Rob Hornstra has shared five of his favourite photobooks from the past year. He will reveal the remaining 5 books in his Top 10 during the FOTODOK Book Club #04 on December 17th.
1. Daniel Mayrit // You Haven’t Seen Their Faces (Riot Books)
Who are society’s real looters? This was the question posed by Daniel Mayrit in response to the London riots of 2011. In his provocative book ‘You Haven’t Seen Their Faces’, he offers a possible answer with his headshots of the 100 most powerful Londoners. The publication’s concept, visualisation (grainy, CCTV-style images) and design fit together seamlessly, due in no small part to the influence of the publisher Riot Books. The only flaw: the price and print run make the book a collector’s item, whereas the topic deserves a wide audience.
2. Dragana Jurisic // YU: The Lost Country (Oonagh Young Gallery)
This book is the surprise of the year, beautifully visualising the contemporary Balkans from a personal perspective. ‘YU: The Lost Country’ is a personal quest for a lost national identity. Dragana Jurisic – born in Yugoslavia and now living in Ireland – travelled through her former homeland, following the same route taken by Rebecca West in the late 1930s in her book ‘Black Lamb and Grey Falcon’. Historic texts from the latter blend organically with the recent texts and images by the former.
3. Dana Lixenberg // Imperial Courts 1993-2015 (Roma)
Dana Lixenberg spent more than 20 years working in Imperial Courts, a black ghetto in LA where alcohol, drugs and violence are a feature of everyday life. ’You want to put some niggas on display?’, asked gang leader Tony during Lixenberg’s first visit in 1993. She eventually won Tony’s trust and was able to continue the project even after he was shot dead a year later. The book is almost anthropological in nature, presenting a fascinating study of the residents of a typical troubled neighbourhood. You keep leafing through the pages, tracing and connecting the characters’ lives and family relationships. The ultimate example of the power of long-term storytelling.
4. Xu Yong // Negatives (New Century Press)
The best thing about this book by Xu Yong is that he – rightly – refuses to comment on whether it is a statement about censorship by the Chinese government of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. Little information is available in China about this historic clash between demonstrators and government forces. By publishing his negatives, Yong raises questions about censorship and the manipulation of reality. The negatives can be viewed using the invert function on your iPhone.
5. Kadir van Lohuizen // Where will we go (Self-published)
Kadir van Lohuizen is a personal hero for his boundless desire to raise awareness. In recent years he has worked on a photo series about the global consequences of climate change. The series is not to be found in an expensive photo book but in a newspaper with a print run of 10,000 copies, 5,000 of which were distributed during the recent climate change conference in Paris. I wish more photographers made publications that serve broader goals than the photographer’s own self-aggrandisement.
Rob Hornstra, born in 1975 in the Netherlands, is a documentary photographer and self-publisher of long-term projects, both at home and around the world. He is the founder and former artistic director of FOTODOK – Space for Documentary Photography and current head of the photography department at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. Hornstra is represented by Flatland Gallery.