The Best Books of 2011 (self and indie published)

December 20th, 2011

This list below features a diverse and international selection of self-published and indie published photobooks from 2011 that are part of the Indie Photobook Library. My nomination for Best Book of 2011 for TIME Magazine is Iraq Perspectives by Ben Lowy. My list for photo-eye this year celebrated self-, indie, small and traditional publishers and will be published here.

courtesy of the Indie Photobook Library

(clockwise starting from the bottom left corner)

On Thin Ice, In a Blizzard
Paula McCartney
(self-published, 2011)

Once again Paula McCartney plays with our perception of what is real and what has been constructed to look real in her newest body of work about snow and ice. For fans of McCartney’s work that can’t afford her more expensive artist books, this edition – a mix of handcrafted and professionally printed – is the perfect beginning.

Ofer Wolberger
(Horses Think Press, 2011)

Wolberger explores authorship and control in surveillance photography – turning the dynamic of photographer versus subject and observer versus observed on its head. The beauty of this book is the subtlety in the face of the red stripe that runs down the gutter, deceivingly and blatantly marking the secret – brilliantly fabricated book spreads.

Unmarked Sites
Jessica Auer
(Les Territoires, 2011)

Canadian photographer Jessica Auer takes us on a quiet journey through historical sites of Newfoundland and Labrador in this very polished travelogue. The beautiful color landscape photographs of treeless tundra, rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, and small communities nestled in coves are interspersed with short journal-like entries. What led people to these places and what leads us there now?

Law and Order Gets Me Through the Night
Laura Noel
(self-published, 2011)

This title pushes the boundaries of what a photobook can be – fifty 3×2 inch individual cards, a storage box and a miniature stand constitute this “photobook” by Laura Noel. The photographs are stills from Law & Order, one of the longest-running crime shows on American primetime TV. These frozen scenes captured off the television during times of insomnia are printed onto cards through the print-on-demand service Moo. For me, successful print-on-demand books often come when the result from the company is only the start of the final piece. Noel uses what is available but puts her artistic stamp on it. Interact with the piece and create your own rotating exhibition of Law & Order images by displaying them on the included stand.

Estaría Bien Poner Un Título Aquí
Alba Yruela
(PogoBooks, 2011)

“It would be good to put a title here”? is the English translation for the title of this book. The photographs within are an opaque narrative mixed and matched from Yruela’s photographic projects that come together in book form as a stream of consciousness and exploration of the photographer’s being, awareness, friends, environment, and life. They exude a youthful freedom that most born before the early 1980s no longer have.

Jamie Hawkesworth, Adam Murray, Robert Parkinson
(Preston is my Paris Publishing, 2011)

I was introduced to the publishing trio of PPP (Preston is my Paris Publishing) through the bibliophile and co-author of The Photobook: A History, Gerry Badger. In the self-publishing and indie imprint world, word of mouth among colleagues is one of the few ways to find out about some of these titles. And with some titles, by the time you hear about them, they are all sold out. PPP’s zines and newsprints are a bargain and they all encapsulate the spirit of DIY. Derby chronicles one weekend in this town in England. No text, just photographs – a woman smoking a cigarette, a busy store parking lot, a marching band, portraits of locals, people crossing the street. A whole lot of nothing in particular, but the publication successfully portrays a place, creates interest in the mundane, and is a smart use of materials that strengthens their artistic idea.

Movements and the Iceland Trilogy
Christopher Colville
(self-published, 2011)

Christopher Colville utilizes alternative photographic processes in a fresh and contemporary way. This exquisite two-book set contains four unique but interconnected bodies of work about ancestry, ritual, and a connection to the landscape. Each is a double-sided accordian-folded photobook with cloth-covered book board attached to the beginning and the end, so as you finish one series and close the book, the back cover becomes the beginning of the next. As day fades into night and dark back into light, this immutable cycle and passage of time parallels the continuous reading of this book and speaks to a much broader human connection to history and place and the people who have been there before us and after.

