John Myers is back with new book called Looking at the Overlooked – a good title for a photographer who specialises in images of the unremarkable, and who himself nearly fell from photographic history. Working in Britain’s post-industrial Midlands from 1973-1981, Myers created an archive of the unspectacular that attracted attention at the time but then lay undisturbed for 30 years until a chance meeting with a curator. A solo show at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery followed in 2011, kick-starting a comprehensive reappraisal at his work that’s resulted in more solo shows and several publications.
Looking at the Overlooked is published by RBB Photobooks, which also published a collection of Myer’s portraits earlier this year. But where The Portraits focused in on pictures of people, Looking at the Overlooked is a glorious compendium of “the claustrophobia of the suburban landscape in the 1970s”. Focusing in on substations, shops, houses, televisions, and so-called “landscapes without incident” – or as Myers puts it, “boring photographs” – the images are all recorded with a deadpan aesthetic that’s won Myers comparisons to the celebrated New Topographics movement in the US.
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.
“It was a different time to now, it’s hard to remember just how scarce images were,” says John Myers. “Now you can get things on screen, in the early 1970s there was only a smattering of images available. When I give a talk, I often start by handing out a sheet of paper with a list of interests and influences in 1972-75. The names run across just half a side of A4. There aren’t that many on it, and it includes people I was interested in on the basis of one or two images.” But for Myers, this scarcity was part of the allure. After studying Fine Art with Richard Hamilton, he got into photography in 1972 “because I had never done it”; initially only familiar with Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, as photography rapidly gained recognition in Britain he soon had access to much more. “I was so excited to come across people, when photography suddenly started emerging from the shadows and books were being published,” he says. Myers started shooting with a Mamiya but, finding it “odd” to be looking down at his waist, moved to a 5×4 plate camera and soon found his stride.
First awarded back in 1985, the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Best Photography Book prize is one of the oldest in the business. Previous winners include Sergio Larrain (with Vagabond Photographer in 2014), Susan Meiselas (with In History in 2009), Boris Mikhailov (with Case History in 2000), and Eugene Richards (with Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue in 1994); this year three contemporary image-makers have made the shortlist – Stephen Gill, Chrystel Lebas, and Dayanita Singh. Gill has been nominated for the book Night Procession, which he self-published through his imprint Nobody Books. Shot using motion-sensor cameras in rural southern Sweden, where Gill moved with his family in 2014, the book reveals nocturnal animal activity in the dark forests. The book also includes an essay by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgȃrd, who is best-known for his series of six autobiographies, Min Kamp [My Struggle]. Chrystel Lebas won a place on the shortlist with Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, which is published by Dutch organisation FW: Books). Her work retraces the steps of British botanist Sir Edward James Salisbury, creating new images in the same …
“I hate myself because I am a murderer… You can’t save me… We are a faceless, forgotten part of society…” These are just some of the intimate, often devastating thoughts of the inmates at HMP Grendon, a category B men’s facility in Buckinghamshire and Europe’s only “wholly therapeutic” prison. Their words accompany My Shadow’s Reflection, a series informed by Edmund Clark’s artist-in-residence at Grendon, which forms part of his larger body of work, In Place of Hate, on show at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham from 06 December.