Over the past few years, we have witnessed a continued explosion in photobook publishing but also a proliferation of photobook awards, publishing grants and institutional recognition for the importance of the format. This is essential for supporting the continued flowering of the medium, but it obscures something essential: the degree to which one’s experience of a photobook is a deeply individual and private one.

It’s no accident that many of us proudly claim to have photobook collections, in the same way we might have once collected baseball cards, concert ticket stubs, postcards etc. Each book on the shelf tells its own special story—but also carries a special story about us: where we discovered it, where we’ve read it, what it reminds us of.

Thus, alongside the 14 books we recognized which received international acclaim in 2016, we also want to share a more intimate list of critics’ personal favorites from the past year. After asking the opinion of over 40 experts, here are a wide range of books that they put forward as their singular, personal picks. Think of it as a glimpse into their own, private photobook collections from 2016.

We hope you enjoy their selections and discover some inspiring, yet unfamiliar, titles to deepen your perspective on what a photobook can offer. To many more great publications in the year(s) to come!

—Alexander Strecker, managing editor


Matter
by Michael Lundgren
Published by Radius Books

Matter, by Michael Lundgren, is a book gleaned from nine years of picture-making. With elements of the paranormal strewn throughout, the viewer is often wary and uncertain of the proceedings documented in these photographs. Populated with disconcerting imagery of impossible landscapes, green foxes and watermelon-red pools, Matter ruminates on the typical agreements of vision and faith as well as the “transcendent” qualities of the natural world.

This is the long-awaited second publication by Lundgren and it caught the eye of curator Karin Bareman. She told us the book is “a peregrination through a magical world, a mysterious world; a world where days are black and nights are white, where the Sonoran desert is both surreal and hyperreal. This is a world where artifice blends into the organic, where nature and culture overlap. It is—above all—a poetic reflection of the artist’s place within the landscape.”

Selected by Karin Bareman, ‎Exhibitions & Projects Organizer at Autograph ABP



Political Theatre
by Mark Peterson
Published by Steidl

Mark Peterson, a photographer based in New York, spent the last three years—since November 2013—following the presidential hopefuls and candidates on the campaign trail. His aim, he says, is to “pull back the curtain and show these politicians as they really are. Even though they are in plain sight, they can hide behind words and carefully arranged imagery to project their vision of America.” Peterson’s new book, Political Theater, is a collection of imagery with the same goal: “to cut through the staging of these moments and reveal the cold, naked ambition for power.”

Peterson’s photographs were provocative before the election. Now, they’re eerie—at times, even sinister. In this “powerful volume,” to quote Marc Prüst, “the protagonists are not shown at their best, but up close, direct, almost brutal. That is, except for one candidate, who is represented as calm, considered and almost regal; a 74-year-old senator from Vermont: Bernie Sanders. It is clear where Peterson’s political support lies.”

Selected by Marc Prüst, Independent Photography Consultant and Curator


The Swamp
by Sofia Borges
Published by MACK

Sophia Borges’s newest publication, The Swamp, is the artist’s contemplation on situations that rely on the artifice of reality. Featuring photographs taken in venues like natural history museums, aquariums, and zoos, Borges’s book plays with real and fabricated environments. The Swamp spans a seven year period of investigation, the result of which is as enigmatic as you might imagine: the cover of the book is emblazoned with the statement “Images Do Not Exist,” the phrase itself split by a giant image.

This self-referential and metaphysical dialogue continues throughout The Swamp. Iata Cannabrava admits that the book itself is “undecipherable to most of us,” but that it possesses “those fascinating powers that radiate art.” Borges offers this in reference to her objectives for the book: “What I seek are images, which, in their very artifice, are able to present themselves as a problem.” Whether or not that is appealing to every reader, Cannabrava emphasizes that reading The Swamp is a “spontaneous, at times visceral” experience.

