On the tenth day of Christmas . . .
Valerio Spada's Gomorrah Girl. A photobook. A chronicle of a death in a southern Italian ghetto. Two visual narratives physically interleaved in one book. In a time where the book as object is clearly changing dramatically, Gomorrah Girl is something that could not exist in any other form. A Kindle, it could not be.
It was put together by Dutch designer Sybren Kuiper. And that is a not insignificant factor in its triumph.
It won a prize. But, not to show off or anything, I'd bought it some time before that. I was writing a piece about photobooks. This piece (which you can download if you want, as a pdf) . . .
Writing the piece, I became increasingly enamoured of a new wave of almost handmade and almost self-published photobooks. All are, of necessity, limited editions. This was one of the ones I bought. It was in an edition of 500 and came out early last year.
And that's another reason to think about it. I paid 30 Euros for my copy. That edition sold out. Then, recently, a second edition was published, at 39.50 Euro. That, too, has sold out. A copy of that second edition is available on Amazon.com for 150 dollars.
If I can't have Gomorrah Girl, then I'll have Happy Birthday To You, made in psychiatric units by Anouk Kruithof. That cost me 20 Euros, I think. That did well, too. There don't seem to be any copies around. Last time I looked one would cost you more than 150 dollars.
Now, I'm not suggesting you (or I) buy these books for investment. They are objects that are worth their own existence and a place in your/my place. Nor will all such books rise in value. And you are also providing an income source for artisans/artists whose photography work was ceasing to do so. Be a patron. Buy now. Buy several. Enjoy them. Maybe make a few shekels.
And if it can't be a self-published book, then I'd have Simon Norfolk's most recent work on Afghanistan, in which he paired (well, kind of) his own photographs with a 19th century record of the benighted land, made by John Burke. There was a (great) show at the Tate. The lavish pale light of the images set up challenging duologues with the original black and whites — orthochromatic, so the colour representation was quite different from our modern panchromatic world. Afghanis, for one, appear far darker than they are - technical considerations inducing ideological outcomes.