EX LIBRIS: Melanie McWhorter
DATE: 12/27/2012 | BY DAVID HUNTER
Melanie McWhorter has managed photo-eye's Book Division for over 14 years. She is a regular contributor to the photo-eye Blog and is co-founder of Finite Foto. Below are her top 10 photobooks of 2012.
1. Richard Misrach & Kate Orff: Petrochemical America
Richard Misrach, Kate Orff and their collaborators have created a smart, approachable, and beautiful book on the controversial subject of petrochemical extraction, storage, disposal, distribution and refining of this finite resource and the multiple ramifications of this highly political and controversial industry. The book itself is full of eye candy. The endpapers present an aerial view of the region with numbered circles correlating to the plate number of Misrach's photographs. The book measures approximately 27 inches wide when opened demanding full attention to all its details. Words and arrows flow around the page leading the eye on to the next illustration. Orff often references Misrach's photographs to illustrate her charts, graphs and timelines, and the double-ribboned page markers make it easy to reference both the photographs and the Throughline. It is a book to be revisited often as it offers more visually and intellectually with each reading.
2. Agnieszka Rayss: Distant Place
Distant Places is a collaborative effort between various organizations and writers in Poland and photographers from the Sputnik Photos collective. It includes the work of Jan Brynkczynski, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk, and Agnieszka Rayss all in 7 different object books and housed in a heavy stock slipcase. Never mind the unique qualities of the object, only rivaled in my experience by Sigmar Polke's Photographs 1969-1974, each book could hold its own as an individual object which makes the collection all the more valuable.
3. Lucas Foglia: A Natural Order
Lucas Foglia is very good a capturing light. That should be a given for any photographer, but the use of natural light in A Natural Order is seductive. The idea of leaving the grid is romantic enough without all this beautiful sunlight. He makes me want to go kill my own meat, get dirty farming on the land and let my hair dread up while running around nude. Well, not really, but it makes me want to buy the book and imagine I was doing that. A small zine with tips for living in the wild written by one of Foglia's subjects accompanies the hardbound book.
4. Will Steacy: Down These Mean Streets
Done deranged scrapbook style, mixing texts and images from various sources, images from Steacy's Down These Mean Streets portfolio, and various thoughts scribbled on slips of paper reproduced in the photographer's handwriting, Down These Mean Streets is a monograph that far exceeds any monograph I have seen. Whether I agree with all of Steacy's politics or not, it is so worth spending time to read.
5. Cara Phillips: Singular Beauty
Cara Phillips' book Singular Beauty was printed with FW: and designed by Hans Gremmen in the Netherlands and produced as a result of a successful Kickerstarter campaign completed in January 2012. The book comes in a lightweight clamshell and the semi-transparent pages are folded almost as a Japanese binding with reverse printed black text with captions describing the subject and location of each office. All images in Singular Beauty were shot with a 4x5 camera and Phillips uses all available lights in the operating theater. These two factors create strikingly detailed images.
6. Gary Briechle
There are many photographic advantages to living in Santa Fe, but it ain't no New York. We occasionally have a photographer or publisher stop by to show us a new publication and in this case, we are lucky to have Twin Palms in town. The reason I will brag in this instance is that I am one of the first to see their new book, Gary Briechle Photographs. Briechle photographs his own life in wet plate collodian and Twin Palms has reproduced the images on deep black paper with heavy varnish to recreate the feeling of the originals. The photos are unlike any others that I have seen using this medium. Outstanding work and reproduction.
7. Leon Borensztein: American Portraits
How can you go wrong with a well-executed series of portraits of Americans photographed in the vernacular dress of the late 1970s and 80s? I caught myself in the bookstore saying, “Look at this one, — no, come here! Look at this one.” It is a funny look back at my culture. Borensztein often added elements from the surrounding environment into his uncropped portraits — large box TVs, American flags, jaguar tapestries — making me explore each and everyone for these dated or iconice elements of Americana.
8. Anne Sophie Merryman: Mrs. Merryman's Collection
It is hard to believe that that the postcard collection in Mrs. Merryman's Collection could be real — I have been suckered before (see Alec Soth and Lester B. Morrison). One way or the other, Anne Sophie Merryman or her grandmother have a great eye for amazing images. The publisher MACK selected matte paper for the reproductions. Each set of pages shows the black & white or hand-colored front of each card along with many of the accompanying versos, most replete with address, postmark and stamp. The drop shadow gives depth to the 2D rendering of the 3D object like a card mounted on an album page. The red endpapers and stamping contrast and compliment the simplicity of the imagery.
9. Jonathan Hollingsworth: Left Behind
Jonathan Hollingsworth's Left Behind is one of the two books published by Dewi Lewis this year dealing with the drug-related "situations" in Mexico. Hollingsworth's book focuses on the office of the Pima County Medical Examiner that takes in many of the John and Jane Does who are found in the area and who die usually in an attempt to cross into the US from Mexico. It is broken into three sections, one on the sterile offices of the coroner, one showing the sleeves with the minimal amount of stuff found on the bodies, and the final section on a popular crossing area and the discarded objects left behind in crossing. He provides a thoughtful look at a very big problem without aggressive, overtly political commentary.
10. David Rochkind: Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit
A few years ago, I met David Rochkind at CENTER's annual portfolio review event Review Santa Fe. At the open portfolio viewing Rochkind handed me a hand-bound book that he was using as a maquette trying to get a publisher to print the work. Finally, here in all its original glory, Dewi Lewis took Rochkind's cover and interior design and honored the artist book recreating a near facsimile copy for a wider audience. Rochkind immersed himself in Mexican culture and the resulting body of work is a serious, close up, real look at the life along the US/Mexico border and in the capital Mexico City. Though this work could be housed under the genre of photojournalism or documentary photography, Rochkind's work and its subsequent book treatment are both artful and thoughtful.
Herbert Pfostl works at New York City's New Museum, where he is Curator and Book Buyer for the New Museum Store. He is the co-author of To Die No More. His artwork can be seen at Paper Graveyard and Blind Pony. Below are his top ARTBOOK | D.A.P. picks for 2012. more
Australian expat, curator, writer, independent publisher and self-confessed book nerd Shannon Michael Cane works as the Editions and Fair Coordinator at Printed Matter. This
post offers up his favorite books from 2012. more
A selection of 10 preferred titles from the JRP | Ringier backlist by design legend Peter Saville, whose book Estate is among the classics of JRP|Ringier’s program. more
Jarrod Annis is a bookseller and consignment buyer at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. more
Sandeep Bhuller is the art, design, architecture and photography buyer for McNally Jackson Books in New York, and the co-founder of Cambridge Book in Cambridge, Massachusetts. more