The Fourteen Photobook Highlights of 2014

15 December 2014
  1. Laia Abril, The Epilogue (Dewi Lewis)
  2. Cyril Costilhes, Grand Circle Diego (Akina)
  3. Federico Clavarino, Italia O Italia (Akina)
  4. Eamonn Doyle, I (Self)
  5. Joan Fontcuberta, Trepat  (Éditions Bessard)
  6. Stephen Gill, Hackney Kisses (Archive of Modern Conflict)
  7. Ken Grant, No Pain Whatsoever (Journal)
  8. Vladislav Krasnoshek & Sergiy Lebedynskyy, Euromaiden (Riot Books)
  9. Thomas Mailander, The Night Climbers of Cambridge (Archive of Modern Conflict)
  10. Kazuma Obara, Silent Histories (Self)
  11. Momo Okabe, Bible (Session Press)
  12. Max Pinckers, Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (Self)
  13. Johannes Schwartz, Tiergarten (Roma)
  14. Awoiska van der Molen, Sequester (Fw: Books)


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Signed Photobook Giveaway #9

26 March 2014

Tom Hunter, Le Crowbar (Here Press, 2013).

The United Kingdom’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 was propelled through parliament, largely in response to establishment hysteria over the unimpeded British rave scene. Clauses in the act prioritized the criminalization of collective trespass; ultimately terminating the large unauthorized gatherings of raves. The passing of this act forced an exodus of a nomadic community of good-time seeking outsiders to the fields, waste grounds and roadsides of continental Europe.

In 1995, photographer Tom Hunter joined this music-fuelled odyssey in a double decker bus, in search of friendship, freedom and repetitive base-driven beats. Named “Le Crowbar Café”, this ramshackle vehicle provided Hunter and his fellow Shangri-La searching idealists a communal living space, a refuge and a means to fund their travels, as it propelled them across Europe from festival to festival.

Two decades later, Tom Hunter’s Le Crowbar is laced with the nostalgia of a cultural loss – a record of the transition from punk spirited independence to the institutional commercialization of European youth culture. Hunter’s lens is compelled by the mundane, the quiet intimacy of life on the road; the resulting Le Crowbar is a memorial to one of the last gasps of a hippie utopia: the defiance of a moment and a celebration of non-conformity.

To enter the draw to win a signed copy of Le Crowbar, tweet ‘Tom Hunter #photobook giveaway @ClaxtonProjects’ by midnight (EST) on Monday, April 7th. The draw for this giveaway will be made the following day and the winner will be notified via Twitter.

Thanks to Tom, Harry and Ben for making this giveaway possible.


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The Hidden Mother

01 February 2014

Inhabiting a place between what is visible and what is not, The Hidden Mother is a collection of predominantly late-nineteenth century portraits, the principle subjects of which are present in frame but absent from view. They are mothers who have modestly sacrificed their own depiction in order to exultantly exhibit their precious infants as the centrepieces of the photographic ritual. In a bid to overcome the limitations of the extended photographic exposure, these women have transformed themselves into maternal armatures, concealed and camouflaged by various materials of domesticity, in order to anonymously cradle the subject of the commission.

Over the last decade, Italian artist Linda Fregni Nagler has accumulated over a thousand photographs containing hidden mothers, and in this work, has curated and defined a poignant new archive on the discourse of motherhood and of maternal absence. The repetitive gesture that lays at the centre of this narrative may be bound to the technical inadequacies of the medium at the time, but in denying themselves, these mothers speak vividly to the contemporary role of women in society; they illustrate how readily motherhood could be sacrificed to help reinforce and make explicit the connection between the child and the viewer of the photograph – for this distinction was the foundation of the portrait. The work also speaks to the catastrophic fear of infant mortality, which hung heavy in the Victorian family and for many the photographic portrait was a posthumous event.

The Hidden Mother is a photographic casket of lost memories, of anonymous identities and compelling mysteries. The pragmatic book design enhances the experience of an inventory-like presentation of this work and in doing so, allows us to willingly consider, reconsider and distinguish what is visible and what is represented. In turning the page, we are seduced by sequence, by repetition and the evolving relationships between images and methods of concealment. In the act of searching for what is not visible, we are confronted with a mirror, one that poignantly reflects and haunts our own memories, resonating in the lost passage of time.


The Hidden Mother by Linda Fregni Nagler is published by MACK and was reviewed for issue seventeen of 1000 Words Magazine.