Jeroen Hofman
(self-published, 2011)

Book craft and quality in the Netherlands is hard to match and Playground by Dutch photographer Jeroen Hofman is a great example from this year of what can be done. The photographs: color landscape work of the training grounds for emergency personnel and military as seen from atop a cherry-picker. The book: hard cover, two different page sizes, great design, green text, and the dust jacket turns into a poster. Every detail is thought through.

The Liminal Points Project
Nick Rochowski
(Rokov Publishing, 2011)

Rochowski’s seemingly other-worldly landscapes are devoid of people but there is a sensed presence whether from an alter reality or from ancient lore. There is also the sense that something is about to occur or of something having already taken place and the viewer is left with the afterglow. The photographs conjure up our childhood fears of being alone in the forest at twilight and take hold of our imagination.

(and ending in the middle)

16 Bilder
Rebekka Seubert
(1%ofONE Verlag, 2011)

I see this book as a poem in photographs by Rebekka Seubert of the water’s edge in winter.

The Indie Photobook Library, founded by Larissa Leclair, is an archive of self-published and indie published photobooks that showcases them through pop-up and feature-length exhibitions (most recently in China and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC), promotes them through written articles and lectures, and preserves them as a non-circulating public library. Having a specific collection dedicated to these kinds of books allows for the development of future discourse on trends in self-publishing, the ability to reflect on and compare books in the collection, and for scholarly research to be conducted in years to come.

Blurb Photography Book Now 2011

July 6th, 2011


The deadline for this year’s Blurb Photography Book Now is July 14, 2011 and I am looking forward to meeting in New York at the end of the summer with this year’s panel of judges to spend the day looking at books for the competition.

I’d like to thank Darius Himes and Blurb for inviting me to be a judge this year. And I would like to thank Rebecca Drobis, a Washington, D.C. photographer and recently chosen as one of PDN’s 30 2011, for my professional headshot.

The Photography Book Now competition celebrates self-publishing and awards a $25,000 cash prize for the winning book. Many people wrongly assume that the competition is limited to only Blurb books. The competition is open to ALL self-published books. I encourage you to submit your handmade books. Darius Himes discusses the competition here.

As one of the jurors Lori Reddy asked me a few questions for the Blurb blog. I’d like to post the whole interview here:

1. Please describe what makes a great successful photobook to you.
LL: Aesthetically speaking, a successful photobook is one in which all of the pieces make sense together. It should be more than just a book of photographs. And for me these books are objects in and of themselves and I see them as collectible works of art.
2. Do you have any advice for photographers working on book projects?
LL: Make it a creative expression of the photographic project and yourself. Be realistic about the print run for your book. Think about the life of the book once it is created. Make sure a copy exists in at least one public collection.
3. What is a favorite photobook that you own or have seen from the last few years?
LL: That is a difficult question. I have trouble narrowing down my favorites every year to under twenty. Two books that immediately come to mind though are – for creativity and use of materials: Kitintale by Yann Gross which I nominated for the 4th International Photobook Award 2011 – and for content and form: Fifty-One Years by David Goldblatt (Actar). The Goldblatt photobook is a small reference book that provides an indepth overview of Goldblatt’s work and includes his early “On the Mines” series.
4. What is the most exciting aspect of the photography scene right now?
LL: Obviously I am excited about the self-published and indie published photobook scene right now. Whether you use Blurb or not to make your photobook, they have revolutionized our way of thinking in regards to traditional book publishing, and I look forward to seeing this germinate in photo communities that have yet to really explore the platform of the photobook.
5. You have a wonderful blog post listing your favorite self-published photography books for 2010. We know it’s still early but do you have any that you think will make your list for 2011?
LL: Thank you. It is still early for me yet and at the moment my thoughts are on my list of photobooks for the Indie Photobook Library’s first feature-length exhibition at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston which opens in September. I will mention, however, the book Svalbard by Greg White and Firework Studies by Pierre Le Hors (Hassla) – two books from 2010 but ones that I just saw this year.
6. What do the most compelling/most memorable photography books have in common?
LL: The most memorable books are the ones in which I forget about myself for a moment, lose track of my surroundings, and enter into the reality in the photographs. And from that response, it may seem that the book form is of no importance, but it is. The form and materials should aid in experiencing the work.
7. What photography blogs do you like/follow?
LL: I get all my news through facebook and twitter and follow hundreds of different people and organizations that way.
8. Is there anything we didn’t ask you that you think would be helpful or informative to anyone entered in or thinking of entering Photography Book Now 2011?
LL: If you are making a Blurb book, don’t forget about the spine.
Good luck to everyone entering PBN 2011!

