I just love photo books. In the UK we have Martin Parr and Gerry Badger to thank for a revival of the photobook medium. I often dip into their 3 volume set “The Photobook”.

If you have a few minutes to spare and are passing the Liverpool Central Library, it’s certainly worth looking into the 2014 Photobook and Dummy Photobook awards as part of LOOK/15


.The Kassel Photo Book Award 2014 went to Frédéric Brenner ‘s “An Archeology of Fear and Desire” but not after stiff competition from 29 other contenders. Social documentary (my own predilection) was well represented by:

  1. Piergiorgio Casotti’s  “Sometimes I Cannot Smile”, a study of juvenile suicide in East Greenland
  2. Mark Cohen’s “Dark Knees”, a photobook by a street photographer with a surrealist perspective. For me, Cohen is one of the greatest street photographers. “Grim Street”, although not my current style of street photography, had a profound influence on me.
  3. Eamonn Doyle’s  “i” , beautiful colour studies of individual people in the street
  4. Jim Goldberg’s “Rich and Poor”, shocking and gripping portrait of contemporary America
  5. David Hornillos’ “Mediodía”, an enveloping world of orange brick bathed in vibrant light from the vicinity of Madrid’s Atocha station, and last but certainly not least,
  6.  Vasantha Yoganantha’s “Piémanson”, perhaps my favourite, an exploration of daily life on the last “wild beach’ in France. The beach’s history began in the 1970s when locals set up camp there with no rights or deeds. Nowadays, thousands of campers from all over Europe get together every summer season, looking for a freedom that they can’t find anywhere else

But despite my predilection for social documentary, my overall favourite was Michael Schmidt’s “Natur”.

‘Natur’ is the latest published photobook of Berliner photographer Michael Schmidt (1945-2014). Reminscent of John Gossage’s “The Pond”, ‘Natur’  reveals a parallel universe to Berlin’s urban territory overlooked by the presence of the Wall. Images of empty and unwelcome spaces at first work quietly and for a while un-possessively, but wait a while and the images rush back like a train hurtling through a tunnel.

I was also much taken by Peter Mitchell’s “Strangely Familiar”, well known for his ground-breaking show  “A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission” 1979. It was the first colour show, at a British photographic gallery, by a British photographer.

Both Natur and Strangely Familiar can be seen at the Central Library.


Tony Cearns is a photographer and writer based in Liverpool. His views on photography can be seen at his blog “a sideways eye”

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