Photobooks of 2017: Robin Titchener
2017 has seen the release of some wonderful work, and I only wish I could have included more. However, listed in order of purchase rather than preference (anything else would be too cruel), here are my favourite titles from the last twelve months.
I don’t think anyone actually saw this in 2016, so late was the release. So to be fair to this wonderful piece of work here it is now. From an incredulous display of macho behaviour, Thomas Prior has extracted a quite beautiful sequence of images. Commemorating a Mexican battle from some four hundred years ago, this festival requires the participating men to attach home made incendiary devices to the heads of sledgehammers, and then drive them against steel rail road tracks. The ensuing mayhem is captured with almost balletic beauty. Stunning design and printing, in a self published edition of 250 copies.
This stunning edition highlights everything Anne Schwalbe stands for. It has been produced to support the renovation of the house featured between it’s covers, and is completely hand made from recycled materials – down to the box which houses it – and with photographs individually tipped in, one per page. Anyone familiar with Schwalbe’s delicate colour images of flora and fauna will find no surprises here, but this set wonderfully straddles the line between book and art object, making it a very special thing. As perfect as a summer’s day.
Moving and horrifying in equal measures. Using photographs of buildings that functioned as hospitals during WWII as it’s starting point, this book tells of how tens of thousands mentally ill men, women and children were summarily “euthanized” purely because the German government deemed it more cost effective than keeping them alive. Not only a subtle and beautifully constructed set, but an important and lasting document.
For this (quite literally) massive publication from Aperture, Stephen Shore revisited the archive of his landmark work, Uncommon Places. Newly scanning hundreds of rarely seen negatives. Fifteen heavyweight hitters from the cultural world were then invited to select ten images each to form self contained chapters (or portfolios). This freshly curated selection just reinforces the continuing relevance of this body of work within the world of contemporary photography. Sometimes bigger is better
Artist and cancer patient Leif Sandberg takes us on a nightmarish journey into his dreams and fears. An imaginative, terrifying, and thought provoking meditation on transience, mortality and the essential nature of love.
From Russia to Poland on foot. Clear of People is Michal Iwanowski’s tribute to the amazing wartime escape, and subsequent journey home, of his grandfather. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful collections of landscape photography for some time. Fabulous design by Brave books.
Gregory Crewdson’s latest project shifts his cinematic focus from small town America to the majestic pine forests of Massachusetts. Grand, meticulous, and breathtakingly beautiful. This melancholy collection of images, suggests a separate narrative for each image, and is reproduced in a book that is as large as the concept behind it.
Brian Sergio seems hell bent on a mission to prove that the Philippines is not the smiley happy holiday paradise that the tourist board would have us believe….mission accomplished. Hot, sweaty, horny, twisted are all words that could be used to describe Sergio’s world. This collection of portraits is a powerful, raw, energetic debut from this exciting new talent to watch. Once again Calin Kruse at Dienacht has matched the work with a beautifully designed and crafted open spine book and printed slip cover.
Scathing comment on twenty first century Britain, or an elegant, emotive collection of monochrome portraits ? I think both. A stunning first book from a self taught photographer with a message and a mission.
Whilst officially first released in 2016 as a boxed limited edition of prints, I have included Chai Wan Fire Station because this year saw the first trade appearance in book form of this beautiful body of work. Whilst looking out of the window of his office rest room, photographer Chan Dick saw that he was overlooking the neighbouring fire station courtyard. The simple framing and subtle colour pallet that forms the background never changes, and as peculiar as it sounds, the colourful abstract patterns formed by the fire crew, and their visitors as they go about their daily routines, produces one of the most beautiful, and curiously restful sequence of images I can recall seeing. Dare I say it, a masterpiece.
The second outstanding title to come out of the Philippines this year. Heartbreaking, breathtaking and infuriating, A long term study of the effects of climate change on this beautiful country and it’s people. Fabulous design and printing from fledgling London based independent Mapa books.
An elegant and moving study of a man savouring his last days of freedom before going to prison. Understated yet beautiful design, construction and printing, as you would expect from the creator of the breathtaking “Grays The Mountain sends”. At only 44 pages and 27 images, this large – but short – photobook punches well above it’s weight and proves without a doubt, that sometimes less is indeed more.
Robin Titchener is a keen, bordering on fanatical photobook collector of thirty years.
Images: top – Thomas Prior – Bomba, below – Veejay Villafranca – Signos, Jim Mortram – Small Town Inertia