With And Without You is a retrospective/best of book of photographs by Jacob Aue Sobol, featuring selections from four published projects—Sabine, The Gomez Brito Family, I, Tokyo, By the River of Kings, and Arrivals and Departures—and three unpublished (at time of publication) projects—Home, America, and Road of Bones. If you can’t find (or afford) the published projects, and want to see the work in print, then With and Without You is an excellent option.
Sadly, it, like Sobol’s other projects, is currently out of print (and therefore still rather expensive). I picked up one of the last copies, direct from Sobol, and signed, thanks to something he posted on his Instagram, and I’m glad I did.
Sobol’s first book, Sabine was excoriated in The Greenland Post (the review is translated in a brief essay by Morten Bo, “The Path is Passion,” included at the end of the book): “Jacob Aue Sobol has made a ruthless book. His intimate, sensitive and even beautiful portrayal of Sabine is an act of personal betrayal for which he will hopefully be held accountable by the person concerned.” (And it continues in a similar vein.) In many senses, the Danish reviewer is right, but he also misses the point. Sobol photographs life, in all it’s rawness. And if you want to capture life in all its intimate, sensitive, beauty, you must be ruthless.
From young love with Sabine to family life with The Gomez Brito Family to philandering and partying and growing old in I, Tokyo, By the River of Bones, and everything that came after, Sobol has been remarkably consistent in his style and approach. It’s all gritty, contrasty black & white, portraits of lovers (his and others), friends, and people he’s just met, mixed with random snippets, scenes, snap- and grab shots. Early on, there are a few landscapes, but those all but disappear by the end, and everything is portrayed whole, with all warts, wrinkles, bent noses, crosseyed stares, grimaces intact and on display, and Sobol isn’t trying to pull any punches.
Overall, I rate With And Without You 4 stars.
In various interviews, he mentions a desire (and ability) to capture his own emotions and emotional state with pictures of the external reality, and I think he succeeds. There is love and lust, death, joy, walking alone in the rain, pain, curiosity, sadness, tenderness, innocence, and so much in Sobol’s work, and With and Without You shows it all.
You can view every image in the book on Sobol’s website, and probably find a copy used somewhere. Sobol’s website is mostly a shop, with links to all his books and what seems to be every image from every completed project, and he shares old and new work to his Instagram regularly, so visit and check it out. Sobol’s work is worth some careful examination.