Some things I bought this year

I've seen quite a few end of year lists popping up over the last week. There are the best books of 2009 lists, the more eclectic lists of "stuff I liked this year", the lists of books acquired in 2009 and many more. I think you need to be a breakfast-lunch-and-dinner kind of consumer of photo-books to post a best books of 2009 list and having just discovered a great many fantastic-looking ones through the future of photo-books discussion, I am not going to stick my neck out on that one.  Instead in order to jump onto the list-mania bandwagon, I am going to go with a list of a few of the photo items that I bought in 2009 (these weren't necessarily made in 2009). Looking back over the year, I think this is an interesting way of seeing trends in the things that you gravitate to and also seeing how much money you wasted on things that you spend no time with at all.

Some photographic things that I bought in 2009

(Note: I am in a fortunate position where a number of books that come into my possession I don't actually have to pay for, so there are a number of terrific books that I discovered this year that won't make it on to this list)

Anders Petersen & J.H. Engström, From Back Home (Bokförlaget Max Ström, 2009)

This won the Author Book Award at Arles 2009. I posted a review a while back.

Akihide Tamura, Afternoon (M Light label No.1, 2009)

Spread from bookshop M catalogue, Akihide Tamura's 'Afternoon'

Although I just got this and have already posted about it, I get the feeling this is one that I will keep coming back to.

Ryuji Miyamoto, Cardboard Houses (signed, Bearlin, 2003)

Ryuji Miyamoto, Cardboard Houses

Beierle + Keijser's "Becher box": Jogurtbecher

I have already spent the best part of an evening with E deciding what images we are going to use in our Jogurtbecher grid. And I actually hate yoghurt.

Michio Yamauchi, Stadt (Sokyu-sha, 1992)

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird (Taka Ishii, 2006)

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird

OK I cheated, I didn't actually buy this, but this is probably the book that I have gone back to most frequently this year so it had to be included. Check out Jeff Ladd's review here to get an idea why.

Ikko Narahara, Pocket Tokyo (Creo, 1997)

Ikko Narahara, Pocket Tokyo

Eikoh Hosoe, A Butterfly Dream (signed, Seigensha, 2006)

Eikoh Hosoe, The Butterfly Dream

The extragavance of the year. This book was produced as a companion to the first edition of Kamaitachi. Hosoe presented it to Kazuo Ohno for his 100th birthday, shortly before his death. (As Michael rightly pointed out, Ohno is still around!)

Paris Photo: crossing the finish line

Maurizio Anzeri Paris Photo 2009 has just drawn to a close and already the reports are flowing in thick and fast. There is much less of a consensus than for NYPH, which was generally perceived to have been a bit disappointing (see my previous round-up post on this). I am just happy to have survived it all at this stage and have yet to form many coherent thoughts, but here are my "impressions à chaud."

Judging from all the opinions that I have heard over the past few days, Paris Photo manages to be different things to different people. Pretty much everyone I spoke to had a different set of highlights and there have been many totally divergent assessments of whether this was a good year or not. The only common position I have seen emerging is that Maurizio Anzeri is great and I am certainly not about to disagree. I will be highlighting a few of my picks or discoveries from the fair in the next few days, but at first I wanted to give a few general impressions.

Overall this year's fair felt less contemporary than previous years, with more vintage work on show particularly from the postwar years. Aside from the Arab and Iranian material which was on show given this year's theme: there were strong representations of Japanese, Korean and South African work, both from domestic and international galleries. China was a notable absentee (only one Chinese gallery was present, 798 Gallery from Beijing), especially compared to the giddy heights of a few years ago.

I think that Paris Photo's idea to have a guest country every year is a real asset (I would say this though as I am involved in trying to improve exchanges between Japan and the West in the field of photography). People often seem disappointed by the selection of work from the guest country or region, and some guests are undoubtedly stronger than others, but even if they just happen to see one new artist that they hadn't before, I think it is worth it. The art market is often inclined not to take risks these days and Paris Photo's guest country system helps to force a certain amount of new lesser known material in each year. One positive trend that I noticed is that a couple of Japanese galleries (G/P and Base) that were first-timers at Paris Photo last year have now stayed on. This cannot happen every year of course as space is at a premium but it is good to see that some doors are staying open.

The sheer quantity of work on show and its increasingly global scope make it very difficult to be completely disappointed: no matter what your specific area of interest might be, you will always find something to get excited about. I think treating Paris Photo like an exhibition is a mistake: too much work, too many people, not enough space,  no natural air or light, and the world's longest queue for the world's most expensive coffee are some pretty big obstacles to a great viewing-only experience.

A major part of what make's Paris Photo's success is the people: it has become the major destination in Europe (and even globally) for photographers, directors, curators, booksellers, publishers, magazines, journos, and bloggers and it is by running into all these people that the fair becomes really interesting. I have come to think of Paris Photo as a place to make discoveries and great contacts. This was the first year that I have attended as a blogger and thanks to Laurence Vecten of LOZ we had a discussion with a bunch of other European photo-bloggers which lasted two hours but could quite happily have gone on for a couple more days. This is the kind of event that makes Paris Photo such a unique opportunity.

My one (slightly old-mannish) whinge is that the fair really is getting incredibly crowded. I'd be curious to know how much more attendance there was this year compared to 2008.  I heard some dealers complaining that the crowds are making it difficult to show work to collectors as there are always dozens of people looking over their shoulder to see what is going on... not a very conducive environment for making a sale. As they are the ones that make the economics of the fair work, this could be a big deal, but the idea of giving a 1.5 hour slot to professionals and collectors in the morning is a good innovation and I don't think it makes life that much more difficult for the general public. In terms of sales I am not in a position to gauge how things went overall, but my impression is that the feeling of panic that gripped everyone in 2008 has been replaced by cautious optimism. Let's hope that keeps on going.

Further reading: for another round-up of the fair and links to even more, check out Nick's excellent On Shadow blog.

Stormy weather over the US museum landscape

There is a very interesting debate going on at the moment in the US blogosphere and press over the New Museum's series of upcoming shows entitled the "Imaginary Museum." The stir is caused by the fact that this series of exhibitions will be based around private collections, the first of which belongs to Dakis Joannou and will be curated by Jeff Koons, who features heavily in the collection. Tyler Green has been covering this issue for several weeks and it is now spilling over into the mainstream press. It raises some very interesting questions about how museum exhibitions get made these days and the broader realities of today's art world. This is something I have written about before and it seems that the situation is not exactly improving. I highly recommend following all of this on MAN.

"Virtual Collection #1"

This is a smart idea from Olef Wolberger (Horses Think): start a virtual collection of photographs. Provided you don't go overboard and start 'acquiring' dozens of images each week, this seems like an interesting way of getting into the collecting mind-set. I think it could also help to think about why you want a particular image, and to live with it a bit to see if it really is something you would want for your real collection.