Snap! Orlando

May 5th, 2011

100 Portraits – 100 Photographers: Selections from the Archivewill be screened at Snap! Orlando this weekend at the GAI Building, 618 E. South St, Orlando, Florida.

Andy Adams and I will be lecturing about 100 PORTRAITS on Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 4-5pm at the UCF Center for Emerging Media. 500 W. Livingston St, Orlando, Florida.

The Indie Photobook Library is also part of Snap! Orlando with a pop-up exhibition of photobooks from the collection. The iPL is pleased to have E. Brady Robinson, Associate Professor, UCF School of Visual Arts and Design, and Heather Comparetto, photographer and curator, curate the pop-exhibition of photobooks for Snap! Orlando. Roughly fifty titles will be on display during the event, allowing visitors to explore and celebrate the diversity, craft, and creativity in self-publishing today.

May 6 and 7, 2011 at the GAI Building, 618 E. South St, Orlando, Florida

Friday, 7pm – 12 am
Saturday, 7pm – 12 am

See the list of books on display here.

The Best Books of 2010 extended

December 29th, 2010

a selection of books from the list

It was an honor to share my list of photobooks that made an impression this year for photo-eye‘s “Best Books of 2010.” For their list I intentionally wanted to highlight mostly self-published titles that had passed by my desk on their way to the Indie Photobook Library. Ten was just too limiting a number for me, and because I focused on self-published titles, I ended up omitting my favorite traditional trade publications. So here is the extended list (in no particular order) that includes everything from artist books, zines, self-published and indie published photobooks, to trade editions.

The Best Books of 2010 extended

Get Off My Lawn by Geoffrey Ellis, Noah Beil, Grant Ernhart, Alan W George, Liz Kuball, Sarah Lacy, Ian Lemmonds, Jennifer Loeber, Dalton Rooney, Andrew Martin Scott, Justin Visnesky (self-published by Geoffrey Ellis, 2010) *

Interior Relations by Ian van Coller (Doring Press/self-published, 2010) *

Kitintale by Yann Gross (self-published, 2010) *

10: 10 Years of in-public by Nick Turpin, David Gibson, Richard Bram, Matt Stuart, Andy Morley-Hall, Trent Parke, Narelle Autio, Jesse Marlow, Adrian Fisk, Nils Jorgensen, Melanie Einzig, Jeffrey Ladd, Amani Willett, Gus Powell, Christophe Agou, Otto Snoek, Blake Andrews, David Solomons, George Kelly, Paul Russell (Nick Turpin Publishing, 2010) *

Fragments, Volume 1 by John Steck Jr (Make Book Blog/self-published, 2010) *

NY low and high by Marco Onofri (self-published, 2010) *

Carry Me Ohio by Matt Eich (self-published, 2010)

Tell mum everything is ok – issue 3 – “A Postmodern World by many contributing photographers (Editions FP&CF, 2010) *

The Kaddu Wasswa Archive: A Visual Biography by Andrea Stultiens and Arthur C. Kisitu (post editions, 2010) *

Eastward Bound by Marco van Duyvendijk (self-published, 2010) *

See You Soon by Maxwell Anderson (Bemojake/self-published, 2010) * and its sequel Ten Days in July by Maxwell Anderson (Bemojake/self-published, 2010) *

Thrills & Chills by Isa Leshko (Exit 12 Press/self-published, 2010) *

Burn.01 by many contributing photographers, edited by David Alan Harvey, Anton Kusters, Anna-Maria Barry-Jester and Diego Orlando (David Alan Harvey, 2010) *

Lay Flat 02: Meta edited by Shane Lavalette and Guest Editor Michael Buehler-Rose with many contributing photographers (Lay Flat, 2010) *

