Photobooks of 2019: Jeffrey Ladd
Federal Triangle by Mike Osborne
If you’re exhausted by the state of current American politics avoid this book at all costs. Mike Osborne’s deep dive into Washington D.C.’s political facade with all its oil and glint is fascinating, frightening, unfathomable and absolutely necessary. Red state, Blue state, each side will sense their team winning the battle for power.
Hexamiles (Mont-Viosin) by Batia Suter
Batia Suter’s scanned and jumbled landscapes drawn from a wide variety of printed material presents an epic journey both recognizable, fantastical and disorienting. The sum of the book gives the sense of a historical world geography explored by ancient travellers and documented in an unknown language yet to be deciphered or translated.
The Poetics by Matthew Connors and Lucy Ives
A traffic stop for a broken taillight + the contents of a 1992 Volvo + a rash of bedbug bites + and meditations on the nature of narrative = The Poetics. A seemingly minimalist work which has pushed me to the boundaries of my intellectual capacity.
Series of Four by Boris Mikhailov
Throughout his career, Boris Mikhailov has avoided singular photographic perspectives in favor of collected series, sequences and overlapping images in books such as Case History, Salt Lake and Yesterday’s Sandwich. Series of Four is an early conceptual venture from which Unfinished Dissertation formed, offering a multi-perspective walk through the everyday landscape of 1980s Kharkiv Ukraine represented in prints of four images.
Family Car Trouble by Gus Powell
Gus Powell’s book is a delicate balance of extremes – motion and stillness, life and death, skin and steel – a young family, a dying father and the constant maintenance of a 1992 Volvo. The car provides the necessary comic metaphor from what otherwise would have been an oppressive narrative. Many photographers have tried to share their parental loss but few have succeeded. Family Car Trouble is regarded as “a new classic of the Automotive Bereavement Parenting genre.”
This World and Others Like It by Drew Nikonwicz
I suspect when artificial intelligence starts to use photography to inform us of our world, the early results will look a bit similar to This World and Others Like It, as no other book I have held has felt less human. This might seem like a negative critique but it is meant as high praise. Look at the work. Marvel at the design. Don’t let the essay influence you. Use your brain. First book? Fucking hell.
Animals by Sage Sohier
Many might mistake Sage Sohier’s book Animals for simply a collection of families with their pets. Wrong. The pictures are as much about the details of American lives as the extremes of animal domestication. Sohier’s masterfully rich and meaningful medium-format images are sometimes humorous but always counterbalanced with a dose of realism that belies their reading as one-liners.
Berlin Wedding by Michael Schmidt
Before the arrival of his grand experiment Waffenruhe, Michael Schmidt was making books that, on their surface, appear to stay within the established lanes of photographic tradition. Berlin-Wedding (a quarter in Berlin) is described through documentary style urban landscapes followed by portraits of Wedding’s citizens – both at work and at home. This reprint is a facsimile of the original 1978 publication complete with the intentional slightly anemic printing. You missed out on the original, now’s your chance to have it within arm’s reach.
Album by Oliver Sieber
Oliver Sieber’s most experimental book yet, Album tests the limits of portraiture through a series of gatefolds and image combinations which question ‘what comprises an accurate representation of someone’. A completely black frame? A seamless backdrop? A street photograph? A manipulated photograph? An object? All of the above? Sit this one next to Schmidt’s Berlin-Wedding and see what happens.
Jeffrey Ladd is an American photographer born in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania in 1968. His work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oklahoma City Musuem of Art, International Center of Photography, Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute, Museum of the City of New York among others. He is based in Cologne, Germany.
Images: top – Animals by Sage Sohier, below This World and Others Like It by Drew Nikonwicz, Family Car Trouble by Gus Powell