Brief Photobook Reviews (Week 41, 2012)


Book Reviews, Photobooks


I’m always wondering why the accordion/laparello format is so rarely used for photobooks. What at first might seem an awkward way to organize photography - one long, folded strip of images - after all has its advantages: You can look at an accordion book like a bound one, turning “pages,” and you can unfold parts (or the whole piece) and see more images. Peter DekensTouch, the portrait of Stijn, a blind man, is a great example of how the format can be used well (order the book here). Photographed in Stijn’s apartment, during a short winter day, Touch has us enter a world filled with little light, with the book translating the photographer’s difficulties of finding his way around into a unique experience. (more)


I had just written the review of The Graves by Eric Stover and Gilles Peress when Claudia Heinermann’s Enduring Srebrenica (which you can order directly from the photographer) arrived in the mail. Unlike the earlier book, Heinermann’s manages to paint a more harrowing picture - even though there are way less photographs of bones and corpses in it. In addition, in Enduring Srebrenica former Dutch UN soldiers also get to speak - their failure to prevent the massacre has haunted them up until this day. This new book deserves to be seen widely.


Sputnik Photos is a collective of photojournalists from Central/Eastern Europe. For Stand By, Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss, Jan Brykczynski, Adam Panczuk, Rafal Milach, Justyna Mielnikiewicz and Manca Juvan went to Belarus, often called “the last dictatorship in Europe.” Given the diversity of the participating photographers and the complexity of the subject matter, the resulting book is a surprisingly coherent and interesting affair. In fact, my sole complaint would be that it took me a while to figure out it was about Belarus (I might be just a bit dense, but a word at the beginning might have helped). This little detail aside, the book comprises the whole spectrum of contemporary documentary/photojournalistic practice, and it’s done very, very smartly. Magnum et al. might want to take note: There are some smart new players in town, and work like Stand By shows that you don’t have to try to be cool on a Tumblr to show that you’re relevant.