Books & Essays

Featured in this post are reviews of books and essays by some very talented photographers. Look out for: Anton Kusters; Sam Harris; Panos Skoulidas; Zun Lee; Federica Valabrega; Bob Black; Richard Beaven; Anna Maria Antoinette; Natalie Grono; Lance Rosenfield; Murray Fraser; Andrew Steiner; David McGowan; Michael Webster, Cameron Neville & Tracey Tomtene. 

Anton Kusters – Yakuza

Anton Kusters l Photo by David McGowan

He showed up offering his very first book. And he couldn’t have had a better beginning as he drew attention to the sensitive nature of the subject he decided to introduce, the adrenaline, tension, danger, violence, curiosity, myths and truths of the Japanese mafia Yakuza…from the ‘inside in‘ and surrounding it. I don’t know who opened the door, but he wasn’t polite enough to wait outside. Once he found a way in,  he ‘seized the sofa’ and became a member, one of the family. How is it possible to be that close without freaking out, facing the intimidating reality and consequences of any mistakes? He delivered this answer fresh, tempered and seductively from the first to the last page. The risk with impressive starts is they can become like a ghost that returns to haunt you, as you aspire to match and surpass your own benchmark, there they are as you look back over your shoulder. But I’m not too worried about that when I think about Anton’s new projects, you shouldn’t be either. He’s definitely ready and hungry..!!!

Sam Harris…Postcards from Home

Sam Harris l Photo by Viky M

I like the intimacy, as much as I appreciate to be instigated by that small odds against the boredom and the expected when the theme is postcards from home, to be touched by the simplicity in the formula: childhood, joy, real life. I  expect to be bonded by similarities (it works while creating an empathy ground, right?), but mostly and specially, to be taken to different realities in confrontation of my own stable one. Sam made the smartest of choices. He stayed at home and he watched, he observed, and he understood the treasures in his own backyard and after that, he nailed it as no one could possibly have predicted. He reconstructed any concept of vapid, he enlightened the value of routine and the price of being so close and to manage a balance of how to make justice to the passive observer required for this kind of  project. It’s stunning…the pallets, the composition which doesn’t lick in a tedious path in front off his eyes…There’s so much love, redemption and new worlds happening there that you ignore the distractions of modern life calling for you. Open this book and feel it.

Panos Skoulidas … Venice

Panos Skoulidas l Photo by David McGowan

Panos can be described as  crazy, unpredictable and uncontrollable. The good news is:  it’s true. He is all the above. (Go ahead…give a camera to someone like that!).  And each peculiarity of those characteristics make him a genius in his craft, his urges for expression, or someone humbly destined to change. He does…carrying such a political, denouncing and loud voice,  standing up for freedom, dignifying the differences, to manifest his own nature: ‘live it and make it good”  that’s the most generous and authentic you can get… He leads for  example. The honesty to transpose conveniences and to expose. His Venice project summarizes it well;  it’s talent, precision, outskirts, well thought out angles and purely the truth: the human… what comes with that.

Zun Lee.. Father Figure

Zun Lee l Photo by Edite Haberman

Zun Lee is a strong man with a big heart and he places it right in the middle of every shoot. He bravely faced up to the assignment on Black Fathers which simultaneously fits the pieces into the jigsaw of his own identity. The secret became the drive. Instead of the natural human answer, he’s chosen the photographer’s reaction and you can feel him wandering in each message, a journey of understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation. I can pass you a tissue … trust me you’ll need it. No matter how hard or cold-hearted you are ..there will be tears. Hopefully and gratefully.

Federica Valabrega- Daughters of the King

Federica Valabrega

Another talented, professional and strong woman that I’ve always been ready to check out. She intrigues by the beauty and the compassionate dynamic of her frames. Orthodox women, the Jewish culture, the complexity of religion’s approach, on growing up with a set of beliefs and dictations, the happiness and incoherence, frustrations and peace found collectively there defying how far she can go. She got her ‘killer’ tool; the mix of their voices with her own, and visual evidences that  she can’t silence front of the quest. It’s a closed selective world where access seems discouraging , but lion-hearted photographers never recede when the challenge is proposed,  when it drags heart , soul and strength to beat comfort zones, numbers, uncertainties, or merely, to break down that wall. She stands strong when the road can be soul destroying while exposing your own beliefs, putting in check mate your judgment, how that can change you and how you want to play with that. For her, honesty. Check mate

