2014 was another banner year for photobooks. In fact, there were so many great finds that we decided to split our picks into three categories—Monographs & Hand-Made Artists’ Books, Museum Catalogues & Retrospectives, and Text-Based Books About Photography.
Despite our best efforts, there are surely great books out there we didn’t have the chance to see. And as usual, we admit that our selection is quirky, subjective, untraditional, and probably not like many other lists out there. That being said, all of these books are, in our opinion, excellent examples of the genre. We intentionally selected a range, from mainstream exhibition catalogues to small, hand-assembled artists’ books (one with an edition of 45!).
We hope you enjoy looking through our selection. Cheers!
—Jim Casper and the editors of LensCulture
Monographs & Hand-Made Artists’ Books
Eamonn Doyle, i
Eamonn Doyle employs a unique approach to street photography of his fellow Dubliners — his close range view of solitary figures reveals a quiet reverence and respect for these old souls. Martin Parr called it “the best street photo book in a decade.” It’s one of our top personal favorites of the year.
Stephen Shames, Bronx Boys
Publisher: University of Texas Press
For over two decades, Stephen Shames injected himself into the mean streets of the South Bronx and made pictures about the kind of life that he saw there— unflinching yet intimate, straight-shooting yet sensitive, objectively powerful but also full of personal emotion, this is a beautiful book.
Daisuke Yokota, Vertigo
Publisher: Newfave Books
These graphic, layered images explore the materiality of photography while also offering a beautifully dark vision of our world.
Darcy Padilla, Family Love
Publisher: Editions de la Martinière, 2014
For over 18 years, Padilla photographed Julie Baird’s complex story of multiple homes, AIDS, drug abuse, abusive relationships, poverty, births, deaths, loss and reunion — she followed Julie from the backstreets of San Francisco to the backwoods of Alaska.
Leslie Searles and Musuk Nolte, Piruw
Publisher: Self-published, with support from MATE (Mario Testino Association)
The dense, rich, black-and-white tones of this photobook bear witness to the mystical and the magical that still exist in the remotest corners of the ancient land of Peru.
Eric Gottesman, Sudden Flowers
For over 15 years, an American photographer crafted an intense ongoing collaboration with the Sudden Flowers, a collective of children living in Addis Ababa, that ultimately produced a profound body of work, deep with emotion and filled by a poetic lightness.
Adrien Missika, Amexica
Publisher: Edizioni Periferia
This book of 260 color pages (brilliantly composed of photos from an aerial drone as well as countless photos from the ground on both sides of the fence) may well leave you speechless as you realize the extent to which this outrageously expensive technological, physical and psychological wall separates the United States from Mexico.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, On the Beach
A luscious, over-sized book filled with beautiful dark images of decaying man-made junk found on the beach, inspiring meditations on the ever-changing nature of life and humankind.
Yuki Onodera, Eleventh Finger
Publisher: Artbeat Publishers
Paris-based artist Yuki Onodera combines quirky hand-cut paper masks with surreptitious photographs of strangers in city streets. The results are at once deceptively simple and complexly engaging and thought-provoking. Truly original work.
Jose Diniz, Periscope
Publisher: Editora Madalena/Terceiro
A dark, rich, velvety photobook—we’re immersed in the sea, off the coasts of Brazil and Uruguay, bumping up from below to catch a whale’s eye view, and then down again, only to surface in another spot with another vista, another surprise.
Publisher: Yumi Goto
This award-winning hand-made book presents an immersive and highly moving collection of “silent histories” of six injured survivors of the bombings of Japan in WWII —visual storytelling and book design at its best.
The Fasting Women
1992 was a year of carnage by the Mafia in Palermo and throughout Italy: but while the communities and nation were stunned by grief and rage, a group of women stood up and did something about it—22 years later, this book offers the portraits and stories of these brave women, a group who dared to demand an end to the violence.
Laia Abril, The Epilogue
Publisher: Dewi Lewis
A masterfully conveyed narrative of loss, remembrance and many small tragedies related to one young woman’s eating disorder and the devastating effects it had on her, her friends, families and loved ones. A sad, specific story that ripples out to touch and represent a much larger population around the world.
Max de Esteban, Heads Will Roll
Publisher: Hatje Cantz
How does a non-stop daily flood of imagery impact on our own thoughts, memories, desires, dreams, sense of self, and conception of reality? This book, filled with multi-layered imagery from mass media, cinema, the internet and more, is at once engaging and disturbing. Repeated readings are continually rewarded with new discoveries and new connections.
This “hybrid” documentary series about one of Australia’s most affluent (and crime-ridden) area is a revelation. Tinged with a David Lynch uneasiness—and it even comes with a screenplay introduction and a video trailer!
Juul Kraijer, Penumbrae
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag
Uncanny, cruel, queasy, creepy, wonderful—all of these words fail to capture the haunting feeling of the images in this great photobook. A sense of contemporary surrealism oozes through this wonderful book.
Alexander Gronsky, Pastoral/Moscow Suburbs
In the suburbs of Moscow, weary urban dwellers find moments of bliss amidst the blighted, fragmented nature that stubbornly remains amidst the human development. Read our review and listen to an interview with Gronsky, in which he discusses a variety of interpretations and the intuitive creative processes behind his work.
Nadav Kander, Dust
Publisher: Hatje Cantz
Through these images of former nuclear test sites, Kander is not interested in conveying a story or a reportage. Indeed, there are no easy facts to grasp when we gaze upon these desolate vistas. Instead, his work poses the kinds of questions that have no answers.