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The Landscape of My Adolescence

22 December 2013

The A1 Great North Road was, by the mid-twentieth century, an exhausted and inept symbol of the naïve idealism of pre-war British transport planning. Originally conceived as a purposeful thoroughfare, slicing up the east coast backbone of the United Kingdom, it had ultimately been consumed by the progressive march of modernity and the increasing necessity for a strategically planned modern motorway system. Rendered obsolete by the 1980s, this crumbling but endearing transport artery symbolized much of the social and cultural ideals being swept aside by the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.

In 1981, influenced by the expeditions of his American predecessors William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, photographer Paul Graham embarked on a journey through the heart of Thatcher’s uncertain and transforming Britain. Directed by the route of The Great North Road, he documented the parochial lives of those living and working along its verges. Rejecting the photographic convention of his contemporaries, this would be a narrative depicted in color: a somber, drab, claustrophobic—in short, altogether more British—interpretation of the epic American road trip.

As the flames vigorously danced across the late summer stubble of Paul Graham’s frame, ‘Burning Fields, Melmerby, North Yorkshire,’ a few hundred miles south I would sit transfixed with childish awe at fields ablaze on my own family’s farm, itself neighboring southern stretches of The Great North Road. This was a familiar highway, one largely devoid of multinational chains, littered with barely legible signs directing weary travelling salesman to miserable hotels, and intimidating and dilapidated roadside cafes serving endless cups of milky tea. This was home, the landscape of my adolescence.

Seven years after Paul Graham self-published A1 – The Great North Road, I discovered the forty-one color plates, restlessly, in the dimly lit photography section of my North London college library. It was defining and at the time, almost overwhelming; from that auspicious moment, my interest in the medium was no longer solely obscured by the monochromatic decisive moment. Graham had introduced me to elaborate storytelling, subtle and complex narratives woven into the familiar, and experiences that would continuously reveal wit, intelligence and empathy.


‘Paul Graham, Burning Fields, Melmerby, North Yorkshire: The Landscape of My Adolescence’ was originally written for Papercuts.


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Signed Photobook Giveaway #8

15 December 2013

Bryan Schutmaat, Grays The Mountain Sends (Silas Finch, 2013).

Winner of the 2013 Aperture Foundation portfolio prize and nominated in the Aperture/Paris Photo first book award, Bryan Schutmaat’s Grays The Mountain Sends is a thoughtful and sincere portrait of the small mining and mountain communities of the American West. Published by Silas Finch, the 42 color plates are exquisitely printed on uncoated paper and bound with steel and screw post binding. Launched at the New York Art Book Fair in September, this superb book sold out immediately and has subsequently become one of the most desired releases of the year.

To enter the draw to win a signed copy of Grays The Mountain Sends, tweet ‘Bryan Schutmaat #photobook giveaway @ClaxtonProjects’ by midnight (EST) on December 23rd. The draw for this giveaway will be made the following day, December 24th and the winner will be notified via Twitter (the book will be dispatched to the winner after the holidays).


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A Year in Ten Titles

02 December 2013

The last twelve months have witnessed a growing collective shift in the interest and focus of photobook production, from the large over-sized/over-produced limited edition box sets, to more independent and self-published releases. This is by no means a new phenomenon—but the scale of the evolution and the quality of the titles being created by independent artists is a wonderful development.

The voracious appetite for photobooks, coupled with the increasing significance artists are placing upon them, has enabled a growing number of exciting, independent publishers to both challenge and reward those that seek smart and inventive photobooks. With over a dozen releases this year, MACK’s output has continued to be galvanized by intelligent, superbly produced titles, littered with the occasional imaginative risk. The increasingly confident rise of the smaller independent publishing house, with imprints such as AMC, GOST, Here Press, Little Big Man, Oodee and RVB, has been the source of many inventive, rewarding and often surprising works.

Self-published photobooks continue to be at the forefront of the medium’s tenacity and vitality. Artists collaborating directly with designers and printers is increasingly resulting in bold photobooks, unshackled from the naïve parameters of traditional self-publishing. The number of projects vying for crowd-sourced funding is potentially approaching saturation point, which in turn may compel more to embrace the control of their own budgets– releasing them from the inflated production costs of publishers blindly driven by the ‘you pay, we publish’ business model. In this climate, the seduction of the large, established publishers and their traditional marketing and distribution models is (quite rightly) no longer applicable to many artists’ approach to photobook production.

I think it would be fair to state that 2013 has been a vintage year, with many titles destined for the long-term accolades they richly deserve. Although the passing of time more often than not forces a reevaluation to any ‘best of’ list, the following ten titles are what I consider to be the photobook highlights of the year (in alphabetical order).