Selected by Iata Cannabrava, Founder, Studio Magdalene, Festival Organizer, Curator, Photographer



Discordia
by Moises Saman
Self-published

Magnum photographer Moises Saman published Discordia this year, a contemplation on the four years (from 2011 to 2015) he spent as a photojournalist in the middle of the Arab Spring. About Discordia, Saman says, “Over the years, the many revolutions overlapped and in my mind became one blur, one story in itself. In order to tell this story the way I experienced it, I felt the need to transcend a linear journalistic language, and instead create a new narrative that combined the multitude of voices, emotions, and the lasting uncertainty I felt.”

Alvaro Matias singled out Discordia as a “superb volume that collects—without artifice—all of the crudity of the Arab Spring.” The book is an extended and revealing tour of the Middle East through the eyes of “one of the best photojournalists of the moment.” A bold, unsparing look at this key historical moment, Discordia’s “magnificent design” was “created conscientiously.” In Matias’s words, owning this book is “an absolute must.”

Selected by Alvaro Matias, General Director, La Fàbrica


Phenomena
by Sara Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen, Tobias Selnaes Markussen
Published by André Frère Éditions

Phenomena is a “beautifully produced” and “cleverly researched” photobook on American UFO enthusiasts and the place that extraterrestrial abnormalities have in the American imagination. The book focuses on 20 people who truly believe in UFOs and aliens. The three photographers who collaborated on the book—Sara Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen and Tobias Selnaes Markussen—formed the Phenomena Collective in order to examine how this legend shaped and is shaped by American culture.

The photographs, which are equal parts nostalgic and enigmatic, also have a distinct sense of place, as articulated by Peggy Sue Amison: “You can feel the light and dust of the locations where they created these wonderful photographs.” Phenomena is truly a “fantastic achievement” by the Copenhagen-based group.

Selected by Peggy Sue Amison, Artistic Director, East Wing Gallery


Something Like a Nest
by Andy Sewell
Self-published

Andy Sewell’s Something Like a Nest is a contemplation of the moments that proceed quietly, unassumingly; no raucous shouts, or clanging bells, or clamoring crowds of bodies. Set in the English countryside, the photographs do occasionally startle: suddenly, a newborn pig slips from its mother; a dead deer, its head laying in a blotchy and dark patch of snow, stares out from the page. Interspersed are taciturn photographs with the fingerprints of daily life: eggs resting on a counter, laundry on a line, a miniature garden.

Zelda Cheatle calls Something Like a Nest “very English, and very quiet,” applauding how it exemplifies “the power of the understatement.” She goes on: “These images continue in your memory, as if it was your own kitchen window you gaze out from.”

Selected by Zelda Cheatle, Independent Curator, Editor, and Consultant



Every night temo ser la dinner
by Sofia Ayarzagoitia
Published by La Fabrica

Every Night temo ser la diner, a “vibrant and rambling narration” by Sofía Ayarzagoitia, records the young Mexican photographer’s interactions with eleven men of different races and backgrounds. The book is comprised of “non-linear micro-narratives” about these encounters which Ayarzagoitia composes, in the form of a performance, as a series of experiences captured by her camera. The texts are written in “pocho,” the name given in Mexico to the frontier language between Spanish and English.

The title, in Ayarzagoitia’s words, is “an ironic metaphor for how I came to feel on some of those nights in the primarily male universe…I was never sure whether they were going to ask me for a date or tell me off for wanting to take their picture.” María García Yelo calls it “brutal and tender at the same time; a brave, discarnate and intimate visual diary.”

Selected by María García Yelo, Director, PhotoEspaña


No Joke
by Roger Ballen, Asger Carlsen
Published by Mörel Books

A collection of truly disconcerting and surreal imagery, Asger Carlsen and Roger Ballen’s No Joke is one of several surprising yet effective photographic collaborations released this year [Astres Noires, to name another popular example]. The photographs in No Joke play with the viewer’s visual expectations, perceptions, and understanding of the human form. The collaboration, which started and developed through an exchange of imagery and information over Skype, resulted in a series of photo collages produced using both digital and manual techniques.

Speaking about the recent uptick in output by collaborators, Erik Vroons says, “In this case, two already established visual artists found a new ground where they can merge their talents in such a way that the end result is a grotesque yet balanced reflection of either artist. No Joke is a representation of the signature styles of both Ballen and Carlsen. This is clear proof of the convincing authorship that can emerge from collaboration and result in something radically new altogether.”

