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My end of year resolution was to avoid best of lists. My new years resolution is to write more letters on paper to actual people. Here’s 8-minutes of writing I made for the LensCulture 2017 Best Photobooks list.

I nominated three books, but only Jim Mortam’s was included in LC’s published rundown best of. By comparison, my selections look not very arty and quite concerned with real life.

Rob Stothard and Silvia Mollicchi

Removal

 

 

Impeccably researched, quietly shot, and brilliantly designed to mimic a UK Home Office report, Removal takes stock of the immigration real estate *portfolio* in Britain. Safely photographed from distance, Stothard’s unfrequented images remind us that we see virtually nothing of the insides of these sites. The extent to which private firms contract, own and operate these facilities is shocking.

Jim Mortram

Small Town Inertia

 

A long time coming (in the best way), Small Town Inertia proves that you needn’t chase the big smoke, the big names or the big bangs to make important work that speaks universally. From the town of Dereham and the surrounds, Mortram has made work that should remind us of our deep connection to, and responsibility for, our neighbours.

Jeffrey Stockbridge

Kensington Blues

 

 

A comprehensive, difficult and generous portrait of Philadelphians in some very challenged parts of the city. Stockbridge lived among his subjects and was a fixture on the blocks; that’s important to know because he has exposed some subjects while they’re engaged in risky behaviours. Subjects stand in the light, adopt body shapes and fix their stares right down the lens. Some scenes in Kensington Blues aren’t pretty but, then again, you’re not pretty. Most of the characters and their strength of character just take your breath away.

 

 

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No, not this type.

The type that is a) the Anglican Church’s leading expert on St. Nicholas of Myra; b) accompanied by a distinguished Anglican cleric; c) dressed as St. Nicholas rather than Santa Claus; d) understands that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and of the imprisoned, and; e) decided to show some Christmas cheer down the local immigration detention centre!

But when the Anglican church’s leading expert on Father Christmas, dressed as St Nicholas himself, arrived at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire, things took a turn straight out of Dickens.

An unedifying standoff developed that saw the security personnel who guard the perimeter fence prevent St Nicholas, the patron saint of children and the imprisoned, from delivering £300 worth of presents donated by congregations of several London churches.

In a red robe and long white beard, clutching a bishop’s mitre and crook, St Nick – in real life, the Rev Canon James Rosenthal, a world authority on St Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for Father Christmas – gently protested that he was not a security threat, but to no avail.

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