Although Feustel's summary is a good general monitor of popularity, countless deserving books still flew under the radar. Here are 8 of my favorites from 2011 that I felt deserved more recognition.
Calf / Dick McRill
A meditation on minimalism, loss, and the fleeting tangibility of natural objects, McRill's Calf conveys more in its four simple pages than many books do in ten. With no explanatory text the viewer is invited to wonder about these four simple photos until the cows come home. The images are wonderful but the real reason this book will be remembered is for the elegant calf-skin cover with tipped in C-Print. Truly one of a kind.
Red Barn / Jane Cooper
Cooper approaches the seemingly tired barn genre with the fresh young verve of an oil company harvesting seemingly depleted tar sands, with equally fascinating results. Red Barns never offers solutions, only questions and riddles. A truly compelling and at times sardonic look into this exclusive world, not to mention a poignant meditation on images and memory, and what it means to rely on the latter more than the former in cases when the former is lacking in the latter but not poignancy nor, tragically, oil.
Book 127 and Book 128 / Elliott Erwitt
Ever since Erwitt went to sequential titling for his later monographs, the sheer glut of his books on the market has been easier to track. These two titles are no exception. Their remarkably clear and concise labeling makes them exceptionally easy to track amid the sheer glut of his books on the market. For just $45 apiece these books can be bought and made sequentially yours.
Lost Keys / Bert May
An outstanding contribution to the growing genre of real-world investigation photobooks. Based on a real life situation in which he actually lost his keys one morning, May meticulously recreates the scene and documents his house in mock photojournalistic fashion as he attempts to find his keys. Anyone who's misplaced their keys before will be under Mays command as they relive the events of that morning through his stunning photos. Lost Keys deconstructs a morning's search and in the process creates a beautiful and necromantic puzzle about loss, desire, hopelessness and the quest for penetration.
Eping by the Mississ / Harvey Kenmore
A clever re-interpretation of one of the most beloved photobooks of the past decade, Kenmore square-format cropping of Soth's images manages to be didactic without being pedantic, donnish yet not doctrinaire, faithful to the original yet also free swinging when it needs to be. The individual photographs, shown in Soth's original sequence, are hard and spare and engage their rectangular antecedents in a conversation which is anything but sleepy. If there is any justice, this book should make Kenmore a household name.
Lune de Miel / Jacob and Visarro
Published in a small run of 20 books, each of which was presold to important photo tastemakers like myself, chances are you'll never see this book. But everyone agrees it's good. The first picture is some kind of dog near a red wall, then the next one looks like Instanbul at night or something. I don't know. Anyway I can't describe every photo without removing the shrinkwrap all the way but just take everyone's word for it. Lune de Miel is one for the ages.
Konikukuwa / Yashiro Tatayo
Working closely with master papermakers to produce this exquisite object, Tatayo's Konikukuwa truly exemplifies photography's current bookmaking renaissance and carries the spirit safely forward into the millenium. Each page is stitched from handmade ricepaper and knit to the binding with (humanely harvested) sharkskin lacing. A silk slipcase adds the needed texture of softness to counter the bold, brash ricepaper, and the inclusion of eight actual photographs across the center spread can only be considered a bonus. Combined with marbled endpapers and Maiti-Kukunuji binding, this book fits comfortably equally in the dojo or the home bookcase.
The Wandering Eye / Iris Stein
2011 saw the further encroachment and domination of Google Street View, with photographers manipulating the tool in many ways to create various interesting projects. In The Wandering Eye Stein smartly turns the Street View gaze on itself, using it to document addresses where recent Street View projects have been researched. Rickard's LA apartment is documented, as well as those of Wolf, Rafman, Henner, and 32 others, showcasing an exotic subculture which is rarely disclosed to outsiders.