Selected by Erik Vroons, Editor-at-Large, GUP Magazine


The Modern Spirit is Vivisective
by Francesca Catastini
Published by Anzenberger Edition

Winner of the 2016 ViennaPhotoBookAward at this year’s ViennaPhotoBookFestival, Francesca Catastini’s The Modern Spirit is Vivisective is a meditation on the “vivisection” (ruthless analysis or, more literally, experimental physical surgery on living beings) that the artist says is inherent to modern sensibilities. Subjects tackled in the book include: the relationship between abstract, cerebral knowledge and physical knowledge; the relationship between men, women, and their respective bodies and blindness. The book includes vintage photographs of anatomy laboratories and blind students as well as Catastini’s contemporary images of the vast, impersonal anatomical theaters where surgeons once learned their craft.

Selected by Mariama Attah as her favorite publication this year, The Modern Spirit is Vivisective is a “fabulous” book. Attah praises Catastini’s text for successfully articulating a complete vision: “The act of dissecting live bodies for study is well defined through an exciting and unusual mix of scientific manuals, found photos and drawings that lay out the performance nature and history of vivisection.”

Selected by Mariama Attah, Program Curator, Photoworks


The Movement of Clouds Around Mt. Fuji
by Helmut Völter
Published by Spector Books

For fifteen years beginning in the late 1920s, Japanese physicist Masanao Abe studied the movement of air streams around Mount Fuji. Curious about the nature of the atmosphere surrounding the mountain, the scientist took a series of photographs featuring variations in cloud formations and other meteorological idiosyncrasies. Perhaps unknowingly, but like many people before him—Eadweard Muybridge, Thomas Eakins—Abe teeters on the line between pure scientific observation and creative expression. His careful photographs and meticulous sketches are elegant evidence of his dedication.

Picked by Clare Grafik as her favorite publication this year, The Movement of Clouds Around Mount Fuji is a “vast archive or iconographic images” that uses “photography, stereo-photogrammetry, and film” to illustrate Abe’s study. Author and designer Helmut Völter “brings the archive to life with his design and innovative editing, transforming scientific investigation into a meditation of form.”

Selected by Clare Grafik, Head of Exhibitions, The Photographers’ Gallery


Desaparecen?
by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio
Published by Nazraeli Press

Anne Wilkes-Tucker, legendary Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for 39 years, chose Pablo Ortiz Monasterio’s Desaparecen? as her favorite publication of 2016. The book focuses on the mysterious and shocking loss of 43 activist students from Aytozinapa, Mexico, in 2014. The number 43 features prominently in the book: Monasterio implants it in every image so the reader can never leave the memory behind as they move through the book.

Wilkes-Tucker draws a parallel between this pervasion and the memories that torment and persist: “They are as common as breath. Memory of them is everywhere, where one might expect (coffins, skulls) and where you least expect. That is the way grief works. It arises when you don’t expect it. In his way, Monasterio says we must never forget, that the parents cannot forget because there is still no resolution, no truth.

“He used to email the pictures to me as he made them. Some moved me immediately, others not so much, but when I saw the completed book, it was so affecting, fresh and powerful, I was stunned. This book is both a document and an elegy. The regular edition is as modest as the students were poor: staple-bound, simple matt paper, and mono-toned ink and priced to be accessible in Mexico. The boxed limited edition with a print is priced to pay for the production of the former.

“The book’s layout is unorthodox and essential. It begins and ends with a list of the boys’ names and their youthful faces as they appear on the ‘have you seen?’ handouts distributed by their parents. In between these lists is the photographer’s poignant homage and reckoning.”

Selected by Anne Wilkes-Tucker, Curator Emerita at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


So Long, China
by Patrick Zachmann
Published by Éditions Xavier Barral

So Long, China, Patrick Zachmann’s newest photobook, is dedicated to the photographer’s 30+ years of working in China. Zachmann first traveled to the country as a photojournalist reporting on the film industry, documenting everything from the transformation of Beijing to the Hong Kong triads to the Tiananmen Square protests. With over 500 pages and 345 images, this immense tome is an homage to the depth and breadth of Zachmann’s study.

