BJP-online’s month in photobooks

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Salt Ponds by Peng Ke
“I like objects that don’t have much of a style. Like patterns in colouring books, clean black lines, and primary colours. Things that aren’t trying to sell you an ideology or concept. Most visual languages are so coded, so if I see things that are almost innocent, they really stand out to me.”A colourful look at life in contemporary Chinese cities, published by the impressive Ningbo-based outfit Jiazazhi Press.

© Peng Ke

Vivian Maier: The Color Work
Living in obscurity, working as a nanny in Chicago, Vivian Maier’s masterful street photography wasn’t discovered until 2009 – two years after she was forced to auction it off to pay the rent, and just after she passed away. But while her black-and-white images have since garnered world-wide attention, her colour work remained unknown until now, with a handsome book published by Harper Design. The foreword is provided by well-established master of street photography Joel Meyerowitz, who writes that: “One of photography’s truths is that the best street photographers learn to be invisible or, at the very least, to convince themselves that they are.” With this photobook, it’s good to see Maier coming a little more into view.

Chicagoland, 1975 images © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

PROVOKE: Provocative Materials for Thought, Complete Reprint of 3 Volumes
Founded in 1968, and led by some of Japan’s best-known photographers and art critics, PROVOKE expressed a radical anger and discontent with post-war world. It survived for just three issues, and was pilloried at the time, but is now widely recognised as a ground-breaking publication in Japanese photography history. Just 1000 copies were printed of the original issues though, making them rare and expensive collector’s items now; luckily Japanese publisher Nitesha has stepped in with an affordable, though faithful, reprint.

© Daido Moriyama

Fables of Faubus by Paul Reas
“I would say I photograph people but I think the pictures are more about systems people find themselves in,” says Paul Reas, whose 30-year retrospective charts the course of the British working class after the decline of industry and the rise of consumer culture. Organised chronologically, this book includes his early work on mining, moves through richly-coloured projects on shopping and on the heritage industry, and brings the reader right up to the present day with his project on the gentrification of London’s Elephant and Castle. Reas adds very personal insights into the social and economic history he was recording, the changes in documentary photography he helped bring about, and his very personal connection with his work. Published by GOST.

From the series I Can Help © Paul Reas

Out of the Shadows by Polly Braden and Sally Williams
It is estimated that 7% of the prison population in the UK has a learning disability, compared to around 2.2% of the general population. A study by Prison Reform Trust in 2008 found that people with learning disabilities are seven times more likely to come into contact with the police, five times more likely to be subject to control and restraint, and three times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, and spend time in solitary confinement. “It was really shocking. I had no idea that people with learning disabilities got sent to prison before I started this project,” says Polly Braden, who has created a book on their plight with the writer Sally Williams and the arts organisation Multi Story.

Rodney. From Out of the Shadows by Polly Braden and Sally Williams

Party! Party!! Party!!! edited by Ed Jones and Christopher Nesbit
In 1919, a year after the end of World War One and the start of the Weimar Republic in Germany, $1 was worth 48 Marks. By early 1922, $1 bought 320 Marks; by late 1922, $1 bought 7,400 Marks. By 1923, $1 bought 4,210,500,000,000 Marks. “Lingering at shop windows was a luxury because shopping had to be done immediately,” said the artist George Grosz at the height of this hyperinflation. “Even an additional minute could mean an increase in price.” Some Germans responded to the chaos with wild partying but, as the Archive of Modern Conflict’s new publication shows, meanwhile fascism was also gaining sway. A thought-provoking book, which poses only too relevant questions about how best to fight intolerance.

Landfall by Mimi Plumb
Born in Berkeley, Mimi Plumb was a lynchpin in the network of photographers and educators who kept the region grounded in socially-engaged documentary traditions. But her own work was all but forgotten until 2014, when Ann Jastrab, curator and gallery director at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco showed her series What Is Remembered. Now Plumb’s images from the early 1980s have been published as a photobook, titled Landfall, which was launched by TBW Books at Paris Photo.

Pyramid Lake, 1985, from the series Dark Days © Mimi Plumb

Women’s Market by Tom Wood
From 1978-1999 Tom Wood was a regular at the Great Homer Street market in Liverpool, north Britain, which was popularly known as the Women’s Market. Photographing the people he found there – who were predominantly women and their children – Wood avoided the cheap laughs that  harsher eyes might have seen in favour of a more subtle, gentle gaze. “The main thing that gave me authenticity I guess is going to the same places again and again,” he tells bjp-online. “I could have gone there three or four times and got what I considered a good set of pictures. But clearly I was after something much more elusive than that.”

© Tom Wood, from Women’s Market published by STANLEY BARKER

Manfred Heiting’s world-renown photobook collection goes up in flames
The biggest news story in photobooks this month is also one of the saddest, with Dutch collector Manfred Heiting’s 36,000-strong library incinerated at his Californian home by wildfire. Heiting’s collection was considered one of the best in the world, including copies of most of the significant photobooks that appeared from 1888-1970 in Europe, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan, and had been used in numerous books and exhibitions. Heiting had recently donated his library to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston but just a few thousand books had been transferred so far. “It is terribly disappointing. For us all,” Heiting told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

From Front, Immortal Hind and Idainaru Kensetsu: Manshukoku photobooks, 1943-44. The Japanese military were the first to see the potential of photography back in the late 19th century and used it continually ever since. Included in The Japanese Photobook by Manfred Heiting and Kaneko Ryuichi, published by Steidl

Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards
They’re one of the best-respected photobook awards in the world, and the winners were announced this month at Paris Photo. Laia Abril scooped Photobook of the Year for part one of her long-term project, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion, which is published by Dewi Lewis; Ursula Schulz-Dornburg won Photography Catalogue of the Year for The Land In Between, which is published by Mack Books, London; Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa and his publisher Roma Publications won the First Photobook prize with One Wall a Web. Pixy Liao also picked up a Juror’s special mention in the First Photobook category for Experimental Relationship Vol.1, which is published by Jiazazhi Press.

Illegal Instrument Kit, 2018 © Laia Abril, 2018
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy