I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a major crush on photographers who challenge the traditional notion of a photo book as the place to show off your best pics, and instead push it to be a key factor in framing the context and meaning of images. So when I found out that Aperture Foundation would be holding a photo book award at this year’s Paris Photo to celebrate this exact approach to publishing, I obviously had to book a ticket and go!
One of the publications that genuinely stopped me in my tracks whilst enjoying the 30 shortlisted titles was The Pigs by Carlos Spottorno. Created with an equal dose of humour and social critique, the project takes its name from the derogative term coined by conservative press to describe Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain during their current financial plight. With the aim of visually illustrating the often unglamorous perspectives and stereotypes which have been applied to these countries, Spottorno has produced this brilliantly designed pastiche of The Economist, mirroring its formal layout and replacing its words with stunning photographs of cultural decline. His images, which focus solely on media generated cliches, are visually rewarding, poignantly funny and tread an ambiguous line between subverting assumption whilst also acknowledging the reality of Europe’s economic situation.
Fast becoming recognised as both a talented documentary photographer and master of visual satire, Spottorno has created a lasting example of how careful attention to the form, design and layout of a photo book can enable photography to be a tool for social and political commentary, whilst embracing the value of humour to take on a challenging and sensitive subject.