Photo books that change our view of urban space

1 Macadam Color Street Photoby Jean-Christophe Béchet

Jean-Christophe Béchet is one of the big names in French street photography. In his pictures, the cities of the world appear from an original angle, overwhelming with truth. The city, in its brutality and in its irony, is thus the core of this work, which emphasizes the issues of housing, coexistence and the reinvention of urban space.

For Jean-Christophe Béchet, street photography has long been associated with reportage, but has now become an independent genre specific to photographic culture. The portrait, the landscape, the nudity, the still life… all come from the painting. As for the report, it is also available on video, in the cinema or on the radio. But the exploration of the street really only exists in photography.

Three in-depth interviews with Michel Poivert, Jean-Luc Monterosso and Sylvie Hugue’s companion, i Macadam Color Street Photo, the photographer’s journey to discover the city. They are an opportunity to reflect on the specificity of this practice, to question its nature, to see what it can bring into play, and to try to define certain contours. What it turns out is that, unlike great reporters and fashion photographers, the street photographer is not helped by the power of his subject. All the interest in his photography then comes from his art of hitting, his speed of action, his impudence, his reading of light. And of course also his view of the world. But above all, a good street photographer knows how to look at the city, understands the political and social issues that cross it, as well as its own aesthetics. Jean-Christophe Béchet thus illustrates cities without frills, while strongly questioning the urban lifestyle.

©Loco

In the book, the city that Béchet sublimates to the highest point and undoubtedly his native Marseille; powerful, exuberant, tragic and comic at the same time, the city of Marseille is magnified in clichés filled with love. Because in many respects, Marseille is a city of the future, where nature and urbanism meet and dialogue, where people are at the center and where the differences that exist side by side make up the beauty of the city’s streets.

Macadam Color Street Photoby Jean-Christophe Béchet, Loco, 192 pages, €45.

2 View of Greater Paris

The photographic book View of Greater Paris is the result of a commission from Ateliers Médicis and the National Center for Plastic Arts, which since 2016 has showcased artistic talents that tell about the development of the Paris region. The commission aimed to awaken sensitive, multiple and offbeat looks at a territory in full transformation, to invite artists to tell their story and their perception of the changes in Greater Paris.

Halfway through this command, View of Greater Paris collects in a first volume 35 projects carried out over five years, which he exhibits using varied methods and prepared in collaboration with the artists. Aurore Bagarry thus follows the paths of water in the Paris Basin and identifies the traces left by the ancient oceans; Raphaël Dallaporta flies over Greater Paris from the top of the control and telecommunications towers; Karim Kal photographs the neglected landscapes along the RER D at night; Lucie Jean shares the swimmers’ last moments of leisure at a lake destined to be a site for the Olympic Games; Marion Poussier meets people who “Inhabit” the quays of the Canal Saint-Denis; and Anne-Lise Seusse, for her part, follows the movement of objects in the wake of biffins.

©Text

The book is accompanied by the writings of Magali Nachtergael, who takes a unique look at each project. Other authors are invited to the pages of this book: Romain Bertrand, Meriem Chabani, Emanuele Coccia, Kaoutar Harchi, Frédérique Aît-Touati, Alexandra Arènes and Axelle Grégoire.

The book celebrates the diversity of identities and viewpoints that make up Greater Paris, a territory whose photographers highlight shadows and light. A major photographic project that focuses on those who inhabit this rapidly changing space and is aimed at those who observe its fascinating changes, multiple identities, urban and cultural developments.

View of Greater ParisCollective, Textual, 272 pp. €45.

3 Urbex worldby Jonk

In this book published in March 2022, the anonymous photographer Jonk offers an extraordinary urban journey through places of dilapidated industrial beauty. Thus, the photographer explores abandoned urban buildings without permission and immortalizes their strange and disturbing beauty. Formerly spectral prisons, abandoned castles and mansions, factories and even the old forbidden city of Chernobyl: Jonk explored urbanity differently by wondering what happens when men leave their environment.

© Arthaud

A raw and poetic reflection on urban ruins, these remains that might tell our story to future generations. The practice of urbex, the exploration of the phantom areas of our cities, is widely discussed in this book, which is a perfect illustration of it.

In this travelogue, the photographer thus examines the process of abandonment and regeneration, of life after death, as nature seizes these remains and reclaims its rights over urbanity.

Urbex worldby Jonk, Arthaud, 167 pages, €21.

4 Fake citiesby Yohanne Lamoulere

In this book, urban photographer Yohanne Lamoulère explores and pays tribute to his city, Marseille. Marseille is now a privileged destination for an exodus from the capital, considered a city where you can start a new lifestyle, more human and close to nature, and the object of thousands of fantasies.

However, the changing face of the city is also a victim of this uncontrollable gentrification, which renders invisible the social problems that cross it. As if, in order to escape the stereotypes promoted by the media for decades, newcomers had to ignore the urban reality in which they find themselves.

Since 2009, Yohanne Lamoulère has been tracing the upheavals of the city, portraying its disasters and breaking up its representations to better reinvent them in the company of those who live there. From this decade of observations results Fake Bourgsa sensitive and intuitive book that describes both the development of Marseille and its inhabitants, who are its soul and heart.

© Yohanne Lamoulère/Le Bec en l’air

The photographer then explores the outer districts – which for her are the pulsating heart of the city –, youth, self-image and the identity connection you maintain with your territory. “Everything here shows the reality of the disused neighborhoods, with the precision marked by poetry from those who know what they are photographing”explains the publisher Le Bec en l’air.

With texts by Nicolas Dutent and Alèssi Dell’Umbria, the book captures the city’s unique energy and discovers these “unquiet worlds” where dreams and new possibilities are born.

Fake citiesby Yohanne Lamoulère, Le Bec en l’air, 128 pp., €35.

5 The Big Book of Urban Photographyby Tim Cornbill

To conclude this selection, here is a practical and complete guide to learning how to photograph cities. IN The Big Book of Urban PhotographyIndeed, Tim Cornbill shares his passion for the world’s cities. The photographer reveals his know-how and the techniques used by some of the greatest photographers to capture urban environments: Brassaï, Martin Parr and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The possible photographic practices are numerous: street photography, portraits, cityscapes or nightscapes. Inexhaustible photographic subject, endless source of inspiration and playground, the city thus offers thousands of possibilities for light, colour, framing and places – which everyone can interpret according to the way they see the world.

With this book, Dunod publications therefore give everyone the opportunity to photograph the city in a different way. In this peregrination, the author takes us to Barcelona, ​​​​​​Berlin, Birmingham, Dubai, New York, Paris and invites us to examine them with camera in hand, ready to understand their developments and specificities.

The Big Book of Urban Photographyby Tim Cornbill, Dunod, 192 pp. €29.

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