Bob Black…Loomings

Bob Black

I don’t know in which role Bob Black fits better…as a writer or as a photographer. It continues to be rewarding to dig the question, but thanks to the artistic world, there’s no need for an answer to that…not yet at least. I’m still enticed by both of his arts,  and if he’s lucky enough be born with two superlative talents (I call them gifts) in one life, each complimenting the other, then I raise my glass to him.   My deliberate smart alarm rings and I’ve got to stalk whatever this brilliant generous mind is into. Pay attention, please:  he’ll enlighten us as usual, because when you are driven by passion and love for images, words and seductive codes, not even frustrations with the craft, nor reasonable breaks will be able to shut down this addiction. It’s what I need to believe while reviewing Loomings. With all the myth, illogical, sentimentalism, lyrical language he builds I’m dragged into this looming expectation of what’s coming next from this true artist.

Richard Beaven – Faith in Rio

Richard Beaven

Richard made the hardest, most urgent  and clinical decision of all. We’ve all been there or we’re on our way to reaching that crossroads.

What direction to take? The safest but plain and predictable route or the one moving you along the unknown, the unpredictable and evoking a struggle?  The typical feelings accompanying major changes ? The man listened to his heart and made the leap. He’s turned along the photography road and he’s been validating this choice ever since. Faith in Rio is a reflection of each corner, each ‘what I have to say’ about the city. He raised the most original convergence to enhance the clichés. Faith here (Rio is where I’m speaking from) is embracing the goodness and even embodying the sins: the blend of motives, strength, passion, self indulgence, identity, beliefs, obsession, naivety and utopia. Some additional perspectives leading to something so original and real, that’s visually beautiful. That’s Rio for real. I have Faith in Rio, everyone does. I witness this feeling  everyday. Richard is doing the same, but in his personal upcoming epic record..

Anna Maria Antoinette – The Philippines and Where in the Wilderness

Anna Maria Antoinette

She’s conceptual. She’s a concept lover, and is dynamic enough to create them, to open doors, to build a soulful bridge for the momentous forms in which vulnerability can manifest itself. That’s her stage, to listen to her ghosts, her afflictions, the fear and the freedom and the shadows trapping all of us. For some… the dreams, the nightmares, the transcendent experiences . It takes one moment, when solitude and loneliness come together, when the human and the natural world are at one. ‘Where in the Wildness’ is located just there. That’s where she takes me . She has a romantic, beautiful and soft signature. The choice of Polaroids, film, and Lomo became a Disneyland for her creative escapades. The hand made visual poetry, while inner afflictions are radiated.

Natalie Grono – Sea Dreaming

Natalie Grono

It’s hard to choose one of her essays to introduce as the best , because in their execution dealing with contextual and technical criteria all of them are worth your time to check out. You jump from one to another, because her images are that captivating, she is always ahead with the practice of ‘capturing the moment’, she must have a pact with the ‘right here, right now’ because she goes for the underlying meaning and she always gets it. That’s her territory. The portraits, the documentary feeling, the moves,  the witness.. they are a perfect sync and melody. They work , they bring the impact and the intimate…and those lines arrive so close, that all you can immediately say is ‘that’s stunning!’. I have special affection for the softest and sweetest of her essays;  Sea Dreaming, ‘Life is thought to have begun in the ocean’, not because that’s a brilliant idea to work with, but more for the fact I can see myself there.

Lance Rosenfield –Thirst for Grit

Lance Rosenfield

Lance is a maker of images and imagery. He exploits all the techniques to achieve it and he doesn’t discard the risky balance to create the proximity and closure a documentary photographer assumes as incumbency and satisfaction at the end of the day. That’s the recipe of honesty, how visceral, bloody and enticingly it can be reflected. If you take a look at Thirst for Grit, his journey explores the icons, myths and folklore of Cowboy Rodeos in Texas, how the stereotype still triumphs  in those small towns, how the tradition isn’t lost, the passion for the ride, the  excitement of ‘grabbing the  reins’, the  fragments of reality spinning that atmosphere, as well as what is considered contemporary in relation to the functioning of local communities. The true lives inside this specific world, sometimes celebrating valuable representative clichés, but most of the time overcoming all of them.

