donderdag 9 januari 2014

State of the Art the Meta-List the Best PhotoBooks of 2013 Photography


I am compiling again a meta-list of best photobooks for the year, using the same methodology as for the Best Photobooks 2012 Meta-List.The meta-list was seeded with the Aperture/Paris Photo PhotoBook Awards Shortlist – curiously, AOI [COD.19.I.I.43] – AZ7 [S/COD.23](2013) by Rossangela Renno, who won that award (as well as Arles) was the last of all 10 titles to be mentioned on another list. It then includes every “real” list on the phot(o)lia compilation, which I encourage you to visit to follow the links to those lists. I will update it on a weekly basis until the end of the year, when Photo Eye releases their own meta-list. Although overlapping is inevitable, this meta-list will not use the Photo Eye entries. At that point, there will be two large and distinct meta-lists which will be interesting to compare. The Photo Eye contributors are “photo luminaries” while the source for this meta-list is more democratic, including mainstream publications and individual bloggers.

A01 [COD.] — A27 [S | COD.23] / Photographer: Rosângela Rennó — PhotoBook of the Year Award from Aperture Foundation on Vimeo.

Last year, I had waited for the flow of lists to subside before compiling the meta-list, but by that time, several of the titles were already sold out. Although this year I am releasing the meta-list early, as of beginning December, several top titles – some of them released in the fall – are sold out (I bought the last copy of two of them) notably Dalston Anatomy, Iris Garden, Silvermine, Karma, Grays the Mountain Sends, She Dances on Jackson, Two Rivers. Those who follow closely the world of photobooks and attend festivals certainly do not need the meta-list to hear about interesting titles. I hope that for others, like me, the meta-list can be a useful starting point.

Final update Dec 30, 2013

Lieko Shiga // RASEN KAIGAN from haveanicebook on Vimeo.

(22 votes)
Rasen Kaigan. LIEKO SHIGA Akaaka

(21 votes)

(17 votes)
A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. MIKE BRODIE Twin Palms Publishers

(12 votes)
Iris Garden. WILLIAM GEDNEY & JOHN CAGE Little Brown Mushroom

(11 votes)
Dalston Anatomy. LORENZO VITTURI Jibijana Books/SPBH Editions
She Dances on Jackson. VANESSA WINSHIP Mack

(9 votes)
Excerpts from Silver Meadows. TODD HIDO Nazraeli
Two Rivers. CAROLYN DRAKE self-published

(8 votes)
Ametsuchi. RINKO KAWAUCHI Aperture
Control Order House EDMUND CLARK Here Press
Dark Knees. MARK COHEN Editions Xavier Barral
Emmet Gowin EMMET GOWIN Aperture
Grays the Mountain Sends. BRYAN SCHUTMAAT Silas Finch Foundation
Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq. MICHAEL KAMBER (editor) University of Texas Press
Sergio Larrain. SERGIO LARRAIN Aperture / Thames & Hudson
Silvermine. THOMAS SAUVIN Archive of Modern Conflict

(7 votes)
New York Arbor. MITCH EPSTEIN Steidl
The Canaries. THILDE JENSEN Lena Publications

(6 votes)
An Atlas of War and Tourism in The Caucasus. ROB HORNSTRA & ARNOLD VAN BRUGGEN. Aperture
Away From Home. KURSAT BAYHAN self-published
Birds of the West Indies. TARYN SIMON Hatje Cantz
Food. HENK WILDSCHUT Post Editions
In and Out Of Fashion. VIVIANE SASSEN Prestel
Scoffing Pig. NOZOMI IIJIMA Reminders Photography Stronghold
The Grey Line. JO METSON SCOTT by Dewi Lewis
The Photography of Nature & The Nature of Photography. JOAN FONTCUBERTA Mack
This is Mars NADA/MRO Xavier Barral

(5 votes)
Paris in My Time MARK STEINMETZ Nazraeli
Sometimes I can not smile. PIERGIORGIO CASOTTI self-published
Tokoyo No Mushi. YOSHIICHI HARA Sokyusha

(4 votes)
Almost There. ALEIX PLADEMUNT Mack
Ezekiel 36:36. NICK BALLON LAB Project
Hotel Oracle. JASON FULFORD The Before long Institute
Surrendered Myself to the Chair of Life. JIN OHASHI Akaaka
Swell. MATEUSZ SARELLO Instytut Kultury Wizualnej
The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova. ROB HORNSTRA & ARNOLD VAN BRUGGEN Sochi Project
Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives. SIMON MENNER Hatje Cantz
Tractor boys. MARTIN BOGREN Aman Iman / Dewi lewis.
We Make the Path by Walking. PAUL GAFFNEY self-published

