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
Originally trained as a journalist, Barcelona-born Laia Abril expanded her storytelling methods after studying at New York’s ICP. She is best-known for the first chapter of her long-term project A History of Misogyny, On Abortion, which recently won the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook of the Year Award and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize
Laia Abril is no stranger to themes of distress. Bulimia, coping with the death of a child, the asexual community, virtual sex-performer couples – these are all topics that the Barcelona-based photographer has explored and attempted to demystify with her multi-layered, story-based practice. The subjects she tackles are complex and provocative, but ones she is able to connect with by way of female empathy, “where I can be involved emotionally”, she says.
Out of nearly 1000 submissions, the winners for this years Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards, established in 2012 to celebrate the photobook’s contribution to the narrative of photography, have been announced at Paris Photo.
The Photobook of the Year award went to Laia Abril, for part one of her long-term project, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion (Dewi Lewis). The project is not about the experience of abortion itself, but about the repercussions for women who do not have access to legal, safe or free abortions, forcing them to consider dangerous alternatives that cause physical and mental harm.
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.
Laia Abril, Nina Berman, Sohrab Hura, and Carmen Winant are all in the running for the prestigious Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook of the Year Award, which will be announced on 09 November at Paris Photo.
In total ten books have been shortlisted for the award; in addition, 20 books have been shortlisted for the First Photobook, and five for the Photography Catalogue of the Year. All the shortlisted books will go on show at Paris Photo and at the Aperture Foundation in New York, then tour to various venues across Europe, as well as being featured in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Photobook Review. In addition the Photobook of the Year winner will receive $10,000.
History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”
In 1997, a document titled A Study of Assassination was released by the CIA as part of the Freedom of Information Act. It is believed to have been created in 1953 with the purpose of instructing agents on how to kill, and was released with a collection of files relating to the 1954 CIA-backed overthrow of the-then newly-elected leader of Guatemala, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. The operation in Guatemala was lobbied for by United Fruit Company, an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit, mainly bananas, and which wielded huge power in Central America at the time.
When he found out about these documents, George Selley was instantly captivated, and his new project, A Study of Assassination, combines pages from the manual with archival press images, banana advertisements and Cold War propaganda. BJP caught up with the recent London College of Communication MA graduate to find out more about this project and his approach to images.
“In the EU today, we take women’s rights for granted,” says Marina Paulenka, director of Organ Vida, a three-week international photography event held annually in Zagreb. Founded in 2008, the festival has always been driven by political context, and this year, for its 10th edition, its all-female team have chosen to emphasise female-identifying perspectives from around the globe.
“In a time of post-capitalist global turmoil, technological advancements, with the strengthening of rightwing extremism, the growing influence of religion that limits women’s rights again, and the semblance of democracy in the 21st century, we are facing a situation in which women must fight anew for the rights that had been won long ago,” Paulenka insists.
In our September 2018 issue, we interview Vanessa Winship and Hellen van Meene about the genesis of their latest works, and the backstory of death and rebirth that led them in new directions. We also speak to Marina Paulenka, the artistic director of Organ Vida festival in Croatia, about the 10th anniversary edition and its focus on the female gaze. Lucy Davies meets Winship at the Barbican Art Gallery, which is currently staging a mid-career retrospective of her work alongside Dorothea Lange. They discuss the photographer’s decision to step back from making pictures at the height of her success, and how she found her way back after the arrival of her first grandchild. “It has been a rebirth in a way,” she says, speaking about her new direction, “sort of freeing myself from the constraints of my former life. But it was also about conveying the immediacy with which my granddaughter sees the world.” Van Meene’s new series, which goes on show in Amsterdam this September, confronts the subject of death in an inherently personal …