Fate, Fantasy and Uncertain Futures: The Best Photo Books of the Month

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Falling by Gabby Laurent
Falling by Gabby Laurent© Gabby Laurent 2021 courtesy Loose Joints

From lockdowned London to the Japanese underworld, we round up the most exciting photography releases to buy now

The City and All It Holds by Roni Ahn

After moving back to her home city of Hong Kong during the pandemic, photographer Roni Ahn began working on her most personal project to date. The forced loneliness of lockdown led her to think more about intimacy, her relationships, and the importance of having a strong support system while the world falls apart. This eventually resulted in her tender new book, The City And All It Holds – an Instagram-cast photo project celebrating young friendship groups in Hong Kong. 

Hargeisa by Sharmaarke Ali Adan

30 years ago, the Republic of Somaliland declared itself an independent state, breaking away from its origins as the northern region of Somalia. To celebrate its anniversary, British-Somali photographer and art director Sharmaarke Ali Adan visited its capital, Hargeisa, to learn more about modern life in the city. He ended up making both a film and a photography book on the topic. “I started this project at a time where I was doing a lot of self-discovery,” Adan told AnOther last month. “Growing up in London, not many of us Somalis get to learn much about our history and the depths of our culture. It’s not something my parents sat me down and taught me, so I had to do some self-discovery to really learn who I am.”

Sweeteens by Laura Jane Coulson

Photographer Laura Jane Coulson conjures up a visual love letter to freedom, youth and London’s green spaces in her new book, Sweeteens. Shot last May, her images capture the capital’s sweltering, early-pandemic heatwave, as city-dwellers began tentatively venturing out to their local parks. “[During the first lockdown] I just felt, as everyone did, really confused, low, and just a bit miserable,” Coulson told AnOther. “[When restrictions began to lift] I went out to the park and it was like, ‘Oh my God, this feels exciting again. This feels like a moment.’ I instantly got excited that people looked happy and were meeting up.”

The Roadmaker by James Barnor, published by RRB Photobooks

James Barnor was Ghana’s first international press photographer. After documenting the country’s independence campaign in the 1950s, he eventually moved to London, where he worked in a factory and took evening classes in colour processing and development. This new retrospective of his work, titled The Roadmaker, traces Barnor’s rise to one of the 20th century’s finest colourists, revealing a selection of images that showcase his trailblazing modernism and technical skill. (His work is also being celebrated at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and at London’s Serpentine this year).

I can't stand to see you cry by Rahim Fortune, published by Loose Joints

Rahim Fortune’s second book, I can’t stand to see you cry, is a coming-of-age story. Shot over the last five years, it initially began as a documentation of his father’s terminal illness – though it soon grew into something much broader. The Austin-born photographer wanted to “get at a deeper psychology” of what he was living through, and started looking into the history, relationships and “Black love” of his local community in Texas. “It’s like a film noir Western of my life,” he told AnOther last month. 

Bad Ass And Beauty – One Love by Mao Ishikawa, published by T&M Projects

Photographer Mao Ishikawa has spent decades documenting Japan’s outsiders. Through her candid black and white images, viewers are transported to the country’s underground – a world filled with bar girls, punks, performers and shunned racial minorities. Her work is both intimate and political, lovingly spotlighting communities who have been marginalised by traditional Japanese society. “Ishikawa presents subjects as they are, without easily alienating them as abstractions of narrative or metaphor,” says curator Fumiko Nakamura in this book’s opening essay. “She even transforms her own identity in relation to that which she encounters.”

WATER••COLOUR by Lucie Rox

In Lucie Rox’s new zine, WATER••COLOUR, viewers are submerged in a fantastical seascape of afro-futurist merfolk. The London photographer has teamed up with make-up artist Crystabel Riley for the project, which is inspired by Rivers Solomon’s Lambda Literary Award-winning novella The Deep. “Afrofuturism gave us an interesting frame through which to look at beauty and its representation linked to Black womanhood,” explained Rox last month. “We can imagine our own kind of future, our own kind of visual poetics, with which we can try and push the boundaries of what Black and beauty imagery can mean in relation to each other.”

Peter Lindbergh. Azzedine Alaïa by Carla Sozzani, published by Taschen

After meeting in 1979, Peter Lindbergh and Azzedine Alaïa began a decades-long, collaborative relationship. The photographer once described the pair as “hand in glove,” while the designer was equally effusive. “We don’t even need to talk,” said Alaïa. “Everything flows.” Although they were both pioneers in their own right, leaving behind their own formidable legacies, their collaborative vision was a rare kind of magic.

Falling by Gabby Laurent, published by Loose Joints

In Gabby Laurent’s new book, Falling, we see various shots of the photographer tripping up, tumbling through the air and toppling to the floor. The kinetic series of self-portraits were created through performed choreography, exploring ideas of control and circumstance. London-based Laurent is shown stumbling through her life – falling asleep, falling pregnant or falling apart – giving way to gravity and surrendering herself to fate. Published by Loose Joints, Falling is launching this Thursday at Webber on Newman Street, London.