(3 votes)
10X10 American Photobooks. RUSSET LEDERMAN, OLGA YASKEVITCH & MATTHEW CARSON (ed) bookdummypress
82 DAVID THOMSON Archive of Modern Conflict
A01 [COD.] — A27 [S | COD.23] ROSÂNGELA RENNÓ RR Edições
Across the Ravaged Land. NICK BRANDT Abrams
Amateurs & Lovers. NIKOLAY BAKHAREV Dashwood Books
Ariphoto selection vol. 4. ARIMOTO SHINYA Totem Pole Photo Gallery
Bright Nights.TOD SEELIE Prestel
Garry Winogrand. GARRY WINOGRAND Yale University Press
Gregory Crewdson. GREGORY CREWDSON Rizzoli
Hesitating Beauty. JOSHUA LUTZ Schilt Publishing,
History of the Visit. DANIEL REUTER Self-published
Hustlers. PHILIP-LORCA DICORCIA SteidlDangin
Imitation of Christ. WILLIAM E. JONES Mack
L’amoureuse. ANNE DE GELAS Le caillou Bleu
Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera. WAYNE LAWRENCE Prestel
Self publish be happy book club vol. III. CRISTINA DE MIDDEL, Self Publish Be Happy
Self-Portraits. VIVIAN MAIER Powerhouse
Skeletons in the Closet. KLAUS PICHLER self-published
Stakeout Diary. YUKICHI WATABE roshin books
The Arrangement. RUTH VAN BEEK RVB Books
Zimbabwe: Your Wounds Will Be Named Silence. ROBIN HAMMOND Actes Sud/Foundation Carmignac Gestion
_08:08 Operating Theatre. PINO MUSI

(2 votes)
A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World ZHAO RENHUI Institute of Critical Zoologists
A Remote Barely Audible Evening Walz. MAX SHER Treemedia
Ad Infinitum. KRIS VERVAEKE self-published
After the Threshold. SANDI HABER FIFIELD Kehrer
Ahlan! NURIA CARRASCO Self-published
American Colour 1962-1965. TONY RAY-JONES Mack
Anticorps. ANTOINE D’AGATA Editions Xavier Barral
Beautiful Pig. BEN SCHONBERGER Self-published
Before They Pass Away JIMMY NELSON Teneues
Bill Brandt Shadow and Light. BILL BRANDT | Moma
Black Country Females. MARTIN PARR Multistory
Breathing the Same Air. NELLI PALOMAKI Hatje Cantz
Cinque Paesaggi, 1983-1993. GUIDO GUIDI Postcart/ICCD
Conflict Resolution LOUIS PORTER self-published
Contacts. TOSHIO SHIBATA Poursuite
Costa JOSÉ PEDRO CORTES Pierre Von Kleist
Cut Shaving. JAAP SCHEEREN Fw:
Dorothea Lange. Grab a Hunk of Lightning. DOROTHEA LANGE Chronicle Books
Einmal ist keinmal. MIKA KITAMURA Therme
Empire. JON TONKS Dewi Lewis
Field Trip. MARTIN KOLLAR Mack
Fires. RON JUDE Museum of Contemporary Photography
Flash Up (reprint). SEIJI KURATA Zen Photo Gallery
Foreclosures. BRUCE GILDEN Brown Editions
Fragments of calm. SUDA ISSEI Toseisha
Gasoline. DAVID CAMPANY Mack
Gecko. TAKUMA NAKAHIRA Little Big Man
Here are the Young men. CLAIRE FELICIE self published
Hier. JITKA HANZLOVA Koenig Books
How to be a Photographer in Four Lessons. THOMAS VANDEN DRIESSCHE André Frère Éditions.
Humans of new york. BRANDON STANTON St. Martin’s
I smell like rain. VERENA BLOK Self-published
Imaginary Club. OLIVER SIEBER GwinZegal & BöhmKobayachi
Imogen Cunningham. IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM TF Editores/D.A.P.
Kennedy in Berlin. ULRICH MACK Hirmer
LDN2. ANTHONY CAIRNS Archive of Modern Conflict
Love and War. GUILLAUME SIMONEAU Dewi Lewis
Lucas. ERIC STEPHANIAN Self-published
Mandy and Eva. WILLEKE DUIJVEKAM Eigenverlag
Mitakuye Oyasin. AARON HUEY Radius Books
Nangokusho ATSUSHI FUJIWARA Sokyusha
Ostalgia. SIMONA ROTA. Fabulatorio
Paris mortel retouché. JOHAN VAN DER KEUKEN Willem van Zoetendaal
Pierdom. SIMON ROBERTS Dewi Lewis
Ping Pong Conversations. ALEC SOTH with FRANCESCO ZANOT Contrasto
Ping Pong. ALEC SOTH, GEOFF DYER & PICO IYER Little Brown Mushroom
Prince Street Girl. SUSAN MEISELAS. Catherine & André Hug
Shanxi.ZHANG XIAO Little Big Man
Sheets. RINKO KAWAUCHI Kominek
Shinan. MICHAEL KENNA Nazraeli
Shrove Tuesday. KAI KEIJIRŌ Totem Pole Photo Gallery
Speaking of Scars. TERESA ENG If / Then Books
Still Lifes, Portraits and Parts. DANIEL GORDON Morel Books
Storms. MITCH DOBROWNER Aperture
Strangely Familiar. PETER MITCHELL Nazraeli
Sworn virgins. PEPA HRISTOVA Kehrer Verlag
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950. SANTU MOFOKENG Steidl
The Christmas Tree Bucket. TRENT PARKE Steidl
The Disappeared. VERONICA FIEIRAS self-published
The End of la Belle Epoque. MISHA PEDAN Kimaira Publishing
The Fourth Wall. MAX PINCKERS Self-published
The Non-Conformists. MARTIN PARR Aperture
The Waiting Game. TXEMA SALVANS RM Editorial
The good earth. ANDREAS WEINAND Peperoni
Twin Boat. KOJI ONAKA Session Press
Vanishing existence. KOSUKE OKAHARA Backyard project
Veins. ANDERS PETERSEN & JACOB AUE SOBOL Dewi Lewis Publishing
Vietnam, the Real War PETE HAMILL Abrams
VisibleInvisible. DOROTHEE DEISS
Você está feliz? MIGUEL RIO BRANCO
War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath. ANNE WILKES TUCKER Yale University Press

