Best In Book

Presenting our judges’ selection of the very best entries this year, sponsored by Blurb

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Title of work: More Than Human
Photographer: Tim Flach
Caption: Jambo the chimpanzee has lost almost all his fur due to alopecia

At first glance, this image seems like it might have been created by a highly competent visual effects artist tasked with visualising the ‘missing link’ between apes and modern man.

In fact, the image is one of several arresting photographs by Tim Flach of Jambo, a chimpanzee (and resident of Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire) who suffers from alopecia which has led to the loss of nearly all of his hair.

Flach’s shots of Jambo appear in his latest book, More Than Human (Abrams, £65), which looks to explore various contemporary relationships between humans and other animals and make, Flach says, “an inquiry into how these relationships occupy anthropocentric space within the contexts of ethics, history, science, and politics.

“My hope is that I can engage with subjects in illuminating ways,” he continues, “helping inform the thoughts we each have around our relationships with animals.”

Title of work: The Baths
Photographer: Frank Herholdt
Caption: Inspired by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, Frank Herholdt’s The Baths is actually a shot of his family on holiday

Frank Herholdt is renowned for his advertising and editorial photography work, which includes campaigns for brands including Thomas Cook, M&S, Harvey Nichols and Sony. This image, though, is a personal piece, created on holiday with his family who were “frolicking in the warm water in the rock pools,” he says.

The image has an ethereal, painterly atmosphere so it comes as little surprise to discover that Herholdt was inspired by classical art. “I have a love of figurative painting, my work is heavily influenced by classic art,” he says. “The Pre-Raphaelites spring to mind.”

Herholdt shot the scene with a Canon 5D camera, despite the fact that he usually prefers to work with the Nikon D3. “The Canon 5D is my wife’s and I detest working with it but it was the only camera to hand when that moment happened,” he says. “Apart from working with a camera I don’t like, there was the challenge of balancing on a wet rock above them, and keeping the children focused long enough to achieve a decent composition. In short, it was a real challenge.”

Title of work: The Silence of Dogs in Cars
Photographer: Martin Usborne
Caption: Martin Usborne’s series was inspired by a childhood incident in which he was left alone in a car outside a shop

In his series The Silence of Dogs in Cars, Martin Usborne presents a portraits of dogs that are both beautiful and strangely poignant. As its title suggests, all the animals featured in the series are shown pictured inside vehicles: they are imprisoned within the cars yet they appear calm, patiently waiting to be freed.

The images were originally inspired by Usborne’s own experience of being left in a car at a young age. “I don’t know when or where or for how long,” he explains, “possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside Tesco’s, probably for 15 minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back.”

This event coincided with Usborne developing a “deep affinity with animals – in particular their plight at the hands of humans”, as well as a fear of being alone and unheard. “The images in this series explore that feeling,” he says, “both in relation to myself and to animals in general. The camera is the perfect tool for capturing a sense of silence and longing. The shutter freezes the subject forever and two layers or glass are placed between the viewer and the viewed: the glass of the lens, the glass of the picture frame and, in this instance, the glass of the car window further isolates the animal. The dog is truly trapped.”

Most of the images in the series were shot at night. “When I started this project, I knew the photos would be dark,” Usborne continues. “What I didn’t expect was to see so many subtle reactions by the dogs: some sad, some expectant, some angry, some dejected. It was as if upon opening a box of grey-coloured pencils I was surprised to see so many shades inside.”

The work has been shown in various galleries around the world, and Usborne is also publishing an edition of the series in book form, with postcards, that will be out in autumn 2012.

Title of work: Guinness
Photographer: Paul Zak
Caption: In this poster campaign for Guinness, dull presents are transformed to suggest what drinkers would rather have for Christmas

This set of images for a Guinness poster campaign was photographed by Paul Zak to appear in the run up to Christmas 2011. “The premise was a visual pun,” he says, “Christmas presents that you may not want, looking very much like something that you would want.”

The campaign was created by art director Antony Nelson and copywriter Mike Sutherland at advertising agency AMV BBDO in London, and the project was very much a team effort between Zak and the agency. “I worked very closely with the creatives, stylist and modelmaker in the preparation stages of the shoot, and also with the retoucher as we went into post-production,” he says. “It was one of those shoots where everyone was pulling very much in the same direction.

“As soon as I saw the line-drawn scamps I had quite a clear idea of how I thought the finished images should look,” Zak continues. “The styling had to be absolutely right, and we combined bought products with model-making to achieve the products we wanted. It would have been easier in some ways just to make the items from scratch, but I felt that it needed the authenticity of real objects to get the ‘coincidence’ to work.

“We did the shoot over a couple of days, and it was really a question of how hard to push the ‘pint’ idea and how much we could leave to the viewer. The iconic nature of a pint of Guinness really helped, and allowed us to be less obvious than might have been the case.”

Title of work: Titans of the Stage
Photographer: Nadav Kander
Caption: Patrick Stewart, Anne-Marie Duff, Mark Rylance, Simon Russell Beale and Daniel Kaluuya feature in a series of portraits for The New York Times Magazine’s special London issue

Kathy Ryan, director of photography of the New York Times Magazine, commissioned Nadav Kander to shoot a series of portraits of London-based actors to appear in a special photography issue of the magazine which focused on London and which was published on March 4 this year.

After first shooting Mark Rylance in both colour and black and white, Kander decided that the latter image provided the best starting point for the project. “That’s how I work,” he explains, “I start looser and then it slowly gets tighter. Because the other subjects couldn’t necessarily come to my studio I needed to go to people and so I started thinking about these slightly odd, 50s stage sets, very theatrical but very pared down,” he continues.

In terms of the slightly surreal settings and backdrops of the images, Kander maintains that there’s no actor-specific relevance. “There’s no significance in the settings other than they make beautiful images,” he tells us.

For example, Kander had shot former Star Trek lead and noted Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart before and had the idea that he would look good in a cloak. “It happened to be a big square of felt, which we cut a slit in and put over his head,” says Kander of the shoot. “I thought that to see him like that, his bald head coming out of a cloak, would be amazing. But the way it fell reminded me of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and that’s where I got the idea. I said ‘what about stretching your mouth, what about shouting?’ and he just went through a whole range [of expressions] and I got some beautiful, sympathetic pictures of him.

“This one is quite scary,” says Kander, “but I went for it and so did the magazine and I love the way the scream and the cloak echo each other.”