Photobooks of 2016: Robin Titchener
Sakiko Nomura has been associated with brooding dark shadowy portraits and nudes since she first appeared on the scene in 1993. Another Black Darkness however marks a daring departure, and presents her first collection of images using the technique of solarization. Producing one of the most stunning, ambitious and unusual photo books for some time. A luxurious production from Akio Nagasawa in a screened box.
Sam Ivin’s collection of (intentionally) defaced portraits throws the spotlight onto the plight and uncertainty of asylum seekers caught in the political bureaucracy of our immigration system. Elegant, powerful, and easily one of the most important portrait studies in ages.
Seung Woo Yang is a Korean photographer living in Tokyo. Shinjuku Lost Child is an exhilarating study of one the cities most colourful and notorious areas. The life and energy that emanates from these pages makes this one of the most addictive and exciting books on city life and street photography that I have seen in some years. A wonderful talent, and a future force to be reckoned with.
Debauched human cess pit, or hedonistic party capital of Africa? Michele Sibiloni’s colourful, frank, frenetic study of Uganda’s capital Kampala after dark makes Geordie Shore look like an episode of The Waltons. By turns, beguiling, depressing and euphoric…..if anyone needs to contact me in the next month, I’ll be on Kampala 00 256 41 538……
Elaborately designed books with all the “bells and whistles” come in for a bit of a knocking these days. many times with good reason. However if an artist can combine stimulating original photography with concept, design, intelligence, and craft, then what could have been a gimmick, becomes a work of art. Hiroshi Okamoto’s Recruit tells the story of his university graduate best friend, Yo Toshino’s efforts to apply for, interview, and secure a job. This tortuous process is undertaken annually by more than half a million students in Japan. The book incorporates the artists original images, loosely bound, with reproduced adverts, and emails of rejection, encouragement and congratulations. Designed to look like an internal company personnel document, the pages are contained in an office folder and secured with a band. An I.D. photo is even paper clipped to the cover to complete the illusion. A stunning hand made limited edition which once again shows why the Japanese are masters of the genre.
Another example of a beautiful collection of images coming out of a tragic situation. These pictures were taken over the last eight years in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl (2016 sees the 30th anniversary of the disaster at the world famous nuclear power plant). Arthur Bondar’s stunning and emotive pictures look at both the landscape, and the lives of those still living with the aftermath of the disaster. A gem of a book, beautifully designed and constructed, with open spine binding and screened boards.
Whereas the earlier Project Family (Dashwood 2013) looked at the chaotic home life of the artist and his family, this new book from the creator of the masterful Lovesody, focuses attention on the combat zone that is meal times. These ultra bright and vivid pictures continue to reinforce the wonderfully disorganized nature of a family living in an average Japanese household (who knew, they’re just like us after all), whilst bringing the classic notion of a Flemish still life study, thundering into the twenty first century (where they favoured the occasional dead pheasant, Motoyuki has a gnome). Both great fun and socially aware.
Portraits of rain drenched Chinese cyclists wearing brightly coloured hooded capes, taken at night with flash. At first seemingly playful, these images on closer inspection hint at a sense of melancholia and isolation. Feelings that paralleled those of the artist when arriving for the first time in North East China. This is a wonderful book in every respect, from the stunning large format, through the printing, design, and of course the photography. It teases the emotions, and reminds us that as in life, a bright colourful exterior may often conceal a darker more sombre reality.
Love her or hate her, and let’s face it millions did…..in equal measure. Margaret Thatcher’s legacy has extended way beyond her political career. James O Jenkins reminds us that even in death she was able to provoke reactions that few other politician would be capable of. Whether protesting or proudly watching in support, the streets of London were lined by onlookers who certainly had not forgotten her. From posed portraits to wonderful street images of precariously balanced city types craning for a better view, this unassuming little book serves as a wonderful document of a peculiarly British event.
Politics, homophobia and racism. Welcome to Pieter Hugo’s fashion shoot for the innovative, and very cool, men’s clothing label, Hood By Air. A stunning large format soft cover, shot in Jamaica, and featuring a line up of male porn stars, and members of the local ostracized gay community, known as Gulley Queens. Although the clothes and the guys both look amazing, Hugo’s subtext is never far from your thoughts. A beautiful production which allows both the clothes to shine, and affords the men a dignity denied them by their own countrymen .
Hannah Modigh – Hurricane Season
Destructive hurricanes and floods are an inevitability to a poor but resilient community in the state of Louisiana USA, in this beautiful and moving study of people living with the constant threat of mother nature at her most relentless and unforgiving. In a collection that rivals Dana Lixemberg’s
Imperial Heights, or Paul Graham’s American Night, Swedish photographer Hannah Modigh
turns a spotlight once again upon a proud but under served group of people, forced by their social standing into one of the most unstable parts of this country of extremes…..and then pretty much abandoned to fend for themselves.
One way or another the subject of immigrants and immigration has figured very strongly in this years book releases. The Observation of Trifles is a record of Spaniard (Carlos Alba) arrival, and subsequent adjustment to London life. The beauty of Alba’s work is to show the day to day moments, the minutiae that the locals probably no longer see. The moments that give a place it’s flavour and uniqueness. Some charming and warm, others depressing and embarrassing. A wonderful study for anyone unfamiliar with city life, and a reminder to those of us who already live here, of just how wonderful this rich, flawed sprawl, that is London, can be.
From the desert to the ocean, from east to west. This stunning odyssey through Los Angeles has been described as an allegory for the evolution of America itself. As has already been said by virtually every one that has seen it, a near flawless, brilliantly edited, beautiful body of work.
Inspired by the artists own experience. A fascinating study of people coping with the loss of a loved one through suicide. The five cases concerned all share the same location of West Flanders in Belgium. An area of the country which has the tragic reputation of possessing one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. A sombre, understated photo book, which is both respectful and considerate of this delicate subject matter.
When I first saw this book on line I chuckled and moved on. However I couldn’t get it off my mind. I am so glad that I returned to it. Kenneth O’Halloran beautifully combines street photography, portraiture, and social commentary, to produce a piece that could be the very definition of the word zeitgeist ! A stunningly conceived and designed self published book which uses the public’s reaction to (at the time of writing) President Elect Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame, to comment on his….Ahem….popularity. As a point of interest. The day after I ordered the book, I woke up to a news report saying that the star had been attacked and completely destroyed by a protestor wielding a sledgehammer.
Robin Titchener is a keen, bordering on fanatical photobook collector of thirty years.
Images – top: Arthur Bondar – Shadows of Wormwood, below: Sam Ivin – Lingering Ghosts