See also 

Bintphotobooks Selection of Notable photoBooks 2013

Hoarding Shadows: The Best Photo Books Of 2013

I love the end of the year. There are three main reasons for loving the run-up to January 1: The first, which I'll cover in more detail in my forthcoming 2014 resolutions post, is that I love the mental state of starting over that comes with the dawning of a new year. Second, at the New Year's party I attend, everyone breaks out their reserve stock of rare beers, but you probably don't care about that. Third, I get to read a slew of amazing articles and blog posts in which savvy people talk about their favorite music and books of the year. This is great for me, since, hey, I'm a full time artist and being buried in the studio so much, I miss things. I've already bought a whole bunch of albums and added some interesting books to my reading list. 

Yet, one set of lists is bothering me. I'm a photographer, and I love photo books, so of course I seek out the lists of best photo books. I collect obscure contemporary black metal, experimental and jazz vinyl, so I'm used to dealing with the vagrancies of tracking down self published and import work. But as I clicked through the menagerie of tomes I noticed a disheartening trend. In this article I want to take a look at the 2013 best of list ( created by PhotoEye, one of America's premier photo book bookstores. I don't want to call them out specifically, since they are an amazing store filled with smart and dedicated staff but the reason I want to use their list is because it is very representative of which books are showing up on these lists (that is, it's filled with the photo book equivalents of Deafheaven's Sunbather album). 

The first book on the list, Rasen Kaigan/Album by Lieko Shiga had me pulling out my credit card to buy it, but it was not available from their store. There are 6 copies on Amazon going for the low low price of $245.00 to $485.00… Let's just assume that's one of those stupid Amazon bot pricing issues (such a futuristic problem to have!) and move on. Cool, the next book has a couple of copies of the in stock for $75.00, but Amazon is out of stock and already the price is creeping up past $124.00. Book three - out of stock, but there are two used copies floating on Amazon for $80.00. Unless you want a first printing which would run you $240.00. Book four - well, that's not available on Amazon OR at PhotoEye. Next book, only two used copies, going for $373.00 and $445.00 respectively. 