Not Many Kingdoms Left by Jeff Luker (PogoBooks, 2010) *

Working the Line by David Taylor (Radius Books, 2010)

Zwelethu Mthethwa (Aperture, 2010)

Days with My Father by Phillip Toledano (Chronicle, 2010)

A Road Divided by Todd Hido (Nazraeli, 2010)

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Hatje Cantz, 2010)

Fault Lines: Turkey /East /West by George Georgiou (Schilt Publishing, 2010)

Books marked with an * can be found in the Indie Photobook Library. Click on the * to take you to the iPL catalog record for each book. If you cannot find a way to purchase books through the photographers’ websites or book sites, visit The first ten books listed above were part of Photo-Eye’s “Best Books of 2010″.

Exhibition: Isa Leshko’s “Thrills & Chills” at Houston Arts Alliance

December 23rd, 2010

Point Pleasant, NJ #1, 2006 © Isa Leshko

The image above by Isa Leshko from her “Thrills & Chills” series reminds me of the image by Robert Adams that begins his revised and expanded edition of “Summer Nights, Walking.” I originally saw Adams’ image in the exhibition “In the Darkroom” at the National Gallery of Art and sought out his book just for that one image. I had hoped for more of the same, but for those who know this series, the amusement ride image seems an outlier. For Leshko, though, these rides are the focus.

Isa Leshko’s solo exhibition “Thrills & Chills” is currently on view at the Houston Arts Alliance, co-organized by the Houston Center for Photography and the John Cleary Gallery, and includes twenty-one prints from the series. The exhibition runs through December 31, 2010. space125gallery, 3201 Allen Parkway, Houston, TX 77019

courtesy of the Houston Arts Alliance

About this work Leshko writes, “[a]musement park rides terrify me, which is why I began photographing them. I am fascinated by what compels people to surrender themselves to these mechanical beasts. The rides seem to challenge the very limitations of being human. We can’t fly; yet these vertigo-inducing machines allow us to soar through the open air. The experience combines elation with fear; thrills with chills.

These images explore the fantastic and sinister place these rides hold in my imagination. With some of these images, I suspend disbelief and embrace the underlying fantasies of these rides. With other images, I examine the tensions that exist between fantasy and reality. I am interested in exploring the range of emotions—from anger to shock to exultation—that people exhibit in pursuit of the amusement these rides are supposed to provide.”

Coaster at Dusk, Hershey Park, PA 2008 © Isa Leshko

To see more work from “Thrills & Chills” visit Leshko’s website as well as the John Cleary Gallery. There is also a collectible little limited edition book available of this work.

RELATIVE EXPOSURE | photographs of family

December 16th, 2010

310 conTEMPORARY / RELATIVE EXPOSURE: photographs of family
December 6, 201
0 — January 29, 2011
310 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL
Monday – Saturday 11:30-5:30

Artists’ Reception: Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:00 — 8:00 pm

“RELATIVE EXPOSURE | photographs of family” features the work of Nick Albertson, Matt Austin, Latrice Dixon, Aron Gent, Julie Jones, Heather Kouros, Natalie Krick, and Eric Pickersgill. The 310 conTEMPORARY Gallery is a collaborative project between the Columbia College Chicago Photography Department and the Hyde Park Art Center. This exhibition is part of Chicago Loop Alliance’s Pop-Up Art Loop initiative.

I’m a big fan of Matt Austin and his photographic work and for this exhibition I love the fact that he is the only one not showing work in a framed photo form. Instead, his artist book “Wake” will be on view (see images above)-  a stunning hand-made box of loose prints and text. This format for presentation slows down the reading of the work and creates an intimate dialog with the viewer.

“Wake,” as well as three other titles, “Freedom Isn’t Free,” “Try to be more positive,” and “Desert Days,” can be found in the permanent collection of the Indie Photobook Library. And if you live in Chicago, copies of “Wake” can be borrowed for a two-week period. Love that. To find out more about Matt Austin, visit his website and tumblr, and read his recent interview at Geronimo Projects.


