I was lucky to spent last week-end in Kassel (Germany) at the Photobook festival. It is really nice, small and cozy festival. Documenta-Halle which is already familiar to me, this time was full of stands with photobooks and behind them were also known faces of curators.
The first person, who met all the guests close to an entrance was Andreas Mueller-Polle, an editor of a magazine «European Photography», which is known to me from Moscow Portfolio review. Next were Klaus Kehrer (Kehrer Verlag, probably the most known German publishing house with stunning photobook quality), Camera Austria Magazine, publishing house Peperoni Books and its owner Hannes Wanderer from Berlin and many others. The festival had very pleasant, bohemian, but business-like (so German!) atmosphere. One could not find there nor crowds with its brownian motion, neither queues in front of the entrance (I was afraid of that from the beginning, remembering long «pleasant» hours spent outside during Paris Photo last year!). It seems like this festival appeals real lovers of photobooks only as well as publishers and young emerging talents — I’ll explain this point a bit later.
This festival was dedicated to Daido Moriyama — a cult photographer of Japan avant-guard. He visited the festival in person, but was rather quiet, all the time accompanied by his manager, he signed copies of his books, purchased by his funs and sometimes allowed them to take a photo with him (but, quite unwillingly and wearily, in my point of view).
I became a lucky owner of his book Marrakech, which was praised by a Japan publisher, who was very nice and mentioned that «when you are turning pages over, you can look by Moriyama’s eye!». The book is really amazing — it looks closer to the cinema than to a book. The captured reality there is changing all the time like «optical unconsious» by Benjamin (probably, exactly this reality was seen by Moriyama, wandering across Tokio’s streets and making his lomographic shoots). Unfortunately, my book was already signed by the author and the publisher told that tonight Daido is «a kind of tired from signing». Perhaps, It is slightly unfortunate that I can not show to you my photo with Moriyama signing my book… kwell, it is really a pity, actually!!!
I comforted myself by a very interesting excursion by Marcus Schaden who is a well-known German curator and photobook’s expert from Cologne. The curators managed to draw the whole Moriyama’s life on the wall supporting it by book covers, important photographs, names of Daido’s friends and colleagues. Mr. Schaden made the excursion along this wonderful wall, trying hard in order to out-voice the noise of a photobook fair (he had no microphone). In spite of me not being able to hear everything he was saying, the excursion was very impressive. At the end the curator claimed that prints are good, but a photobook is the best form of existence of photography, photostory, statement. I rather agree with him, except an exhibition which has of course temporal character, whereas a book is something which accompanies you all the time.
One more book I purchased was suggested to me by amazing and inspiring adviser Hannes Wanderer (owner of Peperoni Books). It is called «One Circle», made by Fred Huening and published by Peperoni Books. The book is a degree-work of the already mature man, who decided to go study photography in his middle-age. It is a book about love, happiness, pregnancy, death and loss of hope and new birth. Hannes mentioned that he does prefer very personal projects, which are firmly connected with the author’s life, his feelings and emotions. «You can not think — what project shall I make next? It should be strongly connected with you! It goes naturally!». Therefore, Hannes is not much interested in cold concepts and experiments and the books which Peperoni books publish, must be interesting to him. By the way, we recorded a video-interview with Hannes and it’s coming in this blog soon!
At evenings in a hall, which was something in between of a bar and an exhibition place DJ played music and the atmosphere was very cool. For me this feeling was very unusual (usually I feel bored after 5 minutes when I am in a bar!), but this was the first time when I loved being in such a place (with good photobooks nearby all obtains sense!).
Among the books chosen by curators for competition I would mention as outstanding the following three – Mike Brodie «A Period of Juvenile Prosperity», Edmund Clark «Control Ordered House» и Bryan Graf «Wildlife Analysis». There were a lot of books with an experimental design — for instance, with randomly situated photos, a book with fluffy fur cover, two books under one cover and so on. At the beginning I was fascinated by these experiments, but experienced Hannes Wanderer sceptically mentioned that the design must reflect the idea of the project. «How it is connected with the idea?… It is just a kind of formal experiment!». And he was absolutely right, though I am curious about these experiments. They inspire me to make my own ones. Clearly in contemporary photography the ideas sometimes are not so important like formal experiments. And I think it is a pity.
It was a great pleasure for me to see and turn over the books of Russian young photographers (alumni of Rodchenko School) such as Ekaterina Anockina and Igor Samolet. These books seemed to be extremely popular there (have a look at the photos of them), I saw them all the time in hands of the purchasers.
On the stand of a competition Photobook Dummy Award there were the best books published this year — among them was the book by Julia Borissova «The Farther Shore», which is already well-recognized by world-known festivals and competitions. I’ve seen that the winners were chosen from 483 books from 34 countries, but to me not all of them were really compelling. Though, there are some special books such as a book of Carlotta Poloni «Demens». And of course the book of Borissova is also interesting – have a look, although I guess all of you have already seen it!
The rest of the books nominated to the prize can be found here (at least try to download it, because I could not download everything).
By the way, couple of days ago the winners were announced! It is an interesting coincidence, that all of them are Germans: a designer from Berlin named Norman Berendt (alumni of University of Applied Science in Pottsdam) with a book Burning down the house; Kyrgistan-born German photographer Artur Krutsch with a book «Thule» and an emerging photographer from Frankfurt Robert Beyer with a book called «Fartenschwimmer». Interesting, in the support of the Hannes’s statement, the winner of the third place has a very personal family story, Even though the author made it as a study project under the supervision of his professor W. Loeper.
I was a bit surprised that young authors can use the festival place not only for promotion via their books presented there by publishers, but also in person! We met a couple of young photographers from different places (even countries!) which came to Kassel in order to promote and sell their own books in person (direct sales), visiting stands and showing the books to collectors and publishers. And it seemed like they succeed- some were lucky to sell several copies even to Daido Mariyama himself! One of these young authors gave an interview to us (he was a member of Joop Swart Masterclass and came to Germany for the festival from Madrid, Spain). Why he was there and what kind of book he brought will be covered in the video, please just wait a bit! )
All in all, the festival gives a very positive impression — sorry for the repetition, but I must say that I absolutely love small German photofestivals, which are not so well known and appealing to the audience like Paris Photo or Recontres de Arles, but the atmosphere sometimes is much better – more intimate and suitable for communication with interesting people. Everyone can be seen there, every book can be scrutinized calmly (which is impossible during a huge event), one can not only see, but also feel, touch and explore a book. For me it is really important, because this year I got a scholarship for publishing of my own photobook with the project «Secrets» http://www.reznikdavydov.com/projects/secrets/ and I need new ideas and inspirations!
p.s. More details will be covered in video which is coming in this blog very soon! 🙂