Let's just skip to the chase: This isn't some weird Amazon bot-pricing issue. Additionally, just to be clear that I'm not pitting a mega-corporation against an indie bookseller, PhotoEye partners with Amazon, and co-lists these prices. But more importantly, my concern is availability: Of the 27 books in PhotoEye's best of the year list, only 6 are available to buy new at their store. 5 I could find direct from their respective publishers, mostly in Europe, some of which were possibly unavailable (I had to rely on Google translate to let me know if they were in stock or not). 6 aren't available to buy at either PhotoEye or Amazon. Of the last 10, which are available on the secondary market, their average price for the cheapest copy available is $219.21! 

Let's push aside the secondary market speculation/inflation/bubble issue for a moment (which is still a very valid conversation in this economy where the middle class's presence in fine art is disappearing) and talk about this list, and it's brethren across the internet, just from a perspective of being a fan and wanting to check out the best work that came out in the last 12 months. 

If this were Pitchfork's Top 100 albums of 2013 it would break down as: 22 albums would be available. 19 would be available as imports with all the hassle and fees associated. 37 albums could be found in highly limited supply on the secondary market for two to ten times their initial asking price. The final 22 wouldn't be available anywhere. This isn't a list of "greatest of all time," this is a list of the best stuff since the last college football season ended. Put in to terms of music, hopefully you can begin to see how insanely exclusive, opaque and reclusive the photo book world has become. For reference, of the 100 albums on the Pitchfork list, 100 are available in complete versions, usually in multiple formats; the same is true of the New York Times 2013 notable book list.

Despite the bluster and hype, when you break down this community in to these weird numbers, it begins to speak volumes about the possible unhealthiness of the photo book in its marketplace ecosystem. I'm part of the group that believes that the art of the photo book is experiencing an exciting and fearlessly creative period of maturation. Working in photo book form is crucial for a number of my projects. But I get anxious when I stop and think about what might happen to my art in this hyper-rarified landscape.

If only a tiny, self-selected population of speculators, sycophants and the wealthy ever see these magnificent objects, what does it mean for the possible ability of the art to affect the world? I mean, most artists who aren't already famous (sorry Alec Soth, I actually really like your book reviews) certainly aren't seeing these books. The same can be said for most fans of art, since these books aren't ever displayed in a physical space like a $100,000 painting might appear in a gallery or at least a fair to be gawked at briefly. 

So is the photo book field just a new set of luxury items for the rich?  Are these just objects that will disappear in to the collector-mists (in acid free archival wrap like a body bag) the moment they come in the mail? Are they just fodder for online markets and auctions the way that silly colored vinyl releases from bands like Uncle Acid are used to drive publisher headlines and speculator bankrolls? Are photo books just some cute old-timesy product like a tin photo at an amusement park or a hand-blown glass ornament? Are they just a flashy symbolic gesture of taste for the Vice magazine kids? Basically, as someone deeply invested in making these sorts of objects, I'm thinking out loud if this just a boom based on NOT seeing; a boom based on hoarding shadows? 

I don't have answers to these questions, of course, but I honestly do believe in the amazing work coming from the artists that are making these books. Well, from what I've seen of their work in bits online and various prints at galleries, not of course, from the books themselves.


It was obvious to me when I wrote the article that I wasn't accusing PhotoEye of anything negative but I'm not sure if that came through as well as it should. To be as clear as possible, PhotoEye should be commended if anything. First, they actually had most of this data out in open. I had been thinking of writing this article about a half dozen other, earlier, lists but I couldn't quite get a concrete handle on the topic. Second, and most important, you can really tell this is a list of books they loved. I mean, PhotoEye is a store and they only stock 22% of their recommended titles! They could easily have made a very reasonable editorial decision to fill their list with in-stock titles to bolster their sales.

