Photobooks of 2017: Erik Kessels

Photobooks of 2017: Erik Kessels


Karel Martens – Motion
This fascinating collection is essentially a behind the scenes look at Karel Martens creative process, a visual account of what inspires and influences his own work. By bringing this broad and sometimes conflicting collection of images together in the way that he has, he presents the images in a new context and tells a new story – these images become a part of his creative narrative. What isn’t in this book is as interesting as what is. The images are not his, he didn’t create them, but this collection and the way in which he has arranged them sheds new light on his own work.


Piotr Uklanski – Real Nazis
The other N word. However you use it you’re guaranteed to get peoples attention. What’s interesting about this title “Real Nazis” is that it poses a question – are there fake Nazi’s? The next question of course is who is real and who is fake. This book is a sequel to his 1999 publication entitled “The Nazis”. The original was controversial, but this follow up takes things one-step further. The images of bona-fide Nazis mixed with Nazi-fied representations of film stars, celebrities and artistic representations of ‘the perfect Nazi’ pose questions as to the validity of these people’s affiliation with the Nazi movement. The combination of images says so much about the way Nazi’s used propaganda and then uses the same photographs to question the identity and representation of the Nazi image.


Peter Piller – Erscheinungen / Manifestations
The message in Peter Pillers work is always the same: Art is everywhere. Piller sees fine art in the most mundane non-artistic environments, like truck stops. Piller spent 3 years hanging out at freeway rest stops taking photos of the dirty, damaged, dented back end of trucks. The result is a collection of Polaroid-esque squares featuring images of women from advertisements. Without the typography or any greater context of what or where the image is the women become eerily mysterious characters in an invisible narrative.


Clément Lambelet – Two donkeys in a war zone
At first glance this is a striking series of simplistic, abstract artworks. Even though the images feature familiar silhouettes of people and animals, out of context these images are other-worldly, comical even in their over pixilated simplicity. But, as the saying goes the devil is in the details; the story behind these images is one of war, of the struggle for a normal life in world racked by violence and destruction. Clément Lambelet was inspired by a YouTube video captured on a US Army infrared drone. Between two explosions the infrared camera briefly highlights two donkeys – just being donkeys in the wrong place at the right time. Lambelet began collecting footage and collecting stills from videos of drone strikes taken by U.S., Afghan or British army cameras unintentionally capturing fleeting moments of ‘normal life’ amongst the violence. Lambelet has immortalised traces of life in moments usually characterized by death. He highlights the human aspect of war and reminds us that regardless of how mechanical warfare becomes for many innocent people on the ground life goes on as usual.


Nicolò Degiorgis – Prison Photographs
This series of inadvertently commissioned work by Nicolò Degiorgis is an exploration of basic photography skills set in an environment not exactly known for its aesthetic features: prison. The photographs were taken by inmates of the Bolzano – Bozen Penal Institution between 2013 – 2017, during a photography course given by Degiorgis for the Alfa Beta Piccadilly co-operative. The course was designed to teach photography as a means to escape the monotony of prison life while also exploring the limits of photography within the confines of the prison environment.

What is intriguing about this book is how Degiorgis has quite deliberately structured it around the photographic techniques taught during the course as opposed to focusing on the depictions of prison life.


Sébastien Girard – My Tv girls
It’s amazing the amount of bizarre crap you can buy on the Internet, but sometimes you get lucky and find a real gem. One day, on EBay of all places, Sébastien Girard hit the photographic jackpot. 993 images, taken over the course of 4 years painstakingly collected in 12 albums depicting hundreds of women over countless hours on one little T.V. These images might be the story of a serial killer in training or a collection of short, one-sided love stories. There are almost 1000 Polaroid images, each with a cryptic description written in marker on the back, things like: “Invisible Jeans – New in Calif”. The brilliantly titled “My Tv girls” is a fascinatingly bizarre collection; thinking about the why of it all is enough to send you mad. What Girard has managed to piece together about the creator of this extensive archive of 1970’s American female T.V personalities is this: He was an American called Tom. He lived alone. In 1978 he bought a Polaroid camera and he likes T.V. and women a lot.


Dawn Kim – First Flight
Dawn Kim’s fetish for post photography continues to be fed by our ever-increasing obsession to document everything we do online – even the not so good bits. Ain’t technology grand! We get a new gadget and with it comes a whole new genre of bloopers. The amateur photographers current gadget of choice is undoubtedly the drone. Opening up a new frontier for peeping toms and wannabe landscape photographers. But this new piece of photographic tech is a little bit more complicated than your traditional point and shoot. This book is a rib tickling collection of first drone photos that are so hilarious … if I say any more I’d be spoiling the fun of it.


Luigi Ghirri – Luigi Ghirri : Curated by the Taka-Ishi gallery
The legendary Luigi Ghirri is without a doubt one of the founding fathers of contemporary photography. He bought fiction to photography and was one of the first to see beauty in the every day and the accidental. He had an eye for composition and a visual with and humour that was ahead of his time. The fact that his work continues to live on more than two decades after his death is a testament to his contribution to the evolution of photography. The Taka-Ishi gallery has created this stunning book featuring a collection individual prints, each one of which has been painstakingly glued by hand. So much love and care goes into every single edition making this a truly unique tribute to a photographic legacy.


Thomas Albdorf – General View
You could say that Thomas Albdorf’s seeks to shift common perceptions in how we view and understand photography. Or you could just say that he likes to mess with people’s heads. Either way, he’s bloody good at what he does. His work straddles the line between sculpture and photography; using objects in a sculptural context to create compositions that force the viewer to take a second look. His photographic techniques look analog but his approach to composition and the way he plays with reality in images look decidedly digital. Everything Albdorf does is not only pleasing aesthetically but also manages to challenge and confuse, which just make it all the more fun to look at.


Naomi Harris – EUSA
While eating Bavarian gingerbread in Georgia U.S.A. photographer Naomi Harris unwittingly stumbled uncovered a cross-continental appreciation society. Harris visited an ex-logging town that had re-invented itself in the form of a European style Alpine village in order to attract tourists. She then set out to discover whether there were more towns paying homage to European culture and customs within her homeland. What she discovered and subsequently documented was Americans embracing European cultural histories, and Wild West enthusiasts based in Europe. Her project EUSA documents American towns going to extreme lengths to celebrate tulip festivals and Oktoberfest and Europeans doing their darndest to recreate the Wild Wild West. It’s a small world after all.


Erik Kessels
(1966) is a founding partner and Creative Director of KesselsKramer, an independent international communications agency located in Amsterdam, London and LA. Kessels works for national and international clients and has won numerous awards. He published several books of vernacular photography through KesselsKramer Publishing –including the in almost every picture series. Since 2000, he has been one of the editors of the alternative photography magazine Useful Photography.


Images: top – Thomas Albdorf – General View, below –  Piotr Ulanski – Real Nazis, Nicolò Degiorgis – Prison Photographs