Photobooks of 2017: Mark Power
In no order other than (almost) alphabetical, these are my favourite twelve book purchases of 2017:
Mathieu Asselin – Monsanto®: A Photographic Investigation
There’s not much I can add to what’s already been said about this remarkable book, except that I’m so pleased that it exists. A fascinating, accessible, angry, brave and very important piece of journalism with a contemporary twist.
Sam Contis – Deep Springs
Set in an all-male liberal arts college in the Californian desert, a place where perceived notions of masculinity and the American west are at once challenged and confirmed. A clever blend of archive pictures and Contis’s own make for a book to browse again and again. Another gorgeous publication by Mack, who go from strength to strength.
Dieter De Lathauwer – I Loved my Wife (Killing Children is Good for the Economy)
A dark and brooding book which revisits the sites of 16 former psychiatric units in Nazi Austria, where some of the estimated 140,000 incurably ill were ‘terminated’ on grounds of genetic purity and economic cost. Another book mixing contemporary images with an archive, we’re often unsure of what we’re looking at: Who is doctor? Who is patient? An ominous red cross on the institutional-style folder that contains the book and separate explanatory text apparently signified a patient who was to be eliminated. A deeply chilling read.
Cesare Fabbri – The Flying Carpet
A book about metaphor and the ambiguity of photography. Every picture is suggestive of flying, and once you get into the flow you start to see it everywhere. With some gorgeous images, and clever and often very funny sequencing, it’s also a beautiful evocation of the Italian landscape.
Mary Frey – Reading Raymond Carver
My list this year includes several books that hark back to a time when the world seemed a simpler, more wholesome and innocent place. A wonderful book, made even better by a lack of captions of any kind.
Brian Griffin – Pop
For someone of my generation this is a treasure trove of memories from the rich and varied music scene of the 70s and 80s, given to us by the great Brian Griffin. Technically extraordinary and endlessly inventive (let’s not forget that all these were made in-camera) some of Brian’s trade secrets are given away in the often illuminating, occasionally irritating, conversation between Brian and his old friend Terry Rawlings. Hats off to the team at GOST for designing a book that is so elegant and organised when it could so easily have become a chaotic mess.
Ron Jude – Nausea
I never tire of looking at Ron Jude’s pictures. Quite simply he sees the world like no one else. From the shallow-focus school of photography about… um… school.
Feng Li – White Night
A book of utter weirdness, ten years in the making, mainly shot on the streets of Feng Li’s home town of Chengdu. A book about life in China unlike any other.
Rafal Milach – The First March of Gentlemen
Rafal Milach continues to reinvent himself and with this book he’s moved closer to college and sculpture and further from the more conventional documentary work for which he’s better known. Beginning with the archive of the little-known ‘local’ photographer Ryszard Szczepaniak, Milach creates a series of tableau about control and oppression under both communist rule and, by implication, contemporary Poland. All this with inventive but absolutely appropriate design by the wonderful Ania Nałęcka.
John Myers – The World is not Beautiful; Photographs 1973-1981
This is not a particularly beautiful book either; just a humble exhibition catalogue of Myers’ matter-of-fact images of vernacular architecture and objects in the West Midlands of the 1970s. Any addition to the John Myers inventory is very welcome, however, and hopefully it won’t be too long before a beautifully produced Myers compendium is available.
Henk Wildschut – Ville de Calais
Another hugely important book. This is the kind of work that reinstates my belief in photography as a powerful political tool. A magnificent piece of sustained research that every Daily Mail subscriber should be forced to read.
… and… Martin Parr – The Martin Parr Colouring Book
Very funny, wonderfully silly, and the perfect stocking filler.
PS: For the record, I also liked: Rob Hornstra’s Man Next Door; Laia Abril’s On Abortion; Ewen Spencer’s Young Love and, last but by no means least, Thomas Mailaender’s Parental Advisory… by turns hilarious and deeply troubling. Only 200 copies printed, so buy it now…
Mark Power has been a lover of photobooks for longer than he cares to remember and has even made eight of his own, his most recent being Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment, a collaboration with the poet Daniel Cockrill. Power has been a full member of Magnum since 2007.
Images: top – Sam Contis – Deep Springs, below – Cesare Fabbri – The Flying Carpet, Brian Griffin – Pop