Sean O'Hagan's Best of 2017

Sohrad Hura’s The Lost Head & The Bird at The Nines, London for Peckham 24
Projected in a dark space in south London as part of Peckham 24, Hura’s wild and disturbing stream of images about life on the margins in his native India was a disorienting experience that I was totally unprepared for. A hallucinatory mix of the viscerally real and the possibly fictional, its almost subliminal flow of often violent images was like a jolt to the senses compared to the prints-on-the-wall traditionalism of most exhibitions.
Organ Vida Photography Festival, 2017
Zagreb, September, a small festival with a big presence. Marina Paulenka and her all-female team run the whole thing on a relatively small budget, but for ideas, energy, commitment and an extraordinary communal spirit, Organ Vida is hard to beat. Some great work on show too from Katrin Koenning, Pieter Hugo, Dana Lixenberg, and Dragana Jurisic.
The Dinneen Archive on Instagram
One of my favourite Instagram feeds, this vernacular archive features studio portraits taken by pub landlord, Dennis Dinneen, in the backroom of his bar in Macroom, Cork in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. It adds up to a snapshot of a small town Ireland that has all but disappeared. Worth seeking out the small book that accompanied, Small Town Portraits, an exhibition of the work at the Douglas Hyde Galley in Dublin, not least because novelist Kevin Barry’s text is a brilliant series of musings on rural pub culture, the unwritten rules of studio portraiture and the cult of the character in Irish society.
William Gedney’s Only the Lonely, 1955–1984, published by University of Texas Press
A long-overdue retrospective of the mercurial genius of post-war American photography. Only the Lonely gathers Gedney’s various long-term projects: the poor, rural community he lived among in East Kentucky, the early hippies of Haight-Ashbury, American gay pride parades, and his lone travels in India. The chapter on his wonderful handmade photobooks is a revelation. A brilliant appraisal of a still-underrated genius of observational documentary.
Michal Iwanowski’s Clear of People, published by Brave Books
A deeply personal book in which Iwanoski retraces the three-month, 2,200km trek his grandfather made from Russian to Poland after escaping from a Russian prison camp during the second world war. Maps, family portraits and extracts from the memoir his grandfather wrote combine with Iwanoski’s own photographs to create a meta-narrative about family, belonging, history, home, war and individual willpower.