Yann Mingard, Deposit (Fotomuseum Winterthur/Museum Folkwang/FotoMuseum Antwerp/GwinZegal, 2014)
The first image that appears in Yann Mingard’s book Deposit is so dark that it is virtually illegible. A closer look reveals a structure of some kind at the foot of a slope. The caption of the image tells us that we are looking at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. The darkness of this first image sets the tone for the rest of the book.
As its cover suggests, the book is sprawling in its ambition: broken up into four major sections—plants, animals, humans, data—it covers topics as diverse as the apocalypse, cryonics, the military-industrial complex and redundancy. It not only grapples with the photographic question of how to depict these technological advances but goes further, seemingly questioning just how much light these technological advances are bringing to our civilisation.
Deposit is part of what seems to be a growing body of photobooks dealing with the unseen or the invisible such as Taryn Simon’s American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar or Trevor Paglen’s Invisible. Whereas Simon sought to create the most highly aestheticized images possible from the secret locations that she visited, Mingard’s images are wilfully unspectacular, ordinary even. He appears to be more interested in the age-old symbolism of darkness and light and its fundamental associations with photography than in finding beauty in the secret or the invisible.
The book is a collaborative effort, both with Lars Willumeit, who wrote the extensive glossary on the themes explored in Mingard’s images, and the composer Ben Frost who produced a score for the book which can be accessed online. The result is confounding, obscuring as much as it reveals, confusing as much as it enlightens: the perfect reflection of our technological world.
An exhibition of the series is currently on show at the Fotomuseum Winterthur.
Tumblr of the week goes to sosiesdemerde which translates as “shitty lookalikes”: pictures of people who resemble a celebrity from a distance in a foggy blizzard. This one is pretty heavy on French cultural references, but there are some nice more international shouts in there too (including this Bill Murray and a rather good Samuel Jackson and Jamie Foxx). Still in its infancy, but already looking very promising.
Three recent arrivals: one book from Japan, Atsushi Fujiwara’s Butterfly Had a Dream; one which takes place in Japan, IPG Project (Yoshi and Tamara Kametani)’s Sumimasen booklet; and one inspired by the words of a Japanese photographer, Stefan Vanthuyne’s The Hill That Wasn’t.
I just got my hands on two books, Going Home and Ash, by the Chinese photographer Muge. I had written about his work a few years ago based on images I saw online, but this is the first time I have seen his books. Both books were made in 2013 and they work as a pair. For Going Home, Muge photographed the route back along the Yangtze river to his hometown of Chongqing in the aftermath of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The book is made up primarily of portraits within landscapes: muted images invested with a palpable sense of fear for the future that is woven into the nostalgia of Muge’s return home. Ash is the more poetic of the two books, a series of loose plates of still lives and interiors that share the same dusty tonality of the former book. For Ash, Muge turned inwards, away from the portrait and the landscape, combining images in order to explore a specific atmosphere and emotion. Muge’s use of the square format at times reminds me of the Japanese photographer Issei Suda and, although he is still young (b. 1979), he seems to have more affinities with this older generation of photographers than with much of contemporary photography. His two books are great examples of the fact that, even today, things can still happen by simply taking a camera and going out into the world.
Issue #2 of the new photo magazine The Eyes has just been released. Lots of good stuff in here, including a special focus on London with a text by Simon Baker and an interview I did with Stephen Gill as well as a review of Broomberg & Chanarin’s book Scarti. There’s a free iPad version as well on which you can listen to audio versions of the book reviews as read by yours truly (great for those of you who suffer from insomnia).
Naoya Hatakeyama, Kesenchô-Imaizumi-Aramachi, Kongôji Temple, March 2011.
Three years ago today.
Science in Sight, Scientific Photography from the Image Archive, ETH Bibliothek (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2014)
The third in a series of books of photographs from the Image Archive of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s main library, Science in Sight brings together scientific photographs from 1860 to 1980. From topographical and architectural images, through microscopic photography, to images documenting scientific experiments, there is a huge span of ‘scientific’ photography on display here including a couple of oddities such as a still life (labelled as an experimental photograph) and an excellent picture of a most handsome Swiss chicken (presumably its nationality is of some scientific importance rather than just simply specified as a result of nationalistic pride). Flicking through the pages, I couldn’t help but thinking of Joan Fontcuberta’s recent book, The Photography of Nature, in which he subverts several of the languages of applied photography. Fontcuberta’s book illustrates how the borders between photography’s many sub-genres are becoming increasingly porous while questioning our understanding of the meaning of photographs. Science in Sight is a different animal—there is no subversion here—but it is a great reminder of how applied photography, whether intentionally or not, can be as full of beauty, mystery, humor and the ridiculous as photography that was made in the name of art.
The problem of photography is not that it embodies truth, but too much truth; it’s a question of excess.
by Aaron Schuman on Joan Fontcuberta. If only more interviews could be like this.