1. Paul Graham by Paul Graham.
This is the catalogue of the White Chapel Gallery retrospective exhibition. A light blue hardback book by MACK, it covers all of his work up to and including a shimmer of possibility, which stupidly I didn’t buy. How I regret that. Graham if you don’t know him is the king of the oblique social comment. He produces work that not only makes us think afresh on social issues but also draws our attention to photography itself.
2. Broken Manual By Alec Soth
This will be the first of Soth’s entries in my little list. Do you feel like it’s getting all to much, tired of living the rat race, feeling like you’re loosing touch with your inner man? Want to get away from it all and live a simple life, get back to nature and live the way that nature intended us? Then this is the book for you. Great concept and fantastic photography – Soth examines the desire to flee from the trappings of modern living, while showing us that it can’t really be done.
3. Sleeping by the Mississippi By Alec Soth
The book that introduced him to the world. It’s beautiful, lyrical and slightly melancholy. Soth takes us on a journey along an American icon, while hardly ever showing it. What he does show us is fringes of American society, which exist in the looming shadow of the mythology.
4. Capitolio by Christopher Anderson
I bought this at the book launch/talk by the man himself. A filmic journey through Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. It’s a country of extremes: wealth and poverty, love and violence, passionate expression and oppression all served with ample doses of paranoia and the ever-present personality of the man. Anderson also brings great book craft to it too.
5. Toshi-e by Yutaka Takanashi
One of the great photo books of all time – by one of the legendary Provoke photographers. I don’t have the original because I don’t want to take a mortgage-sized loan to by one. I do have the Errata editions version. It’s a journey by car, through a landscape of pessimism, to a notional city in a country going through economic, political and social change. It was great then and is even greater now. Why because it stands the test of time and is still relevant.
6. For a Language to Come by Takuma Nakahira
Another of the great Japanese photo books from the Provoke era. Nakahire joins Provoke’s agent provocateur in chief Daido Moriyama in throwing the narrative baby out with the bath water. It’s a high contrast, claustrophobic, oppressive and unnerving. Full of fragmentary, chaotic images it could be moments before the apocalypse or years after in a world of decay and hopelessness. Brilliant!
7. The Pond By John Gossage
We join John on a walk through some wasteland between the town and the county side proper, to find that there isn’t a pond in sight. What we do see are the details that attract his eye – small things that others don’t care to look at – but perhaps should. It also serves a treatise on the effect of mans dauntless encroachment into the natural world, a place we seem to be increasingly removed from.
8. The Maze by Donovan Wylie
Wylie unlocks the logic of the modern political prison. Designed by the British to house Irish political prisoners of both persuasions – the institution was made to dehumanize, alienate and destroy the soul of those imprisoned there. The photography and the design of the book aim to replicate something of this process. A very successful book.
9. The Americans By Robert Frank
It’s a classic! If you don’t know it – you should. It’s the blues on 35mm film. Forget the shiny America of the fifties; this is a sullen, moody road trip through an uneasy America populated by Kerouacian characters.
10. Invisible – Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes by Trevor Paglen
A book about the things they don’t want us to see. Paglen employs a multi-disciplinary approach to examine the world of secret bases, black ops, spy satellites, code names and rendition programs.
First Published: 04.03.2014