Saturday, December 22, 2012

Under the Radar

Most of the annual best-of-2012 Photobook lists have come and gone. Below are some of my favorites from the past year which flew under the radar. I haven't seen these listed any place else so I want to give each a small shout out here just to make sure they aren't forgotten. All are recommended.

The Complete Contacts
Daido Moriyama

Printed by Aperture in conjunction with the abridged monograph Labyrinth, this special expanded edition takes a broader approach than its companion tome. While Labyrinth shows only 300 contact sheets, this 47 volume classic depicts the entire collection. For the first time, contacts of every roll ever shot by Moriyama are gathered in one publication. Moriyama has never been afraid to question traditional notions of editing or sequencing, and the Japanese master famously scoffs at any limitations on his prolific output. Following his cue, the book cleverly turns the tables on the author/reader relationship by transferring notions of production, filtering, and book storage strategies from publisher to viewer.

Photographs of Some Place Or Other
Robert Adams

Yet another round of nondescript photos of some place or other, or possibly another place entirely, all shot in the bland, disaffected style which has become the Adams trademark. Trees, rocks, wonderfully poignant leaves, the western frontier, maybe a path disappearing stage rear. Yeah, you get the idea. It has something to do with his walking and thinking about stuff. And he's got a PhD in English so you know his photos are literate and that if you don't always get them it's on you, not him. Because he went to some place or other and things got really heavy, and the resulting photos of some place or other prove it. And here's the book, or possibly another book entirely.

LBM Dispatch: Bumfuck
Alec Soth and Brad Zellar

For the latest installment of Alec Soth's continuing photographic study of regional Americana, Soth and writing partner Brad Zellar traveled to Bumfuck, Idunno, where they spent a week photographing and interviewing local residents. As with all of Soth's explorations to date, the residents of Bumfuck prove amazingly resilient and insightful, and make for wonderful photographic subjects. It's a bit cliche to call the local denizens salt-of-the-earth from Bumfuck. But the resulting portfolio, published tabloid style on newsprint, fulfills that label and more. It proves the universality of the term while confirming that in our heart of hearts, we all live in Bumfuck.

Family Album
Allison Youngblood

One of most exciting photographic trends in recent years has been the explosion of found and appropriated imagery. Photographers have used material from every source imaginable, recasting and recontextualizing the content while subjugating the original meaning. Allison Youngblood is among those leading the pack with two well received monographs Tour-Spiel and Found On The Bus. In Family Album, Youngblood used her parents' attic as source material. Appropriating images from an old family scrapbook, Youngblood recreated her own family history in a way which is virtually identical to, and in fact inseparable from, the past. Photos of distant relatives, friends, living rooms, and pets combine in the style of an old scrapbook and in identical sequence to the original, forming a perfect fascimile of her own family album. Youngblood's monograph cleverly revisits the lost era of the printed family snapshot, the personal scrapbook, and the re-familiarization with re-family.

A New American Picture, Part 2: The Suburbs
Doug Rickard

For the modern photographer living in a city, the suburbs have long been a dangerous no-go zone. The geography of endless shopping malls, cul-de-sacs, and peaceful uniformity is as awe inspiring as it is terrifying. Ironically these tracts exists in close proximity to most metropolitan safe havens, but until recently few photographers have dared venture into them. Until now the proper tools simply didn't exist. Until Google Street View. Now the doors have swung open. Photographers have begun to virtually explore the parking lots and power walkers occupying this mysterious land, all from the familiar safety of their favorite espresso shop or hip used record parlor. Doug Rickard is one of the best and most enterprising. Through careful editing of Street View, Rickard's appropriated imagery portrays the loneliness, despair, and crushing intellectual poverty of suburban life with directness and authority, while maintaining a tender, if somewhat paternalistic, tone.

Books on Books on Books #1: Errata's Atget
Various Editors

Following in the footsteps of the well-loved Errata Editions series of reconsidered photography monographs, the new Books on Books on Books series reexamines the Books on Books series from a contemporary point of view. Books on Books on Books #1: Errata's Atget looks at Errata Edition's Books on Books #1: Eugene Atget. Every page of the Books on Books #1 volume has been carefully scanned and reproduced at high resolution, while attempting to remain faithful to publisher Jeff Ladd's original intentions. The resulting book includes all material found in the original plus supplementary essays by Ed Grazda, Gerry Badger, and Anne Wilkes Tucker which consider Books on Books #1 from a variety of perspectives while providing historical context for the series. 

The Forgetmenauts
Christopher Middling

In the late 90s and early 2000s, thousands of emerging photographers from around the world engaged in a mad scramble for career ascendence. Hordes upon hordes attempted to lift themselves into an orbit resembling artistic self sufficiency, but for a variety of reasons most of them never achieved liftoff. These attempts were quickly forgotten and would've been buried in history were it not for the attention of Christopher Middling, who painstakingly recreated scenes from the effort and photographed them in his own unique fashion. With handwritten notes, graphs, and charts as well as photos, the resulting self-published book, The Forgetmenauts, is an unforgettable study of ambition, rocketry, and the urge to reach for the stars before disintegrating into the space dust which is everyone's eventual fate.

The Little Pamphlet of Profound Tweets
Colfax and Harbaugh

Since the advent of Twitter less than 5 short years ago, photographers have quickly adopted the platform as an essential component of everyday practice. But until now the approach has been decidedly scattershot. The vast universe of Twitter challenges the editing and management skills of the most astute online denizens. Which streams are worth following? Which are fluff? In late 2012, this handy 4 page pamphlet by Colfax and Harbaugh came to the rescue, collecting all 17 profound tweets that have stood the test of time and proven truly indispensable to photographers, and publishing them in a convenient pocket-sized pamphlet. Although the first edition quickly sold out (and is now only available to those with deep pockets), the second edition is widely available and sure to become an instant classic. Truly indispensable.


Matt Weber said...

I like your sense of humor a lot! I don't like the verification process to post here, but spam can be a drag...I just have trouble reading the silly robot letters and sometimes spend five minutes trying to add my 2¢ which may not be worth a nickle.

Ben said...

LOL! Especially Books on Books on Books. I can't wait for the sequel.

Chris said...

Is the "Little Pamphlet of Profound Tweets" related in any way to the "Little Book of Calm"? If so, it's definitely on this year's to-buy list.

Blake Andrews said...

Sorry about the verification process. But if I kept the floodgates open who knows what might wash ashore...

Zisis Kardianos said...

One trully exceptional book that went under your radar, is Darling Graham's "The Present". The book deserves this year's award for the most inspired photo-book title and for conceptual originality. It breaks the traditional views of the now decadent genre of street photography by exploring the heretic and artistically risky idea of the "indecisive moment". Mr Darling Graham is presenting us page after page with tedious street snaps where "seemingly" nothing really happens. Of course it happens but the average unrefined reader just cannot get it. In order to make his point even stronger he show is not only the present of nothingness but also the past and the future. Renowned critics that embraced Mr Graham's previous works, were scratching their heads with this one but unanimously agreed that the photographs definitely look stanning in sizeable prints on galleries' walls.

George Stanza said...

It's not who you know, but who you blow.

Paul Russell said...

Blake, you are dead naughty.