From Sheep To Sea Horse – Anouk Kruithof

A list of 16 fantastic books and 1 extreme BUMMER by Anouk Kruithof

What we like to do at the end of the year… friendly celebrating the universe of photobooks. I might extend this field to artist books with photography in it, books with pictures, printed screenshots. Who defines the fine lines of what a photobook is?  The more discussion, panels we have about framing what a photobook is, the more creative solutions popping up by energetic makers to put some hot peppers in the eyes of guidelines that try to define the term photobook. This causes alertness of everyone and we start running after the new HOT thing flying around ranking lists, stars, wearing medals and eating loooots and loooots of popcorn. The good thing about the boommmm’s and buzzzzzz’s around photobooks is its attention, the appreciation for the quality people making their books deliver and the respect they need to earn. Don’t wanna play a hypocrite because I also benefit from those list-pushers with my own publications, still I think its time to be more critical towards this phenomena.

There is a downside to list-delirium as well, that many people don’t even look at the books anymore, a market raised where the new HOT THING automagically needs to be bought online and arrives on the physical doormat. Only in exchange for an artist signature, the cellophane foil get ripped apart, otherwise it just sits on a pile in its plastic jacket and is collected with dust on the surface… Somewhere… lonely on a pile with other books wrapped in plastic so they cant even communicate with each other…

This is what happens with the books too for real, make sure you bring some copies to libraries and bookshops too so at least they can be seen by everyone and found forever before it’s marked: “out of print”

Are photo books actually still appreciated and loved for what the book really is? the content it provides? The qualities of the book and maker carry? I hope people as well make their own decisions of what seems valuable, and good to them. While human beings nature might be a sheep, we all know that sheep’s easily turn into seahorses.

Here my little seahorse list, if u feel like checking another one…my list contains 16 books I think are worth take a peek at, and form an attempt to be not on any other list yet, I am almost sure I am going to fail in this, but I tried.  Quality is quality.  And that of course gets looked at and there is no need for it to be discussed.

I love to swap books with other artists or photographers, I love to make artist books, up until now I’ve published 9 of them, and they also party on the waves of some lists as well… I hope they’re happy there, congratulating and drinking with the on-a-list-colleagues, maybe they even dance, they go through the roof, who knows?

I also exploit the social media for a good dose of narcissist self promo here and there, don’t get me wrong… I also added 1 bummer in my list.. One book, from which I think it causes degradation for the photobook world in general with its appearance. I think it’s necessary for people to become more critical, if u have 5 reviews about your new book and they are all positive what does it mean still? It’s flattened out, you might desperately be waiting on a negative review for once, because critique is much more stimulating for further thinking. (The artist Lili van de Stokker said in an interview that another well-known artist told her once he was jealous of her bad reviews…. )

I wonder why everything is only positive, even Sean O’Hagan who writes for the Guardian almost never writes a critical review about a book or exhibition.  Is it pussycat behaviour? Do we all suffer from the like-like-like syndrom? Do we really all want to be friends with eachother? Do we need more friends, whatever that word means nowadays?  Strong critique is what this photobook-niche-world lacks and needs, I hope to stimulate everyone who makes lists, please make one next year with 1 BUMMER on it too, the only thing you need to do is underpin your critique. I believe it makes the other praised books more valuable and gives them a deeper meaning when you can criticize one book you feel is frankly a huge mistake.

Here it comes, I don’t make so many lists so there might be some time-confusion here and there, don’t blame me for some of them being late-2013 pearls

THA LIST

1: Thora Dolven Balke

2005

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2a: Dan Colen

 Disappearing Act

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2b: Dan Colen

Moments like these

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3: Ryan Thompson, Phil Orr

BAD LUCK, HOT ROCKS:  Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest

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4: Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin

Scarti

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5: Carlo van de Roer

The Portrait Machine Project

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6: Santiago Stelley

3D Etudes

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7: Gwenneth Boelens, Nickel van Duijvenboden

In Two Minds

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8: Paul Soulellis (& others)

Library of the Printed Web

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9: Johannes Schwartz

Tiergarten

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10a: Rop van Mierlo

Wild Animals

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10b: Rop van Mierlo

Some Logic

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11: Ian Curtis

So This is Permanence

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12: FlatFix

Broken Manual the copy

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13: Alex Chrun, Benjamin Mouly

INDEX

(I like to call it “Nail Art Book” but that’s not the title, would be a perfect title for the first person writing a review on this book.)

