Now in its 22nd year, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is awarded each year to image-makers who’ve made the biggest contribution to the medium in the previous 12 months in Europe. This year the shortlisted artists are: Laia Abril, for her publication On Abortion; Susan Meiselas, for the retrospective exhibition Mediations; Arwed Messmer, for his exhibition RAF – No Evidence / Kein Beweis; and Mark Ruwedel, for the exhibition Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel. The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced at The Photographers’ Gallery on 16 May 2019.
Virginie Rebetez is a photographer preoccupied by absence. Her work explores themes around disappearance, loss and death, her subjects often physically absent or removed from the projects that depict them. Such is the case with Out of the Blue, which centres around the unresolved disappearance of Suzanne Gloria Lyall, who went missing in 1998 at the age of 19, in Albany, upstate New York. Out of the Blue was published last year by Meta/Books, and is showing in Mutable/Multiple at Quad during Format.
Lyall has never been found but traces of her remain even now, more than 20 years later. “Photography has this relationship with traces but also with proof and reality,” explains Rebetez, whose work attempts to make concrete something unthinkable, this vacuum, by becoming acquainted with Suzanne and her life in her absence. “It’s really interesting to work on something invisible with photography because somehow it gives something material to that which is not present,” she says.
“I believe that collective memory and individual experience, politics and personal beliefs, are interrelated,” says Yorgos Yatromanolakis, and it’s easy to see why. Born in Crete in 1986, he got into photography in December 2008 because he wanted to document the riots that broke out in Greece after a 15 year-old, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was shot dead by the police. Shot in grainy black-and-white and printed by Yatromanolakis, the resulting images were later self-published as a book, Roadblock to Normality.
“Roadblock to Normality is a small, personal, but at the same time collective notebook emanating from my participation in political and social movements in my country,” says Yatromanolakis. “It certainly captures, in a subjective way, some critical political events.”
27-year-old photographer Valentina Neri’s first book, Almanacco Toilet Club, is playful and bold – just like her subjects. Shot between 2014-2016 in one of Milan’s most important gay clubbing spots, Almanacco Toilet Club captures the scene’s colourful atmosphere and eccentric characters. BJP catches up with Neri about the book’s experimental design, her process, and Milan’s LGBT community.
“To date, hardly any research has been conducted into Belgian photobooks,” opens the exhibition Photobook Belge, now on show at FOMU and published as a book by FOMU in partnership with Hannibal. “Photobook Belge provides an overview of the evolution of the Belgian photobook from the mid-19th century to today.”
Including nearly 250 publications, Photobook Belge is divided into eight chapters, looking at areas such as Artists’ Books, Belgian national identity, and the relationship between text and images. Belgium’s brutal colonisation of the Congo, its subsequent relationship with the country, and its often problematic representation of it in images, is given a whole chapter. “Many of the photobooks published since the 50th anniversary of [Congo’s] independence in 2010 oscillate between a more or less overt nostalgia, Afro-pessimism and an aesthetic of ruins,” states the curator Tamara Berghmans. “Most are still the result of a white, male gaze.”
“If we don’t look at them, or if we try to sanitise it, then it’s not honest to this brutal experience of being homeless,” says Danish photographer Thilde Jensen, who is currently raising funds to publish an impressive four year project on homelessness in America, The Unwanted. Shot over four years in four American cities – Syracuse, Gallup, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, Jensen is currently raising funds on kickstarter to publish the project as a book, which will include 120 colour images, as well as a poem by Gregory George – a homeless man she met in New Orleans – and an essay by Gerry Badger.
In 2016, Natascha Libbert was commissioned to photograph the sea locks of IJmuiden – large constructions which allow ships and boats access to the Dutch port, and which are therefore of tremendous importance to the economy of the Netherlands, and in particular the port of Amsterdam further downriver. But while they’re important, they’re not necessarily exciting photographic subjects, and some of what makes them significant is hard to pin down visually – as is shown by the phrases and thoughts that the Dutch photographer jotted down in her notebook while working on the project, such as “man-made landscape”, “90 per cent of all trade is transported by sea”, and “at sea, the brain receives 85 per cent less information than on land”.
“I got into photography because I’m a little restless, and I liked that it was fast,” says Brazilian photographer Mona Kuhn, who has just published her sixth book with Steidl, She Disappeared Into Complete Silence. Even so, the speed of photography haunted her, as Kuhn feared that her photographs would be consumed then discarded – like so many of the magazines she read and tossed away. “I wanted to stop time with photography,” she says. “That’s another reason I got into nudes, for the timeless aspect.”
She Disappeared Into Complete Silence is an experimental project shot in Acido Dorado, a reflective house in the middle of the Californian desert designed by American architect Robert Stone. Inside it are mirrored ceilings and walls, which refract sheets of golden desert light that flood the house. Here, Kuhn presents a solitary nude on the edge of the desert, removed from any symbols of time, creating “an abstraction of being,” and “a space where our mind resides”.
Themes of cultural identity and political conflict prevail in this year’s shortlist for the MACK First Book Award, which includes dummy photobooks that explore interracial marriage in Zimbabwe, the UK’s June 2016 referendum on EU membership, and young Turkish immigrants living in Europe, plus others addressing universal themes of family, time, and space. The prestigious award is now in its eighth year, having been set up in 2012 to support emerging and unpublished photographers. The First Book Award has helped launch the careers of image-makers like Paul Salveson and Joanna Piotrowska, via shortlists nominated by a panel of international experts – until now. This year, for first time, the shortlist has been drawn from an open call. “One of the things we are attempting to remove is the notion that unless you’re connected, unless you’re in the know and have contacts in that sphere, you can’t go forward,” said Michael Mack, founder of MACK, to bjp-online in December 2018. “We want to discourage that idea.” The shortlist was compiled by five industry experts, including Michael Mack, founder …
Xavier Barral, the award-wining publisher behind Éditions Xavier Barral, has died suddenly, at home in Paris on 17 February. Éditions Xavier Barral was behind books such as Antoine D’Agata’s Anticorps in 2013, a joint publication with Le Bal which won the Rencontres d’Arles Author’s Book Award; in 2015 another Éditions Xavier Barral/Le Bal co-publication, Images of Conviction: The Construction of Visual Evidence by Eyal Weizman, won the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photography Catalogue of the Year.