So Long, China illustrates the artist’s investigation into notions of identity—in particular, its loss or suppression and the results thereof. Earlier photographs in the book are black-and-white, while photos taken after 2001 are in color. This movement—the inevitable march of time and change—is echoed in multigenerational portraits of Chinese citizens, and the stream of photos carries the viewer along in a way that is pleasingly reminiscent of a travel diary. Matt Stuart, a longtime fan of Zachmann’s, (“the first photobook I ever bought was by Zachmann, and I have been hooked ever since”) applauds the award-winning book for “eloquently summing up over 30 years of wonderful work in China.”

Selected by Matt Stuart, Magnum Photographer


Little North Road
by Daniel Traub
Published by Kehrer Verlag

Shortlisted for Photobook of the Year by the 2016 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards, Little North Road is a collection of images focusing on the African community in Guangzhou, China. On one of his visits to China, photographer Daniel Traub encountered a pair of Chinese photographers on a bridge in Guangzhou who specialized in taking portraits of Africans living in the city. In the words of Martin Parr, “intrigued by this surreal combination, Traub photographed the surrounding streets and activities; he also added folios of portraits taken by Wu Yong Fu and Zeng Xian Fang, the latter a collaborator on the book.”

Little North Road also features Traub’s own photographs of the area in addition to a series of essays on the sociological and economic circumstances of the work. To quote Parr, these qualities, “together with interviews with the Chinese photographers, contribute to one of the most surprising and engaging books of the year.”

Selected by Martin Parr, Magnum Photographer, President of Magnum Photos


The Last Son
by Jim Goldberg
Published by Super Labo

The Last Son, the second book in a three-part series, traces the evolution of Jim Goldberg’s development as an artist. Using imagery and written words from his past to construct a world for himself and the reader, Goldberg delves into the circumstances that coalesced to bring him where he is now. The youngest son of a candy-maker, in The Last Son Goldberg mulls over his father’s acceptance of his unrealized dreams and their relation to Goldberg’s maturation as an artist.

Photographer Todd Hido says, “Jim is a good friend of mine and an inspiration to me because he continually seems to get better and better at what he does. That’s how I want to be. In The Last Son he tells a tale through images and souvenirs. But what’s remarkable here is how Jim activates the pages of the book and spins the story of his own past—discussing how he had a complicated childhood and was a runaway, which in retrospect clearly led to him photographing runaways in California over ten years to create his book Raised By Wolves. I could go on and on, but the gist is that it’s fascinating how much richness there is when somebody speaks about their own history and uses that as the catalyst to make art.” Not to be missed.

Selected by Todd Hido, Photographer and Author of Intimate Distance: Twenty-five Years of Photographs, A Chronological Album


Lost Coast
By Curran Hatleberg
Published by TBW Books

The first monograph by Curran Hatleberg, Lost Coast, was shortlisted for the 2016 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards. The book presents an “episodic narrative” of Eureka, California, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Hatleberg’s book zeroes in on the polarities present in the community of Eureka. These are portraits of everyday life; the quotidian moments that make up a life lived in one corner of the world. The photographs in Lost Coast manage to capture intimate interactions and private moments—it’s clear that many of his subjects are wholly unconcerned with (or unaware of) the photographer. There’s a compelling draw to this anonymity; there is no facade. This is humanity bare for our scrutiny.

Photogapher Pavlos Fysakis notes that the portraits “function like a collection of short stories” in that they “build to an understanding of place.” He goes on to praise the “incredibly fresh look” and “acute documentary approach” featured in Lost Coast: “it includes spontaneous images of someone who observes, combined with staged images, which is a very interesting relationship. Hatleberg is a photographer who reveals worlds and glorifies the ordinary. His sequencing plays an integral part in creating this work of art.”

