The winner of the 2019 Mack First Book Award channels his well-travelled life experiences into his latest work
Publications we loved, and the big news stories from the last month in photobooks – including the nominees from the 2019 Mack First Book Award and an interview with photobook collector extraordinaire Manfred Heiting
Rose Marie Cromwell went beyond the cliches to build an expressionistic homage to the Cuba she knows and loves. “I wanted to make images that investigated my complicated relationship to this specific place, rather than trying to document something ‘about’ Cuba,” she says.
“I’ve spent so many hours on end in the dark, listening to loud music and just watching people, trying to see who I can take photos of and sussing out the environment” says Lionel Kiernan, “my work is a recording of what we can see with the naked eye in these constantly repetitive environments”.
At 21, Kiernan is the youngest photographer, and only Australian, to ever be shortlisted for the MACK First Book Award. After graduating from the Photography Studies College in Melbourne in 2017, Kiernan was nominated this year for his first major body of work documenting Melbourne’s nightlife scene, At Night.
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’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”.
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 …
Poulomi Basu’s Centralia is no easy read. The situation it unravels − a protracted fight for land and resources in central India − is not only complex, but also largely unheard of, especially in mainstream Western media. And Basu, reflecting on contemporary documentary practices, refuses to simplify it into a readily digestible format. Instead, she wishes to reflect the bewildering atmosphere that reigns in the region. “The adage ‘The first victim of any conflict is the truth’, is particularly apt here,” she says. “The conflict, with its many actors all occupying opaque roles, has created a space with its own internal logic and landscape.” Thus, she hopes to take the audience “on a journey to a place where truth and lies, reality and fiction have become blurred”.
It’s illegal, and a tradition that puts women at great risk, but despite this has been normalised, accepted and passed down through generations. In parts of Nepal, a practice called Chhaupadi dictates that women who are menstruating, and those who experience bleeding after childbirth, must live in makeshift huts because they are considered impure and therefore untouchable. Exiled by their communities and families, the women are refused access to water and toilets and must eat food scraps, fed to them as though they were animals. They are exposed in every sense, vulnerable to rape, abduction and assault, and even death from asphyxiation caused by the fires they are forced to light in their tiny, inadequately ventilated huts. In 2013, photojournalist Poulomi Basu travelled to Surkhet District in a remote region of Nepal to meet and photograph some of these women, assisted on the ground by the charity WaterAid. Appalled and outraged by what she saw, she vowed to return. “The first trip was so short and I was frustrated because I realised the scale of …