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14: Christof Nüssli und Christoph Oeschger

MIKLOS KLAUS ROZSA

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15: SPBH Pamphlet V (Melanie Bonajo’s Pee on Presidents)

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Pee on Presidents is a collection of more then 500 photographs of peeing girls taken by Melanie Bonajo during 1998-2013. The series depicts in a humorous way empowering vulnerable moments of females searching for a hide out (or not) while peeing in public. Little fountains, turn into sculptures, into small gestures of reclaimed female freedom in urban space. The music is a protest song by ZaZaZoZo (Melanie Bonajo & Josep Marzolla) and released as a bonus track on their album Inua. In the song and video patterns of hierarchy, sexism, bureaucracy and patriarchal structures in our society are being ridiculed. It got banned by Youtube. this one not

16: Bodhi Oser

FUCK THIS BOOK

(the book is really old actually but the website is running and this is  more about the project, the social intervention, the call for collaboration, by all participants uploaded photos function as documentation in this book)

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17: BUMMER! «!!» Phillip Toledano The Reluctant Father «!!»

Phillip Toledano, who prefers that people call him Mr. Toledano, is a British-American kitsch portrait photographer who says on the world wide web that he is interested In what we define as beauty; People nowadays can create themselvesWith all that we can create a new kind of beauty. That’s what Mr. Toledano is interested in. But unfortunately he became a father of a daughter and made a hypocritical book called ‘The Reluctant Father’. Tears rolling over the cheeks, the ooooh’s and aaaah’s are uncountable on his “specially for this book created webpage” where people can place comments in order to pat on Philip’s head a bit… Right now the status quo is 25K (facebook shares) 535 (twitter) and 146 comments. People mostly take this opportunity to comment to express their own experiences having children, finally they find a digital ear to listen to their stories… but some people write things such as below:

Your daughter is beautiful.” (thank God he has a beautiful daughter himself who does not need plastic surgery in the future)

Love this. It made me cry. As a therapist who works with men in Boston who have a tough time after the birth of their child, I think you speak volumes for so many parents out there, who struggle with the choice to speak out about how it isn’t always as they expected.

Where could I email you (or call if you’re in the US?) 

This blog has brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful, and honest, and brave.

Amazing. My husband and I had a good talk after reading this. Thank you.

Stupid, you make me cry!

Perfect, beauty, tears, therapeutic, stupid.

Basically this book contains most common family pictures as we all take them. The only difference is that Mr. Toledano made them with a large-format-digitial-macho-camera. The photos are lined up in most standard boring grid of a book with his writing next to it. Let’s not talk about design, there is none.  At first glance you think he’s going to be ironic about him becoming a “reluctant” haha father. That he would blow up the fact getting a baby isn’t all that sunshine only. But, unfortunately he turns highly pathetic with his book.

First question: Who doesn’t know that: having a baby, raising it can be tough, sleepless nights, pain, the insane crying can drive parents almost insane in some cases, has never asked parents they know, really how they feel. We all know stories, which show it’s not wonderland at all time although there is of course plenty of love, it can be tough too. This in itself is almost becoming a cliché. On a certain moment Mr. Toledano tries to imitate Michael Jackson with throwing his baby (almost) out of the window. Window / Balcony what’s the difference? As long as you get attention… Who cares how good you copied it? Then there comes a moment Mr. Toledano thinks he like Picasso, he is going to do some porcelain plates and thinks he is funny. (His wife certainly does not think so) Screaming Baby Face Plates.  It made me think of Erik Kessels’ snapshots (the ordinary thing versus the macho camera) of his own children when they were caught up in a little drama, like bleeding in the face, crying or falling? Dry and hilarious. Those ordinary snapshots questioned what family photographs mean: Do they only highlight the happy and beautiful moments?  Mr. Toledano questions nothing with his work. His work is like his interest: The surface of beauty. A photo is a surface. A photographer wants to be beautiful, but his ego does not allow him to.

On a certain moment in the book, you think Mr. Toledano gets a clear vision, he writes: It’s sad, but I realize as I get older that all cliches are true. I do something I said I’d NEVER do: Baby photos. It’s really quite embarrassing. Exactly, not embarrassing if you would have kept them private, this is where they belong and can become beautiful. When I meet other parents, I lunge for the iphone. I can’t WAIT to bore people. ‘Look, I know you don’t like baby pictures, but Loulou is different!’ I’m that sad statistic. What an insight. The proud father. From photographer, to father. And then he writes: Humor is how I connect with the world. It’s my language. There is such a sense of love in these pictures that wasn’t there before.

Thank you Mr. Toledano.  Amen.

Then there comes a highly personal part about his parents who passed away and could not see his daughter growing up. He apologizes to his wife Carla and to his daughter Loulou for complaining about having her as a baby in the beginning and him not being a good partner neither. Why do we have to see and read this? Mr. Toledano made a mistake. This book could have been sincerely beautiful if he would have made this book for his daughter only as a present (edition of 1).  Then this book would have been an honest loving gesture. But now he made this private personal message public in order to get more empathy from his public. It turns its intention into something sordid. What a shame Mr. Toledano’s ego is bigger than Mars.

A pathetic cliché picture-text book on an empty shelf.

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This post was originally posted on Stresspress.biz