Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reviewing the Paris Photo / Aperture Best Book Nominees: Part I

In a series of earlier posts, we reviewed the Aperture First Book Award nominees.  This post, the first part of a two part series, reviews the books nominated for their other prize, PhotoBook of the Year. 

1) Ori Gersht, History Repeating

More a book of photographs than a photobook in the narrow sense, the book is an exhaustive review of Gersht's carreer to date and a catalog for the current mid-career museum retrospective currently on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. As the publisher notes:

History Repeating is the first comprehensive survey of the Israeli-born photographer and video artist Ori Gersht (born 1967). This richly illustrated book presents the best of Gersht's achingly beautiful images, and explores how he intertwines spectacles of painterly and narrative imagery with personal and collective memory, metaphysical journeys, contextualized spaces and the history of art and photography. Be it in the scars left on the sunlit yet war-torn buildings in Sarajevo, the white noise of his train journey to Auschwitz, or the clearing of trees in a forest that once stood witness to mass murder in Ukraine, Gersht's vision bridges a history that is full of violent horror and a world of emergent, transcendent beauty. From the radiant optical glow of pollution in the atmosphere to his freeze-frame shots of shattering floral arrangements frozen by liquid nitrogen, Gersht's calm is one that comes after the storm. In his 2010 series of Japanese landscapes, the ghostly visual static of cherry-blossom petals echo the militarism and sacrificed youth of World War II and the more recent nuclear fallout of Fukushima, but in their own extreme transience, they also manage to embody the possibility of spiritual renewal. History Repeating demonstrates the thin line between beauty and brutality and the sublime draftsmanship behind history's various traumatic scars. History repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as unexpected beauty.
 See Gersht discuss his work with the museum curator in the video below (long, but interesting):

For a quicker take on the videos, which I find more interesting than the still photos, here's "Falling Bird" (spoiler -- the pay off is in the second half of the video).

2) Mikhael Subotzky, Retinal Shift

Retinal Shift is a first retrospective of Subotzky’s work. According to the publisher: "He investigates the practice and mechanics of looking – in relation to the history of Grahamstown, the history of photographic devices, and Subotzky’s own history as an artist. The book fuses his compelling and sometimes brutal photography with essays and archived portraits from the last century to create an intricate and esoteric collection."

While I haven't seen a copy, it is another book based on an exhibition consisting of a mix of stills and videos.

3) Sophie Calle, Rachael, Monique

Another exhibition based book I haven't seen. Released in France, but hasn't yet made it into mass distribution in North America. Here's the description from Digital Daze:
Ex-lovers, family members, strangers on the street: those around Sophie Calle often become involved, sometimes without their knowledge, in her multi-media pieces that debate the nature and boundaries of intimacy. Her current show, ‘Rachel, Monique’, held at the Palais de Tokyo’s new space, a 9,000 square meter basement still in a state of construction, follows her mother’s recent death in a reportage-style, and simultaneously celebrates her life and personality. “She was a woman who loved attention, and would have loved the show” said the artist.
And a video of the exhibition ...

4) David Alan Harvey. (based on a true story)

The quintessential post-modern photobook. Colorful, sexy, nominally true ... but infinitely revisable. From the publisher:

(based on a true story) takes you deep into David Alan Harvey’s fictional night in Rio, it is myth and truth together, a visual novella of the mood and feel of the people surrounding him and the journey into his inner self.

Not just a book, it is a puzzle, a game, a story to be read many different times, in many different ways. It is his story, but it can become yours. Not only virtually, but for real. (based on a true story) is meant to be taken apart, to be deconstructed and reconstructed the way YOU see and feel it. You become part of it, along with the characters of this play.

To be spread out on the floor, to be pinned to the wall, framed, with (based on a true story) you can do it. It is an analogue interactive 3D experience made real.

(based on a true story) is solid photography. Each frame tells you what Rio feels like, roaming from the people in the favelas to those of the upper class, with respect for everyone. From the beaches up to the Corcovado, the duality of Rio is made tangible in the way the book is constructed, pictures not only standing on their own, but completing each other. Interwoven, the feelings, the story, the mood, the dream..
(based on a true story) is raw, sensual, sexy, bold, tender, simple and intriguing, passionate, soft, fun, subtle, hot, quiet, crazy.. it is “feel it, live it”… based on a true story..

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