My favourite photobooks in 2015 (and more)

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Katrien de Blauwer

It’s Listmas, meaning we’re being inundated with “best of” lists. Best of this, best of that. Given that few people can agree on something, there are dozens and dozens or photobooks on at least one “best of” list – I’m already getting emails by publishers and photographers that one of their books is on some list. Add to that the fact that there now are what feels like dozens of photobook festivals or meetups with awards attached, and essentially every photobook is (short) listed somewhere.

I might as well throw in the list of my favourite photobooks this year. So without further ado, here they are, in alphabetical order.

Super Labo produced a re-designed reissue of Nobuyoshi Araki’s Sentimental Journey 2, and it’s a real gem.

Makoto Azuma and Shunsuke Shiinoki‘s Encyclopedia of Flowers II (reviewed here) most certainly is one of my most memorable finds this year. I stumbled across it just moments before I was going to leave a photobook market I had already perused a few times.

Katrien de Blauwer‘s I do not want to disappear is a collections of this artist’s minimalist collages/montages, which I have been coming back to more than to any other photobook this year. Those interested in De Blauwer’s thinking about her work might want to read the conversation I had with her earlier this year.

Paul Kooiker‘s Nude Animal Cigar (reviewed here) delivers exactly what its title promises, and it’s hard to put down. It’s conceptually clever without any of the tedium that comes with so much work done this way.

By the way, I created an alphabetical index of all the rated photobook reviews on this site, which you can find here.

Anne Morgenstern‘s Land ohne Mitte (reviewed here) is not only an ambitious book, it’s also timely, given that Germany’s far-right rabble has re-emerged, to rail against immigrants, refugees, and anything that doesn’t look German enough. Yet again, much of this is happening in what used to be East Germany.

For what it’s worth, Matthew Porter‘s Archipelago (reviewed here) is the only book that so far has received a perfect 5.0 rating. The ratings aren’t necessarily correlated with whether or not the books end up being memorable for me. But this one really is a gem.

I think of all the books here, Mariela Sancari‘s Moises (reviewed here) is the only one that can be found on quite a few other lists, whatever that might mean.

My friend Hellen van Meene had her mid-career retrospective this year at the photography museum in The Hague. The resulting catalog, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits, really deserves to be part of any serious photobook library. I can’t think of many other photographers who have managed to produce work at such a high and consistent level over the course of 20 years.

There must be at least a dozen books by Daisuke Yokota now, and not all of them are equally good. Vertigo (reviewed here) is very good, and it might in fact be my favourite book by this photographer so far.

A little while ago, I had a brief exchange with someone on Twitter about Listmas. Much to my embarrassment I can’t remember the name of the person I spoke with, but what I do remember is that she or he suggested that instead of a “best of” list it might be nice to get a list of things that inspired someone. I quite liked the idea, so here are some of the things that for me did just that this year.

I’ve wanted expanding what I write about for a while now, and I might just get to it in 2016. There have been a few false and/or unpublished starts, one of them involving the Bloom remix of Björk’s Black Lake. For me, this is certainly at the level of Funkstörung’s mesmerizing remix of All Is Full Of Love. And the way it ends, with the extended wail after which only the fractured beats remain… That’s simply sublime.

Anna von Hausswolff is probably my main music discovery this year. The Miraculous is just that.

This year, I started reading — and appreciating — Georges Simenon. The Maigret novels are great, as are the non-Maigret ones, various of them available as NYRB Classics. On the surface, these books are about crime, but what’s really at the center is the human condition and its many follies.

I have been a fan of Ross Macdonald for a while (I’m really into noir fiction). Find a Victim particularly struck me. Where Simenon made human misery his subject, at the center of this particular book lies some shitty little town in California that has seen better days. Photographers often focus on the idea of place, and Find a Victim might just show how you can create a compelling portrait of a place by diving into the lives of people forced to live there.

And just the other day, I went to the opening of Bill Viola‘s Inverted Birth at James Cohan in New York. The smaller videos are all OK, but the main — big — one is killer. If you get the chance to see it, go!