Ten photo books that I love

November 15, 2018

Ten photo books that I love

Here is my list of my favorites 10 photo books. I will try to explain them but from the perspective on how they are different from each other, what make them so special compared with others. Later I will make a more detail and special review of each one of those books.

Shinya Arimoto – Tokyo circulation. This book is unique, first by it’s format, like the Todd Hido’s ones, it is a huge object. You need to sit somewhere comfortable to be able to read them carefuly. On the other hand the content is really bringing an unique feeling with is black and white, square format photographs. He’s depicting the people of Tokyo especially Shinjuku with its own wildlife; very contemporary work of this genius to come.

Todd Hido  - Excerpts From Silver Meadows & Intimate distance. The master, one of the few color books that I own, and funny enough, my favourite; even if I’m really a black and white guy. His images are like scenes, his books are like movies with nature, where human have just constructed a muddy road sometimes there are houses (thank you Robert Adams) or motel view and also of course many portraits of female. All mix into a real cinematographic mood and look and feel ; the genius of our time in photography, nobody can create such emotional pictures in my opinion; but hey, I don’t know everybody yet.

Trent Parke – Minutes to Midninight. After 2 years and 90.000km, Trente Parke is bringing us a kind of diary on the time he spent on the roads of Australia. He is also a small genius but this time, with the light into his black and white pictures. The book is quiet diverse as one can found from scenes of the city during the days to really countryside night shot with experimentation with a flash; a really true grower that I can’t stop coming back on it, one of my favorite, black and white artist (even if he made some color work e.g. The Christmas bucket). Unlike Arimoto, which photo are sharper, here, we have more grainy aspect.

Shin Yanagisawa – untitled. Also one of my favourites black and white photo book. Yanagisawa did not make many books in his life, I think three if I am not mistaken, and this one is more a kind of retrospective; but please correct me if I am wrong. It is what I say, the very classical school of Japanese photographers, picturing Japan in black and white. The distinction between them is about how much they are grainy, and what are their main telling stories. In this case, it is about a trip he made through Japan; depicting people and the area, from the North to the South of Japan, passing by, of course, the major cities but mostly villages and landscape.

Daido Moriyama – New Shinjuku. The master of grainy and dirty black and white pictures. The book is enormous, not in size but in the number of pages : 752 pages and 641 photographies ! It is really hard for me to read it in one shot despite the pictures being magnificient. Like Arimoto, he’s depicting the wildlife and flora of Shinjuku (seems a place made from gold for photographers...). It has also a very cinematic way of storytelling things.

Masahito Agake – Namekuji Soshi. A  very special photo book, one of the first book that I bought. I was attracted by first its cover with a nice purple, violet  but of course then, by the few content  I could see on the website where I bought the book. This is really a piece of art, like Yanagisawa he’s describing the places he has visited but the black and white are really deep and contrasted and he’s using a lot of dodge and burn, which create an unique flavor for his pictures that most of the case contains a human form of life, sometimes you really have to stop and look carefully to find this human presence.

Christophe Agou – Les Faits Secondaires. A very nice black and white book, always sad for me to talk as the author died recently at a relatively young  age and had a very large spectrum of work (see the color pictures, Face au Silence telling a story about real countryside daily life of people). But this time, like he said, he’s playing with the light, in some ways it is a bit like the Minutes to Midight from Parke but he’s going even further in his experimentation.

He is also playing with the shutter speed in most of the pictures of this book. The themes are very large, from a baby in a cradle, a wolf, to people having sex. My god, how all these photographers have access to this kind of pictures ? I guess they are paying them, maybe prostitutes and clients but my god you really to have some balls to shoot such things.

Seiji Kurata – Flash up. A classic Japanese book (also a huge one); this time it is not happening in Shinjuku but mostly in Ikebukuro in the 70’s, with again his nightlife wildlife, from hostess, travestis, gangster and other clients of such people. These days seems over now, either maybe there is nobody able to depict these scenes anymore (e.g. Kabukicho in Shinjuku) or the atmosphere looks much more sanitized compared to the 70’s era.

The book contain some epic shots like this yakuza almost naked, showing his tattoos on the roof top of a building, holding a katana (japanese sword). The book contains some scenes with the police and some bosozoku (almost gangster but not yet…). Really, it seems these days are over in current modern Japan.

Ryuichi Ishikawa – Adrenamix. A really special book, where Ishikawa is bringing us back to his twentie’s; where he had nothing to loose but everything to show. Not sure as he’s forty now , he could make such book. It contains some, yes, pornographic scenes; involving himself I guess, which are the climax of the books (thank you, V.,  you will recognize yourself, to open my eyes on those scenes) among other scenes of youngsters of Okinawa. Where you can find what I beleive are his friends but also and mostly, bosozoku. A small book by its size but a huge impact on my mind. Like it is said in english, a mind blowing masterpiece.