Selected by Pavlos Fysakis, Photographer and Curator, Depression Era and Medphoto


NBD
by Swampy
Self-published

NBD, the “elegant” new photobook from elusive artist SWAMPY. SWAMPY, an enigmatic figure with a preference for anonymity, receded from the public eye after a rash of publicity—including a New York Times article and a sold-out solo show at FIFTY24SF Gallery in San Francisco. In NBD, the artist presents the reader with a travelogue of sorts that follows his journey through rural America. The images were created on a cross-country trip from Mexico to Alaska in the fall of 2010 and the summer of 2011.

Evan Pricco calls NBD a “glimpse into bohemian America,” as SWAMPY took these photos while hopping trains across the continent. “He is a kind of narrative photographer where you never need an explanation of how—or what—you’re looking at; you just get immersed in this alternative culture that is happening in America right now. It’s anarchy; a sort of punk universe.” Enigmatic as ever, SWAMPY removed all of his photography from the web and shut down his website before the publication of NBD, so this publication truly “created a place for his photos to exist.”

Selected by Evan Pricco, Editor-in-Chief of Juxtapoz magazine



Histoires du bout du monde en scrutant l’horizon
by Mathias Velati
Published by Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

This “little gem” of a photobook by Mathias Velati, Histoires du bout du monde en scrutant l’horizon, offers a new interaction between imagery and the written word. Called “the perfect example of how literature and photography can connect beautifully” by Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, Velati’s book presents 25 anonymous photographs from the collection of the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland alongside stories written by Velati. The author worked at the museum for three years, so the images incorporated in the book are noteworthy in that they captured the attention of someone who was fully immersed in the museum’s extensive collection.

Poimboeuf-Koizumi goes on to say that part of the book’s success is a consequence of Velati “letting his imagination run wild.” The essays are completely fiction and “often rather surrealistic.” This “poetic” and “playful” photobook proffers an imaginative way to read photography, “as well as an irresistible excuse to learn French!”

Selected by Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, Co-Founder, Chose Commune



Making Memeries
by Lucas Blalock
Published by Self Publish, Be Happy

With Making Memeries, American photographer Lucas Blalock has created an interactive book that encourages inventiveness with its idiosyncratic interface. Produced as a result of Blalock’s interest in the increasingly tenuous boundary between the digital world and reality, the book prompts a unique engagement: each image in Making Memeries can be “activated” through a digital app. The free app has the power to “switch on” supplemental components that aren’t immediately apparent when you first flip through the book; the additional features include sound, 3D renderings, and animation. The new features don’t end there—run your phone across the surface of the book, and the pictures come alive: in one image, characters move or disappear. In another, the image changes completely.

Michael Kominek calls this “the future of ‘photo’book-making.” There’s one thing we know for sure—this won’t be the last we see of “augmented reality” photobooks.

Selected by Michael Kominek, Founder, Kominek Gallery and Books


An Authentic Relation
by Marianne Bjørnmyr
Self-published

Gemma Padley doesn’t hide her admiration for Marianne Bjørnmyr’s smartly self-published volume: “What I love about Marianne’s book is its simplicity and uncluttered design.” The photobook details Bjørnmyr’s journey to Ascension Island, a remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. An Authentic Relation takes as its inspiration a diary written by Leendert Hasenbosch, a man exiled to the island in 1725 for sodomy. The project ably “embraces the ambiguities of history and personal narrative.”

Padley was particularly effusive about the relationship between text and image: photographs and panels of “thoughtfully selected” text are “threaded into an elegant design.” The pairing, Padley says, is “seamless.” She goes on: “the artist has skillfully juxtaposed texts and images to create a photobook that treads a fine line between reality and fiction.” A thoughtful, carefully considered publication.

Selected by Gemma Padley, Freelance Photography Writer and Editor



Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers
by Bobby Seale and photographer Stephen Shames
Published by Abrams

Published on the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s establishment, Stephen Shames and Bobby Seale’s new book, Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers tells the story of the Party’s founding, development, and trials. Criticized and slandered widely by many members of the American government, the Black Panther Party was a multi-faceted and complex entity. Alongside initiatives to supervise the police and other well-known objectives, the Party also ran programs to benefit underprivileged members of the American public—black and white citizens alike.

