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IoS Books of the Year 2012: Photography


Greg Constantine

Exiled to Nowhere: Burma's Rohingya

exiledtonowhere.com £22

This collection of emotive black and white images shows the lives of the exiled Rohingya people. Originally from Burma, they have been living in exile in Bangladesh since 1992; they do not even have refugee status. The work shows their determination to survive even in very hostile circumstances. Greg Constantine has been documenting their lives for the past six years and hopes that publications such as this will bring their plight to the world's attention. The three women here were forced to flee as late as 2009.

Millennium Images V

Millennium £13.50

This is not strictly a book, more of a catalogue for the Millennium photo agency, but it is a chunky little doorstep of a tome. It is filled with the quirky, enigmatic images in which Millennium specialises. The lack of a spine gives the book a raw feel, while making it very easy to browse through the stiff, postcard pages. The image above, by Valentino Sani, of a woman hugging a book, is one of my favourites.

A Day In the World

Max Strom £30

This is a book of images all taken on 15 May this year for a project called aday.org. The project organisers encouraged everyone and anyone to submit images of their lives on that date, from this hopeful pet at breakfast time to an intimate portrait of a dying father being embraced by the photographers mother. The end result is a compelling testament to our world and all its inhabitants. All of our strengths and fragilities are brought to us, through the eyes of amateur observers and professional photographers alike.

Pentti Sammallahti

Here far Away

Dewi Lewis £45

This wonderful book is another retrospective, bringing together 40 years of work. Pentti Sammallahti is a Finnish photographer who has travelled extensively, bringing his keen eye to many different subjects. He has spent a lot of time perfecting his own printing technique, which gives each of these black & white images a haunting quality. Epic landscapes, quirky animals and human nature are all beautifully reproduced in this volume. The image of a lonely horse was taken in 2000 in Pyhäjärvi, in Finland.

Tomas van Houtryve

Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism

Editions Intervalles £42

Over the past seven years, Tomas van Houtryve has travelled to the last outposts of communist regimes, gaining unprecedented access to places such as North Korea, Cuba, Moldova, China and Vietnam. He shows us the stark controlled official world and everyday life together, in these beautifully composed images. He manages to find colour in the bleakest of scenes. The pictured factory worker in Chisinau Moldovia is packing walnuts. The blue bowls on the table have an amazing luminescence against the dark interior.

Questions Without Answers

Phaidon £49.95

This book showcases the work of 11 photographers from the VII agency. Although the agency was formed a decade ago, the photographers' archives go much further back. Questions Without Answers takes us chronologically through every major conflict or upheaval of the past 20 years, from the fall of the Berlin Wall through Hurricane Katrina, to the more recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt. But throughout, there are quieter portraits and simple moments, such the one here by Joachim Ladefoged of a Tokyo train station. This book shows Photojournalism at its best.

Also recommended

Underwater Dogs

Seth Casteel

Headline £14.99

This fabulous book just makes me smile. Seth Casteel discovered this unique approach when a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Buster kept jumping into a pool after his ball during a portrait session. Casteel bought an underwater camera and leapt in after him. The result was the beginning of this project. Seth encouraged all his canine subjects into the water, some ending up looking quite gruesome when captured through the lens. The end result is refreshingly charming look at man's best friend.

Moments Before The Flood

Carl De Keyzer

Magnum £50

Magnum Photographer Carl De Keyzer has travelled the coastline of Europe and the Mediterranean looking at how we have defended ourselves against both other nations and the elements. Any human intervention is seen as quite small in the frame, thus vulnerable to any perceived threat. The images are visually pleasing but also convey a sense of threat lurking just under the surface.