Peter Funch shares the photo books that inspire his own practice

10 January 2018

“I buy many books: new, used, fictions, art – everything – and I really enjoy diving into my always expanding collection of books. My own library,” says Danish photographer Peter Funch. Back in October of 2017, we wrote about Peter’s extraordinary book 42nd and Vanderbilt in which he photographed the same people on the same street in New York for nine years.

The book is an incredible feat of patience and attentiveness with Peter focussing on details such as whether someone repeatedly carries their coffee with a napkin around it, instead of just whether they are carrying a cup of coffee. This process of working produced a unique and fascinating body of work – one that is particularly suited to the book format.

As someone who clearly understands and appreciates the relationship we have with the printed page, we wanted to find out which books have made it into Peter’s personal collection and which, of these, rank in his top five.

Krass Clement: Drum, Errata Editions

Krass Clement took photos in a small pub in Drum, Ireland, on a single evening and with only a few rolls of film (and a rumoured “five pints of Guinness”). The year is 1966 and Drum opens in a dark and foggy town, with a workday ending and some men heading off for a drink. The book focuses on one principal character in the shadowy pub: a hunched, weather-beaten old man sitting alone with his drink. It is the story of the outsider, the community, loneliness. In one sense it is an old-school black and white photo book and yet it is incredibly cinematic and contemporary. 

The bibliography of Krass Clement was my introduction to photography and photo books. Coming from Denmark, he was the one really dictating what the photobook could be. I bought every book he published that came out in the 1990s – they were like small movies of visual impressions. A moody mood which is, on the one hand, Scandinavian melancholy and on the other more like the ‘flâneur’ tradition from the Parisian school of thought.

I have unfortunately lost all the books in a relationship break up and a move to New York, but luckily Errata Editions’ Books on Books is making rare and out-of-print studies of some original books. I hope someone is enjoying these books somewhere, as much as I did. 

Malick Sidibé: Scalo

I discovered Malick Sidibé rather late but instantly got really obsessed with his work. He documents West Africa in a period of huge change with such a commitment, enthusiasm and most importantly, insight. His work might have been originally intended for an African audience, but is so unique and a testimony to the wider world. I really appreciate the look of the images, even more so when you see the actual prints. The vibe of the dancing club is captured with such elegance and energy. There is also a CD with music from Mali included in the back of the book that really sets the tone for the images.

Roni Horn: You are the weather

This book is introduced with words by Roni Horn: “These photographs were taken in July and August of 1994. For a six-week period, I travelled with Margret throughout Iceland. Using the naturally heated waters that are commonplaces there, we went pool to pool. We worked daily, mostly outside, and regardless of the changeable, often unpredictable climate, that frequents the island”.

You are the weather is comprised of 100 portraits of the same woman, almost identical and yet very different. The images have so much beauty and depth and are about the opacity of Margret’s face, desires, thoughts, and dreams of the viewer. The title You are the weather is so on point! I have looked at this so many times but never from beginning to end because I drift off in thoughts started by the book of what is not shown in the pictures.

Sophie Calle: Suite Venitienne/ Jean Baudrillard: Please follow me

This is a collaborative book from Sophie Calle and Jean Baudrillard which is primarily concerned with the concept of tracing. Sophie Calle is tracing one person in Venice and documenting it and Jean Baudrillard is analyzing it. This book is so voyeur and seductive. Baudrillard asks in his text, “what if it was a murder and the scenario would look completely different?” I read it again before last going to Venice and that added value to the book and to the city.

It could have been any other project by Sophie Calle. She has done so much fantastic work over almost 40 years as a writer, photographer, director, installation artist, and conceptual artist.

Wolfgang Tillmans: If one thing matters, everything matters

I saw the fashion story “Like Brother, like sister” in i-D magazine in 1993 and was really puzzled by Wolfgang Tillmans work back then – such raw, direct images in a fashion magazine. Following his works for many years and admiring how he zooms in and zooms out of the life in front of him, from still life to a Solar eclipse and making them all have a connection. He references Neil Young when describing this: “it is all one song”.

In the book If one thing matters, everything matters that works as a catalogue, he shows a new approach and is much more objective to his own work. It functions as a comprehensive survey with from his first work up to 2003 when it was published. All shown same size in an index form with a Mindmap in the back that I have found really inspiring. The book works fantastically as an idea when you when you know his work.

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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