Calling Stephen Shames “one of America’s leading photographers dealing with social issues,” Francoise Callier has only praise for the new book: “His complete immersion in the world of Black Panthers makes Power to the People an incredible way for us to better understand one of the most innovative American movements for racial equality and justice. Through its historical view of the party, Power to the People is for me an astute mirror through which to view the present-day racial crisis that is happening.”

Selected by Françoise Callier, Curator and Program Coordinator, Angkor Photo Festivals & Workshops

[Don’t miss our full feature on Shames’ work]



3DPRK
by Matjaž Tančič
Published by Jiazazhi Press

The DPRK (more commonly known as North Korea) is widely seen as the world’s most enigmatic and mysterious country. Though an increasing number of images have begun to circulate in recent years, our outsider’s vision is still very much limited and controlled by the state’s formidable governmental censorship.

Happily for us though, multi-talented Slovenian photographer Matjaž Tančič decided to create a different vision of this misunderstood land. Invited by a studio dedicated to cultural exchange, Tančič traveled the country and focused on the heart of the society—its people. The book he has produced as the result of his journey is hard to do justice through words. Suffice to say, it comes with 3-D glasses, thus offering an experience unlike any you’ve likely had of the DPRK. Look for a copy somewhere near you and immerse yourself in this remarkable publication.

Selected by Sujong Song, Curator, Co-founder, Seoul Lunar Photo Fest


Condor
by Joao Pina
Published by BLUME

Widely praised and reviewed in publications like the New Yorker, João Pina’s Condor was published in English in 2014. This year saw the release of the French edition. “Operation Condor” was a secret military plan instituted by the right-wing military dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay in 1975 that aimed to kill their political opponents—mostly left-wing young people who were tentatively inspired by the revolution in Cuba. In enacting this plan, over 60,000 people were summarily executed. Most of the victims lay in unmarked graves across the continent. As a result of rapid turnover in the government, little information has been made public.

For nearly a decade, Pina traveled through the six countries in an attempt to document the limited remains of Operation Condor. The book, a tribute to the victims, their families, and the lingering ramifications of brutally abused citizens, is “an enormous work of memory,” to quote Irène Attinger. The haunting images in Condor, taken by Pina starting in 2005, is Pina’s attempt to “help generations of South Americans to know and understand the story of their countries.” Attinger chose Condor for its “remarkable design” and bold texts that “enlighten this dark period” in the history of South America. Clearly the French edition is just as forceful as the original.

Selected by Irene Attinger, Head of Library and Bookstore, Maison Européenne de la Photographie



The river embraced me
by Rinko Kawauchi
Published by Torch Press

The new “astonishingly beautiful” book by Rinko Kawauchi, The river embraced me, is part photobook, part exhibition catalogue. Kawauchi, a widely respected Japanese photographer who has captured the attentions of photo enthusiasts from Japan, America, and beyond, presents a range of work concerning memory and the passage of time. The river embraced me, published concurrently with her exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kumamoto, combines two of Kawauchi’s series: her first, signature collection and her newest project. Verena Kaspar-Eisert, quoted above, notes that Kawauchi’s book includes imagery taken “across forty different locations, all inspired by memories of the people of Kumamoto.”

The work, a compendium of dream-like images, is striking in how it shows Kawauchi’s ability to “translate her memories into a visual language.” Kaspar-Eisert continues: “It is her images and her editing that have such a lightness and deepness at the same time while speaking a universal language.” Even down to the sequencing, Kaspar-Eisert was filled with praise, as the book’s flow unspools “as sinuous as the water of a river.”

Selected by Verena Kaspar-Eisert, Curator, Kunst Haus Wien



Eden
by Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques
Published by Aperture/Fondation d’entreprise Hermès

According to some, humanity was once cast out of the Garden of Eden and condemned to a life of back-breaking toil. Whether we take this story literally or not, French artist Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques has made an effort to return to our originary home—namely, by purchasing a “little red schoolhouse” in Eden, North Carolina.

