Best recent photobook title: Tones of Dirt and Bone by Mike Brodie, published by Twin Palms. Love the title...evocative and musical, literal and allegorical at the same time. Poetic.
I haven't seen the book itself yet but I'm a little...well, scared to. I bought Mike Brodie's first book, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, and had to get rid of it. It wasn't a critical reaction so much as a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don't remember the pictures very well but it had such a grimy hopelessness that even its presence on the shelf took on a sort of malign foreboding. I was more comfortable having it out of the house.
A portrait by Mike Brodie from Tones of Dirt and Bone
Mike Brodie is a hobo*. He says, "Sometimes I take a train the wrong way or...whatever happens a photo will come out of it, so it doesn't really matter where I end up." Tones of Dirt and Bone consists of Polaroid Time Zero photographs taken between 2004 and 2006; the pictures are "enhanced by the peculiar color palette of the film." You can see that in the JPEG above.
Best recent photobook cover:
Chris Verene's Family. Apparently Chris Verene in his more recent work has been exploring or working out his unconventional sexuality, a strategy for picturemaking which seldom moves or interests me (sorry, Nan Goldin), but the pictures in his 2010 book Family, also from Twin Palms, of his family and friends in Galesburg, Illinois (whence a former girlfriend of mine also hailed), are unsentimental yet affectionate, and not condescending. And he has quite a gift for photo titles, too (for instance, one photo from the book is titled "My Twin Cousin's Husband's Brother's Cousin's Cousins"). Or is it Jack Woody of Twin Palms who has the flair for words? I don't know.
Family is a book that will hold up, I think.
*A hobo is a homeless person who travels and will work, a tramp is a homeless person who travels but avoids work, and a bum is a homeless person who doesn't travel and won't work. I believe I first encountered these definitions in George Orwell's memorable book Down and Out in Paris and London.
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Featured Comments from:
Crabby Umbo (partial comment): "I started my career at an advertising photography and retouching studio, and, like most of those places, they needed cheap space, and getting space meant you ended up in some pretty challenging areas of a city. [...] When I was in that area, I met many 'hobos,' 'bums,' 'apaches,' 'outsiders,' whatever, and what impacted me is that many of them were 'disordered,' and many of them had been raised like wolves: i.e. outside of societal norms. People who thought it a valid response to the idea that someone 'looked at them funny' was to break a beer bottle and attack the other person. These were people that were living in the shadow of society because they had not been given the right tools to cope with living in it, by parents who were too outside of it to even be responsible for children (or had the usual roster of psych problems and their causes).
"Anyway, I take a dim view of using these subjects as 'art fodder,' and no matter how much someone tells me that they are 'one with those people,' or want to get their story to the masses; I have yet to meet anyone where that is absolutely true. The very act of publishing a book about these people makes you so far outside of their 'ken' that it's silly to claim brotherhood. There are truly lost souls in our world that will never be made whole, and I hate the idea that someone makes them a 'subject,' because it will unlikely ever help."
David Zivic: "Always nice to see a photographer achieve celebrity without expensive or sophisticated equipment. My favorite definition of ART is anything created that causes an emotion, whether positive or negative. By that definition Mike Brodie is definitely an artist."
Philip Flower: "I have Brodie's book and find it very moving. There are some wonderful landscapes and the portraits do not strike me as exuding hopelessness—sadness yes, but also hope and common humanity. Highly recommended. And yes the colour palette is curious and lends a certain other-worldliness to the work."
Nigel Amies: "As regards your title 'Photobooks, best title, best image' I would humbly like to draw your attention to my own brilliant recent self published photo books via Blurb—the only way I know of publishing without crawling on my knees to various editors who would anyway expect my to pay for their services as well as accepting their editorial decisions. Screw that! I have two current titles on the Blurb site and another pending. Otherwise just Google my name. Nigel Amies Photographer."
Mike replies: Here's the cover of Nigel's book East of Here. And a very good cover it is, with everything pointing toward the little man with his hands on his hips who is himself looking elsewhere.