12 January 2016

Good Reads - 2015

Before 2015 is as old as 1915 I have to get my photo-bibliophile two-cents off my mind.

I researched the lists. A lot of lists, to be honest. I thought there would be twenty or so, and that they would include, overall, maybe forty or fifty different books. Since I knew I wouldn’t have read or seen all fifty, I hoped to add titles I found that others had missed, vainly imagining that my “good reads” might occupy a different realm.

I was wrong. So wrong. And humbled as a result.

There was a lot of overlap, to be sure. Then again, there were at least twice as many lists as I’d imagined—an exhausting and possibly exhaustive 43 and counting, according to the blog Phot(o)lia, not to mention an accounting of 387 titles tallied at least once on nineteen lists presented here courtesy of Marc Feustel and Laurence Vecten.

Messrs. Feustel and Vecten found almost twenty books mentioned on five or more of the lists they read. This is some kind of distinction.

Most of the titles I consider “good reads” from last year appeared on at least one of the 33 lists I consulted. And I remind myself that, to my chagrin, I did not see an extraordinarily large number of the books that do appear.

I am mildly pleased to note that a few of “my” books did not appear elsewhere. I leave you to speculate on what this means, exactly.

I found it instructive to read the criteria of several list-makers; their articulated parameters shaped and substantiated their choices. Some writers mentioned how they came by the books on their list. Some books were purchased, others received as gifts, others from publishers as review copies.

The titles on my list entered my life in each of those ways. And I’ve tried to avoid favoring those that came as gifts, or justifying those I purchased. This is a subjective process—that much I learned, reading 33 other people’s (or publications’—the royal, collective, anonymous “we” that makes a panel) lists.

I was pleased to see that one book I wrote for, Kurt Simonson’s Northwoods Journals, made its way onto at least one list.

Anyways, I blather on. Here’s re:photographica's list.

Good Reads from 2015.

  • Atomic America, James Crnkovich, with an accompanying portfolio, “On Nuclear Seeing,” compiled by Robert Del Tredici (Naciketas Press)
  • Briefly Seen: New York Street Life, Harvey Stein (Schiffer)
  • Dark City, Lynn Saville (Damiani)
  • Glove, artists book self-published by Andy Mattern and Paul Shambroom in conjunction with the exhibition Paul Shambroom: Lost at Minnesota Museum of American Art
  • Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades, exhibition catalogue from the Norton Museum of Art (Daylight)
  • Kolkata Calcutta, Patrick Faigenbaum (Lars Müller)
  • Third Person, artists book self-published by Beth Dow
  • This Is Where I Live, Wendy Ewald (MACK)
  • Unseen, Jessica Lange (SilvanaEditoriale) [An able challenger to the title “Best photobook by a movie star” bestowed by Blake Andrews on Dennis Hopper’s Drugstore Camera, (Damiani)]

Good Reads from 2015 That Were Mentioned On Other Lists.

Arranged roughly in descending order by number of list mentions.

  • Deadline, Will Steacy [Described by Blake Andrews as the “Best photobook to peruse in the morning with coffee and toast”]
  • Songbook, Alec Soth [Andrews again: “Best photobook that actually lived up to its impossible hype”]
  • Bottom of the Lake, Christian Patterson
  • It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, Lynsey Addario
  • Wild and Precious, Jesse Burke
  • Hold Still, Sally Mann
  • Belongs to Joe, Casper Sejersen
  • I Went to the Worst of Bars Hoping to Get Killed. But All I Could Do Was to Get Drunk Again, Ciarán Óg Arnold
  • The Meadow, Barbara Bosworth
  • The Notion of Family, LaToya Ruby Frazer
  • Inshallah, Dima Gavrysh
  • Political Abstraction, Ralph Gibson
  • Detroit, Unbroken Down, Dave Jordano
  • Jason Langer: Twenty Years, Jason Langer
  • Invisible City, Ken Schles
  • The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar, Jamey Stillings
  • Hide, Jason Vaughn
  • The Moth Wing Diaries, Lori Vrba
  • Northwoods Journals, Kurt Simonson

Two Notes to Self.

