Photography books of the year (etc)

It’s round up time again and this year we have been thinking not just about books but also exhibitions.

Jesse Alexander starts us off:

Concresco‘ by Netherlands-based photographer David Galjaard struck me when I saw it at the book show in the library at the Brighton Biennial. I think the copy at the Biennial was an especially packaged edition.

The remains of Cold War bunkers and pillboxes across the Albanian landscape appeals to my interests, but the production of this self-published book is particularly strong and was wonderful to engage with: Beautifully packaged, and with other exciting and appropriate features, like photographs being repeated and layered alluding to disguise and secrecy.

I think it’s a superb example of what is possible with self-publishing; particularly when someone is clearly collaborating closely with a designer, and both parties are working hard to conceive of the book as an exciting and dynamic medium, not just a means to collate a collection of images.

Peter Haveland:

As is often the case, it is not this year’s crop of books (apologies to Irving Berlin!) that has been important to me but reacquainting myself with older ones in light of exhibitions seen. I have been back to Simon Norfolk’s For most of it I have no words partly after the exhibition at the Open Eye and partly due to much discussion on the post-modern sublime with students and artist friends. My current project Debateable Lands has brought me back to Farley and Symmonds Edgelands, Murakami’s 1Q84; neither of which are photography books but great sources of inspiration, and Unmapping the City edited by Alfredo Cramerotti; which is!. I particularly like the first paragraph of Alfredo’s book:

“I understand photography as the concrete manifestation of cultural, interpersonal and technological conditions: it is not a matter of representation, documentation or abstraction. It exemplifies an approach to contemporary like that is as vast and ungraspable as the process of globalization – of which it is an important factor due to the propagation of the image as commodity – and the textures of personal relations, which it increasingly facilitates.”

I think the two most memorable exhibits I have seen are both in Liverpool, the John Akomfrah film The Unfinished Conversation at the Bluecoat and the three at The Monro in Duke Street, Janine Antoni Umbilical, 2000, Markus Kåhre No title, 2012 and Dane Mitchell Spectral Readings (Liverpool), 2012 Ghost Paper, 2012, these last because I wasn’t expecting much but they seemed to really connect with me on the day.

Jose Navarro:

I’ve always been a big fan of contact sheets because they open a window to a photographer’s thinking and vision. So for me it has to be Labyrinth by Daido Moriyama. I find it fascinating how the little 35mm film frames, once printed as a contact sheet, act as little peepholes through which one can look at the – often seedy – world of Daido Moriyama.

This is a choice that no doubt would be supported by Rob Bloomfield who chooses the William Klein + Daido Moriyama at the Tate Modern. A wide range of work from both photographers is on show in an imaginatively curated exhibition, including vintage prints, magazines, photobooks, films, slideshows and even a study room. Unmissable.

Sharon Boothroyd:

I’m going to pick the Cindy Sherman retrospective at MoMA, NY. Mainly because of the scope of it and being able to see how consistent and prolific her career has been right from the start. It was also amazing to see her work in the context of the country she works. Many of the people in the images were like caricatures of the people around me in the gallery. I thought it was pretty uncanny.

(You can still visit the exhibition, sort of, here)

Gareth Dent:

For me, the book of the year has to be Tom Hunter’s The Way Home. I was taken by ‘Woman reading a possession order’ when I saw it in the National Gallery in 2005, but The Way Home provides a sense of the coherence of his work. It shows how it is possible to combine documentary and non-documentary forms to explore similar ideas and themes. It is also a beautifully produced book and the impact of this cannot be under-estimated.

My exhibition of the year was Zarima Bhimji’s show at the Whitechapel. Bhimji has described her work as post-documentary and I am drawn into the way her work gives you an experience of a sense of place and history. As I type this I can hear the burning grass from Out of Blue and I think I can smell it as well. Watching the film has created a memory of something that never happened to me, but is convincing and real nevertheless. Unfortunately the catalogue is now out of print.

What strike you as memorable and why?


  1. Rob 18 December 2012 at 6:08 pm

    There’s a few things that came my way this year that I found interesting, not all of which were released this year. Cristobal Hara’s “Imaginary Spaniard” was a really good one, as was the collection “One Day” – a selection of 10 diary books by different photographers. My big thing was completing the big three of Japanese photographers form the Provoke era with (a reprint of) Farewell Photography…

    1. Jose 19 December 2012 at 1:49 pm

      …Christobal Hara…colour surrealism at its best. His book Vanitas ( is also superb. Hara’s use of colour reminds me of Alex Webb’s photography. In a way, they both have a surrealism vein.

  2. Jesse 19 December 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Got to echo Peter’s comments re ‘Edgelands’ – great piece of ACCESSIBLE literature, and whilst it isn’t necessarily about photography, it is refreshing to see, sorry, READ, other creative responses to subject matter that is very familiar. The authors do actually discuss quite a few bodies of photographic work, and again, it’s nice to hear interpretations that are a little sideways to photography critics and thinkers. Not too late to put on your Christmas list…

  3. AMANO 20 December 2012 at 2:59 pm

    “Afronauts” is said to be one of the most sought after photobooks this year; I have not seen a copy but it is worth a peek …

    “Setting Sun” is an anthology of writings by Japanese photographers – worth a read in my view.

  4. tom smith 20 December 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Looking forward to purchasing Labyrinth,Retrospective at MoMa,and The way home,if i can find them as they look very interesting reading and study material.


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