Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011

This past year, I've been reviewing photobooks regularly for Photoeye and The Brooklyn Rail, as well as occasional reviews for Ahorn Magazine. Given all this new activity, I thought it appropriate to finally post a 'best of' list this year. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with best of lists. I love reading them and secretly wait for them each year, but they also remind me of the all the books I haven't seen or missed, and generally can't afford, but now desperately want. That said, I was flattered when Photoeye asked me to contribute to their 'Best of 2011' section. My 'best of' lists have always existed solely in my head, so I thought I would finally share.

The following are in no particular order, but contain books I've reviewed and consequently spent more time with, as well as books I've returned to and grown to love over the past year. I've also added a honorable mentions/late additions section below.

Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson (MACK, 2011)
Blood streaked and gritty, Patterson’s book deconstructs a decades old crime and creates a beautiful and smart puzzle about crime, desire, hopelessness and the American landscape. If I had to pick a favorite, this would be near the top.

The Auckland Project by John Gossage and Alec Soth (Radius Books, 2011)
Two books in one by two great photographers and bookmakers. What more could you ask for?

Abendsonne by Misha De Ridder (Schaden, 2011)
Containing a mere eight images, De Ridder’s sumptuous book perfectly encapsulates the ephemeral beauty of nature.

A by Greg Halpern (J&L Books, 2011)
Filled with beauty and a keen eye for poetic details, A is a sobering journey through the back roads of America's forgotten cities.

Towards a Warm Math by Lucas Blalock (Hassla, 2011)
A book of strange photographs that pulls back the digital curtain and teases apart the possibilities of the image in the 21st century.

A New Map of Italy by Guido Guidi (Loosestrife Editions, 2011)
A long overdue US book by a contemporary Italian master. Look harder.

Photographs by Penelope Umbrico (Aperture, 2011)
An artist’s monograph brilliantly reimagined as an artist book.

Oculus by Ken Schles (Nooderlicht, 2011)
A poignant meditation on images and memory, Schles’ book is as evocative as it is beautiful.

One to Nothing by Irina Rozovsky (Kehrer, 2011)
Rozovsky's Israel is a land of modern ruins and ancient mysteries that never offers solutions, only questions and riddles.

Redwood Saw by Richard Rothman (Nazraeli, 2011)
Rothman’s first monograph documents a dying timber town and offers an affecting portrait of America struggling in the face of depletion and worn-down dreams.

Honorable Mentions/Late Additions:

Summertime by Mark Steinmetz (Nazraeli, 2011/12)
This may officially be a 2012 book. Regardless, it is the perfect coda to Steinmetz's amazing trilogy South Central, South East and Greater Atlanta (all Nazraeli). Summer break in all its lazy, boring glory.

Paloma al aire by Ricardo Cases (Photovision, 2011)
Smart but quirky design coupled with great pictures. Painted pigeon racing in all its multicolored glory.

Le Luxe by Roe Etheridge (Mack, 2011)
I can't tell if I love or hate this book. After all, who would have thought of making a book about Goldman Sacks, let alone one so weird and timely? As Beckett wrote, "Fail better."

Idyll by Raymond Meeks and Mark Steinmetz (Orchard/Silas Finch, 2011)
This is another one that may be a 2012 book, but I got a chance to look at it at the New York Editions|Artist's Book Fair this Fall. The third in a series of collaborative books between Meeks and another artist/photographer, Idyll is beautifully made and full of exquisite images.

Tooth for an Eye by Deborah Luster (Twin Palms, 2011)
A strange and haunting archive of crime scenes in NOLA.

Dirk Braeckman by Dirk Braeckman (Roma, 2011)
Although discovered late this year, this dark and brooding book is not to be missed. Tom Sandberg meets Michael Schmidt in a dingy Belgian apartment complex.

Illuminance by Rinko Kawauchi (Aperture, 2011)
More deceptively simple and poetic images by the master of the genre.

Visitor by Ofer Wolberger (Horses Think, 2011)
It is hard to pick one book from Wolberger's ambitious book project, but this one is an especially nice example from 2011.

The Significant Savages by Gregoire Pujade Lauraine (RVB Books, 2011)
Stripped of comments and status updates, Pujade Lauriane's collection of social network profile pictures offers a funny and astute portrait of our virtual selves.

Like any list, this is incomplete and entirely subjective. It is now not possible to see everything being produced - which makes it an overwhelming, but exciting time for photobooks. There are a lot of books I should probably add, but have not seen in person yet - Gomorrah Girl by Valerio Spada is one example. There are also many I have yet to discover. So little time...

See Photoeye's entire 'Best of 2011' list here.