1. Looking at 2015’s releases got me thinking about clusters of books that ought to be written about in conjunction with each other. In the vein of female photographers’ autobiographical reflections I’d include the Mann and Addario titles alongside Kate Brooks’ In the Light of Darkness: A Photographer’s Journey After 9/11  (Schilt, 2011) and Deborah Kopaken’s Shutterbabe. And the well-executed Detroit: Unbroken Down should be evaluated alongside David G. Spielman's text and photographs in The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City (The Historic New Orleans Collection), Daniel Traub’s North Philadelphia, and Ken Schles’ two-book chronicle of New York City’s demimonde.

2. I resolve, in 2016, to keep better track of the year’s publications, so that the end-of-the-year summation doesn’t lapse too far into 2017.


My Desiderata—titles I didn’t see but wish, as a result of reading all those lists, that I had. 
  • The Epilogue, Laia Abril
  • Stranger, Olivia Arthur
  • Missing Buildings, Thom and Beth Atkinson
  • Belanglo, Warwick Baker
  • This Business of Living, Daniel Blaufuks
  • A Short Story, Thomas Boivin
  • Sunless, Tiane Doan na Champassak
  • Fire in Cairo, Matthew Connors
  • Nowhere People, Greg Constantine
  • One’s Own Arena, José Pedro Cortes
  • I Do Not Want to Disappear Silently Into the Night, Katrien de Blauwer
  • Dzogchen, Vincent Delbrouck
  • My Last Day at Seventeen, Doug Dubois
  • Tout va bien, JH Engström
  • Please send this book to my mother, Sara Entwistle
  • Anecdotal, David Fathi
  • Beastly/Tierisch, Duncan Forbes & Daniela Janser, eds.
  • The Whiteness of the Whale, Paul Graham
  • Norilsk, Alexander Gronsky
  • Occupied Pleasures, Tanya Habjouqa
  • The Middle of Somewhere, Sam Harris
  • Can Art Change the World?, JR
  • Lago, Ron Jude
  • Timeless, Kamoinge
  • Unfinished Father, Erik Kessels
  • Sunny, Dagmar Kolatschny
  • Presentiment, Yulia Krivich
  • Southern Rites, Gillian Laub
  • Day for Night, Richard Learoyd
  • Life Is One Live It Well, Henrik Malmström
  • Good 70s, Mike Mandel
  • Foto Grafia, Luca Massaro
  • Some Thing Means Everything for Somebody, Peter Mitchell
  • Colors, Yoshinori Mizutani
  • Dirt Meridian, Andrew Moore
  • Land Ohne Mitte, Anne Morgenstern
  • Going Home, Muge
  • Naturally, Bertil Nilsson
  • Lisboa, Cidade Triste e Alegre, Victor Palla and Costa Martins
  • The Black Rose, Trent Parke
  • Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled, Sanne Peper
  • Find a Fallen Star, Regine Petersen
  • Archipelago, Matthew Porter
  • The Lonely Ones, Gus Powell
  • In the Vale of Cashmere, Thomas Roma
  • Museum of Chance, Dayanita Singh
  • Shrubs of Death, Mike Slack
  • Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography, Aline Smithson
  • Dr Strand, Nina Strand
  • H. Said He Loved Us, Tommaso Tanini
  • Muse, Mickalene Thomas
  • Disco Night September 11, Peter van Agtmael
  • The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits, Hellen van Meene
  • Peer 2 Peer, Hannah Whitaker
  • My Life As A Man, Carmen Winant


