Staff Favourites

Village Books recommend their must-have art books
By Ella Joyce | Art | 10 October 2022

We asked the team behind Leeds and Manchester-based bookstore Village to share their favourite rare and contemporary items, and they delivered. From Sean Vegezzi’s 2012 publication, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up documenting youth culture on the streets of New York to Talia Chetrit’s most recent offering JOKE, dissecting her understanding of self and womanhood, these books offer unique viewpoints that elevate everyday life to frame-worthy moments.

Scroll down to see six publications as chosen by Village’s Sam Hutchinson and Joe Torr direct from the store’s shelves.

Matthew Connors – Fire in Cairo, 2015

‘Fire in Cairo’, Matthew Connors, 2015

“One of our favourite publications structured around themes of political protest, and societal unrest. Matthew Connors’ brilliantly poetic take on the visual language of revolution gives a new meaning to documentary photography, utilising sculptural and symbolic aesthetics to elevate the citizens and their vastly altered landscape surrounding Egypt’s 2011/2013 and subsequent political turmoil.

The photographs document not only individuals willing to participate, but an important combination of the contemporary methods of disruption with traditional forms of protest- lasers pointed at helicopters side-to-side with fire, smoke and makeshift facemasks, setting a new depiction of reality within a modern digitalised media that seemingly dominates our visual representation of reportage.” 

Sean Vegezzi – I Don’t Warna Grow Up, 2012

‘I Don’t Warna Grow Up’, Sean Vegezzi, 2012

“A definitive book of its time, highlighting the exploration of ghostly unused but monitored undergrounds, rooftops and fenced-off areas of New York City. The subjects of the book are almost hidden with a voyeuristic approach to documenting the journeys made throughout these unfamiliar yet recognisable city spaces, each location and character seen through a snapshot style that hints toward a tactile approach to image making, and the excitement of young adulthood.

The visual style gives a romanticised take on youth- optimistic and fresh in a seemingly closed-off and unfriendly environment. The publication demonstrates an immediate and fast-paced take on its subjects whilst also equally a sensitive understanding of friendship and an uncertain future, the actions of the group acting as a spontaneous reaction to their own existence by claiming their own personal right to the city in an ever-dominating and chaotic landscape.”

Julie Joubert – MIDO, 2021

‘MIDO’, Julie Joubert, 2021

“MIDO depicts Ahmed, a young man in a state of constant limbo within state incarceration and identity, photographed over the course of several meetings with the artist. Someone who is in a constant state of uncertainty, self-destructive in nature but with the idea of becoming a model, makes a beautiful exchange with Joubert. Being the subject of her work whilst also providing an insight into his experiences living in uncertain flux.

He is depicted throughout in dimly lit spaces, lo-fi and natural, showing himself through his scars, everyday banal locations, and simple acts- hugging friends, smoking, and having his haircut. The work shows a private, and innocent portrait of someone whose world we are only led slightly into, giving more questions than answers, a really important yet only slight document of his life we’re given the permission to try and understand.”

Ren Hang – Republic, 2012

‘Republic’, Ren Hang, 2012

“The first monograph of Hang’s distinct and controversial work, Republic is a perfect collection that defines the raw and playful energy that came to be endlessly replicated for years after. As an artist born and raised within conservative North-eastern China, his very matter-of-fact images stand as an unconventional protest against societal norms.

Equally conveying youthful tongue-in-cheek nihilism alongside passion and beauty, Hang’s work is timeless. Using minimal and sometimes brilliantly obvious tropes against white backdrops, the provocative nature of his subjects make for a sometimes uneasy but exciting performance- themselves using their bodies and each other as a means for an outlet.”

Talia Chetrit – JOKE, 2022

‘JOKE’, Talia Chetrit, 2022

One of the newest publications of recent, we’re really into Chetrit’s new title JOKE published by MACK. Something particularly interesting is the development of her work since the 2018/19 body of work, Showcaller.

We see a real advancement from one to the next, the latter honing in on elements of childhood, womanhood, the body, and family intimacy after only briefly hinting at these subjects in the past. The singular figure and depiction of womanhood are now interrupted, the viewer’s focus shifting to new understandings of the artist’s relationships, especially within how they hint at her own mortality and understanding of self.

Life, death birth – we are made fully aware of the sometimes-subtle power dynamics between the audience of a photograph and the context in which they are created throughout several photographic cliches in JOKE. Its self-referential nature alludes throughout to our understanding of the artist as the singular reoccurring constant, seen within a physically beautiful aesthetic that holds our hands into the unconscious anxiety that is subtly suggested.”

Ian Lewandowski – The Ice Palace is Gone, 2021

‘The Ice Palace is Gone’, Ian Lewandowski, 2021

“Sometimes simple is better, as is the case with this 2021 book by Ian Lewandowski. A series of intimate and touching portraits that demonstrates support and community within queer networks, these images taken in large format show a tender and slow process of care for one another.

The softness and focus of Lewandowski’s lens allude to a real personal link with the subjects, each person seemingly given the time to be documented as themselves, sometimes otherworldly and floating through a timeless definition of portraiture. We are made aware of the photographic medium through the image’s composition and borders, each image free of distraction, space to be understood as individuals, within a community that prioritises each other, and celebrates each identity as special. Very slight movements and positioning of bodies show an understanding of difference, and the photographer’s own understanding of self-projected throughout their friends and subjects.”

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