Saturday, October 6, 2012

Aperture First Book nominees, Part II

Part I, reviewing the first 8 of the 20 nominated books, is here.

9) Cette Montagne, C’est Moi by Witho Worms
In January 2006 Witho Worms started to photograph terrils or slagheaps in Belgium and France. These mountains are the visual remnants of the coal mining industry. In Europe these black pyramids are the symbols of a vanishing era that began with the industrial revolution and has now evolved into an age dominated by binary code.

There is a sense of ambiguity about these heaps. The steep slopes and dark tones give them a unnatural appearance. In his photographs of the terrils, one can imagine the harsh living conditions of the workers, who once constructed the mountains, as well from the pioneering plants and trees who are now conquering a new territory. He shows a fascinating play of the changing relationship between man and his environment. What once was perceived as wasteland have become centres for leisure and natural parks.

In 2007 he expanded his work to Germany and Wales and in 2008 to Poland.                                   -- Withro Worms

The book provides an interesting conceptual take on the relation between image and reproduction, Cette Montagne, C'est Moi consists of photographs of slag heaps of coal reproduced as carbon prints using coal from the various heaps as a component of the process. As such, the images literally contain materials taken from the objects they represent. Here is Joel Coberg's video review. As he notes, the book looks considerably better in person than it does in the video. For a better sense of the images themselves, look here.

10) The Wrong Side: Living on the Mexican Border by Jérôme Sessini

One of the most traditional looking of the photobooks on the list. What it lacks in conceptual novelty, the book makes up for with beautiful, often haunting images. In 2006, the Mexican government declared war on its country's drug gangs. The result? Mexico has become a battleground, with 60,000 civilians, police and drug lords already dead. Magnum photographer Jerome Sessini recalls the two years he spent on the narcotics frontline in this article.

A small, but representative, sample of the page spreads from the book is available here.

 11) Hired Hand by Stuart Bailes, Bea Fremderman, Ingo Mittelstaedt, Athena Torri

Who, precisely, authored this book? Typically, a photobook is the product of the photographer. In this case, Flemming Ove Bech and Johan Rosenmunthe (designers / editors / publishers) took the elegant landscapes and still lifes of the listed photographs and re-appropreated them – collaging, juxtaposing and presenting them alongside internet stock photographs to make up a softspoken picture poem in which brute force and a slight caress suggest an undefined plot.

Hired Hand by Vandret Publications from Johan Rosenmunthe on Vimeo.

12) Celebrity by  Kenji Hirasawa

Released in September of 2011, this book made several best of the year lists last year. Here is the publisher's description which explains the origins of these unique and visually arresting images.
Both a documentary analysis and a conceptual deliberation, Celebrity is a visually exciting criticism on the social impact of idolisation and capricious desires. Who are these people we admire so much, what role do they play in our lives, and what absurdities do they evoke from us?

Photographing wax work models at Madame Tussauds of supposedly aspirational figures, Hirasawa presents us with social relationships both separated and intensified by these lifeless figures we call celebrities, ingeniously creating metaphors of themselves, as existential intimations which we can never actually be close to.

The images themselves are taken with a thermographic camera, recording heat emitted from visitors’ bodies, where the lifeless wax work models are barely seen... each pixel records specific temperature information. As one moves through the book, various emotions and interactions take place; humour, aggression, playfulness, regret and reverie...

13) Cruising by Chad States

The comparisons with Kohei Yoshiyuki’s The Park (video flipthrough here) are both inevitable and apt. However, the images in Cruising are typically less explicit, taken at a greater distance, and in color rather than with infrared film. This results in a 'you are there' sensibility that rarely descends into the overt voyerism of The Park.

From the publisher:
“Cruising” has always been a part of gay culture; the word itself is a code, innocuous to outsiders, but representing an incognito hunt for sexual partners to those in the know. Over the years, men with particular desires found spaces—certain parks, public restrooms, and roadside wooded groves—out of sight and yet in plain view, where they could meet, and with the use of silent signals and cues, pair off for intimate encounters. It is these spots, nationwide, and the men making use of them, that Chad States photographs in Cruising.

With an oblique focus on hidden clearings, forest-lined parking lots, and the well-trodden paths where these encounters occur, States gradually began to include the men far off in the distance within his lush, dense landscapes. These are the beautiful and surreal spaces where forbidden fantasies come to life. From the Pacific Northwest back east to Pennsylvania and New York, States obscures his subjects in the foliage of the woods and blends the various locations into one sensuous visual representation of this necessary, yet transgressive act. Cruising exposes this time-honored, gay tradition, dragging it out of the woods and into the light of the public eye.

Cruising Flipthrough from powerHouse Books on Vimeo.

14) C.E.N.S.U.R.A. by Julián Barón

Another interesting conceptual project. Photographs are made with light. In Censura, however, an abundance of light is used to wash out and obliterate (or censor) the object from view. Couple this process with the subject matter (Spanish politics) and one discovers yet another layer to the work -- as a commentary on the way that politicians manipulate images / reality for their own ends.Extremely affordable, self-published, and picked by Martin Parr as one of the best books of last year. What's not to like?

Julián Barón - CENSURA from librosfotografia on Vimeo.

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