As part of our look at “Notable Photo Books of 2012,” we asked Larissa Leclair, founder of the Indie Photobook Library, an archive of photo books by self- and independent publishers, to select a list of ten notable indie photo books published this year. Below is part two of her list. See part one here.
The Family Project
By Matías Costa
LENS School of Visual Arts / LENS Escuela de Artes Visuales
The Family Project by Matías Costa is the first in a series of photobooks produced through the LENS School of Visual Arts. The series, titled “Bokeh,” aims to publish photographic projects by teachers and students of this new and innovative school in Spain, and it uses the process of bookmaking—involving editors, designers and printers—as a valuable teaching tool. In today’s world, the photobook is having a big impact on the careers of young and emerging photographers. The LENS School has done everything right in this first book, The Family Project—with its 8x6-inch trim size and offset printing on rich color matte paper. In it, Professor Costa explores family memory through a mix of historical photographs and documents and present-day photographs of place—tree branches, a stairwell, a yellow house, the night sky. What the images and narrative reveal are secondary to the way the book encourages a more universal look at one’s own family history, filled with ancestral migrations, memory lapses and questions.
Dive Dark Dream Slow
By Melissa Catanese
The Ice Plant
Melissa Catanese is a photographer and one of the minds behind Spaces Corners—an artist-run photobook gallery in Pittsburgh that sells a curated selection of independent photobook titles. Catanese’s Dive Dark Dream Slow, published this year by The Ice Plant, and shortlisted for the Paris Photo / Aperture Foundation Photobook Award, is one of my favorite renditions in photobook form of appropriated photographs. While an historian may want to contextualize vernacular photos with date and place, Catanese uses a selection of photographs from Peter J. Cohen’s noted vernacular photography collection to weave a poetic, interlaced and open narrative.
By Kristof Guez
Poursuite Editions, the independent publisher out of Paris, continually publishes great photobooks. Antikira by Kristof Guez stands out this year, but past highlights for me include In the Fields of Gold by Miquel Llonch, L'Illusion du Tranquille by François Deladerrière, Autre Eden by Philippe Lopparelli, and Tangente by Laurent Chardon. Under the direction and design aesthetic of Benjamin Diguerher, Antikira brilliantly juxtaposes historical photographs with those Guez took in 2008 when he revisited the Greek town for which the book is named. Antikira was a place where Guez spent his summer holidays as a child until his parents’ divorce, and one that had a profound impact on his soul. This connection to place resonates from the color photographs of still moments filled with nostalgia. Historical photographs and the family were predominant themes in many strong photobooks this year, and this is a wonderful example.
Los Restos de la Revolución
By Kevin Kunishi
San Francisco-based photographer Kevin Kunishi traveled to Nicaragua in 2009 and 2010, thirty years after the Sandinista movement overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle only to be met with resistance by the U.S.-backed Contras that resulted in a civil war lasting a decade. For those interested in a photojournalistic account and introduction to Nicaragua during that time, Susan Meiselas’ seminal photobook Nicaragua, originally published in 1981, is a must see. Kunishi’s photographs blur the line between documentary and fine-art photography. With an academic background and interest in the country, Kunishi set out to photographically explore the collective memory and legacy left behind after the revolution, political turmoil and war. While on one level the images are masterful portraits and beautifully composed landscape details—graffiti, an overgrown forest, an old photograph, a plaque, the shell of an old tank—there is an ever-present haunting undertone and greater significance present in each. Following at the end of the book are detailed captions for the images, making the viewer acutely aware that, for example, prisoners were hung from a particular tree branch and tortured to death.
By Andrew Youngson
Black Box Press
Typological studies can either be repetitive or genius. Bjarne Bare put out Hose Variations last year, a typology of garden hoses, which I loved. This year, I keep coming back to Andrew Youngson’s Aida, a study of the spaces between Japanese houses published by Black Box Press and designed by Birch, the same team that collaborates with Harry Watts on his photobooks. The heavy, natural cardstock soft-cover and brown semi-translucent first and last pages are the perfect housing for the work. To categorize this work as just a typology would be shortsighted. The photographs, as Sayoko Nakahara writes in the beginning of the book, can be seen as a cultural and metaphorical look at the “existence of nothingness.”