In our last edition of Perimeter x Heavy for the year, Perimeter Director Dan Rule, Program Coordinator and Photobook Buyer Emma Phillips and The Heavy Collective Founder Jack Harries discuss their pick of the five most notable artist books of 2017.
Like his brilliant 2014 release Entre Entree, the latest book from Dutch photographic artist Stephan Keppel reduces the urban landscape to a subtle feedback loop of textures, surfaces, architectural gestures, palettes and patterns. Using New York City as its source – and drawing on the design and material sensitivities of Fw:Books’ Hans Gremmen – Flat Finish almost completely eschews iconicity in its recasting of this most famous of metropolises. This is about the fabric, grain and tonality of the city. After all, we navigate urban space via touch as well as sight, sound and smell.
At once lush in its detail and lateral in its content, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs’ Continental Drift takes the idea of the epic overland journey to a place that happily defies its tropes. In a sense, it’s nothing new for the Swiss duo – whose classic book The Great Unreal reimagined the American road trip – but this epic journey across Eurasia pushes it further, flatly refusing to even engage in the visual, photographic and narrative cliches of the highway sojourn. Rather, we’re left with flashes of alluring symbolism, objects, landscapes, architectures and abstraction. This is a world where faces become landscapes, landscapes become colour fields, and near becomes far.
While much has been written about the potent intimacy of Milky Way – French fashion photographer Vincent Ferrane’s book of photographs depicting his wife breastfeeding their young child – there is also an apparent cruelty to some of these images. In photograph after photograph, we witness Ferrane’s love straining her eyes and averting her gaze as she and baby are, yet again, lit up by the flash. But among these moments of discomfort, physical contortion and mammarian industry are genuine flashes of humour, wonder and admiration. New parenthood is all of these things. For every first smile, there’s cracked nipple; for every joyous gurgle, there’s a wave of fear; for every gush of love, there’s a shit explosion.
Mike Slack’s latest book is one of three new titles (see Tim Carpenter’s Local Objects and Albert Elm’s What Sort of Life is This) that have pushed he and partner Tricia Gabriel’s LA-based imprint The Ice Plant to new heights in 2017. While there’s any number of photographers who, at a glance, deal in a similar currency to Slack’s now renowned streetside formalism, urban minutiae and intense colour palette, what sets him so far apart is his visual (and perhaps even philosophical) intelligence. Through Slack’s gaze, a severed wire, a puff of cloud, a lurching pot plant and an architectural anomaly all fit seamlessly into the same wonderfully oblique and complex earthly system. This book is at once humble and epically metaphysical in scope.
Dutch photographer Henk Wildschut has forged an entire photographic syntax around the rambling micro-city of camps that recent Middle Eastern and African migrants and refugees had built on outskirts of the French coastal city of Calais. First in his poignant 2010 book Shelter (for Rotterdam imprint Post Editions), then in his sprawling 2016 exhibition at Foam Museum in Amsterdam, and now in the remarkable tome Ville de Calais, Wildschut has methodically documented the lives, cultures, improvised societal structures and makeshift architectural and infrastructural ingenuity of these most vulnerable of people. Incredibly sensitive, though never sentimental or condescending, Wildschut’s devices are those of diarism and pragmatic record. In these images and texts, we witness hope and humanism amidst the tragedy of the everyday, all the while avoiding the epic iconography of the tragic.
Piercing, strange, seductive photographs where the house becomes a stage and anything seems possible. These seemingly banal portraits make up my favourite book of the year.
A self-aware and well designed catalogue containing publishing manifestos and other material relevant to Erik van der Weijde’s publishing practise which ran from 2003 – 2016. It is funny, dry, transparent and ultimately highlights the absurdity of publishing.
To me, the photographs in this book playfully expose the awkwardness, boredom and friendships inherent in coming of age. (Part of the 2017 Subscription Series)
I became enchanted by this book and thought about it constantly for a month. It is romantic, soft, intelligent and unexpected.
A statement by the author reads: “In 1936, Agfa, a German company that exploited female space labourers in a KZ Dachau satellite work camp, brought to market “a triumph of German chemistry”: color slide film…color photography was put to use by Hitler who commissioned Walter Frentz to make thousands of glamorous studio portraits of the Third Reich leaders and celebrated soldiers.” This compilation of portraits is both shocking and normal and highlights the role that photography can play in the quest for political power.
Not unlike the river that feeds it, Cheng Xinhao’s Time From Different Sources weaves in and out of itself in a twisting narrative of past and present to depict the effects of urbanisation on the Naxi people who live along the banks of the Green Dragon River in Southwest China. This book is like a puzzle that reveals more with each visit and is another highlight in a slew of new publications from Jihazazi, one of the most exciting and inventive conceptual publishers of the moment.
It’s insane that these images are only now just being published some 35 years from when they were taken. Perhaps like Susan Lipper’s Grapevine they were misunderstood, and their genius overlooked at a time dominated by documentary realism. Mary Frey’s constructed portraits set against the domestic backdrop invite you into detailed settings of family and personal scenarios, tender banalities, and on close inspection somewhere between photographer and subject, a shared truth.
Sam Contis’ quiet and tender photographs of the young men coming of age at Deep Springs liberal arts college are as striking as they are important. A beautiful depiction of vulnerability, a breaking down of the male stereotype and the romanticised myth of the west.
For nine years, Danish photographer Peter Funch stood on the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in New York City photographing the wave of passing commuters. A maniacal effort, and the result is a whittled down catalogue of diptychs that at first glance appear as a sequence, the images so similar they seem to be taken a second apart but are likely days or even years in separation. This repetition forces us into the image and onto the individual in the most delightful way, with intensified scrutiny and interest as we are made the ultimate voyeur.
Imagined as a sequel to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, Jonas Bendiksen’s The Last Testament is a visual account of seven men around the world who claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Building the book around biblical form and structure, each chapter includes excerpts of their scriptural testaments, their theology and demands on mankind in their own words. Meticulously constructed and a beautifully designed collaboration between Gost and Aperture.
Perimeter x Heavy is a new editorial collaboration exploring contemporary photography, art, design and their various relationships to the published form. Produced in-house by the team at Melbourne-based bookstore, publisher and distribution house Perimeter and Sydney-based photography magazine and online platform The Heavy Collective, Perimeter x Heavy comprises book reviews, interviews, studio visits and features. While further expounding the published output of artists who feature across both Perimeter and Heavy’s inventories, the platform aims to provide thoughtful insights into the wider here and now of contemporary publishing practice.