December 13th, 2010

Pleased to be a transatlantic friend of #PHONAR this semester; Jonathan Worth’s free and open undergraduate photography class live at Coventry University in the UK and online at Read more about it here. Lots of great nuggets of thought by guest contributors including Simon Roberts, Wayne Ford, Pete Brook, and Chris Floyd, plus podcasts from visiting speakers, and #phonar followers contributions.

Inspired by Wayne Ford’s suggestions of books on Photography and Narrative, Worth has compiled the FRIENDS OF PHONAR PHOTOBOOK LIST of “notable/ inspiring/ seminal/ provocative photobooks, in it’s narrative structure/approach or perhaps in it’s ‘discussion’ of narrative.” Books on the list were nominated by Alec Soth, Andy Adams, Cory Doctorow, Daniel Meadows, David Campbell, Edmund Clark, Fred Ritchin, Geoff Dyer, Gilles Peress, Grant Scott, Harry Hardie, Jeff Brouws, Joel Meyerowitz, John Edwin Mason, Jonathan Shaw, Jonathan Worth, Ken Schles, Larissa Leclair, Ludwig Haskins, Matt Johnston, Michael Hallett, Miki Johnson, Mikko Takkunen, Nathalie Belayche, Peter Dench, Pete Brook, Sean O’Hagan, Simon Roberts, Stephen Mayes, Steve Pyke, and Todd Hido. Check out the list. What a great way to end the semester.

My selections include Intensive Care by Andrea Stultiens (2010) and Thinner Air by John Mann (2010).

Continue on with Worth and his students next semester with “Picturing the Body” (#picbod) and the Photobook Club. I look forward to following along.

Neal Rantoul at Panopticon Gallery

November 10th, 2010

Neal Rantoul, Guard Rail #2, Yountville, CA, 1982 from American Series. Courtesy of Panopticon Gallery.

Neal Rantoul | Twenty-Five Years (1980-2005)
November 10 – January 4, 2011
Reception with the Artist: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 5:30 – 7:30pm

Panopticon Gallery | 502c Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 | 617-267-8929 | Hours: Tue–Sat 10-5:30pm

“In the ‘series’ work, Rantoul states, ‘I found a way to photograph that allows me to connect pictures to pictures, forming a narrative.’ For Rantoul, he uses the concept of ‘series’ to organize his work, putting his ideas and thoughts behind him so he can move on to something else. He elaborates, ‘I became interested in the ability to speak more completely about a place, a frame of mind, light, or the relationship between things.’ Panopticon Gallery is pleased to be able to exhibit a selection of his earlier works, including photographs from Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington State … accompanied by images from three distinct series from around Massachusetts.”

Also of interest is Neal Rantoul’s first monograph, American Series, published by Pond Press, with texts by Joe Deal and Jeffrey Hoone.

Indie Photobook Library website

September 26th, 2010

Over the summer, I have been diligently working on a project that has been growing exponentially since its beginning this past May – the Indie Photobook Library (iPL). After much deliberation on format and structure, the website went live two weeks ago.

There are many fantastic things coming up for the iPL, including the Flash Forward Festival in Toronto in two weeks – October 6-10, 2010. Hope to see you there as part of the Self Published Book Expo!

Interview: Zwelethu Mthethwa

July 20th, 2010

FLAK PHOTO: WEEKEND series: Zwelethu Mthethwa

Throughout the month of July, Flak Photo, in its WEEKEND series, is featuring photographs by Zwelethu Mthethwa from his self-titled monograph recently published by Aperture. (Check out each weekend image: JULY 3, 10, 17, 24, & 31, 2010.) It has been my pleasure to team up with Andy Adams again and present this interview with Zwelethu Mthethwa. Mthethwa’s work is pivotal in broadening the discourse on the history of photography and I hope this interview adds to the conversations that have preceded this one; the insightful interview in Zwelethu Mthethwa between Isolde Brielmaier and Mthethwa and the conversation between Mthethwa and Okwui Enwezor at the Aperture Foundation in March 2010. They are essential reading and viewing. I recently corresponded with Zwelethu by email as he prepared to travel from South Africa to the U.S. for the opening of “Inner Views” at the Studio Museum in Harlem on July 15. We talked about his monograph, two specific images from his Sugar Cane series, the South African photography community, and briefly about the current show at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

book cover of "Zwelethu Mthethwa". Courtesy of Aperture.

