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.
Michael Danner’s book project Migration as Avant-Garde has won the prestigious Dummy Award at the Fotobookfestival Kassel. His mock-up will now be produced and published by Kettler, Germany, the company behind Mathieu Asselin’s hit book Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation.
Born in Reutlingen, Germany in 1967, Danner studied photography at Fachhochschule Bielefeld in Germany and the University of Brighton in the UK, and lived in London from 1997 to 2000. He’s now based in Berlin, where he lectures in photography at the Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule. He has previously published three monographs and seven artist’s books.
His project “examines the new ways in which migrants are pursuing their hope for a better life”, he states, adding: “The term ‘avant-garde’ stands for progress and the way of a pioneer. Driven by the desire to give their lives meaning, and guided by their own integrity, migrants bring new perspectives and points of view to our society. The origin of his work was the reading of a 1943 text by the philosopher Hannah Arendt.”
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“Very often when dealing with Albania, artists, photographers and journalists – especially those who don’t come from the country – deal in a very repetitive form with the poverty, the post-communism, and the old and sporadically still-practiced traditions,” says Anna Ehrenstein. “All in all they focus on the otherness of the people and the country.” Brought up in Germany but of Albanian heritage, Ehrenstein has done something very different with her project on Albania, Tales of Lipstick and Virtue. Rather than focusing in on picturesque, unchanged farming life or remaining vestiges of the Soviet Block, she hit contemporary values on the jugular, photographing women into “a certain kind of aesthetic that can be found in Albania, but comes from all over the globe”.
“I do not think nudity is challenging – nudity is common, everybody has it,” says Ren Hang. “I like people naked and I like sex; I use nudity so that I can feel more realism and sense of presence.” But whatever his view, his work has proved controversial in his native China, where galleries have found it difficult to show his images and “no Chinese fashion magazines let me make images”. Even so, he’s exhibited in China, Italy, France, Russia, Israel and Sweden, published his work in magazines around the world, and published several books, with organisations such as the respected Editions Bessard. “Ren Hang’s images challenge conventional codes of morality in a still highly conservative society,” states another of his publishers, Editions du Lic. “[…]The artist’s homeland remains harshly censorial against any material it deems immoral and Hang’s work certainly plays with fire.” Editions du Lic claims Hang is part of a new breed of 21st century Chinese artists, “riding the wave of modernisation and cultural reawakening in China”; Hang sees things more simply, …