Photobooks of 2018: Mark Power
Twelve books I’ve enjoyed this year, in no particular order (that would be too difficult) other than alphabetical.
Good Sick by Jordan Baumgarten (Gost)
Relentlessly grim photographs of the effects of opioid addiction in a neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Baumgarten’s home town. A recurring image of a man sinking lower and lower as he’s digs a hole, used as punctuation throughout the sequence, is a potent metaphor, and so too the seemingly ever-present fire. I loved this book when I first saw it in April and I still do… A quote from Baumgarten’s own text might help to explain why: “I stumbled upon a prostitute giving a man a blowjob in the field with high grass. He told me he was gonna whoop my ass but I reminded him his dick was out.” It also wins the prize for my favourite cover design of the year.
Jasper by Matthew Genitempo (Twin Palms)
Another graduate of the successful MFA programme in Hartford, Connecticut, following in the footsteps of Bryan Schutmaat, Morgan Ashcom, Matt Eich and many others. This is one hell of a production for a first book, with gorgeous printing doing justice to the quiet, gentle and very beautiful work within. My ‘best cover design’ runner-up.
Bright Black World by Todd Hido (Nazraeli Press)
A lavish and confident production by Nazraeli. Hido’s images seen through his car window really convey the cold and damp of the relentless Fimbulwinter outside, and are so evocative of a landscape passed through on the way to somewhere else. Already large, the two vertical gatefolds produce the biggest pictures (40”x25”!) I can remember seeing in any book.
The Ball by Ingvar Kenne (Journal)
A word of warning: if you found the antics in Trent Parke’s Christmas Tree Bucket hard to stomach, well… this is even worse. Photographed at ‘bachelor and spinster balls’ throughout rural Australia where, in theory, young locals hope to meet their life-partners, this reads instead like a kind of anarchic horror movie. My God.
Skinningrove/ The Station/ Portraits/ The Last Ships by Chris Killip (Pony)
Simply wonderful. Many previously unseen pictures, plus a few that seem like old friends. I can never have enough Chris Killip, even on newsprint. There are only 250 copies though, so be quick if you want one.
The Portraits by John Myers (RRB Photobooks)
Not only is this book full of wonderful pictures but, for someone of my generation, memories of those dreadful 70s fashions, those interiors, those furniture showrooms will come flooding back. I look at the portraits and imagine John standing there with his Gandolfi 5×4 plate camera; what a sense of occasion it must have been to have been photographed in such a way. My favourite picture has to be Sofa Salesman, 1979, pen poised hopefully over his ledger, sofas hovering precariously on stilts, phone screwed to the wall, bulging wastepaper basket, and of course those clashing patterns, even in black and white.
Dyckman Haze by Adam Pape (Mack)
I know virtually nothing about Adam Pape so this book was an exciting discovery. It contains a remarkably strong series of pictures made in nocturnal New York parks where people and animals – skunks, especially – seem to happily co-exist. Impressive.
Margins of Excess by Max Pinckers (Self-published)
This was published early in the year for which I’m thankful because this is a complex book that demands time to get the most out of it. Perfectly timed in this era of post-truth and fake news, this is both disturbing and witty storytelling/journalism of the highest order which challenges notions of what truth is, or can be. All this underpinned by Pincker’s trademark photographs, which go from strength to strength.
Fables of Faubus by Paul Reas (Gost)
At long last a retrospective monograph of this important British photographer. Along with surveys of his most significant projects and some excellent contextual essays are several snapshots from Reas’s personal life, including a particularly disturbing one of Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows. By the way, the Special Edition not only comes with four prints but, better still, is covered in the very same military wallpaper we see in one of his most iconic pictures; Reas miraculously found enough unused rolls on eBay to make the Special really special.
Waffenruhe by Michael Schmidt (Koenig Books)
A bit of an indulgence because this isn’t exactly new; in fact, it’s been my second favourite photobook of all time since I bought the original over thirty years ago, in 1987. Frustratingly, however, I was never able to read the German text, tantalisingly placed in the centre of the book. But now, with this reprint, I finally can. Owning this book should be compulsory.
TTP by Hayahisa Tomiyasu (Mack)
106 views of the same table tennis table from the same window over the course of a year doesn’t sound very promising, but this is above all a celebration of human initiative. We see a table used for exercise, picnics, laundry, sleeping, dog grooming, nappy changing, sunbathing and many, many other activities, but never for ping pong. It’s all gathered together in an appropriately understated publication.
Guts by Masaki Yamamoto (Zen Foto Gallery)
Yamamoto’s first book, and a kind of Japanese version of Ray’s a Laugh, this is a side of Japanese culture we rarely, if ever, see. All made within the confines of one overcrowded apartment, the pictures (as we might expect) intimately record the result of 18 years accumulation of people and stuff in a space that’s far, far too small.
Mark Power has been a lover of photobooks for longer than he cares to remember and has even made ten of his own, his most recent being the upcoming Good Morning, America (Volume One), the first in a series of five books. Power has been a full member of Magnum since 2007.
Images: top – Waffenruhe by Michael Schmidt, below – Fables of Faubus by Paul Reas, Guts by Masaki Yamamoto