It’s disconcerting to think how years of work and effort, of countless hours spent practising and honing a skill, can be wrenched away from any of us in just a few minutes of misfortune. It’s also, for any of us used to good health, troubling to consider how reliant we are on the basic functionality of our bodies. A photographer, for example, needs to be able to hold a camera, to have the strength to frame a shot and time the click of the shutter in the heat of the moment. Shorn of that basic ability, what are we left with? Early one morning in May 2015, Sim had to face that exact question.
She was on assignment for a French newspaper, travelling to the Tumen Economic Development Zone, a government-owned complex of Chinese factories on the edge of the border with North Korea. Tumen employed North Korean labourers who, with state sanctioning, would be sent to live and work in the economic zone. The brief was to capture how North Korea and China trade. This place seemed like the perfect microcosm for that complex relationship – the makings of great pictures.
Entering Tumen with her driver and colleagues from Le Monde, she failed to spot a sign that read: “No smoking, photography, or practising driving”. As they approached the factories, the car passed a small group of women in black jumpsuits, knelt by the roadside picking weeds from the ground. Sitting in the driver’s seat with the window wound down, Sim instinctively raised her camera and fired off a couple of shots. “Almost immediately, the women turned around, ran towards the cab, and reached into the car,” she wrote in an article for ChinaFile, recounting events.
“I am just obsessed by the beauty of botanical drawings,” says Kenji Toma, describing his new book, The Most Beautiful Flowers. It’s a homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s celebrated book of watercolours, Choix des plus belles fleurs [The most beautiful flowers], which was first published in France back in 1827 – long before colour photography was available. “His images were illustrated with the purpose of replicating the botanic subject as close to reality as possible,” says Toma. “I’m more interested in doing the exact opposite with photography.” His series shows hyperreal, unrealistically perfect images of flowers, each shot with the same lens, angle, and lighting, and delicately arranged with pins and armature wire. Going one step further than nature, they put a contemporary spin on the concept of the botanical encyclopaedia.
Established in 2012, the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards are divided into three categories – PhotoBook of the Year, First PhotoBook, and Photography Catalogue of the Year. The winners will be announced on 10 November at Paris Photo, and all the shortlisted and winning titles will be profiled in The PhotoBook review and exhibited at Paris Photo, the Aperture Gallery in New York, and at other international venues. The year Albert Elm’s What Sort of Life is This, Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation and the group book project Amplitude No.1, which is edited by Nadya Sheremetova and includes photographers such as Irina Yulieva, Igor Samolet and Irina Ivannikova, were among those to make the First PhotoBook shortlist this year
The New York Times Magazine’s director of photography on the stand-out projects of the year
Walking down the street with Jack Davison can be time-consuming. A sharp-suited bloke talking on the phone, a pretty young girl in a hurry, a bored construction worker seated by the side of the road, a balding old soak nursing a pint; Davison approaches each without a moment’s hesitation. After introducing himself and chatting for a few seconds he’s circling round them, or leaning over them, or down on his knees, with his camera often inches from their face. He keeps talking to them throughout, framing quickly and firing off a few shots. He’s relaxed, composed in the moment, then gives a short thanks and he’s gone, walking down the street, briefly checking his new portrait. Davison turned up at BJP’s offices on a road bike that had seen much better days, sweating under the sun, wearing a baggy white t-shirt, denim shorts and a cycling helmet. He didn’t look like a fast-emerging photographer and, like any 24-year-old, is still trying to work stuff out, to get his head around the complexities of making a …