Every so often there is an opus that challenges received wisdom not just on a single subject, but on a range of them. An Autobiography of Miss Wish, the collaboration between Noor photographer Nina Berman and Kimberly Stevens, the protagonist, published by Kehrer, is one of them. The book reads many ways: as a memoir, a commentary on justice systems and social services, an indictment of our disregard for the less fortunate and a reflection on documentary photography.
The hefty volume is, first and foremost, the story of a black woman who once went by the name of Cathy Wish, who Berman met on the streets of London’s West End in 1990 while studying the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies. “I noticed her banging on a door, headphones in her ears and cigarette in hand,” the US photojournalist says.
Photobooks have been booming for the last ten years or so but one prize has been there for the last 49 years – Les Prix du Livre at Arles, which was set up at the same time as the Rencontres d’Arles festival. With its long history and prestigious jury, which is this year overseen by FOAM director Marloes Krijnen, the Prix du Livre are some of the best-respected in photography.
Three Prix are up for grabs in three categories this year – the Historical Book Award, the Author Book Award, and the Photo-text Book Award, each of which come with a €6000 prize to be shared between the photographers and their publishers. The books are on show at Arles until 23 September, and the winners will be announced in the opening week.
Modern working life is so frenetic, we often don’t get the chance to dwell on how it’s evolving, how secure it is, or how we’d cope if our jobs came under threat. Who are the people, or groups of people, fighting this seemingly inevitable trend? The people who see something noble and worthy of protection in work?
Noel Bowler provides a possible answer in his series Union, which is on show at Impressions Gallery from 04 July – 22 September. Taking us inside the meeting rooms and head offices of industrial unions, it introduces us to the people who try to safeguard labour rights.
“I am just obsessed by the beauty of botanical drawings,” says Kenji Toma, describing his new book, The Most Beautiful Flowers. It’s a homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s celebrated book of watercolours, Choix des plus belles fleurs [The most beautiful flowers], which was first published in France back in 1827 – long before colour photography was available. “His images were illustrated with the purpose of replicating the botanic subject as close to reality as possible,” says Toma. “I’m more interested in doing the exact opposite with photography.” His series shows hyperreal, unrealistically perfect images of flowers, each shot with the same lens, angle, and lighting, and delicately arranged with pins and armature wire. Going one step further than nature, they put a contemporary spin on the concept of the botanical encyclopaedia.
Chrystel Lebas has won the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Photography Book Award, beating off the two other shortlisted photographers – Stephen Gill and Dayanita Singh. Lebas won the prize for Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, which she published with Dutch outfit FW: Books. Field Studies is framed by the work of 20th century botanist Sir Edward James Salisbury, particularly his glass plate negatives from the 1920s, retracing his steps and making new images in the same Scottish landscapes. Gill was shortlisted for Night Procession, which he self-published through his imprint Nobody Books; Singh was shortlisted for her multi-book project Museum Bhavan, which was published by Steidl.
You may not know it, but you’re probably familiar with Emily Shur’s celebrity portraits, from Helen Mirren and Will Farrell to Lupita Nyong’o and Larry David. Her active, vibrant and playful commissions have been seen on posters and screens the world over, and have helped her become one of LA’s most sought-after photographers when it comes to shooting comedians, actors and musicians in their most natural – or unnatural – habitats. But in Super Extra Natural!, her new book published with Kehrer, Shur trades in the digital camera and studio lighting to take us on a journey through Japan.
The founder and director of the African Artists’ Foundation and curator of this year’s Lagos Photo picks out his top books, exhibitions and Instagram feeds of 2017
The Washington Post picture editor picks out his top five of 2017 – including Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill’s Everyday Africa photobook
Jessica Backhaus’ A Trilogy was born out of intuition. After 2015’s Six Degrees of Freedom, a project that saw the Berlin-based artist confronting personal topics of “identity, family, origin and memory” she craved something new; something rooted in minimalism and abstraction that would be wholly artistic and natural. Published now by Kehrer Verlag, the resulting book is a triptych of sorts, in which Backhaus takes her experimental sensibilities to a place of lucid colour, playful collage, and radical reduction. “I felt a cycle was finishing,” she says. “After Six Degrees of Freedom I felt empty, but not in a negative way. It was liberating. That notion of emptiness and void made me listen to how I was feeling.”
“These pictures were originally intended as a sort of ‘Fuck you’ to the Bush administration,” says Sean Hemmerle. “I never thought after he was gone we would eventually end up with someone that made him look good. They’re a ‘Fuck you’ to someone else now.” On the morning of September 11 2001, former sergeant turned photographer Sean Hemmerle was travelling past the World Trade Centre, on his way to The New Yorker to drop off a portfolio of pictures. “Then some massive calamity interrupted my morning,” he says, wryly. “I photographed the towers as they fell, the people at the sight, ground zero. Somehow I got in there. I guess some of those pictures ended up becoming sort of ‘iconic’, and from them I made what, to me, at that time was a tonne of money.” The success of those photographs brought internal conflict and a sense of moral duty, says Hemmerle, as he struggled with the idea that he was profiting from the “smouldering hole in the centre of my community”. He decided that …