Murray Fraser – “Sprout Daily”

Murray Fraser l Photo by O’Neill Australia

Murray has been dedicating not only his mornings, time and energy to keep Sprout Daily at its outstandingly high status every working day of the week.  For those of you who think his talented commitment is the result of  the idea of  beauty: the sunrises,  the beach and ocean life as evidenced with the main focus on Manly beach, you’ve got the right map but misunderstood some of the directions. It’s way broader than that. He has a  talent, a natural gift and an eye for reporting the sensitive nuances that make up the beauty of what you would call daily life, where routine defies him to catch the unpredictable, giving him a goal every morning: the moment, ‘the’ moment  that makes sense and differs from all of those mornings before. The sea is the same, Manly is still there, the mood isn’t reinvented, but still each photo becomes one single self-sufficient shot, standing alone and powerful, a new story flirtation, a new enticing call to attention, for the amazing, for the imperceptible fraction of a minute it would be lost if isn’t for his instinctive, slightly magical lens pointing out to Manly …. everyday, every morning.

David McGowan – “Im one of these Americans”

David McGowan

When I watched his multimedia piece at Burn, I thought I was on my way to face familiar territory and any word of kindness from a friendly audience would be welcome. I underestimated the subject or I expected a lot less than he put together in this essay. But that’s where the irony lies, right? In time to realise my mistake and  showing myself open to the privilege of being surprised.  I clicked on ‘play’.  Suddenly hope, disillusion, reality checks , human resilience and socio-economic  & historical issues bumped into each other and from then on… an emotional road of evaluation, and simply,  comfort in reaching  the main question  ‘what really matters?’. So happy I followed that road.

Andrew Steiner – “Back to the Roots”

Andrew Steiner

He made me feel enthusiasm for black and white again. For the old rules and raw instincts that shaped  the work of so many legendary street photographers. You may talk about composition, colour balance, lighting and you can list numbers and specifications. I say fun and agreement with something more likely to be named passion than occupation. He simply goes to streets and he shoots.  For the first time someone convinces me that it isn’t that complicated. That’s the way it should be…simply simple…SHOOT.

Michael Webster – Goose Pond

Michael Webster

I like Michael for the documentary photographer he is and the fact he knows what he’s doing. The characteristics supporting my confession:  his respect for colours; for cinematic;  for the orchestral harmonies between people and the environment, the full-on action in his viewfinder. Independent of where he is, either in the middle of the crowd or standing in some corner, you know he’s there. I like the lack of pretentiousness and the randomness of that: being there. I’m constantly following the updates on his projects, and during this spying mission, I was accidentally introduced to Goose Pond and it really guided  me to a new territory. His imagery triggers my imagination. I’m not sure it’s due to my romantic state of mind, nor because I figured out that it doesn’t matter how he fits in, or the style he manages to introduce, one of the greatest things about Webster, and that will be always present,  is the invitation of an allusive  response to the landscape, to the potential ways it can talk to his audience. Silent, romantic like Goose Pond, or enticing, intriguing and denouncing like in New York.

Tracey Tomtene – Travel Postcards…. (And jewerely?)

Tracey Tomtene

It’s all about seeing and reflecting it in feelings. Tracey respects that. She gets that right and she still has her own signature in this context. She brings more of a traveller’s sensitivity and sweetness with her compassionate view. Independently of how near or far she is, whether she decides on film or digital, or whichever country is hosting her, you can recognise these two caring sentiments coming as responses from her to the subject and vice versa. As you check out her work you are likely to be on the path towards feeling connected, because it seems so humble, and to introduce  her style  is to accept  the adventure that comes with some fascinating motivation and the purpose she sustains : embracing beauty; culture and mystery together with infinite forms of interpretation: documentary; landscape, portraits… art. Did you ever think of making those precious instances of wonder, in the form of hand-made jewellery, your trademark? Exactly. Neither did I. But she does and it’s easy to feel impressed and amazed by the creative idea and artistic input as they combine with each other resulting in the “unique”. Her specialty.

Cameron Neville – and his seasons

Cameron Neville

Besides being one of my favorite wedding photographers he shows such talent while dealing with landscapes. It seems such a special concept and maybe that’s because it’s appropriate for what also makes his wedding photography so special: detail; shapes; colours; nature; the seasons; ‘time’; leaves; the delicacy of how the frame behaves and moves; and how that comes with extra sensitive charges if you keep looking deeper and giving credit to the profound. That’s where the real beauty appears: provoking; searching for it; offering your eyes this task. His photos are carefully comforting, revealing and inspiring. Personally they seem to work as visual backdrops for Elbow melodies. I look at the photos and I can hear the songs. It touches you somehow. Go ahead and embrace the  feeling


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