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Compiled by Suzanne Révy and Elin Spring
‘Tis the season for “Best Photography Books of the Year” compilations and, judging from the media avalanche, everyone and her dog seems to have one. So why join the fray? Our preferences run to the deeply personal, so we wanted to draw attention to books by artists whose work probes movingly into intimate realms of experience, ones we think resonate beyond their particular circumstances and offer special insights to viewers.
We suspect we’re not alone, so here we present our twelve personal favorite monographs, with brief synopses of the main reasons we think they merit your interest, in alphabetical order. But wait, there’s more! There have been a number of retrospectives published this year that we think fall into the category of important personal narratives, so we’ve created a separate listing of those. And wait, one more! Last but surely not least, we want to include those books that we found so compelling that they’ve garnered our reviews throughout the year, listed with links to our reviews about them. Please note that all books are accompanied by a link for more information and/or purchase and, with the exception of a few books we’ve reviewed during the year, all have a 2016 publication date.
The Americans By Car
by Karl Baden
Introduction by Jack Keruoac and Afterword by Robertson Leigh
(A Retrospective Book)
A creative mash up of Robert Frank’s “The Americans” and Lee Friedlander’s “America By Car”, Baden’s parallel universe faithfully follows Frank’s sequencing in this unique and colorful riff. Baden is completely earnest and seriously funny in this brilliantly conceived and inventively executed tribute to his photographic heroes.
For my interview with Karl Baden, go to: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/the-americans-by-car-photography-book-by-karl-baden/
Palm Springs: The Good Life Goes On
by Nancy Baron
Introductions by Matthew Weiner and Alexa Dilworth
This is Nancy Baron’s second book detailing the fabulous mid-century modern homes of Palm Springs, California and their unique inhabitants. It is a lush escapade through a community that reveres the aesthetics of a time and place where the Rat Pack of Hollywood played golf and sipped martinis by the pool, bathed in the warm and arid light of this desert playground.
Absence of Being
by Susan Burnstine
Foreward by Susan Burnstine
Afterwords by Del Zogg and Chantel Paul
Burnstine balances deeply psychological content with hands-on physicality, capturing her moody dreamscapes on B&W film in cameras she constructs by hand. The photographs are at once weighty and ethereal, dark and light, directed and ambiguous, in a monograph whose harmonious design extends to hand-written entries excerpted from Burnstine’s journals and endpapers of photographed black cinematic foil used as skins on her handmade cameras.
No Plan B
by David J. Carol
Afterword by Jason Eskenazi
(Peanut Press Books)
In this slim, 25-year retrospective, it becomes apparent why no Plan B was ever necessary for Carol. With his witty, energetic and adroit documentary style, each B&W photograph is intended to stand alone in the all-but-abandoned traditional approach of self-evident declarations. Like a saucy, flavorful extract, each of Carol’s photographs is a stand-out, as well as delightfully compelling testimony to the adage “every picture is a self-portrait.”
Just Small Hiccups
by Anni Hanén
Introduction by Timothy Persons
Anni Hanén’s photographs are like whispered odes to her son’s childhood and to her own motherhood. Her muted images broaden to the natural forests she describes as a “castle” which envelops the physical and psychological interiors that she, her ancestors and extended family have called home. This book is a gem.
By Alice Q. Hargrave
Introduction by Allison Grant
Interview by Kendra Paitz
Poems by Sandra Binion and Ralph J. Mills, Jr.
An ethereal treatise on the fleeting nature of existence, Hargrave’s images are simultaneously precise and distorted. Her contemplative domestic interiors and outdoor sky, sea and landscapes quiver with sophisticated subtleties of light, palette and composition to achieve a heightened awareness of time.
By Justin Kimball
Text by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa
A restrained and empathetic view of the struggling small-town America that recently brought us a political sea-change, Kimball packs a stealthy punch in his graceful, layered compositions that are as eloquent and poignant as his subjects.
For my review of Kimball’s current exhibit of this work, go to: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/justin-kimball-elegy-at-carroll-and-sons-boston/
By Justine Kurland
Stories by Lynne Tillman
Sally Mann can hand her “bad mother award” over to Justine Kurland for these nomadic highway escapades with her young son in tow. Kurland’s wanderlust combines crackerjack compositions and a disquieting sense of maternal abandonment in this emotionally compelling monograph that combines work from two series, This Train is Bound for Glory and Sincere Auto Care, punctuated with images of her son, Casper, in the various places they camped on lengthy road trips over a twelve year period.
Tender is the Light
by David Julian Leonard
Essay by W.M. Hunt
I bought this book because the cover intrigued me, only to discover that it pales in comparison to the sublime and emotional clout inside. It’s a short but marvelous journey that glows in an atmosphere of mundane moments or quickly captured scenes of movement and travel. Leonard’s portrait of his mentor William Eggleston is, ironically, one of the more subdued and monochromatic images in this book but, like Eggleston, Leonard offers an extraordinarily rich palette in his work.
Come to Selfhood
by Joshua Rashaad McFadden
Interview conducted by Lyle Ashton Harris
This book has the tactile feel of a personal journal or notebook. In it, McFadden presents his own sensitive and pensive color portraits of contemporary young African American men, coupled with snapshots of their fathers or a father figure at about the same age. Resemblances between the older generation and the younger are striking, magnified by interleaving pages bearing his sitters’ hand-written responses to probing questions about their personal perceptions of identity.
Seen Not Heard
By Heather Evans Smith
Afterword by Heather Evans Smith
(Flash Powder Projects)
Granted, this is one of a legion of mother-daughter narratives, but Smith’s work distinguishes itself by striking an elegant balance between formal composition and sensual intimacy. Smith’s photographs and the book itself combine understated elegance with rich symbolic detail in an enchanting exploration of a relationship as complex as the entwined bodies of Smith and her young daughter.
by Will Steacy
Essay by Gene Roberts
(b.frank books, Zürich)
Steacy’s father and grandfather both worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, enabling him to gain access and photograph its jumbled, harried newsroom through several moves, layoffs and bankruptcies. Deadline offers a rare insider view of a bygone era, capturing the essence of what we had and what we’ve lost in a pulsating eulogy to stellar journalism.
Retrospectives published in 2016, listed alphabetically
Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits, 1925-1930 (Steidl)
Bruce Davidson: Survey (Aperture)
Intimate Distance: Twenty-Five Years of Photographs, A Chronological Album by Todd Hido (Aperture)
Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown (Steidl)
Hiroshi Sugimoto: Black Box (Aperture/Fundación MAPFRE)
Alex Webb: La Calle, Photographs from Mexico (Aperture)
For my review of the current exhibit of this work, go to: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/alex-webb-la-calle-at-robert-klein-gallery-boston/
Carrie Mae Weems: The Kitchen Table Series (Damiani)
Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink by Bill Yates (Fall Line Press)
For my review of the exhibit of this work, go to: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/gallery-kayafas-boston-bill-yates-sweetheart-roller-skating-rink-jules-aarons/
Books we’ve reviewed in 2016 – links to each publication are included in the review, as well as below each book and author!
Portraits – William Eggleston
Lartigue in Color – Jaques Henri Lartigue
Let Virtue Be Your Guide – Frances F. Denny
The Unseen Eye – W. M. Hunt
The Thrill of the Chase – The Samuel Wagstaff Collection
Kids in Love – Olivia Bee
L’Enfant Femme – Rania Matar
Wild & Precious – Jesse Burke
Notes From A Quiet Life – Robert Benjamin
The Middle of Somewhere –Sam Harris