PHOTOBOOK OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST: Negatives
Presented as blown-up 35 mm negatives, the images in Negatives document the Tiananmen Square protests of spring 1989, easily one of the largest displays of dissent to take place in China since the founding of the People’s Republic. By June 4 of that year, Chinese troops had killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of protestors in an unprecedented crackdown; a reliable number of the dead has never been released, and images of the protests are still too sensitive to disseminate in China. Xu Yong circumvents these limitations by publishing the negatives of photographs he took at the time, which readers can view by using standard iPhone settings to invert the images. As Christoph Wiesner says, this publication “takes a strong political position.” The jacketed hardcover book, which is straightforward in design, also advances the printed page’s relationship to digital technology — and speaks to the smartphone’s role in more recent activist movement.