Human Nature by Lucas Foglia review – into the wild

Man’s impact on the planet is revealed in Foglia’s dramatic portraits of people interacting with the natural world

“I grew up on a small farm, 30 miles east of New York City,” writes Lucas Foglia in his short introduction to Human Nature. “Growing our food and bartering, my family felt shielded from the strip malls and suburbs around us... In 2012, Hurricane Sandy flooded out fields and blew down the oldest trees in the woods. On the news, scientists linked the storm to climate change caused by human activity. I realised that if humans are changing the weather, then there is no place on Earth unaltered by people.”

In this context, Foglia’s choice of title is an interesting one. Is he suggesting that human nature is essentially destructive? Or that nature itself is now shaped by human agency, whether it’s the melting polar icecaps or America’s last remaining protected ...

My Father’s Wake by Kevin Toolis review – a brutal epiphany

As a foreign correspondent, Kevin Toolis routinely encountered death – but it was only when his father died that he truly came to terms with mortality

“Death is a whisper in the Anglo-Saxon world,” writes Kevin Toolis in My Father’s Wake. “We don’t want to see the sick, smell the decay of wizened flesh, feel the coldness of the corpse, or hear the cry of keening women. We don’t want to intrude on the dying because we don’t want to look at the mirror of our own death. Why have we lost our way with death?”

That question echoes through what is a long meditation on death, dying and our attitudes to mortality – our own and others’. As its perhaps extravagant title suggests, it is also a celebration of the traditional Irish way of mourning the dead – the three-day wake with open coffin, a constant stream of reverent ...

Ravens by Masahisa Fukase review – a must for any serious photobook buff

This rare but celebrated book, 10 years in the making, reveals the late photographer’s affinity with birds In 1975, on a journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido, his hometown, Masahisa Fukase began to photograph the ravens he saw from the train window. Alighting at stations along the way, he captured the birds in motion or perched on poles, telegraph wires, chimneys and fences. He photographed them in flocks landing on trees or darkening the already slate grey sky and in grainy close-up, their silhouettes suggesting something solitary and elemental. So began an obsessive creative journey that would last more than 10 years and conclude with the publication of the first edition of Ravens in 1986. Continue reading...

Pictures from Home by Larry Sultan review – when Mom and Dad lived the dream

Sultan’s 80s portraits of his parents are both artful and authentic First published in 1992, Larry Sultan’s Pictures from Home is an intriguing visual memoir that is also an exploration of the all-American family, both as a reality and a construct. Sultan began the project when Ronald Reagan was president and “the institution of the family was being used as an inspirational symbol by resurgent conservatives. I wanted to puncture this mythology of the family and to show what happens when we are driven by images of success. And I was willing to use my family to prove a point.” Although that may have been the original motivation, the book is too personal and self-questioning to be anything other than a tortured labour of love, a way of seeing his parents – and himself – anew. Throughout, Sultan used family snapshots and stills from home movies alongside his own ...

Two Blue Buckets by Peter Fraser review – everyday revelations

From deflated balloons to the mysterious blue buckets, Peter Fraser’s photographs illuminate the ordinaryThe contemplation of the apparently mundane has long been a preoccupation of photographers. In the work of William Eggleston, for instance, the vernacular interiors and ordinary landscapes of Tennessee and Mississippi are rendered luminous by the eye of an American master of intense colour and skewed composition. In the work of Wolfgang Tillmans, the banal and the overlooked – weeds, an aeroplane – are presented deadpan, as if any artistic transformation would be a betrayal of their everydayness. There is a feeling of vague foreboding about many of Fraser's domestic interiors Continue reading...

Buzzing at the Sill by Peter van Agtmael review – dire states of America

Van Agtmael’s startling images of America – and his reflections on his work – reveal a country that is riven beyond repairIn 2014, Peter van Agtmael published Disco Night Sept 11, a thoughtful photobook about war and its fallout. Van Agtmael, a Magnum photographer based in New York, had covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his images often bearing witness to the kind of horrors that do not tend to make it into the mainstream press. In its merging of photographs from the conflict zones with shots of the more sombre, confused America that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11, Disco Nights Sept 11 marked a shift in tone towards a kind of retrospective reflection. Buzzing at the Sill sustains and deepens that mood, but here, Van Agtmael concentrates solely on America. It is a book filled with darkly poetic images that suggest the peculiar tensions of ...