PIGS, structures of surveillance, metabolic landscape, a quiet USA, etc. My favourite photo books of the moment

I’m drowning in really good books this year. Unsurprisingly, half of them are photography books. And because i’m short on time and these publications deserve a review, i’m going to take the lazy road: a sweeping and speedy overview of 5 of my favourite photo books of the moment. In one post.

Here we go…


Gina Glover, Windmill, Prairie Farm, Near Williston, North Dakota, USA


Gina Glover, Garrison Dam Intake System, Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, USA

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Jessica Rayner, Conversion


The Metabolic Landscape. Perception, Practice and The Energy Transition, by Gina Glover, Geof Rayner and Jessica Rayner.

The Earth is a living organism. Our escalating energy demands are interfering with the carbon and nitrogen cycles and altered the metabolic balance of the planet. Authored by two photographers and a scientist, the book uses images and essays to investigate the landscape in relationship to sources & sites of energy, energy extraction, energy use and climate control.

Gina Glover’s work exploits atmospheric weather and ambient lighting conditions to draw attention to such energetic places and artefacts as coalfields in the Arctic, nuclear installations in France and hydraulic fracturing sites in the USA; Jessica Rayner observes how theories of the sun have varied according to the symbolic or scientific precepts of the day, drawing comparison between manufacturing, properties of the sun and changing theories of energy; and Geof Rayner constructs an accompanying textual narrative which shows how the energy transition has profound evolutionary consequences, not only for external nature, but how we see and interpret the landscape.

Published by Black Dog Publishing and available on amazon USA and UK.


Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others


Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others


Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others


Next is Some Things are Quieter than Other by a young Polish photographer called Jacek Fota.

Fota made several trips to the U.S.A. between 2012 and 2013, consciously avoiding the mega cities and landscapes we are already too familiar with. Instead, he turned his lens to the ‘peripheries of civilisation’ and condensed his personal experience of the big country into a small travel diary.

His photos show the U.S. but on a less grandiloquent, less cliché and more mundane angle than we might be used to. His images look effortless, they are both dream-like and very real, very down to earth.

This way to get the book.


Canadian Arctic, 2013. LAB 1 Royal Canadian air force short range radar installation, north warning system, Cape Kakiviak, Torngat Mountains, Labrador. Photograph: Donovan Wylie


Photo HFA

Over a year ago, i saw Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power at the Imperial Warm Museum in London. The photo exhibition brought together five geographical locations that are interconnected through the apparatus of military surveillance.

Steidl has collected into one slipcase three of these photo series. British Watchtowers (2007) studies the surveillance architecture built at the height of The Troubles. The network of watchtowers and observation posts was erected by the British army to control cross-border smuggling and paramilitary attacks but also to maintain an intimidating presence. The watchtowers were dismantled between 2005 and 2007, as part of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. As Whyle documented their final days in the countryside, British troops were deploying to Afghanistan, taking with them elements of these Northern Ireland watchtowers.

The second book, Outposts (2011), charts NATO observation posts in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Built on natural promontories, the outposts offer a fascinating parallel with the British Watchtower, as both networks ensured oppression and control in the name of a “war” against terrorists.

The last book in the set, North Warning System looks at a radar station that is surveying a less clearly defined threat. The extreme environment of the Canadian Arctic is home to cyber radar stations unmanned and operated electronically to detect any presence seeking out lucrative natural resources along Canada’s Arctic frontier made more fragile by global warming and the new routes though the Northwest Passage it enabled.

Happy Famous Artists beat me to the review.

Donovan Wylie: The Tower Series is available on amazon USA and UK.


PALERMO, SICILY, ITALY, 20-10-2010: ruins in the old part of town. During the American invasion in WWII nearly 40.000 people lost their homes. Instead of restoring them, the local politician, together with the mafia capos planned a speculative plan that kept the old ruins from being rebuilt. Instead, thousands of new concrete blocks were built in all the Golden Valley, surrounding Palermo


Jerez, Spain: This newly built suburb illustrates everything that went wrong in Spain: rapid growth based on seemingly limitless borrowing, which produced a glut of houses and office space that nobody wants © Carlos Spottorno


Athens, Greece. Hundreds of massive archaeological ruins at the Acropolis are piled here and there, around the restorers’ provisional offices. The weight of history is just too heavy for the southern European countries. © Carlos Spottorno

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Carboneras, Almeria, Spain: Hotel “El Algarrobico” was built in a protected Natural Park with the complicity of local authorities. Popular activism and pressure from Greenpeace stopped the project. But after a decade of litigation, it has not yet been demolished © Carlos Spottorno


Gela, Italy: Saro Spataro is a Sicilian-born Argentinian. He sells “madonnine” at the side of the road. He makes them with clay and black concrete. © Carlos Spottorno


The term “PIGS” was coined by the financial press as a shorthand for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain . Never doubting the suitability of reducing over 100 million people to a bunch of clichés, the neoconservatives and the mainstream media quickly adopted the acronym.

Photographer Carlos Spottorno attempted to portrays “Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain through the eyes of the economists”. The parody starts right with the design of the Pigs: the book cover is modeled on the front page of The Economist, and even the back page of the publication features a fake advertisement for WTF Bank.

Spottorno’s photographs show European countries squeezed between a glorious past and far less glamorous contemporary realities.

Published by Phree and RM Verlag in 2013. The PIGS are on amazon USA and UK.


I’ll always have time for war photography. And since i enjoyed the exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography so much, i had to get my greedy hands on the catalogue of the show. The show (and thus the catalogue as well) looks at over 150 years of conflict around the world, since the invention of photography. Instead of organizing the photos according to themes, geographical area or chronology, the curator orchestrated them according to the length of time that elapsed between the conflict and the moment the photographs were taken. The result is fascinating. You start with images taken almost straight after a disaster occurred and as you proceed, the duration between image and event grows into days, weeks, months, years and decades. One of the last series was shot almost 100 years after the start of WWI. Chloe Dewe Mathews photographed some of the exact spots where British, French and Belgian soldiers were executed for cowardice and desertion between 1914 and 1918.

I’d definitely recommend the book if you can’t make it on time to see the show.
Conflict, Time, Photography was edited by Simon Baker, the curator of the exhibition. It is available on amazon USA and UK.