I immediately think of the “big four”: Barthes, Sontag, Benjamin and Berger, of course. Roland Barthes Camera Lucida was ground-breaking at the time, but I tire of semiotics and structuralism. Sontag? Again hugely important in the genre. I read “On Photography” in 1978, but it didn’t speak to me at the time and still I find it dry and dull. A giant that Walter Benjamin is of photographic criticism, again it’s hard work isn’t it? [Read more…]
We mourn but celebrate the life of René Burri today. Many will remember him for his iconic Che Guevara and Picasso photographs and his more recent hard-edged political reportage, but I will remember him especially for his series on Brasilia, which combined image making on an epic scale with warm humanism, reminiscent of Salgado. His Brasilia work can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/csyyhwu.
Having lived most of my early life in Rio, I am also very fond of his beach photographs:
My favourite quote from him?
“This camera,” he says, raising his Leica in his hand, “today is like my notebook, I’m still interested!” — Burri – aged 80 years old.
It gets in the blood doesn’t it?
I just love photo books. In the UK we have Martin Parr and Gerry Badger to thank for a revival of the photobook medium. I often dip into their books “The Photobook Volumes 1 and 2” and will be shortly buying the new 3rd volume.
The Kassel Photo Book Award 2014 went to Frédéric Brenner ‘s “An Archeology of Fear and Desire” but not after stiff competition from 29 other contenders. Social documentary (my own predilection) was well represented by:
- Piergiorgio Casotti’s “Sometimes I Cannot Smile”, a study of juvenile suicide in East Greenland
- Mark Cohen’s “Dark Knees”, a photobook by a street photographer with a surrealist perspective. For me, Cohen is one of the greatest street photographers. “Grim Street”, although not my current style of street photography, had a profound influence on me.
- Eamonn Doyle’s “i” , beautiful colour studies of individual people in the street
- Jim Goldberg’s “Rich and Poor”, shocking and gripping portrait of contemporary America
- David Hornillos’ “Mediodía”, an enveloping world of orange brick bathed in vibrant light from the vicinity of Madrid’s Atocha station, and last but certainly not least,
- Vasantha Yoganantha’s “Piémanson”, perhaps my favourite, an exploration of daily life on the last “wild beach’ in France. The beach’s history began in the 1970s when locals set up camp there with no rights or deeds. Nowadays, thousands of campers from all over Europe get together every summer season, looking for a freedom that they can’t find anywhere else
But despite my predilection for social documentary, my overall award would have gone to Michael Schmidt’s “Natur”.
‘Natur’ is the latest published photobook of Berliner photographer Michael Schmidt (1945-2014). Reminscent of John Gossage’s “The Pond”, ‘Natur’ reveals a parallel universe to Berlin’s urban territory overlooked by the presence of the Wall. Images of empty and unwelcome spaces at first work quietly and for a while un-possessively, but wait a while and the images rush back like a train hurtling through a tunnel.