From this base, Couzinet-Jacques has engaged in a “series of explorations of small-town USA and the mythologies of the American dream.” One of the first labors he undertook upon arriving was to scan the entire exterior of the house, producing a “photographic shell of the building.” The resulting 1,000 scans make up the pages of this nearly 1,000 page book. A fascinating if challenging publication, blurring the line between art, reality and representation.

Selected by Cyril Delhomme, Scenographer, Le Bal


Red String
by Fujii Yoshikatsu
Published by Ceiba

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii takes its name from a tale that will be familiar to some readers but not all: the Red String of Fate is an East Asian belief with its origins in a Chinese myth. In the legend, two people who are destined for one another are connected by a red string. In some cultures, the string is tied around the lovers’ ankles; in others, their pinkie fingers. Fujii takes this legend as a lens through which to view his parents’ deteriorating marriage. A “beautifully crafted book that articulates the breakdown of a family marriage through archival imagery,” The Red String is a reflection on the emotional bonds, promises, and truths that are bound up at the crux of any human relationship.

Photographer David Alan Harvey writes that the “heartfelt storyline” is widely relatable, and “will bring a tear to anyone’s eye.” The book was available in multiple formats; a traditional trade edition (out of stock but not necessarily out of print) or a limited-run handmade edition, which is, by now, long gone.

Selected by David Alan Harvey, Magnum Photographer, Founder, Burn Magazine

[Yoshikatsu was also recently named a LensCulture Emerging Talent for 2016 for his work Red String]


738
by Nicolas Silberfaden
Self-published

Through the capable and piercing lens of Nicolas Silberfaden, we are invited to view Los Angeles from a new and refreshing perspective in his book 738. The project’s title, taken from the number of the building he was living in, is a nod to the artist’s starting point for each of his daily photographic excursions. In Silberfaden’s words, “This work is about the fabric of what constitutes a place, where spaces, objects and random encounters await to be appropriated with meaning…”

Or, as picture editor Caroline Hunter put it, “What I particularly like about this book are the parallel connections made between the portraits and the abstract landscape of Los Angeles. Silberfaden chooses to turn his gaze away from stereotypical images of palm trees and highways, instead we are invited to view what is often overlooked or rendered invisible.”

Selected by Caroline Hunter, Picture Editor, Guardian Weekend Magazine



Horseday
by Mohamed Bourouissa
Published by Roma

In Horseday, Mohamed Bourouissa’s latest publication, the photographer delves into the role that horses play in Philadelphia’s African-American community. Inspired by cowboy culture, the stables, and the traditions surrounding horses, Bourouissa collaborated with artists and riders to launch a competition for the most elegantly decorated horse. The resulting imagery was collected in an exhibition and subsequently published as a photobook this year.

Horseday is not a hefty volume (a slender 32 pages, in fact), but the “brilliant” book’s design offers more substance than some publications with many times its length. Bas Vroege praises Horseday’s designer, Roger Willems, for the book’s unique presentation: the images are printed on a single sheet of heavy cardboard-like paper, which is then stapled in an 8-page sketchbook. He goes on: “The extremely clever cutting and folding turns it into a ‘self-cover’ with a sculpture-like feeling in which his photographs resonate.” The result? “Any designer or publisher with an adventurous mind will be green with envy.”

Selected by Bas Vroege, Founder and Director, Paradox



Animal Kingdom: Stereoscopic Images of Natural History
by Jim Naughten
Published by Prestel

While some of us dream of exploring the archives of the world’s great art museums, others imagine what lies behind closed doors at the most prestigious collections of natural history and science. Photographer Jim Naughten falls into the latter category. His resulting photographs, drawn from the archives of a half dozen fine and august institutions, show us the hidden world of historic animal specimens.

Not only are his images finely composed and executed, but Naughten has taken his production one step further in creating stereoscopic, 3-D images which help bring his very still subjects to life in thrilling and beautiful ways. The book comes with a simple yet effective foldable, stereoscopic viewer that can be propped up on the page for optimum viewing.

In the words of gallerist Debra Klomp Ching, this is an “ingeniously designed book that offers an excellent example of well-conceived form and content.”

