I should also confess that I didn't resist getting the limited, signed edition also including a signed print.

Markus Andersen, Rage against the light: I was a bit disappointed by this particular tome. A while ago I'd happened onto this little film about Andersen, which I enjoyed so much I ended up watching it a few times over and that included really cool photos. The pics in this book (street photography from Sydney, playing with the stark contrast from Sydney's blazing light) somehow aren't really up to what you would've expected from this film. But I do really like the signed, square print that came with it ! For truly amazing B&W photos from down under, check out Trent Park, Minutes to Midnight, you can tell he's something of a tortured soul.

Vincent Munier/Laurent Ballesta: Terre Adélie/Mer Adélie. Vincent Munier's a bloke who can't seem to get enough of really freezing places, the colder the better. See his previous books: Solitude, and Arctic. This is actually a beautiful boxed set of 2 books, both in Terre Adélie in Antarctica; basically, Munier stayed on firm ground, while Ballesta did his stuff under water. Amazing photogs in stunning color. One little gripe though if I may: after a few huddled-penguins-in-a-snow-storm photos, you begin to get the point. In Munier's defense, there's a lot of white down there, and not much wildlife beside penguins, but still, it gets a little repetitive.

Ballesta's photos are technically stunning, and amazing for the balls and grit he needed to go down there and take them; however, with a few exceptions, you can't help but feel they lack depth (no pun intended), feeling and, for want of a better word, artistry.

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