I have been invited to take part in photo-eye’s annual poll by photobook commentators as to the 10 Best Books of 2013. For those who follow this blog, that fact that I am participating in this may seem a bit unusual, as I have readily admitted in the past, I do not have access to read and study every photobook that was issued during the year. Nevertheless, although I have had an opportunity to see a great many photobooks, this will still be a of a bit biased list as I will draw from those books that I have actually read or are in my collection.
My list, which is not in any particular order, may not be the “Best” photobooks of 2013, but rather I have selected some of the more interesting photobooks that I read that were published in 2013. And my list is for 11 photobooks since I could not narrow it down to just 10, as well as a new category of my own making, interesting exhibition catalogs for 2013, for which I have named two.
I have published commentaries for most of these, which I have linked up. It is my intent that to publish commentaries for the remaining photobooks shortly.
More Interesting Photobooks of 2013
Two Rivers, Carolyn Drake, self-published 2013
Two Rivers is a complex story and an excellent example of how a book design (by the talented Sybren Kuiper) can create an effective subtext to a photographer’s narrative. This is a compelling investigation of survival and the tribulations of the people in the region of Central Asia.
Pierdom, Simon Roberts, Dewi Lewis, 2013
Simon Roberts seems to really connect with his fellow people and the underlying psych of Great Briton. This is another in his series that utilizes a large format vision to investigate the British culture. His subjects are the many piers lining the British coast and how the built landscape can reveal some of the essence of his own society.
New York Arbor, Mitch Epstein , Steidl, 2013
New York Abor is a beautiful book that is classically designed and elegantly printed to showcase the lyrical black and white photographs of Mitch Espstein. The interior plates are approximate in size to the original large format film and in conjunction with the superb printing by the publisher, Steidl Verlag, the experience is breath taking, not unlike viewing large format contact prints.
The Burn, Jane Fulton Alt, Kehrer Verglag, 2013
In reading The Burn, I view these lyrical photographs with mixed emotions having experience the wild fires in Southern California. But for me, that is also a hallmark of a good body of work in that it can stir memories, activate the senses (I can almost smell and taste the acid, dense smoke of a wild fire), while yet be visually captivating.
Business as Usual, Brian Griffin, Editions Bessard, 2013
Having spent an inordinate amount of time in corporate business, the small narratives that Griffith creates are hilarious and almost too funny for words. Although the photographs were from an earlier period and perhaps appear a bit over the top, they are still spot on regarding today’s office politics and the theater of business.
Swell, Mateusz Sarello, Instytut Kultury Wizualnej, 2013
I was immediately struck by the many narrative possibilities created by Ania Nalecka’s design for Swell. It’s ingenious and well executed book concept that metaphorically works with Sarello’s two-part visual narrative. Their collaboration has resulted in a beautifully conceived and photographed book.
America, My Way, Matej Sitar, self-published, December 2012- released early 2013
I am intrigued by the possibilities of what others might also experience during shared events and moments. I found that Sitar’s multiple alternatives presented in America, My Way of a road trip up the American West coast to have fully tapped into my psyche.
We Make the Path by Walking, Paul Gaffney, self-published, 2013
Reading We Make the Path by Walking just connects with me. The lyrical photographs investigate a journey and the many options and possibilities that lie beforehand, while yet enjoying the view in transit. I found Gaffney’s book to be a wonderful metaphor for the messiness of living life.
Still, Patrick Hogan, self-published, 2012
Still is a splendid and intriguing investigation of personal relationships. As the title implies, quiet and intimate moments are captured while creating a place that can best be described as ambivalence. The book has an interesting cadence and inclusion of difficult to read interior plates, at times there is the faintest hint of a photographic image and others on the extreme of darkness, both bordering on illegibility that beguiles me.
Nowhere, Leon Kirchlechner, Der Grief & dienacht Publishing, 2013
Nowhere is an intriguing set of landscape photographs in which Kirchlechner has introduced a translucent object, a whiff of smoke (or whatever it is) that tugs at my imagination. This occasion vapor acts as a subconscious trigger for some distant memory that I cannot easily grasp. The ambiguous images are unsettlingly; seemingly fragile and yet have ominous undertones.
A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz, Max Sher, Treemedia, 2013
A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz (English version of the Russian title) is an investigation of memory and personal experiences; concurrently evokes mystery and nostalgia. A delightful semi-fictional story based on appropriating vernacular photographs that narrate a poignant story of Sher’s making set in Russia during the 1960’s.
More Interesting Exhibition Catalogs for 2013
2013 10×10 American Photobook, published by 10×10 American Photobooks, 2013. (I need to admit my bias as I am a contributor to this exhibition and my selection is included in the catalog)
Douglas Stockdale is a photographer, author, photobook collector, blogger, independent photobook curator and founder of the this much admired blog, The Photobook. Recently he was a contributor to the 2013 10×10 American Photobooks traveling exhibition (NYC, Pittsburgh, Tokyo) and curated the photobook exhibition Work for the 2012 Fotografia Festival Internazionale in Rome, Italy. He recently release his self-published artist book Pine Lake and in 2011 Edizioni Punctum released his hardcover book Ciociaria. Stockdale’s photographs are in the permanent collection of the Museo d’Arte Contemporea di Roma (MACRO), Rome, Italy.
Update/correction; Patrick Hogan’s Still was actually published in 2012, which I acquired in 2013 and the title page is a bit obscure as the book’s copyright date. Thanks to Paul Gaffney for his assistance in tracking this publication fact down. Nevertheless, I still think it as one of the more interesting photobooks for me in 2013.