Sunday, August 21, 2011

Five books in a suitcase

While in Europe a couple months ago for the Rencontres d'Arles festival I found quite a few interesting items and as I look over them I see my tastes have drawn me to almost as many non-photobooks as photo-related ones. As I speak to other photobook obsessives I find a common denominator - it is harder and harder to find the "fix."

The first is the new Enrique Metinides book Series from Kominek Books. Metinides is often referred to as the "Mexican Weegee." Metinides worked as a newspaper photographer and many of his gritty, often gruesome images were used in the 'nota roja' tabloids. This book concentrates less on his individual greatest hits but on series of images he made while photographing crime, accidents and natural disasters in Mexico City and surrounding areas. The work is given an interesting design treatment courtesy of Syb (Sybren Kuiper) one of the leading Dutch designers working today. By far, it is the best presentation of Metinides work to date. Highly recommended.

Gregoire Pujade-Lauraine's The Significant Savages was another choice which had a strong following at this year's Rencontres d'Arles festival. Included in the exhibition From Here On which was curated by Martin Parr, Joan Fontcuberta, Joachim Schmid, Erik Kessels and Clement Cheroux, The Significant Savages compiles hundreds of "profile images" from the social networking site Facebook and presents them in an extremely handsome package that comments on how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the larger community. In part it is a critique but it does not lose its empathy with a cooler than thou vibe that is all too common with other archives of kitsch and stock imagery.

The next book, Nicolas Giraud's All Work and No Play from Boa Books is probably the oddest choice I was completely compelled to bring home. Over several years, Giraud created his own "phantom literature book," a typescript version of the "manuscript" that Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) was working on in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining. Part fiction and part concrete poem, All Work and No Play sits in the obsessive space between an ordered mind and one that is unravelling. It might at first sound like a book that strikes a single note but design and typography freaks will want to take a long look at this deceptively simple work.

Aymeric Fouquez's Nord from Kodoji Press is another that made the long haul back to NYC. Fouquez photographed WWI memorials built on actual battle sites in the north of France that were designed by the British architect Sir Edmund Luytens. Protected by law until 2018, these memorials sit in landscapes that are slowly developing and where modern real estate interests could threaten their existence. Politics, history, memory and loss all hang in the mist that enshrouds many of these skillfully made images. Each book comes with a small signed "self-portrait" print of Fouquez as a child on one of the many family outings to these gravesites.

The last in this set of books is Ricardo Cases's Paloma al Aire. This has become one of my favorites, describing a small group of 'pigeon racing' men in Spain. Using brilliantly colored paint, these men color their birds with identifying marks on their wings and bellies and set them off to chase a female. Shot with flash, Cases turns these normally everyday creatures into exotic beings that apparently wind up coming to rest in bushes and trees, putting their owners through their own paces in order to retrieve them. Humorous and quirky, I can't leaf through this spiral bound book without feeling light and giddy over creatures I mostly find repulsive.

More to come...