At the end of last year everyone from Martin Parr to the Guardian were compiling their best photobooks of 2012. These books seems to be a growing phenomenon. Visiting London bookshop Claire De Rouen, the volume of both self published photobooks and those from the traditional art publishers (Particularly Dewi Lewis and Steidl/Mack) seems to be increasing. I love how the tradition of ‘self-publish’ that for me started in the 1960′s and 1970′s has more recently embraced desk-top publishing and digital printing to make publishing photobooks a possibility for the individual and collective. Awareness is also driven by institutions such as Self-Publish Be Happy who promote photobooks, extensively showing their content.

It’s the first year I have been involved in photography at a level to buy enough photobooks to compile a list of my own. Okay so a couple of them have publish dates of 2011 – but this is the year I bought them, so my top 5 will follow shortly.

There are a fair few I have missed because of a lack of funds or just the breadth of choice – which sudddenly seems so alarming! Would love a copy of “Afronauts – but that will never happen now, I missed the boat there! And “I want to Live Innocent” is on the list – it’s a beautifully executed book where loads of the pictures could stand alone. Also looking at the final book on my list it strikes me as interesting that as someone obsessed with colour photography that three of the books on my list are in black and white.

All images in this post are collected from links – If its your link and you want it removed from here or want a credit let me know.

Billy Monk  Night Club Photographs/ Dewi Lewis

Billy Monk – Nightclub Photographs

A bouncer in Cape Towns ‘Catacombs’ night club Billy Monk took pictures of the patrons socialising and drinking together in 1960′s South Africa. This book was also on Martin Parrs recommendations of 2012. It’s beautifully explicit, edited as though a single night progresses from sobriety through to exceptionally drunken.

Monk took the images between 1967 – 69 with the intention to sell on to patrons earning him a little on the side. I’m not sure of its success as a second income, but Monk continued with his photography. The pictures seem to show a side of South Africa previously unseen. It speaks of a Cape Town with a potential for asian/white mixed race relationships, homosexuality and raucous drunken behaviour . Eyeopening as a document, caught with a sense of timing and often a sense of humour it’s a real slice of life – lovely book.

Adam Hinton Shubiya / TIRA (This is Real Art)

Commuters in Cars – From Shibuya – Adam Hinton

I had to buy this after seeing it as it relates so closely to the commuter project I started early last year and am now continuing. Shubiya is the simplest of all the books to explain on my list; Hinton spent 4 days around Shubiya, the station in Tokyo’s business district, photographing commuters. It began as a photographic project which his (commissioning?) agency offered to publish. He says of the project: “I really just wanted to take interesting images without focusing on some of the issues I usually focus on but according to people who viewed the work it was very much a statement on peoples working lives.” I agree with ‘those who viewed the work’, whether intentionally or not Hinton captures commuters beautifully but his pictures also suggest working life as a difficult experience.

Paul Graham The Present / Mack

Binocular: Spread from Paul Graham’s “The Present”

The quality of the images and print in this, the third of Paul Grahams American Trilogy, is amazing (perhaps one day I will manage to collect the rest). Graham captures sequences of people and street scenes as they change from moment to moment. Shifting focus from person to person. The light and scenes are unmistakenly American, taken in New York. But what is he saying? In a an interview  in the British Journal of Photography Graham expresses how he challenges photography and what we expect of it as a medium. That people understand how photographer use images to reach for an idea but photography as an art form is something most people don’t ‘get’. I think he’s alluding to how when we name something, ‘photojournalism’ for example,  to describe a type of photography – this description ends up dictating the type of photography we expect to see. Which rules out all-sorts of possibilities. I respond to Grahams work more than anyone elses at the moment –  To lift a quote from this interview “I don’t get tired of trying to understand and look at the wonderful amazing nature of what’s around us”, I agree with this perspective. It’s amazing work from one of Britains best.

Daido Moriyama Sunflower / Match

Moriyma – A picture found online from “Sunflower”

I couldn’t help myself. Despite the fact Moriyama is so prolific, his retrospective at the Tate (finishes 20th Jan!) and current popularity drew my attention to his work and ultimately picking up a inexpensive limited edition book. I wanted to take the time and study Moriyama’s style. I wasn’t disappointed – the images are beautiful. Carried out in the grainy high-contrast style associated with him, It took me a couple of views to realise the binding element was flowers of some kind in every image. Whether a lilly in a toilet bowl, heavily patterned floral bedspreads, blossoms on a tree or fireworks that take the appearance of flower-heads, each image contains a flower.

It’s impressive in two ways; firstly that his photographic style flows between the early and late pictures perfectly – not lost in pockets of different eras as you might expect from a selection of work spanning over 40 years. Secondly that this is clearly a comprehensive study, reaching to find where flowers are, how they’re presented and to reinterpret, re-represent his pictures to us in “Sunflower”.

Chris Killip Arbeit | Work / Steidl

Chris Killip – Plates from “Arbeit | Work”

Strange how publishers sell out of books when they’re still available on amazon. Nonetheless, I’m sure it will sell out soon.

‘Arbeit | Work’ captures England during an enormous period of social change. From 1965 where shipbuilding and coal mining  were ‘bread and butter’ industries Killip follows these people and their occupations while these industries are withering away or have already disappeared. He then continues the journey focusing on the people and areas left behind by this industrial change and ignored by economic progress. Killip seems to capture his subject with a depth that news-media often doesn’t manage; his portraits are striking, somehow universal, often desolate and beautifully descriptive of the people left behind.

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