1.     LensCulture – Part One and Part Two
2.     PhotoEye – “The Best Books of 2015” (17 “Best” from selections by 24 reviewers; “over 150 titles” cited)
3.     TIME – “TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2015” (“Martin Parr, Alec Soth and many other experts, including TIME’s photo editors, select the best photobooks of the year”; 36 picked; “we interviewed more than 35 photo experts”; “Far from being a comprehensive list, these are personal choices made with the agonizing rule of selecting just one photobook to represent 2015 in its entirety.”
4.     Smithsonian – “The Best Photography Books of the Year” (November 27, 2015) on smithsonianmag.com, by Molly Roberts (10 books that “celebrate the talent of these photographers and give you another way of experiencing the world.”)
5.     Daily Beast – Robert Birnbaum, “The Best Photography Books of 2015”
6.     Times – Teju Cole, The New York Times Magazine, Dec 22, 2015, “The Best Photo Books of 2015” (“I didn’t acquire too many photo books this year—only about a hundred, all told—but I made an effort to seek out a wide variety. These are eight I particularly liked.” Cole’s whole statement is good and pertinent to the list-making process.)
7.     Slate – David Rosenberg and Jordan G. Teicher, “The 10 Best Photography Books of 2015” slate.com Behold: The Photo Blog December 15, 2015
8.     Conscientious – December 14, 2015 “My favourite photobooks in 2015 (and more)” (“Listmas”; “Given that few people can agree on something, there are dozens and dozens of photobooks on at least one ‘best of’ list…essentially every photobook is (short) listed somewhere.”)
9.     Guardian – Sean O’Hagan December 6, 2015 “The best photography books of 2015” (17 titles)
10.  Telegraph – “The best coffee table books out now” (24 photo titles)
11.  Telegraph (Cheryl Newman) – “The best art photography books of 2015” December 18, 2015 (12 titles)
12.  Mother Jones – Mark Murrmann, “We Keep Coming Back to the Unforgettable Images in These 2015 Photo Books” December 30, 2015 (10 titles; see statement via link)
13.  PDN – “Notable Photo Books of 2015” Part 1, December 07, 2015, 8 titles; Part 2, December 11, 2015, 8 titles; Part 3, December 15, 2015, 12 titles.
14.  Humble Arts – “The 16 Best Photobooks of 2015 According to Humble Arts Foundation’s Best of 2014” (16 titles)
15.  RRB Photobooks – “Best Photobooks of 2015 by Thomas Wiegand” (12 titles)
16.  The Logging Road – “13 Best Photobooks and 2 Worst Photobooks of the Year 2015: And There is the Cosmos, to Capture Her Soul…” November 10, 2015
17.  Fotografia – Martin Amis of Photobookstore’s selections; “Ten Best Photobooks of 2015”
18.  Crave – December 11, 2015 Miss Rosen “Best Photo Books of 2015” (6 titles)
19.  Medium – Vantage December 22, 2015 “The Best Six Photography Books of 2015” Pete Brook (“Six Books Pete Picked Up This Year and Liked: How four books mailed to the author and two other books he bought in crowdfunding campaigns made the grade. Ah, that’s better. Honesty pays. So they say. Or in this case, sending me a press copy of your photobook pays. No, no, let’s dismiss that myth right now. I am not bought. Sure, I see a photobook if it lands in my mail box, and I might not have otherwise have known it existed. But, I get sent a fair number of books and the ones I don’t like, I don’t mention. The ones I do, I yell about a lot.”)
20.  Walk Your Camera (Roger May) – “My Favorite Photobook Buys of 2015” December 24, 2015 (13 titles, not all released in 2015)
21.  The Innocent Curiosity (Marcin Grabowiecki) – “My favourite photobooks in 2015” December 23, 2015 (10 titles)
22.  David Fathi – TOP 10 Photobooks (alphabetically) ca. December 20, 2015
23.  Blake Andrews B “2015 Photobook Recap” December 19, 2015 (17 titles reviewed under individual categories inc. “Best site to view photobooks” (Josef Chladek), “Best photobook by a movie star” (Dennis Hopper – I might have to differ), “Best photobook list rejoinder” (Mirelle Thijsen’s reviews of books by Toledano and Kruitof), and “Six photobooks the lists missed” [maybe…])
24.  American Photo – The Editors of American Photo “Best Photobooks of the Year: 2015” December 11, 2015 (34 titles)
25.  CAPE – “CAPE’s FAVOURITE PHOTOBOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015” December 9, 2015 (10 titles)
26.  A-N (Tim Clark) – “Top ten: the best photo books of 2015” December 9, 2015
27.  Photobookstore featured many reviewers offering their lists on different dates, but all with the same title, “Photobooks of 2015”: Tiane Doan na Champassak – December 3, 2015 (10 titles); Mark Power – December 4, 2015 (12 titles); Sonia Berger – December 8, 2015 (8 titles); Photocaptionist – December 30, 2015 (16 titles; given the reviewer's proclivity for books about photos with texts, this one was especially rich in "good reads"). I did not manage to read all of the lists offered on Photobookstore, which is an outstanding reference for the future.  
28.  Gabrielacendoya – “Emotional list” (22 titles) and “More headache list” (15 titles), plus wish list December 7, 2015 
29.  De Volkskrant – “De beste fotoboeken” December 7, 2015 (12 titles)
Most if not all of these sources are compiled on Phot(o)lia’s List of Lists: PHOTOBOOKS 2015.