Larissa Leclair: As an internationally acclaimed artist (photographer, painter, video artist) with over one-hundred solo and group exhibitions, I wonder why it has taken so long for a monograph of your work to be published. Thankfully and finally Aperture recently published the beautiful monograph Zwelethu Mthethwa (Aperture, 2010). While a traditional first monograph primarily includes one body of work, this book is almost like a retrospective exhibition, with work from many series. Can you talk about your journey of finding a publisher and producing this monograph?

Zwelethu Mthethwa: It has been a very long journey. This particular book has been in the making for at least 4 years, but the major reason why nothing like this has been published before is because I was waiting for the right publisher (who would be able to distribute the book internationally). A few people have approached me before, but because they did not have the qualities that I was looking for, I turned them down.

The book presented me with an opportunity to showcase most of my projects over the last 20 years. However, there are some projects that we haven’t included because we were limited in terms of the size of the book.

From the series Interiors, 1995-2005, and Empty Beds, 2002, pages 18-19 ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of Aperture.

From the series Gold Miners, 2006, and Quartz Miners, 2007-8, pages 66-67. Courtesy of Aperture.

LL: Your work as a whole addresses the economic and political reality of marginalized communities primarily in South Africa. Can you talk about your personal interest in these communities and professions (miners, sugarcane workers, etc.). Are you personally an outsider or is there more of a connection to these people and circumstances -politically, economically, culturally?

ZM: The work is about my personal history and personal observation. I grew up in contact with these different communities all the time. I was always interested in how the migrant workers would be ostracised from the main community, which was the community that I came from. The migrant workers were always seen as “the other” – they looked different, talked different, dressed different – they were just so different. As a kid I was curious to understand the dynamics of these differences, mainly because we were all black, I assumed we were all the same. Growing up as an artist I came to realise that I was also an outsider because with my views on life I probably didn’t belong to any of the communities, even the mainstream community.

Untitled (from the Brick Workers series), 2008; Chromogenic print ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of the artist and iArt Gallery, Cape Town.

In terms of my interest in these “professions” I have always been fascinated by the way that people make lives and livings for themselves. Despite economic hardship, political hardship, all kinds of hardship, including that of just trying to fit in, people continue to work and live even in the strangest circumstances. Through my years of experience in photographing these communities I have found out that the periphery after some time becomes the mainstream in the way that fashion follows them, the way that interior decorators decorate their houses and in the way that musicians have developed their sound too.

Untitled (from the Sugar Cane series), 2007; Chromogenic print (Image on page 111 of monograph) ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of the artist and iArt Gallery, Cape Town.

LL: Can you talk about two specific photographs from the Sugar Cane series – the image on page 39 that starts this series in the Aperture monograph, which is also the cover of Snap Judgments (ICP/Steidl 2006), and the photograph included in Enwezor’s essay on page 111. I am curious about how you approached photographing here and the dialog that occurred between you and the workers, and then your internal dialogue as you were photographing. I am struck by the attire, the landscape, and stance – very raw and powerful – and am curious why sugar cane workers wear skirts?

ZM: Approach – first of all, I explained my intentions to the farmers that owned the land. Once they had given me permission to photograph the people working on their land, I then further approached the individual farm workers and explained to them my intentions, so that I could get permission from them to take their photographs. Once they agreed, I then took the photographs; but this was a long process because I would have to fly back to Cape Town, process the photos and then go back to Durban to give the sitters their photographs. It was important to me that they had copies of the images. I would then, while in Durban, shoot some more, and start the whole process again. So this all happened over several months.

