Photobooks: A Few Good Reads

A few books I have been enjoying lately, not all new books but new to me at least:

Chatanooga, The Green Factory
– Pierre Bessard, design by Muriel Paris


Here is a book that completely cheered me up after the disappointment of Magnum’s ‘Postcards from America’.
From the moment you open up the book’s containing box there is a sense of occasion, the book can be teased out of it’s perfectly formed home by the matching green thread and we are presented with a beautifully crafted hardback book. The book, and box are both of exquisite design but where this sometimes overshadows content, in ‘The Green Factory’ it does not.

Inside we meet with a variety of families who are associated with the Alstom power plant in Chatanooga, TN. Their own piece and interpretation of the American Dream set out alongside an unconventionally formal and distant family portrait. This book will keep me coming back for more, not only is there a large amount of content here, but it certainly invites second, third and fourth visits. Bessard points us to key phrases but there is also enough here from the mouths of the subjects that we can infer our own readings and interpretations and create a more personal experience. If I had seen this book last year, it certainly would have made the ‘B#@t of 2011’ list.

Photographs Not Taken
– Various (Ed by Will Steacy)


It seems that just about everyone was queuing up to get this one, and rightly so. This is a fantastic collection of short essays collected and curated by Will Steacy. Each essay from a smorgasbord of photographers describes a picture not taken, a picture missed perhaps, or a moment unable to be rendered in the confines of photography. The paperback form here really suits the material and can be read as a collection of fascinating short stories, or dipped in and out of at will.

Also worth checking out is Michael David Murphy’s ‘Unphotographable’ blog in which the photographer pens his unmade images which become a collection of tableau vivants.

In the Shadow of Things
– Léonie Hampton


I have no idea how I came across this book, or why, i’m also not sure exactly how I feel about it but it’s a touching and intriguing book for sure. Léonie has documented her Mother’s struggle with OCD and how it has affected her personality, environment and relationships. The images present single moments, snapshots of feelings and events presented together with occasional montages of family photos and collages.

My criticism of this book is simply that I found there was too much here to take in. So many moments that carry significance to the narrative that I felt somewhat lost within it: perhaps this was Léonie’s intention. The accompanying recorded conversations at the back of the book provide interesting points to dive back into the images, I would have loved to hear these discussions as I navigated the book.

Bird Watching
– Paula McCartney


Darius Himes states that this book “is purely delightful; it teases and engages the intellect as well as soothes the spirit with it’s crafty and crafted, playfulness”, and I agree wholeheartedly with him, it’s just a shame that with such thorough crafting of the images, the book itself, while well designed, could have gone further to emulate the twitchers journal it mimics. The notes that accompany each image are especially fun once the book’s secret is revealed, but seeing it artificially produced to live flat on a page removes some of the book’s appeal as an object.
(see a more in depth and articulate review and comment of this book over here by Douglas Stockdale)

A Minha Casa e Onde Estas/ My Home is where you are
– Filipe Casaca


‘My home is where you are’ is clearly made with love and affection by Filipe Casaca, the small images proudly displayed high on the large page resemble sculptures more than images, still lives of his partner over a period of years. The scale causes you to intrude onto the book and into their lives which, over 15 images is presented to us not as blissful fairytale but as a relationship with moments both tender and tense.

The book alone provides an aesthetically interesting read but when time is spent with the accompanying text and interview, the reading of this book becomes a more complete experience.
(I have just seen this post by Wayne Ford on this wee book which, just like Douglas’s review, is more in-depth and eloquent!)

– Matt

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