The Shelf: rough, rugged and raw reads

These are some of the novels and photo-books we had lying about the pool house over the summer. Some were good reads, some were immersing reads, whilst others just made us reach for the ever growing pile of trash-mags, the result of 10 days of poolside dilly dallying.

Yassin Serghini

© Yassin Serghini

Slaughter on a snowy morn by Colin Evans, Icon Books (2010)

Charlie Stielow is one unlucky man. The Berlin-born farmhand and his young family, following years of hardship (no job, no prospect, no money), finally catch a break when landowner Charles Phelps employs Stielow for one year on particularly generous terms. A couple of days after moving into the property’s tenants’ house, Phelps is brutally murdered, setting off a chain of events which would forever revolutionise the proceedings within a courtroom. Evans’ novel, which hops from fiction to forensic disaster tales, gives us a glimpse of the prejudiced and hurried manner in which a man is sent to his death, on a string of flimsy and constructed evidence. Set in the United States during the 1910s, the book can at times be heavy on detail, although the way in which Evans vividly depicts Stielow’s descent to hell gives the narrative considerable impetus.

Available from Amazon

Mapping the invisible: EU roma gypsies by Lucy Orta, Black Dog Publishing (2010)

Gypsies have always been captured in fairytales and literature fabling them in the European consciousness as the mysterious pariahs of society. Eschewing the accepted normalcy of traditional concepts of property their appeal has laid mainly in our ignorance and misunderstanding of the Roma way of life. This book looks to realign these misconceptions and throw light on this diaspora’s plight through breathtaking and some-times disturbing visuals of displacement. Here’s an uplifting and eye opening read exposing the lives of an all-to-often marginalised people.

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Shoot the artist by Bjorn Tagemose, Ludion (2010)

“I am not Bjorn Tagemose the photographer, or Bjorn Tagemose the solo artist. I am a director, a translator of other people’s desires… a multimedia manipulator.” Such is the way ‘Shoot the Artist’, Tagemose’s book recounting many of the shoots he’s produced, begins, in classic self-deprecating form. Spawning the fashion, commercial, music and art worlds, ‘Shoot the Artist’ (which also happens to be the name of Tagemose’s collective of animators, technicians, light people, holograph experts and the likes) is a copious, behind-the-scenes look at the photographer’s prolific career as a masterful jack-of-all trades – which began with a first photograph for Walter Van Beirendonck (the now-cult ‘Finally Chest Hair’ image). A somewhat difficult book to navigate (it is actually made up of smaller albums each devoted to one of his jobs), but an enriching page-turner nonetheless.

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Michaël Borremans: paintings by Jeffrey D. Grove, Hatje Cantz (2009)

The first of its kind to include all of Michaël Borremans’ work, this volume provides a complete overview of the Belgian artist’s universe. Hailed as one of the finest contemporary painters in Europe, his compositions explore complicated psychological states while vexing logic. Displaced objects are depicted as though they were breathing subjects and the human body is replicated as a figure of unconsciousness. The most striking are his ghostly portraits, based on random photographs picked from magazines. Deprived of identity, they express only silence. Unsettling yet captivating.

Available from Amazon

Viewbook: photostory, Blurb publishing (2009)

Annually held, the Viewbook PhotoStory competition is a platform for photographers from all around the world to submit their work and gain exposure on an international level. A brilliantly vibrant and varied anthology of the winning portfolios, These span from the emotive documentary of stoneworkers in Jaflong, Bangladesh to the whimsical portraits of the very dapper members of Congo’s Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes. PhotoStory 2009 isn’t your average coffee table book but a series of incredibly powerful and thought provoking works.

Available here

No wave by Marc Masters, Black Dog Publishing (2007)

Ask anyone who was there; it didn’t get any rougher than the New York of the late seventies. It’s therefore no surprise that the wastelands of the Lower East-Side spawned a sound described by critics as musical sadomasochism, ferociously avant-garde, militantly anti-melodic, inaccessible and anti humanist, also known as No Wave. Complete with live photos, artwork of the era and first person accounts by its protagonists and witnesses, Marc Masters traces the whole history of this anti-movement and spells the key to understanding its essence in two simple letters: N.O.

Available from Amazon