Photobooks of 2016: Alejandro Cartagena

Photobooks of 2016: Alejandro Cartagena


I have a few soft spots for books produced in México or by Mexican artists this year. Coming from last year’s excellent work “Moises” by Mariela Sancari it is great to see more people pushing the bar in the photobook arena in a soon to be walled out of the “free world” Mexico.


Sofía Ayarzagoitia – Every night temo ser la Dinner
What can you photograph today about your personal life that has not been seen? As a “project” hardly anything. But in a book form, it is a whole different story. This cacophony of people, places, food and language that this books allows to live together serves to place us in Sofia´s troubled mind filled with confusion and desires. She left Monterrey Mexico a few years back and has made our hometown proud.


José Luis Cuevas – Nueva Era
The world will end soon. After the US election and Brexit and all the bursts of shit that seem to come with senseless governance are showing us the end is nearer than we thought. Want to get a sense of what we look like as a society following the “truth” looks like, this is your book. José Luis is one of the most prolific artists working out of the epicenter and cultural test site of Latin America; Mexico City.


Cristina de Middel – Cucurrucucú
Based on the most gruesome and bloodiest of newspapers from Mexico, Cristina mixes and matches popular Mexican songs filed with lyrics of bad love, “bad hombres”, death wishes and murder with its news photograph counterpart. Photography more and more seems not enough as a pure medium. So what…


Stefan Ruiz – Mexican Crime Photographs
I loved this book because it speaks out about invisible traits of culture, specifically that of Mexico. These are clearly mug shots stolen or smuggled from the police archive or maybe thrown away. Either way there is a message of how rules/laws and history are easily manipulated here. We strive on ambiguity but that liberty that comes with flexible authority plagues our life with certain fears of not knowing if you´ll be the next to be singled out as the perpetrator or be a victim to “la violencia”.

Chris Killip: In Flagrante Two
A great book of great pictures. I saw this book at a fair and felt completely identified with Killips´ style and sequencing. The 70s and 80s still don´t feel far enough to become nostalgic. The books´ pull is truly about being far enough to let us into the story but close enough to surprise us. I´m glad they reissued a second edition.


Aspen Mays & Dan Boardman – Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? 
Archives, a teacher, a comet and one historical moment that unite a two-part book into an experience that offers free goose bumps. Very cinematographic in its narrative construction, it plays with parallel stories that encounter each other around the Challenger disaster. A great homage to us ordinary peoples in this every more striving for fame insta-world.


Jason Fulford – Contains 3 Books
“There is the story of the patient in a lie-detector who was asked if he was Napoleon. He replied, ‘No’. The lie-detector recorded that he was lying.” (From The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness). A brainy book but who cares. It took me right back to my passion of text and images and how one pushes the other. An experiment in which we are shown how we can pin down meaning to an image through words or push the image into abstraction (and vice versa) through loser texts. We are finally left anxious with the absence of text inside the 3rd book and we find ourselves obligated to create our own stories out of the images and sequence.


David Horvitz – Mood Disorder
The Internet. We feed from it. We download everything we want. Mix it, manipulate it, and get in trouble. David´s book plays the part of the ripple in the ocean of information. Setting up a wiki page with a selfie posing in a manner that suggests a mood disorder, he fed the web with this little gesture and waited for the Gollum to swallow it whole. The book is a collection of screenshots of all the sites that used his fabricated image as visual reference of the mental disorders they where talking about. Pure and simple brilliance.


Alexander Gronsky | Ksenia Babushkina – Schema
A book that takes you to a point of despair. Is it time or is it space that is shifting? Is it both? Here the authors kick Cartier Bressons´ ass and dismantle photography’s stigma of the “best picture”. It shouts out that there shouldn´t be one top image, especially when we are the ones building up the perfect moment. Those instants before, after and around the “good” picture, especially in the photobook, can offer a more interesting narrative than just the best picture to hang on the wall. Very cool.


Alejandro lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of several museums including the SFMOMA, the MoCP, the MFAH, the Harry Ransom Center, the West Collection among others. He has received several awards including the Photolucida Critical Mass book award and the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome. He has been named a FOAM magazine Talent and one of PDN´s magazine 30 emerging photographers. He has published and selfpublished several books including Suburbia Mexicana (2012 Photolucida/Daylight), Carpoolers 2014, Before the War 2015, Rivers of Power 2016 and Santa Barbara return jobs back to US with Skinnerboox 2016. Alejandro’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as Newsweek, Nowness, Domus, the Financial Times, View, the Guardian, le Monde, Stern, PDN, the New Yorker, the Independent, Monocle and Wallpaper among others.


Images – top:  José Luis Cuevas – Nueva Era (New Era), below: Stefan Ruiz  Mexican Crime Photographs

Stefan Ruiz