Selected by Debra Klomp Ching, Owner, Klomp Ching Gallery


Charkow
by Ellen Korth
Self-published

Ellen Korth’s Charkow began as a reflection on the artist’s mother and her flight through Germany during World War II. The end product, an “impressively designed” suite of seven booklets contained within a printed cardboard slipcase, pays homage to seven different relationships. Six of the seven booklets contain a set of full-bleed color photographs that are produced on varying sizes of paper; as the pages become smaller and smaller, the reader feels that they are delving deeper into memory and intimacy.

The seventh booklet, titled Nadya and filled with archival imagery, honors Korth’s mother. “Altogether they create a colorful kaleidoscope of stories, secrets, memories and dreams” says Nikola Mihov. “Each booklet feels like an encounter. Hidden in the middle is the portrait of the person surrounded from fragments of his private world that you feel privileged to enter.” The booklets are a glimpse into the personal worlds of Korth’s subjects. Speaking about Nadya in particular, Mihov remarks, “The central piece contains only few undated black-and-white photographs of women. Its anxiously empty white pages are devoted to her mother.” All in all, Charkow is “a book that reflects the author as much as the viewer.”

Selected by Nikola Mihov, Photographer and Founder of Bulgarian Photography Now



Point of Lovely Sun
by David Leda
Published by Sta. Rosa Editora

Point of Lovely Sun features a series of black-and-white photographs taken at underground parties in Buenos Aires between 2002 and 2004. The author, David Leda, chose to publish his work from this particular time in part because it represents a period of transition in Argentina: the country had just begun to exit a long-time economic depression. Taking this as its context, Point of Lovely Sun is a glimpse into Argentine youth and club culture with a particular focus on the quasi-taboo venue of the club. Ramon Pez calls this photobook “a small gem” and an example of “how to make a great book with a small budget and clever ideas.”

Selected by Ramon Pez, Creative Director and Founder, Ramon Pez Studio


I Was An Apple And I Got Peeled But It Was A Good Thing
by Hertta Kiiski
Published by Kehrer Verlag

The primary subjects of Herta Kiiski’s I Was An Apple And I Got Peeled But It Was A Good Thing are the artist’s two daughters. Featuring intimate spaces ranging from the artist’s home, summer houses, and travels from Venice to a Finnish archipelago, I Was An Apple And I Got Peeled But It Was A Good Thing is a personal account of motherhood, love, family ties, and adolescence. Or to quote Kiiski, the book focuses on “the most banal of subjects: time.”

Speaking about the project, Alessandra Capodacqua says, “the photographs juxtapose art history and private life in a perfect mix inspired by different genres of photography.” Indeed, though Capodacqua was drawn to Kiiski’s book for a number of reasons, one stands out: “What I find fascinating in this book is the fact that the artist demonstrates that not everything can be clearly expressed. However, through some secret logic that the artist never discloses, she is able to slowly unravel her discourse, even if not entirely.”

Selected by Alessandra Capodacqua, Independent Curator and NYU Florence Instructor



Picture of My Life
by Junpei Ueda
Published by Reminders Project

“I have this desire to sum up my life in the form of a story.
My parents killed themselves, one after the other, in the winter of 1998.”

This book was chosen by celebrated curator Yumi Goto, who offered a personal story about what made it special to her: “Suicide has become a very important issue for me in recent years. After all, it’s one of the major social concerns in Japan right now. But despite its presence in society, this sensitive subject is almost impossible to visualize, which makes it hard to justify creating a visual narrative around it.

“As I have been always interested in the relationship between photographers and their subjects, my personal research onto representations of suicide drew me towards people who had experienced the trauma close at hand. When I met Junpei, he was still dealing with the loss of both his parents, I knew I wanted to help in the process of making the book. Given how strong it turned out, I am just happy to be part of the project.”

Selected by Yumi Goto, Co-Founder Reminders Project, Curator, Editor, Consultant, Project Researcher


Editors’ note: We’d like to offer a BIG thank you to all the people who contributed to make this article possible. We couldn’t have done it without you, really.

Texts edited by Coralie Kraft, assistant editor at LensCulture.

Readers, don’t miss Part 1 of this list: Experts’ Top 14 Photobooks of 2016