Book of the Week #5: Mexico, D.F.

Mexico D.F. I have been hearing a fair amount of whispering of late about Martin Parr's forthcoming project on Latin American photobooks, which will, "with one book, completely re-evaluate how people think about Latin America". Whether it can live up to these lofty ambitions remains to be seen, but with Parr in the driving seat, there is no doubt that we can expect to see an explosion of interest in Latin American photography next year. So in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, I'm featuring this 2004 book on Mexican photography, Mexico D.F. The book is about the city of Mexico and doesn't stick strictly Mexican photography (Jean-Marc Bustamente and Miguel Rio Branco are amongst the guest appearances). It covers a lot of ground and the quality of the work included is uneven, but for me, aside from the better known photographers like Iturbide or Metinides, the book's strength are its hidden gems, like Romero's cut-out cast of characters. Like all of Toluca's books, the design is impeccable, but I would have liked to have more resources beyond a 2-line bio for each photographer. If you're looking for an introduction to one of the big photographic nations of Latin America, you could do a lot worse... for the moment anyhow.

Mexico, D.F. with work by Ivan Alechine, Mauricio Alejo, Mario Bellatin, Jean-Marc Bustamente, Antonio Caballero, Miguel Calderón, M. A. Cruz, Milagros de la Torre, Héctor García, Maya Goded, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Toni Kuhn, David Levinthal, Leo Matiz, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Enrique Metinides, Arturo Ortega, Miguel Rio Branco, Santiago Sierra, José Trinidad Romero, Paris: Toluca Project (Hardcover, 256 pages, B&W and colour plates, text in French and English).

Update: Book of the week is moving to eyecurious books etc. Look out for new picks there!

Graciela Iturbide

José Trinidad Romero

Enrique Metinides

Book of the Week #4: Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression

Michael Wolf has just released two new books, Asoue and Tokyo Compression, and I have to admit to having a personal favourite. Tokyo Compression brings together a series of images taken in the Tokyo metro during rush hour. Through a series of portraits of trapped commuters, compressed into jam-packed metal carriages, the book brings to life the claustrophobic hell of urban living at its most basic but also its most extreme. Tokyo Compression is beautifully printed on thick matte stock and Christian Schüle's blistering essay further drags you down into the bowels of the city. Leafing through the pages of this book, I couldn't help but hear the voice of Werner Herzog speaking about the Amazonian jungle. "I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and... growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us". Indeed.

Update: Book of the week is moving to eyecurious books etc. Look out for new picks there!

For those of you that will be in Paris next week, Wolf will be showing work from Asoue and Tokyo Compression at Paris Photo and at the Galerie Particulière.

Book of the Week #3: Ikko Narahara, The Sky in My Hands

Ikko Narahara is a contemporary of Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe and Kikuji Kawada (with he who formed the short-lived but influential VIVO agency in Tokyo in 1960). He is probably the least well-known of the four in the West, although his book Europe: Where Time Has Stopped has become highly collectible. This is an exhibition catalogue from his recent retrospective at the Shimane Art Museum. The catalogue is as 'traditional' as they come, covering his entire career in great detail, with no less than 48 pages (!) of bio (including several pages of personal photos from throughout his life) and a pretty extensive (complete?) bibliography. Although the book isn't a particularly exciting object in itself, it is a wonderfully detailed resource and a great reminder of how incredibly diverse that work was.

Ikko Narahara, The Sky in My Hands (Soft cover, 308 pages, B&W and colour plates, Japanese text only).

Update: Book of the week is moving to eyecurious books etc. Look out for new picks there!

Book of the Week #2: Erik Van der Weijde / Der Baum

Erik van der Weijde, Der Baum I wrote about Erik van der Weijde's eclectic publishing activities before over on eyecurious books etc. The title of his latest book,  Der Baum (The Tree), is taken from Der Baum im Bildde der Landschaft, a 1931 photobook published as part of a series which aimed to "provide cheap educational tools for the uneducated masses." Most of these trees are anonymous, identified only by their location...  on a parking lot in Sao Paulo or a Burger King in Nürnberg. There are three that get a little more detailed identification, the cover, which turns out to be the tree on the street where the young girl Natasha Kampusch was held as a prisoner for 8.5 years, and the opening and closing image of the book which refer to Adolf Hitler... Van der Weijde is never shy of a little provocation and although I'm not sure you will learn anything about trees as such from this book (no matter how uneducated you are), you will definitely learn a thing or two about how they can be photographed. The images are understated, distant, muted, some even a little muddy even, but the strength of the book for me is how these trees all seem to acquire quite different personalities by being brought together in this way. A fascinating cast of characters, Hitler or no Hitler.

Update: Book of the week is moving to eyecurious books etc. Look out for new picks there!

As a bonus, Erik has even been good enough to provide us with a little video preview if you fancy seeing a bit more.