Publications we loved, and the big news stories from the last month in photobooks – featuring work by Peng Ke, Tom Wood, Paul Reas, Vivian Maier and the post-war PROVOKE group
If you don’t get the reference, it’s a curious title for a photobook – Fables of Faubus, the 30-year retrospective by British documentary photographer Paul Reas. But if you’re a jazz fan you’ll know it’s taken from a song by Charles Mingus, written after Arkansas governor Orval Faubus decided to bar the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
To Mingus, and many others, Faubus stood for a dark force holding back progressive social change. For Reas, the title suggests the metanarrative that runs behind the many stories he’s shot in the UK on heavy industry, consumer culture, the heritage industry, and more – namely, the disenfranchisement of the British working class, “the years of decline of industry and the fall out from that, communities being de-centred and levelled”.
Paris Photo is epic, but beyond the Grand Palais there’s a plethora of other photo-related events in the French capital. For those interested in photobooks there are two essential book fairs – Offprint and Polycopies, both showcasing some of the most interesting new work in photography and beyond; there is also a week-long photo focus at the world-famous Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare & Co.
“In 15 years, not a day went by when I didn’t question my own work,” says Chinese photographer Lu Nan, in an interview included in his new book Trilogy. “That’s why I scrutinise what I was doing by means of reading. This mode of assessing action through thought and assessing thought through action helped me to complete these projects.
“The trilogy is concerned with human beings. I hope that by looking into real life, I’ll find something fundamentally and enduringly human.”
Lu Nan isn’t well known outside China but this book, his first in English, should change all that. It collects together three projects he shot over 35 years – The Forgotten People, a look at the lives of Chinese psychiatric patients, shot from 1989-1990; On the Road, a look at the lives of Catholics in China, shot from 1992-96; and Four Seasons, a look at the lives of rural Tibetans, shot from 1996-2004.
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.
For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.
Gideon Mendel’s new series Dzhangal is a portrait of the Calais Jungle, told through its abandoned objects. The title is an Afghan/Pakistani Pashto word meaning ‘This is the forest’, which became the colloquial name for the migrant camp, which existed until 26 October 2016. Mendel first went to the Jungle to teach photography with the University of East London’s Centre for Narrative Research, which was running courses and programmes for camp residents. He noticed a growing sense of antagonism towards photographers, with the refugees fearing that images would hinder rather than help their efforts to gain asylum, and looked to find a way of portraying them without identifying them. He decided to turn to their discarded possessions, collecting and recording what he found and bringing it back to London. “When I first came back with a whole bunch of bags full of what looked like random rubbish, my wife thought I’d completely lost the plot,” he laughs. “She thought I’d really gone mad, finally.” Some of this ‘random rubbish’ is now being housed at London’s Autograph ABP though, part of an …