Photobooks of 2018: Vanessa Winship

Photobooks of 2018: Vanessa Winship


I’ve only included books that I’ve bought and I must admit I haven’t seen a lot of books this year. They’re not listed in any particular order.

In A Sense by Charlotte Tanguy
On the Cover of In a Sense, reads the conjugation of the Cyrillic Russian Word meaning to dig. In the Latin Script the words becomes Poem. Charlotte Tanguy knows clearly that pictures are language; her concerns are often about ideas concerning what language means. She searches, digs to find a way to make sense of what she sees. Here they are truly wedded in the visual, and visceral, and pieced together as intelligently as she does, creates her poem.

One Wall A Web by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambau
This is another book I’ve been waiting on. Having seen a little of it’s creation, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s designed to fit in a small bag, the kind you carry with you all the time. It’s a complete reading book, both words and pictures. This is a timely book, political, passionate and poetic, with the clarity of someone who knows what he’s talking about. For me this is the complete package.

Good Goddamn by Bryan Schutmaat
Bryan Schutmaat is someone who really understands how to make work that addresses some of the issues about what it is to be a man, or rather, of a particular group of men in our contemporary society. Men apparently only concerned with doing the things men are meant to do, and yet, Good Goddamn cuts through that mask to describe something more delicately nuanced in order to question this apparent position.

My Shadow’s Reflection by Edmund Clark
I only bought one book at Photo London this year, and it was this book. Like everything Edmund Clark does, it’s thoughtful to the last dot on the last page. But this time it had something else that helped me to enter more easily, those pressed flowers with every detail of their delicate veins and sometimes faded hues, essentially, their fragile beauty. Each portrait of the men who offered themselves up to Edmund Clarkes pinhole camera, did so as an act of faith and a hope that it might help in the process of transformation from their transgressions, they so need to feel themselves human again.

Halfstory Halflife by Raymond Meeks
I have long been an admirer of his work, from his small handmade artist books; to the work he does in collaboration with other authors (Tim Carpenter, Adrianna Ault, Mark Steinmetz, Wes Mills), and with more established publishers. This time around he chose to work with Chose Commune, a small independent publisher, making waves with their choices of artists. Raymond Meeks work, often deals with times passing, memory, and loss. Halfstory Halflife is a wonderful new edition.

They Were My Landscape by Pheobe Kiely
They were my landscape feels to be a of book of disquiet. Fragments of the everyday, and sometimes night, of shadow and light, fleeting moments made still. Stones and feathers, doors and windows come together within the two covers, a blue note for today.

The Land in Between by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg
I’ve become a fan of these open spine books of late. They allow us to consider that this is somehow an organic thing, a thing in it’s very essence that is about life, from the paper, the pigments, stones and lichen that grow upon them are all contained within these pages. The work features mostly dwellings and places of shelter, apparently insignificant monuments and features of human creation, places of transit, with the exception of a series of pictures of mount Ararat. She sometimes dwells on how light and time shifts our perception of how we occupy our place on the planet.

Voyagers by Melissa Catanese
Voyagers is a book that reminds us of the days when casting eyes upon a page was once the only way for most to head on a journey. The deep, sometimes meditative concentration that allows our lives to be transformed. Thank you.

The Moth by Jem Southam
Butterflies feature on the roster of several of MACK’s authors. This year it’s the turn of Moths. The Moth is a poignant, elegiac, raw and tender work. Jem Southam’s seeing is often about a sustained meditation on time passing and how things erode. The Moth weaves together several layers of narratives into one that deals with loss, home, exile, the loss of self, and what remains. Jem Southam’s writing is equal to his pictures. This book is one of the ones that made me cry.

Past K-Ville by Mark Steinmetz
I’ve always loved Mark Steinmetz work, so much so that when I was working on my project in the US I made a small pilgrimage to where he lived at that time, although I never had the courage to make contact with him. On the cover, a picture of a young woman who is apparently sleeping, followed immediately afterwards with an image of a road set in that liminal space between night and day, the cars are heading towards us. Here after, we find another young couple, not unlike the couple out of Gregory’s Girl, a coming of age film set in Scotland 1981. In Past K-Ville, their hands barely touching, such is the delicate nature of young love and being together. Throughout the work we are given several small hand written notes that call out, forever, why me, and Lisa I love you, all captured on the ever-present roads that appear throughout the book. This is a song set in atmosphere of where time appears to stand still and yet paradoxically is always moving, longing and yearning, between innocence and at once of knowing.

The Essential Solitude by Tereza Zelenkova
I ordered an earlier publication of Zelenkova’s, and she very generously sent me The Essential Solitude, newly made at the time. I’m very happy she did. Apparently set in a single room of opulence and decay, whose central protagonist is a woman with floor length hair, who shifts and moves within the space over the course of time. She invites the gaze of the viewer to ponder her carefully placed subject with equal intensity, and to ask those fundamental questions of life and her opposite.

Sun Gardens by Anna Atkins
Perhaps this should not be included as it’s a reissue of The Aperture book, a reproduction of Anna Atkin’s and her step sister Ann Dixon’s Sun Gardens. Atkin’s was a botanist, born and spent most of her life in Kent. Recently she has been credited as being the first person (at least in western Europe) to make a photographic book. She is an important figure for me to pass on to my granddaughter who also happens to live in Kent. In these last few years Anna Atkin’s work has finally received the credit it deserves, it’s wonderful to be able to hold in your hands something that one might only ever access in a museum, one of the reason photo-books are so important. Cyanotype or Blue prints as they’re also known are seeing a return in contemporary practise, led by the like of Susan Derges, and I understand why. It feels like a good time to look back as well as look forward to know who and what we are.

Domesticated Landscapes by Susan Lipper
I first came to know of Susan Lipper’s work while she was living in the UK many years ago, though we never met. Grapevine became a kind of cult classic. Then came Trip, which combines image and text so well. Domesticated Land feels like the exact right endpoint to finish a thirty-year trilogy. She’s right when she says that the desert cannot be tamed. Human figures become their insignificant selves within this bleached out space, at the same time there feels somehow to be a final resting point, a place to feel the multiple pinpricks of the winds of change, perhaps some kind of redemption.

Vanessa Winship is a photographer. Her work explores the fragile nature of our landscape and society, about the legacy of our personal and collective histories.


Images: top – The Moth by Jem Southam, below – The Land in Between by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg