Photobooks of 2016: Rob Hornstra

Photobooks of 2016: Rob Hornstra


My favorite political photobook in 2016. However, my first reaction after opening this book: Too complicated to crack. That must have been the experience of the authors while they were working on the impossibly complicated topic of transfers without legal process known as extraordinary renditions, all organized by the CIA. Incredibly important work that should be seen by everyone in our civilized Western societies.


Thorough photographic research about the Amazon that stays away from predictable clichés. Very accessible due to great photography and design in the book. It seems that Werner Herzog wrote to Yann Gross (and only Herzog can actually write this): “This is big, as it reaches beyond the fever dreams that brood in Amazonia. Looking at this book it appears as if a curse weighs on the entire landscape, everywhere, from horizon to horizon.” My favorite travel photobook in 2016.


My most enviable photobook in 2016: I wish I had had this great idea at the time of my working period in Iceland 11 years ago. The historical story about two murders in 1974 not only tells a lot about the functioning of a  scarcely populated country, but also touches on universal police investigation issues such as confessions under coercion, mass hysteria and scapegoating.


Piero Martinello travelled around Italy in search of people who embraced radical choices and lifestyles. For me, the beauty of this book lies in the personal choices made by the author to come to five groups and different visual strategies he has used to depict these groups. That elevates the book from misplaced scientific to a very personal exploration. My favorite radical photobook in 2016.


I do not understand anything of western photographers who believe that they have to put their lives at risk to document a war in Arab countries. The fact that living as a war photographer is a total mind fuck, is well represented in this book. Experiences on the spot are interspersed with messages from worried parents and loved ones. I hope that this book prevents new naive young photographers from going to wars, although I doubt. The book is undeniably a grinding body of work and my most confounding photobook in 2016.


Again a very appealing book thanks to the splendid cohesion between text, photography and design (Ramon Pez). This time Laia uses a totally different approach than in her previous books. She makes use of an old story from 1840s-1850s about the werewolf of Allariz in Spain to raise questions about gender issues, the overarching theme in her work: “The Werewolf of Allariz was a woman.” My favorite history photobook in 2016.


Touching story about men in rural China who build their own flying machines. Of course all metaphors are there to talk about state oppression and personal desire for freedom. I found the book particularly contagious because it motivates to always be chasing your dreams. My favorite feel-good book in 2016, beautifully designed and published by the Eriskay Connection.


Rob Hornstra, born in 1975 in the Netherlands, is a Dutch photographer of predominantly long-term documentary projects, both at home and around the world. He has published several books of solo work, produced documentary series for a variety of international magazines, and taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad. In 2009, Hornstra and writer/filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen started The Sochi Project, culminating in the retrospective book An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus and an exhibition that toured Europe, America, India and Canada. He is the founder and former artistic director of FOTODOK – Space for Documentary Photography. Four times per year he runs a popular live talkshow about photo books in his home town Utrecht. He is head of the photography department at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague.


Images – top: Sugar Paper Theories by Jack Latham, bottom: Lobismuller by Laia Abril


Laia Abril - Lobismuller