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”.
London-based publisher MACK Books is one of the world’s best-respected photobook makers. A leading producer of contemporary books, working with some of the most established artists in the field, MACK has also won acclaim for republishing hard-to-find classics such as Masahisa Fukase’s Ravens and Luigi Ghirri’s Kodachrome, and for supporting and promoting emerging artists, particularly through its prestigious First Book Award. In addition, MACK has published several books compiling writing on photography by artists such as Joan Fontcuberta, Allan Sekula and Victor Burgin. MACK was originally set up as steidlMACK in 2004 and was part of the Steidl publishing house, but its founder, Michael Mack, left the German company to go it alone in 2010. Now MACK’s work to date under both imprints is being showcased at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Australia, in an exhibition presented by Perimeter Books which features over 200 books and special editions, including MACK’s pioneering experiments in digital publishing via MAPP Editions. In most cases, visitors are able to hold, handle and read these rare and sometimes out-of-print photobooks.
The Walther Collection has kicked off an 18-month exploration of vernacular photography with a show titled The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography. Taken from the 1850s to the present day, the collected portraits depict groups such as ‘migrant laborers’, ‘inmates of an asylum’, ‘criminal photographs’, and ‘G&G Precision Works Photographic Identity Badges’, and, says the organisers, show how “identification photographs have been used to sort, shape, segregate, and select subjects based on occupation, social group, body type, or political affiliation”. The title references a phrase used by writer and photographer Allan Sekula to reference “the entire social field of human representations, comprising both heroes and deviants, within which every portrait takes its place as part of a moral hierarchy”.
Michael Schmidt was last night awarded the prestigious Prix Pictet photography prize for Lebensmittel, his global exploration of the food production industry. First founded in 2008 by the Pictet Group in Switzerland, the Prix Pictet focuses on the kinship between photography and sustainability, with this year’s theme being ‘consumption,’ challenging its entrants “to confront the most pressing social and environmental challenges of today”. Schmidt was given the CHF100,000 (£66,200) award by honorary president Kofi Annan at a reception at the V&A museum in South Kensington, London. Today, the museum will open an exhibition of the 10 artists – from nine different countries – shortlisted for the prize. Annan said of the award: “This collection of extraordinary photographs shows us why a new economic model is needed – one that is global, inclusive, co-operative, environmentally aware and science-based.” The Prix Pictet’s judges, which included V&A director Martin Roth and Sir David King, the foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, described Schmidt’s Lebensmittel as “an epic and hugely topical investigation into the ways in which we feed ourselves”. Lebensmittel, the …