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Reservoir and Aftermath

[THIS WEEK] Landscape photography gets reimagined in two new art books, writes James Pallister

If you’ve an appetite for disquieting scenes of dereliction, and you’re in the market for pricey-yet-beautiful landscape photography books, then you’d do well to look up two recent titles from publisher Hatje Cantz; Bas Princen’s Reservoir and Jörn Vanhöfen’s Aftermath. Reservoir is a large book about the size of an LP, released to accompany the exhibition of the same name shown at Antwerp’s deSingel gallery in March. In his notes, the curator Moritz Küng refers to the book’s format as ‘uncompromising’. This is certainly true: it features 25 photographs, each printed full-bleed with one photo per spread and sheets of grey stock on facing pages to moderate the pace. Princen is interested in the interplay and ambiguity between ‘the artificial naturalness, the natural artificialness, and the spaces between’, which is surely the nub of landscape art’s appeal, most clearly expressed here by Princen’s shot of a concrete run-off to a reservoir which abruptly ends.

The themes of Vanhöfen’s book, a much thicker volume at more than 150 pages, are more straightforward; detritus, junk and ruin. The book’s volume means it has less focus than Princen’s, but the images of man treading not-so-lightly on this earth: a wrecked ship off the coast of Spain, a pile of discarded vacuum cleaners in Duisburg, pack a punch. Despite the seaminess of Vanhöfen’s work, Princen’s book is my recommendation. If you fancy getting to an exhibition instead, you have until 2 July to see ex-Magnum photographer Peter Marlow’s ‘Points of Interest’ at the Wapping Project Bankside. It shares themes with Princen and Vanhöfen, albeit on a smaller, human scale.

Reservoir by Bas Princen, €28 and Aftermath by Jörn Vanhöfen, €58. Both published by Hatje Cantz, 2011

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