1. Mike Brodie, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (Twin Palms) - Preview

Expectations were high from this long overdue publication and on release, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Superbly edited by Jack Woody, Twin Palms has crafted this sincere and evocative journal of life on the road into an incredible, almost faultless photobook that will endure for many years to come.


2. Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Holy Bible (MACK/AMC).

Beyond the much-deserved awards and praise, this duo’s provocative practice is layered with thoughtful and challenging concepts. This, one of their most compelling works, is a surprisingly smart exploration of religion, death and conflict. Holy Bible is a testimony to catastrophe and a superb example of an artists mastery of the medium.


3. Edmund Clark, Control Order House (Here Press) – Preview

Utilizing mundane photographs of an anonymous suburban house, legal documentation and diary entries, this is a dossier that questions the systems of law and governance that both protects and strips its citizens of their security and freedom. Control Order House is a significant work, quietly affecting with a deliberate and compelling impact.


4. Óscar Monzón, Karma (RVB/Dalpine).

Public and private are fantastically blurred in Karma, one of the boldest photobook releases of the year. Monzón’s invasive images of nocturnal motorists at Madrid traffic lights are full of life; his startling light penetrating every voyeuristic detail while the book’s manic sequence/design further intensifies this energetic experience.


5. Bryan Schutmaat, Grays The Mountain Sends (Silas Finch) – Preview

The individual constituents of photobook production are rarely consolidated as wonderfully as they are in Schutmaat’s sumptuous debut release. This remarkably sensitive and lyrical portrait of small mountain towns of the American West is one of the most thoughtfully constructed photobooks of recent years.


6. Lieko Shiga, Rasen Kaigan (Akaaka).

Shiga has produced a mesmerizing title that draws the viewer into a dark labyrinth of folklore and fantasy. Never fully aware of what is being observed, this is a chaotically charged document, blurring the real and dreamt, the landscape and those that belong to it: it’s a totally captivating journey, that is almost impossible to depart.


7. The Sochi Project, The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova (Sochi Project).

The Sochi Project has released an eclectic and engaging catalogue of photobooks over the last four years and this, one of their last, is arguably the strongest and most intimate title to date. It is a fabulous example of the strength and effectiveness of smart and empathetic storytelling.


8. Lorenzo Vitturi, Dalston Anatomy (SPBH).

Artist Lorenzo Vittiuri adopts an array of materials and practices to choreograph this vibrantly animated portrait of London’s Ridley Road Market. Discarded debris is transformed into glorious sculptures, playfully sequenced alongside the markets cacophony of characters, in a delightful celebration of rich creativity.


9. Henk Wildschut, Food (Post Editions).

Commissioned by the RijksMuseum in Amsterdam to document Dutch food production, Wildschut exposes every detailed facet of the creatures, people, practices and mechanisms of the industry. Food addresses the increasing complexity of feeding an ever-populous planet, in an astute, considered and elegantly designed package.


10. Vanessa Winship, She Dances on Jackson (MACK) - Preview

The American road trip is a well-travelled photographic journey, but Winship brings a dynamic consideration to this familiar narrative. The tender portraits cling delicately to hopeful expectation, and lift the gloom extant in much of this melancholic landscape. A fabulous production, the result of both artist and publisher united in the delivery of a truly exceptional work.


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Signed Photobook Giveaway #7

29 July 2013

Paul Graham, The Present (MACK, 2012).

For over thirty years, British photographer Paul Graham has consistently challenged and reinvented his photographic language, and his 2012 release The Present, continues this evolution. Bound in his trademark subtle and textured fascination with the unspectacular, this title is a series of diptychs and triptychs that reinvent the tradition of street photography and even go so far as provocatively challenging the medium’s treasured ornament: the ‘decisive moment’.

The New York sidewalks of The Present appear like unassuming theatrical stages; the protagonist appear stage right, and we hang in the shadows, expectant of the constantly shifting narrative set to unravel. But these scenes show the city as a monotonous treadmill, a tapestry of anonymous characters with fleeting roles—all extras in an unremarkable production, void of spectacular experience. This is the glorious beauty of The Present; in the moments between moments we become increasingly aware of the act of looking and revealing, of discovering or even fabricating narratives and associations.

Like all MACK books, this title is beautifully produced, and the repetitive gatefold spreads enhance the anticipation of the approaching street corner. The rhythm of urban life is almost replicated in the turn of the page and our own awareness of what we see and how we see it is thoughtfully challenged in this remarkable work.

To enter the draw to win a signed copy of The Present by Paul Graham, tweet “Paul Graham #photobook giveaway @ClaxtonProjects” by midnight (EST) on Thursday 8th August. The draw for this giveaway will be made the following day, Friday 9th August and the winner will be notified via Twitter (Thanks to SG for making this giveaway possible).