My first attraction to the sugar cane workers was that they were wearing skirts, and that they looked to me like Samurai worriers. I then found out that, not only were they wearing skirts, but also many other layers of clothing. This was odd to me because Durban is an incredibly hot and humid area. I thought they must be crazy to be wearing so many clothes and still doing manual labour. I discovered, through speaking with them, that the reason was to protect themselves from the burning ground and soot (sugar cane is burnt before harvested); from the very sharp leaves of the cane; and also from the many snakes that like to live in sugar cane fields. The most difficult part of taking these photographs was stopping them from working. These guys are paid according to the weight of sugar cane that they harvest; there is no hourly rate. I felt guilty that I was interrupting and taking their money away from them by asking them to pose for me. So this forced me to move in and out as quickly as possible, interrupting their flow of production as little as possible.

Untitled (from the Sugar Cane series), 2007, page 39 ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of Aperture.

With regard to the photograph on p.39, it was shot in the afternoon, the clothing that the worker is wearing is quite specific – his hood is obviously to protect him from the harsh sun. His crew neck shirt is there to stop insects from getting into his clothes. His rubber boots prevent snakebites to his feet. He has also tied some rope around his legs above the knee to stop snakes from crawling up his pants.

The other photograph – the reason why they wear skirts: they can’t wear tight clothing because it chafes against the skin, so a skirt is a good way to add another protective layer without the discomfort of the chafing. Underneath the skirt he is wearing loose pants.

Untitled (from the Interiors series), 1995 - 2005 ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of Aperture.

LL: Okwui Enwezor mentions in his essay in the book the environment surrounding your study at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in the early 80′s. Was a history of photography class part of the curriculum there? And I am wondering which history of photography? Did you learn about South African photographers and photography?

ZM: There was no history of photography, but photography (practical) was an elective course. I remember people such as David Goldblatt and Omar Badsha visiting the school to talk about their work.

Untitled (from the Interiors series), 1995 - 2005 ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of Aperture.

LL: Can you talk about the photography community in South Africa – what was it like in the 80′s, then in the 90′s and now?

ZM: There was always photo-generalism and a rise of documentary photography in the ’80s, which was always black and white photography. Most of the photographers were commissioned by different newspapers or magazines for specific projects, rather than producing their own work in the fine art sense. We are now seeing a beginning of photography being accepted into the realms of fine art in this country, as “new media”. There are a few South African photographers who produce mainly for the galleries. The new photographers are using colour photography as a medium, as opposed to black and white. Their sizes have also changed from the standard 8×10, 16×20 to larger sizes, like 50×50 or even mural-size. There is an interest in presenting photography as limited editions in the most archival form, as opposed to producing photography for the magazine or the newspaper.

Untitled (from the Interiors series), 1995 - 2005 ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of Aperture.

LL: Currently you have a solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem (July 15-Oct 24, 2010). Which series will be on view?

ZM: The work on show at the Studio Museum has been selected by the curator, Naomi Beckwith, and will be presented under the title of “Inner Views.” The selection includes work from the “Interiors” series, “Common Ground” series and “Empty Beds” – all these projects were completed from the early 80s up to 4 years ago.

Untitled (from the Interiors series), 1995 - 2005; Chromogenic print ©Zwelethu Mthethwa. Courtesy of the artist and iArt Gallery, Cape Town.

LL: What projects are you working on now?

ZM: One project I have been busy with recently is shooting power lines in informal settlements  the lines have been illegally connected, hooked up to strange makeshift structures, big knots and tangles of cables. These power lines have changed the landscape within the informal settlement, which is a phenomenon that is interesting to me.

LL: Thank you very much Zwelethu!

Zwelethu Mthethwa installation ©Jack Shainman Gallery

Installation of Zwelethu Mthethwa's fifth solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York - April 23-May 23, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY

Zwelethu Mthethwa is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; iArt Gallery, Cape Town; Everard Read, Johannesburg; Galeria Oliva Arauna, Madrid; Galerie Hengevoss-Duerkop, Hamburg; and Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris.

The monograph Zwelethu Mthethwa published by Aperture in 2010 can be purchased here.

For more on Zwelethu Mthethwa, see:

Also check out this list of books on African Photography/Photographers.

Images for this interview were provided by iArt Gallery, Cape Town; Aperture Foundation; and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Thank you.

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