Collecting photography books is quite a demanding hobby. It requires time to browse the Internet in search of what’s new and coming, patience and perseverance to localise copies of the desired edition and tough muscles each time you need to move to a new flat.
Books are filling every inch of the weak and now distorted library and then comes that question: what does all this serve?………….
I always preferred the book form over the gallery print format for photographs. Not that the latter isn’t awesome, it just always seemed distant and arrogant to me. Think about it: you cannot afford a print in most of the cases and often, the one single print belongs to series that were thought as a whole despite the intriguing qualities of a single shot.
The book form offers you an unique opportunity to admire the series as a whole, it’s (most often) relatively affordable and in some cases is a form of art in its very conception. Bottom line: nobody to bother you when reading it, no annoying hip gallery assistant to engage you during your transcendental experience with the arts.
In short it makes photography accessible and unforgettable.
I keep on wondering what will ever happen to all my books. Ideally, one day a mini version of myself bearing half of my genes will pick a few of them to the bedroom and take on whatever journey the imagination and memories can create through the book medium (if that makes any sense to you). This said, if you ask me what my favourite photograph is, I will doubtless point directly at a family picture. This photo is a gem of a kind. Just to point out how photography and family can be linked and participate to one’s identity definition.
Photo (unknown) – my family, both sides for the twins baptism (Yeah ok they all look a bit too serious here 😛 )
My grandparents, all the four coming from Polish families arriving in France to answer the massive coal minors call were raised in France at the border with Germany/Belgium/Luxembourg. Entire families living in cloned houses in endless streets where meant to work and live together, at the mine, through the cultural differences and through the war. Call it fate or accident or chance, my two grandfathers were living in the exact same house, became first friends to each other and at 80+ when all are leaving us one after the other, remain last and oldest best friends. The photo above therefore unites two different families living under a one roof, two families who will later be united through my parents marriage and shortly after… Through my birth.
This photo above, belongs to the set of my family albums along with many other proofs of a past and are attached to the prolific familial tradition of storytelling. When I stare at it, I see what is there on the photo, recorded, but I attach to those pictures the many phantasies triggered by the memories of some stories told on Sundays around the family dinner table. Just as I am unable to tell what part is historical fact and what part was constructed over the years, I accept those stories as they are: the big story of my own family.
Two recent events triggered the writing of this post. About a month ago or so, someone created a Facebook group dedicated to the people originated from the village where my grandparents grew up and still live. The group quickly was flooded with tons of black and white photos of the time when the heart of the village still was beating loud, deep in the mines. It’s oh so weird but so pleasing to watch all those people who lived their life along with my parents and their parents.
Photos: Michael Wolf
Second event was the appearance in my blog roll of some posts about Michael Wolf and the book above. I knew Wolf’s work through is Amazing and thoughtful series called Tokyo Compressions. I haven’t specified it before but I now live in Germany. What strucked me was to see how similar the world depicted in this book and the community described in Bottrop-Ebel 76 were similar. It was just as there was a copy of my “hometown” living a parallel life across the border.
Photos: Michael Wolf
Now consider the many stereotypes that French and German hold about each other’s, most often incomprehension at best and hatred at worse. Hard to understand for me, having a foot in both worlds. This appears however soooooooooo silly when flickering through the pages of this book. Michael Wolf talents lays in the way he communicates the relationship of intimacy he built with the city and the people living there. He makes me feel like I am a warmly welcome guest, invited to step in and participate to the local life of those people. By extension and due to the many similarities with my hometown, I feel like I can share a slice of my grandparents life as it was back in the days of their numerous tales of joy and worries.
Photo: Michael Wolf
Bottrop-Ebel 76 was Michael Wolf university project, the photos were taken before all the fame he acquired through famous series like Tokyo Compressions. I would like to imagine those photos reappearing after some years, out of a box, raising interest just like the photos people post on Facebook about their village. They radiate a sense for community and trust, inspire nostalgia for a time before Internet when neighbours new each other’s? Or is it what we are looking for when watching this book?
Whatever you are going to project in this book, every single frame from page one to the end is filled with awesomeness. The photos are stunning, the book is of a high quality paper and presented in a nice box. All in all super highly recommended!
Photo: Michael Wolf
Below, various photos obtained through the Facebook group “Si t’es originaire de Tucquegnieux”, family members, village where they lived and mines were they worked.