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10×10 American Photobooks

27 April 2013

After the well-deserved success of last year’s 10×10 Japanese Photobook exhibition, the International Centre of Photography and the Photobook Facebook Group are working together again, this time celebrating the American Photobook. 10×10 American Photobooks will include events in NYC, an online presence and a printed catalogue, and will culminate in a photobook reading room at the Tokyo Institute of Photography.

Visit the 10×10 website to see the full list of events.

I’m honored that I was invited to be involved in this year’s project, and I hope that I have contributed something of value to the discussion on contemporary American Photobooks. The organizers asked contributors to select ten titles produced by American photographers, released in the last 25 years, and to be sure to acknowledge books that have been produced by independent publishers.

Somewhat daunted by the task at hand, I applied more specific criteria: to select one title for every year, from 2003-2012. The omissions in this selection are glaring, and compromise had to be part of my process; surely any discussion on American photobooks of recent years should include Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood, the somber nocturnal meanderings of Todd Hido or the considered observations of Shore, Sternfeld and Epstein. However, I’d like to think that this is a collection of compelling and thoughtful titles that successfully unite the various elements of photobook production, while challenging the medium’s restraints – American photobooks that are affecting, influential and treasured objects.

Previews of all ten books will be posted on the bookshelf page of Claxton Projects over the next two months.


10×10 American Photobooks Statement

Ten photobooks, each the work of an American photographer, published in the last ten years, and chronologically ordered by year; the following selection reflects the compelling and eclectic vision of a small group of inquisitive and thoughtful American artists, and a selection that is mindful of lesser known titles and releases from independent imprints.

American culture is confident, self-assured and its influence is all consuming– but as an outsider living in the United States, it has always been the lives of those on the extremities of the American dream (and the social contradictions to this concept) that I have found most compelling. As a result, nostalgia and romanticism are largely absent from this list and although there is evidence of the American dreams ideals, they are predominantly tarnished and unfulfilled.

However, this is not a miserable inventory of an empire’s damned and hopeless. In the exquisite beauty of Raymond Meek’s Crime Victims Chronicle, the intense exploration of gender in Collier Schorr’s Jens F, or the empathetic discovery of the everyday in Mark Steinmetz’s South Central –something more reassuring resonates from within this selection.

These photobooks all have one critical characteristic in common: insightful and intelligent artists have produced them. They are photographers who use the tools of their medium to enquire, reflect and provoke, and have produced works that compel the viewer to question both the subject documented and the social landscape of our surroundings.


1. Michael Abrams, Welcome to Springfield (Loosestrife Editions, 2012).

2. Malerie Marder, Carnal Knowledge (Violette Editions, 2011) – Preview

3. Raymond Meeks & Deborah Luster, Crime Victims Chronicle (Silas Finch, 2010).

4. Michael Schmelling, The Plan (J&L Books, 2009) – Preview

5. Ken Schles, A New History of Photography (White Press, 2008).

6. Jessica Dimmock, The Ninth Floor (Contrasto, 2007).

7. Mark Steinmetz, South Central (Nazraeli, 2006).

8. Collier Schorr, Jens F. (SteidlMACK, 2005) – Preview

9. Paul Shambroom, Meetings (Chris Boot, 2004) – Preview

10. Taryn Simon, The Innocents (Umbridge, 2003).


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WassinkLundgren’s Hits

03 February 2013

Dutch photographic duo WassinkLundgren has just released their latest photobook, Hits, to coincide with their first major solo show: One Group Show at Foam in Amsterdam.

Hits is a collection of the duo’s work created between 2005 and 2013, taken from and interpreted by the pages of Google. With a preface by Sean O’Hagan, Hits also includes the Claxton Projects review of WassinkLundgren’s 2010 publication Tokyo, Tokyo.

Published by FW Books, this small and quirky title continues WassinkLundgren’s subversive and wonderfully inventive photographic perspective. The book can be purchased directly from the artists’ website and One Group Show can be seen at Foam from January 25th – March 17th.


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Anniversary Photobook Giveaway

11 December 2012

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Claxton Projects website, I’m thrilled to be able to offer the chance to win a signed first-edition copy of Martin Parr’s seminal 1986 photobook The Last Resort.

The Last Resort was Martin Parr’s third publication and his first in color. Initially released by Promenade Press in 1986 (the giveaway edition), it was subsequently re-released by Dewi Lewis in 1998 and again in 2002. A bold, unflinching and provocative body of work, The Last Resort set the tone for much of Parr’s subsequent imagery.