Antonio Julio Duarte, Japan Drug
Publisher: Pierre von Kleist
Japan Drug transports us, fully and viscerally, into a disorienting world that feels at once close to home and wonderfully unfamiliar—a stellar example of the power of street photography.
Jeff Cowen, A Photograph is a Myth About a Delusion
Publisher: VW (Veneklasen/Werner)
This special, 48-page booklet is composed of sketches, tiny details of large murals, notes, and photos from his studio. Originally created as a collector’s invitation—you can enjoy the complete book on LensCulture.
Jackie Nickerson, terrain
Publisher: T.F. Editores, S.L.C.
Stunningly original faceless portraits of laborers in Southern and East African farms. Accompanied by a brilliant, insightful text by South African journalist Sean O’Toole. A jumble of factors make these photos remarkable—the light, color, mix of original clothing and universal fashion, sun-soaked landscape, and reportage of everyday hard manual labor.
Diane Vincent, Oben
Unusual, high-contrast black-and-white photographs all from the rooftops above Berlin. This great, hand-made photobook was self-published and available only in limited edition. The quirky urban photos convey a consistently artful and abstract point of view. Not for everyone, but one of our personal favorites.
Yoshikatsu Fuji, Red String
A powerfully conceived and executed hand-made photobook which embodies the artist’s search for wholeness and unity that he lost after his parents’ divorce. One of TIME magazine’s choices for best photobooks of 2014. We agree.
Museum Catalogues & Retrospectives
W. Eugene Smith,
The Big Book
Publisher: University of Texas Press
This massive collection (actually a boxed set of 3 large books) offers for the first time a magnum opus of this photojournalistic legend and father of the photo-essay—from the man’s own uncompromising perspective. This work was originally conceived and designed by Smith 50 years ago, but never published—a treasure!
Reina Sofia Museum,
photobooks: Spain 1905-1977
Publisher: RM/Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofía
This book presents a journey through the history of the photobook in Spain—offering new views on everything from the Spanish Civil War to the London punk scene. If you are a serious photobook enthusiast, you’ll need this in your library.
Publisher: Yale University Press
A blockbuster exhibition, a definitive, jam-packed catalogue. This is a must-have for any Winogrand fan. For even more insight, read our exclusive LensCulture interview with the man responsible for the curatorial vision behind this once-in-a-generation exhibition.
Munemasa Takahashi, Lost and Found Project: After the Japanese Tsunami
Utilizing thousands of carefully salvaged and preserved photographs found in the wreckage of the 2011 Japanese tsunami disaster, this unique catalogue conveys the power of the personal snapshot to humanize tragedy. It also demonstrates the human value of personal photographs over almost any other possessions we may own. One of our favorite catalogues from 2014.
Duane Michals, Storyteller: Duane Michals
Publisher: DelMonico Books
Much imitated, highly influential and endlessly re-inventive, signs of Duane Michals’ influence can be seen everywhere—but there is no better place to re-discover his genius than at its very source. Curator Linda Benedict-Jones spent five years of research and direct collaboration with Michals to pull together this remarkable and inspiring overview of one man’s creative output (and he’s still at it, every day!). Brilliant essays add lots of insight and appreciation to Michals’ sense of humor and unrivaled creative vision.
International Center for Photography,
What is a Photograph?
Publisher: ICP and DelMonico Books
This excellently put together exhibition catalogue explores the age-old question by looking at some of the most cutting-edge, envelope-pushing practitioners of the past 40 years. An excellent (yet highly subjective) overview.
The Place We Live
This serious retrospective offers not only an intimate and coherent narrative of the development of the Western United States in the late 20th and early 21st century, but also a challenging view of the complexity and contradictions of our contemporary, global society.
Publisher: Goeun Foundation
This catalogue offers more than 80 of Gibson’s best monochrome works, embodying the simplicity and power of this black and white master’s beautifully crafted images. Gibson is represented in many, many books, but this Korean edition is pure elegance and captures the best output of the man.
Text-Based Books About Photography
Photoshow, edited by Alessandra Mauro
Publisher: Contrasto Books
This book traces the history of photography exhibitions from their beginnings in the 1830s to the conceptual revolutions of today—smart, well-conceived and filled with insight and information. Maybe “Family of Man” was not the original defining groundbreaking moment we’ve been led to believe…
Writers: Literary Lives in Focus, foreword by Goffredo Fofi
Publisher: Contrasto Books
250 photo-portraits of some of your favorite writers, as well as dozens of new voices to discover. There’s delight on every page—a treat for any lover of great photography or great writing! This is almost more of a specialty book rather than a photobook, but it’s irresistible for lovers of literature and photography.
Pandora’s Camera, by Joan Fontcuberta
This collection of essays, employing Fontcuberta’s signature style and playful tone, offers clever (yet insightful) glimpses into the technological and cultural shifts that photography is undergoing. The subtitle, Photogr@phy After Photography, hints at the strong influence of the internet on the distribution and consumption of the medium today.
New Foto Scapes, edited by Jonathan Shaw
Publisher: Library of Birmingham
A smart and engaging look into the ever-changing landscape of photography—this collection of curated essays by scholars and thinkers from diverse disciplines offers insights into everything from book publishing to the future of the networked image.
How to Be…A Photographer in Four Lessons, by Thomas Vanden Driessche
Publisher: André Frère Editions
Whether poking fun at conceptual photographers or having a laugh at the Dusseldorf School’s (pricey) pretensions, these bite-sized lessons will surely bring a smile to your face. Enjoy!