A few thoughts on the photobook market by 


About 10% of every year is spent on compiling, reading, and/or disagreeing with lists of the best photobooks that were published that year (my own list ofmy favourite books can be found here). In 2011, Marc Feustel went through all the lists he could find (52 of them) and compiled the list of the best of the best books. A similar endeavour was done by QT Luong for 2013, using 85 lists (found here), plus (oddly) the Aperture/Paris Photo Photobook Awards Shortlist.
First place in 2011 went to Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood, which was included in 19 lists (or 37% of all lists). The 2013 favourite is Lieko Shiga’s Rasen Kaigan with 22 lists (or 26%). Go down the lists of lists, and you get to the 10% level at location 8 (2011) or 6 (2013).
In other words, a little more than a third of the people who compiled a list in 2011 agreed on a single book, whereas in 2013 this was down to roughly a quarter. The vast majority of photobooks on all these lists never even made it to the 10% level. What are we to make of this?
I did a little exercise with the 2013 list because I was curious. There are 29 books that were on 5 lists or more. Of these books I have 11 in my collection. I own or have looked at, however briefly, 18 of them. The remaining 11 I’ve never seen. And I get a lot of emails about photobooks. I even managed to see a photobook fair (at Unseen Amsterdam), plus I visit photobook sellers in New York City (and wherever else I go) whenever I can. I could possibly go to even more photobook fairs, and spend even more time trying to see photobooks. But that’s not really my point here.
The main (first) conclusion I want to draw from these photobook lists is that as a market, it’s very highly fragmented. Even if you spend a lot of time looking at photobooks, receiving them in the mail and/or buying them in stores or at fairs, you end up missing quite a few books.
This is part of the reason why I don’t call my list “the best photobooks.” How could I compile a “best of” list while knowing only a fraction of the market?
Anyone who does not spend as much time with photobooks probably knows an even smaller fraction of the market (so I’m not talking about collectors here or the usual suspects who appear to be at every photobook event). I think as a result these “best of” lists often cause so much consternation: How can all those books be on the list if the majority of them essentially is unknown to people who read them? Well, that’s just the way it is, reflecting the highly fragmented market.
Another way to phrase the conundrum caused by this market is that if you make a photobook, it’s very hard to get it seen by large numbers of people. This is no earth shattering revelation for anyone who has ever made a book. But it’s worthwhile to keep this in mind.
However, the fact that the photobook market is so highly fragmented does not automatically mean that it’s designed only for insiders. I’ve seen this conclusion time and again, and it makes very little sense.
Think about it from the point of view of a photobook maker: You make a book, struggle to get it seen by a lot of people, and then at the end of the year you’re being told that the fact that so few people saw the book means you made your book for insiders, for the elite. While the conclusion that the photobook market is geared towards insiders is baloney, for most photobook makers this claim is just insulting.
Which brings me to the issue of editions. Photobook editions tend to be small, often very small. The usual populist claim made about this is that the reason for that is because photobook makers want to cater to a small group of collectors. Make no mistake, there are books made for that purpose. But the reality is that most aren’t. In fact, most photographers would rather sell more books than less (I know, a shocking thought).
When you make a book, regardless of whether you’re a publishing company or a self-publisher, you need to think about money. How many books can you get made, given your budget? And, crucially, how many books do you think you can sell?
As a consequence, most photobook edition sizes are small (maybe a few thousand), because makers either don’t have the money for more, or they want to be conservative and not be left with thousands of unsold books, or both. As a publisher, you can print 50,000 books, but try selling 50,000 photobooks.
What do you do with the 49,500 you can’t sell after a few years? How are you going to deal with absorbing the costs you can’t cover? Do that a few times, and you can close down your company, because you’re bankrupt. At least as a publishing company you can try to hedge your bets - one book that sells well might offset a few others that don’t. If you self-publish your book you are unlikely to have that luxury (unless you’re independently wealthy). 
As frustrating as a sold-out photobook can be - especially once it gets a lot of traction (as happened with The Afronauts), in a highly fragmented market with a relatively small number of potential buyers that is just a natural consequence of the economics at play. Needless to say, the book can then simply re-printed. But I also can’t blame a photographer, especially if they’re self-publishing, for not doing that, given it would cost a lot of extra time and money and effort to do that.
None of this has to do with elitism.
Lastly, as tiring as I find it to see “best of” lists for over a month each year, at the same time those lists offer me a chance to find out about a lot of books I haven’t even heard of, let alone seen. Plus, I get to see other people’s takes on books, which has often made me look at a photobook I hadn’t considered, yet.
For the photobook market to remain as vibrant as it is right now, it better stay as fragmented as it is. As frustrating as it is to miss out on a lot of books, to end up in the “Pepsi or Coke” or “PC or Mac” situation in the photobook market, with very few publishers dominating the market… that would completely deflate the lively scene we’re enjoying (and are occasionally frustrated with) right now.

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