The dilapidated English resort of New Brighton provides the decaying backdrop to Parr’s satirical observation of recreation, in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain of the 1980s. A controversial book at the time of its publication, The Last Resort would prove to be a defining moment in British photography and a work that would influence generations of photographers that followed.

See the Claxton Projects preview of The Last Resort here.

To enter the draw to win a first edition copy of The Last Resort signed by Martin Parr, tweet: “Martin Parr #Photobook giveaway @ClaxtonProjects” by midnight (EST) on December 20th. The draw for this giveaway will be made the following day, December 21st, and the winner will be notified via Twitter.

Many thanks to Martin and all those involved who made this photobook giveaway possible, and thank you to everyone who has visited and shared the Claxton Projects website over the past twelve months. Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2013!


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Twelve Months, Twenty Books and a Publisher

07 December 2012

As the year draws to a close, the inevitable compulsion to analyze, list, and debate the most significant events of the past twelve months is feverishly embraced. Photobook publishing is by no means immune and if anything, listing the year’s ‘best’ publications has become an obsessive annual rite. Although many find this listmania tiresome, I’ve always seen it as an enthusiastic celebration of a creative and vibrant medium. This year I was kindly asked by photo-eye to list my ten favorite photobooks of 2012 for their annual collective ‘best of’ list. My personal selection (with explanations) can be seen on photo-eye’s website here. The chosen titles (in alphabetical order) are:


  • Nobuyoshi Araki, To The Past  (Little Big Man)
  • Christina de Middel, Afronauts  (Self Published)
  • Melinda Gibson, The Photograph as Contemporary Art  (Self Published)
  • Stephen Gill, Coexistence  (Nobody) 
  • Anne Golaz, Metsästä  (Kehrer)
  • Paul Graham, The Present  (Mack)
  • Pietro Mattioli, Two Thousand Light Years from Home  (Kodoji)
  • Anders Petersen, City Diary  (Steidl)
  • Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel  (Snoeck)
  • Witho Worms, Cette Montagne C’est Moi  (FW Books)

Ten further books of note (which I would have loved to include in my photo-eye selection):


  • Leon Borensztein, American Portraits 1979-1989  (Nazraeli)
  • J. Carrier, Elementary Calculus  (Mack)
  • Tiane Doan na Champassak, Father of Pop Dance  (Self Published)
  • Keizo Kitajima, USSR 1991  (Little Big Man)
  • Paul Kookier, Heaven  (van Zoetendaal)
  • Martin Parr, Life’s a Beach  (Aperture/Xavier Barral)
  • Torbjørn Rødland, Vanilla Partner  (Mack)
  • Diana Scherer, Nurture Studies  (van Zoetendaal)
  • Nigel Shafran, Ruth on The Phone  (Roma)
  • Issei Suda, The Work of a Lifetime – Photographs 1968-2006  (Only)


When contemplating this list of photobooks, I was surprised how many were the product of one publishing company. With titles from a wonderful roster of artists including J. Carrier, Paul Graham, Luigi Ghirri, Ron Jude, Mårten Lange and Anders Petersen, MACK Books has consistently released exquisitely designed and beautifully produced titles. This year MACK has embraced smart, challenging and provocative projects, as they continue to set the standard for quality in photobook production.

Photobook Publisher of The Year: MACK Books


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Signed Photobook Giveaway #5

12 September 2012

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eleven (Damiani, 2011).

American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia engages with strangers in orchestrated-but-intimate moments that are both casually seductive and theatrically contrived. These captivating scenes of seemingly real experience are constructed with a cinematic intensity; choreographed with an overwhelming tension, these are narratives that weave fact and fiction, fantasy and documentary.

In 1997 diCorcia was commissioned by W Magazine to produce a fashion story in collaboration with its then creative director, Dennis Freedman. The resulting spreads were the first in a series of eleven stories that diCorcia would produce for W Magazine between 1997-2008, and which are wonderfully reproduced in Eleven.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s elaborately staged approach and his ability to construct evocative and multilayered narratives gloriously exploit Freedman’s passion for all that is elegant and chic. The stories of Eleven feel free of the commercial restraints which are generally applied to the contemporary editorial market. Here, productions are ungoverned by creative and budgetary limitations—one of the last decadent and glamorous tangos between art and fashion.

To enter the draw for a copy of Eleven signed by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, tweet: “Philip-Lorca diCorcia #photobook giveaway @ClaxtonProjects” by midnight (EST) on September 25th. The draw for this giveaway will be made the following day, September 26th and the winner will be notified via Twitter.


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