Best of 2017, BJP, Documentary, Exhibitions, Fine Art, Photobooks, Projects, Students

Simon Bainbridge’s Best of 2017

Images from Deep Springs © Sam Contis, courtesy of MACK

The British Journal of Photography's editorial director picks out his top five of 2017 - including Sam Contis' Deep Springs

Sam Contis’ Deep Springs
A classic Michael Mack book, giving a young, relatively unknown photographer the opportunity to make her first book without compromise, from the obscure cover to the lack of text, allowing the images to work their magic through their poetic interplay and unconventional sequencing. To say it’s one of the most visually sophisticated and conceptually complete books to emerge from MACK is of course a huge compliment to Sam Contis, whose works travels in such well-charted territory – the American West, explored through the prism of an elite school for boys – yet points us towards unforeseen directions.

Carolyn Drake’s Internat
With its hand-coloured spine, binding together overpainted lithographs and Drake’s tender eye on a community of young women in a remote community Ukraine, Drake’s third book, designed by Sybren Kuiper, is a beautiful object in its own right. But it’s also so much more. Having first visited the Soviet-era orphanage a decade before, she returned to find the girls she met had grown to become adults, yet never left – setting about an extraordinary artistic collaboration.

Lorenzo Vitturi’s Money Must Be Made
The much-anticipated follow up to Dalston Anatomy offers a reverse view of the chaos and colour of the outdoor marketplace, swapping the African flavours of Ridley Road market in east London for the real deal in downtown Lagos. Immersing himself among the street-level entrepreneurs of Balogun, Vitturi presents a very different view of West Africa to the one peddled by NGOs and Western news media, finding his own visual logic to the place, referencing his celebrated previous work without overly repeating himself.

KABK x Erik Kessels: Fabulous failures
Thirty third-year students at The Royal Academy Of Art in The Hague were given the task of organising their own exhibition, tasked by Erik Kessels to explore their own take on ‘Fabulous Failures’. They found a disused bank next to the Dutch parliament and made it their playground, filling it with discarded art boards as backdrops, and letting their imaginations run free to create funny, embarrassing and sometimes poignant art works. An idea-bomb of an exhibition.

Sanne de Wilde’s The Island of the Colorblind
Whether in book form or exhibition, the young Belgian’s eye-popping take on a remote atoll in the mid-Pacific Ocean confirmed the arrival of a major new talent, following on from her widely appreciated series, The Dwarf Empire. Capturing the people of Pingelap, best known for the rare disorder that leaves many of the islander’s with no perception of colour, the work is as much a riff on the nature of perception and the medium of photography itself as a document of the community she visited.