Irina Rozovsky: My Favourite Books

Ahead of the launch of her new book In Plain Air, Irina Rozovsky talks us through some of her favourite MACK titles.

Bertien Van Manen
Let’s sit down before we go

I love deeply everything about this book, starting with the title, quietly printed on a modest cover. The Russian superstition, which I practice devoutly, of sitting for a hushed moment before a long trip, evokes the sadness of goodbyes and the thrill of upcoming voyage. And I love the voyage that ensues here, thrusting us without introduction or ceremony into cramped apartments, saunas, buses, the gorgeous expanse of wilderness and stretches of streets; unabashed but awkward bodies fighting the cold, luxuriating in the sun; shared tea, cheap alcohol, and food around small kitchen tables or wherever it can be found. The images are made thousands of miles apart in what had recently been the USSR, over the course of 18 years, but unified into a continuous lived moment by one easy, hungry, warm gaze. It’s remarkable to see the recently dissolved Soviet Union free of its typical visual traps and critiques; so fresh, so alive, vulnerable, more familiar than my own memories of 8 years in the USSR. For me this is where the term lyrical humanity finds its home.

Bertien’s images for this book were selected by Stephen Gill.

Printed linen flexibound
24 x 20 cm, 104 pages
Publication date: January 2011

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Special edition
Publication date: January 2011

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Robert Slifkin
Quitting Your Day Job: Chauncey Hare’s Photographic Work

I don’t need to know much about the life of a photographer whose work is important to me. I believe photos are better wrapped in an air of mystery and ought to exist outside and beyond the person who made them. But every high-falutin theory has its kinks and let me just say I can’t wait for Chauncey Hare’s biography to be released in June. Now, when self-promotion is a new religion and online fame is currency, Hare’s dogmatic rejection of the art world and capitalism’s hold on common, working people is a call to attention. His fly on the wall of everyday life photographs mean a lot to me—sober, revealing, and proof that descriptive facts can lead to emotion without the photographer waxing poetic. Perhaps he wanted it that way, but it pains me that Hare’s passing was barely noticed. Maybe somehow, somewhere he knows that his life’s work has been put into words, and doesn’t mind.

Silkscreen paperback with flaps
12.5 x 19.5 cm, 160 pages
Publication date: June 2021

€10 £9.50 $12
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Antonio M Xoubanova
Casa de Campo

I was eager to see this book when it came out in 2013, interested in the way Xoubanova pictured Madrid’s Casa de Campo, an enormous stretch of wilderness that once belonged to the crown as the royal hunting grounds. The photos in this book are oddly beautiful, channeling a cultural history of violence and dominion in a perfectly modern, quizzical way. I lived in Madrid for a short but memorable time in the early 2000’s and remember a particular nap on a blanket in the shade of Casa de Campo. I think the phrase “rude awakening” was coined when I woke up to a stranger ripping the shoe off my foot. He ran away wildly and chucked it in a field and I went stumbling around Casa de Campo with one shoe on, looking for the other, feeling violated but entertained. I wish Xoubanova was there to make a picture.

The excellent photographer Ricardo Cases helped in editing the book and has also published a book with MACK himself, El porqué de las naranjas.

15 x 21 cm, 144 pages
Publication date: February 2013


Luigi Ghirri

I didn’t know anything about Luigi Ghirri when I stumbled on his show at Aperture about 12 years ago and wasn’t prepared for how much the work would move me. I decided I needed to write him and express this. It felt uncanny to learn that I was twenty years too late. Are you sure he’s dead? I remember stupidly asking the gallery attendant. Yes, he died in the early 90’s but the images, with their vacillating sense of time and presence, told me otherwise. And so does this catalog-like book…which on the back cover claims that Ghirri lives and works (present tense) in Modena. How appropriate that this delicate, astute, visual philosopher gained eternal life through photography, and who said “The possibility of analysis in time, in the space of signs which form the reality whose completeness has always slipped our minds, thus permits the photograph, because of its fragmentary character to be closer to things which cannot be delimitated, and that is physical existence.” In fact this book is a carbon copy reissue of a 1978 publication, and for that, mille grazie.

OTA-bound paperback
21 x 27cm, 88 pages
Publication date: 2012

€30 £25 $40
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Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
Holy Bible

I admire this cheeky and conniving prank of a project that prods me out of my mental comfort zone. I see this book as the unfortunate family album of human civilization—the one hidden in the attic. But is it also a blasphemous act by two bad Sunday school boys? A research masterpiece by two historians? Is it a brutal critique of the Bible; a reminder that nothing is holy; a warning that history repeats itself? Is it a statement that we are and always were rotten to the bone? Or is it actually a defense and celebration of a book that says it like is—a true holy oracle?

Embossed leather flexibound
22 x 17 cm, 768 pages
Publication date: January 2013

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Jeff Mermelstein

I read Jeff Mermelstein’s screen photos on Instagram with total abandon. My hands clutching a phone, looking at hands clutching a phone. In real life we’d have the reluctant decency to look away but Mermelstein feeds our insatiable desire to stare. I relish in the cracked phone screens, the chipped nail polish, the fragments that help me picture the unseen narrator. I think it’s high art, literature, journalism, the decisive moment, a message to the future, comedy, tragedy, violation and privacy—everything that I’d hope for an in image. I was surprised that the book was monotone and the color had been leeched out of the images. I guess it recalls the quality of a newspaper—as if the secret dramas we are all cradling in our hands are the events that keep us going. Egad! Do we have bread? No, get some. Nothing is boring or banal when it isn’t ours.

Flexibound debossed hardcover
Printed on pre-dyed blue paper
19 x 14.5cm, 160 pages
Publication date: July 2020


Irina Rozovsky, In Plain Air

In Plain Air is a lyrical portrait of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as seen through Rozovsky’s studies of its visitors, each seeking escape from the din of the city beyond. Rozovsky’s colour photographs capture the interplay between city and nature, creating a vision of the park as a democratic and nurturing public space, where the landscape and seasons form a protean backdrop to a complex social reality.

Embossed hardback
24 x 28.5cm, 96 pages
Publication date: March 2021

€40 £35 $45
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€45 £40 $50
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