Unboxing ‘In/Human’

In/Human collects 28 of Michael Fraser‘s excellent street photographs from various world cities in a slim volume. If you like contemporary street work in high contrast black & white and color, don’t miss it.

Fraser is a cancer researcher and photographer in Canada, and he has (or had) one of the best ‘About’ pages I’ve ever encountered. Digital, film, 35mm, medium format, whatever, he shoots street and fine art with it, and he’s gotten pretty good with all of it.

I won’t go into influences or comparisons with other photographers: Mike does plenty of that in interviews at Novella and Emulsive, and despite looking at loads of street work over the last few years, I’m no expert. That said, I’m reminded some of Kramer O’Neill’s color work, for whatever that’s worth.

Mike shoots mostly in downtown financial and business districts, and the canyons between the buildings provide sharp contrasts between light and dark, while the glittering towers bounce patterns of light around. Many pictures are dominated by very dark, near-black shadows, with somewhat compressed midtones and mostly blown highlights, and some of these are so dark and muted that they almost go to monochrome. In others, there’s a pleasant stillness, a sense of calm that provides a bit of respite to the sense of drama in the rest. Mike’s photographs don’t have the grit that dominated some parts street photography a couple of years ago (when I tired of it and stopped looking for awhile), but the deep blacks and heavy contrast are definitely all there.

The paper stock is lovely, and the photographs are beautifully printed, but my copy has some binding issues: the text on the spine laps over onto the front of the book and, on close inspection, the pages don’t quite line up with the spine, nor are they centered top-to-bottom in the cover, and the book doesn’t quite lie flat. It’s almost as if it’s trying to open itself, but can’t quite get the proper leverage. Given the expense—In/Human runs $85—I would hope for slightly better quality control, and I’ll take this as a cautionary tale in self-publishing photobooks, and not as anything against Mike or his work.

Concept
Content
Design

I’m really impressed and inspired by the photography, and I look forward to following Mike’s work in the future, but the problems with the binding (very likely out of Mike’s control: apologies) knock my rating back a bit. Overall I’d give In/Human a 3.5 stars.

At time of writing, copies of In/Human remain available, and if you have the money and the interest, pick up a copy. It’ll make a great addition to your bookshelf. If you don’t have the money, check out Mike’s website, follow him on Twitter, and show him some support. He’s making some great work and it’s worth checking out.

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